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date: 22 September 2019

Cotton, Ben locked

  • Robert B. Winans

Extract

(b Pawtucket, RI, July 27, 1829; d New York, NY, Feb 14, 1908). American minstrel performer. He ran away from home to join a circus in 1845, and first gained prominence with Matt Peel’s Minstrels in the mid-1850s, when he was a great success in the blackface role of “Old Bob Ridley,” performing the song of the same name. He became particularly noted for his impersonations of older black men. He achieved great fame as a minstrel performer in the 1860s and 1870s, sometimes in companies bearing his own name, and worked primarily in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Toward the end of his career, he played character parts in popular plays, including Faithful Bob (later known as True Devotion), which he produced with his wife and daughter.

“Interview with Ben Cotton,” New York Mirror (3 July 1897) E.L. Rice: Monarchs of Minstrelsy (New York, 1911)...

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