T. K. Heath

Thomas Heath
08/11/1853 - 08/18/1938

Thomas K. Heath was born in Philadelphia on August 11th 1853. As a young adult Heath moved to New York, where he performed vaudeville acts at Kit Burn's Theatre on Water Street with James Mott as his partner. Heath would later pair up with Frank Mullen, though the pay was so poor that in 1868 he quit the stage and became a bookbinder for a time. In 1873, Heath tried the stage again, this time with George Howard as his partner, performing at the Atlantic Garden Theatre in Chicago before he moved further Southwest. In 1874, James 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," an unintelligent 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 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," "Chickens," "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, and 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. Twelve years later T.K. Heath died exactly a year after James McIntyre, on the 18th of August, 1938 (Slide, 342).

Gender: 
Male
Cultural Identity: 
Alternate Name: 
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Notable Roles: 
Henry Jones
Sources: 
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.