Haverly's United Mastodon Minstrels

minstrel show / late 1800s-early 1900s


With four minstrel companies as his raw materials, Haverly created a single troupe, dubbed
Haverly's United Mastodon Minstrels. He flooded New York with posters and newspaper advertisements
twice the size of the ads placed by other troupes.

These trumpeted the Mastodons' size: "FORTY—COUNT 'EM—40" members. He paraded his minstrels through
every city they played, preceded by a brass band. In 1878, he added a drum corps that could play
simultaneously in another section of town. He found other ways to emphasize the troupe's size, one
being a series of curtains pulled back in succession, each revealing more than a dozen men standing behind it.

Haverly's shows were also more visually stunning than anything that had preceded them. One program read,
"The attention of the public is respectfully called to the magnificent scene representing a Turkish Barbaric
Palace in Silver and Gold", and the production delivered what had been promised. In addition, a lavish royal
palace appeared at one point, followed by a succession of non-connected scenes: "Base-Ball", "The Strong
Defending the Weak," "United We Stand," and "The Dying Athlete". The show ended with a circus-like production
in the tradition of Barnum. The show represented Haverly's mantra as a producer: "I've got only one method,
and that is to find out what the people want and then give them that thing . . . . There's no use trying to
force the public into a theater."

Haverly's shows were different, and he took every opportunity to emphasize this in his advertisements. He
stressed the high costs of production. He continued to purchase minstrel troupes throughout the 1870s and 80s
and to absorb them into the Mastodons. The troupe had over 100 members at one point

  • Widow Bedott; 5th Ave Theatre (1901)

  • J.H. Haverly

    Return to Vaudeville Acts Index