James McIntyre

08/8/1857 - 08/18/1937

James McIntyre was an American vaudeville actor, and one half of the famous blackface comedy duo, McIntyre and Heath. McIntyre was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on 8 August 1857, and began dancing at a young age, learning to clog and entertain train passengers in order to make money to support his widowed mother. As a teenager, McIntyre joined several circuses; he joined the McKenzie circus in 1870 and the Burton and Ridgeway Minstrels in 1871, touring the Southern and Western United States for a year before performing with the Katie Putnam Troupe and the Great Transatlantic Circus in 1873. McIntyre then married Emma Maude Young, a balladeer and dancer with the Katie Putnam Troupe, and together they adopted her niece Maud Ainsworth Young.

In 1874 McIntyre met T.K. Heath at the Tivoli Theatre in San Antonio, Texas, and together they formed a blackface tramp minstrel act. McIntyre assumed the persona of "Alexander Hambletonian," a slow-witted stable-boy, while Heath played "Henry Jones," a clever entertainer who frequently tricks Alexander into joining a traveling show. These characters and framing allowed Heath and McIntyre to stage performances in which their characters engaged in comedic and often outrageous dialogue, song, and dance. They toured with the Sells Brothers' Circus and Howe's London Circus and did many tent shows in small towns before they made their name in the 1880's. The pair then began performing at Tony Pastor's, where they were noticed by P.T. Barnum, who signed them to a lucrative contract. McIntyre and Heath toured the entire country with Barnum, including the west coast. Together the pair became famous for a number of classic minstrel sketches, including "The Georgia Minstrels," "The Man from Montana," "Chicken," "Back to the Stable," and "The Ham Tree," the last of which was produced by Klaw and Erlanger (Slide 341). McIntyre and Heath's performances were immensely influential to other minstrel performers, and McIntyre claimed that the team originated both ragtime with their "Cinnamon Gal" song, as well as Buck and Wing dancing, a kind of tap dance. Eventually McIntyre and Heath gave a farewell tour in 1924, some fifty years after they met. Thirteen years later James McIntyre died exactly a year before T.K. Heath, on the 18th of August, 1937 (Slide, 342).

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Alexander Hambletonian
New York Times, 4 November 1916. New York Times 20 August 1938, p.15. Seattle Sunday Times, 17 November 1912, p. 27. Slide, Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. University of Mississippi, 2012. Print.