The early career of the African American singer Matilda Sissieretta Jones (1868-1933), known as the "Black Patti," was unique in nineteenth-century America. Reviewers gave high praise to her singing, and she attracted large mixed-race audiences to her concerts across the country. Her fame was such that, during the early 1890s, she appeared as the star of several companies in which she was the only black performer. This article documents her early life in Portsmouth, Virginia, and Providence, Rhode Island; her two tours, in 1888 and 1890, to the Caribbean and South America; and her varied concert appearances in the United States and Europe up to the formation of the Black Patti Troubadours in the fall of 1896.

[Footnotes]

[Footnotes]
1
While the New Tork Age
page 1, the New York Amsterdam News
New York Times
2
Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Sir George Grove [London: Macmillan, 1894], 2:674
Grove
674
2
Dictionary of Music and Musicians
1894
Amalia (1831- 1915)
Carlotta (1835-1889)
Carlotta's "voice was of considerable size, extremely flexible and extended up to ℊ⁗ and even ℊ#⁗" ( The New Grove Dictionary ofMusic and Musicians 14:303)
Carlotta
303
14
The New Grove Dictionary ofMusic and Musicians
Carlo (1842-1873), was a violinist and conductor in New Orleans, New York, and St. Louis
Carlo
New Orleans
1873
3
Henry T. Sampson, Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Early Black Musical Shows (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980)
Sampson
Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Early Black Musical Shows
1980
Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of African- American and African Musicians (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982)
Southern
Biographical Dictionary of AfricanAmerican and African Musicians
1982
Southern, The Music of Black Americans, 2d ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1983)
Southern
2
The Music of Black Americans
1983
The New Grove Dictionary of American Music and Musicians, ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 1986)
Hitchcock
The New Grove Dictionary of American Music and Musicians
1986
Sampson, for example, indicates that Jones's 1888-89
"Upon her return to the United States, she was selected to appear as the stellar attraction of the Grand Negro Jubilee at Madison Square Garden in April 26-28, 1892" (pp. 385-86)
1892 clipping from the Pittsburg Times
Pittsburg Times
1892
4
"Sissieretta Jones: A Study of the Negro's Contribution to Nineteenth Century American Concert and Theatrical Life" (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1968)
Jones's scrapbook of press clippings (hereafter SPC) contains newspaper articles and reviews mostly from 1892 to 1896
5
Eileen Southern, "In Retrospect: Black Prima Donnas of the Nineteenth Century," The Black Perspective in Music 7, no. 1 (1979): 95-10610.2307/1214431
95
Eileen Southern, "An Early Black Concert Company: The Hyers Sisters Combination," in A Celebration of American Music: Words and Music in Honor of H. Wiley Hitchcock, ed. Richard Crawford, R. Allen Lott, and Carol J. Oja (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), 17-35
Southern
An Early Black Concert Company: The Hyers Sisters Combination
17
A Celebration of American Music: Words and Music in Honor of H. Wiley Hitchcock
1990
Errol Hill, "The Hyers Sisters: Pioneers in Black Musical Comedy," in The American Stage: Social and Economic Issues from the Colonial Period to the Present, ed. Ron Engle and Tice L. Miller (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 115-30
Hill
The Hyers Sisters: Pioneers in Black Musical Comedy
115
The American Stage: Social and Economic Issues from the Colonial Period to the Present
1993
Out of Bondage (1876) and Peculiar Sam; or The Underground Railroad (1879), ed. Eileen Southern, vol. 9 of Nineteenth-Century Musical Theater (New York: Garland, 1994)
Southern
9
Out of Bondage (1876) and Peculiar Sam; or The Underground Railroad (1879)
1994
6
Southern's Biographical Dictionary of Afro- American and African Musicians give her birth as 5 January 1869
Southern
5 January
Biographical Dictionary of AfroAmerican and African Musicians
1869
Southern's Music of Black Americans gives 1868
Southern
Music of Black Americans gives
1868
W. Alison Sweeney that appears in the Indianapolis Freeman notes that "this charming lady and celebrated singer was born Jan. 5, 1868 at Portsmouth, Virginia" (Columbian Exposition edition, 29 August 1891)
Sweeney
this charming lady and celebrated singer was born Jan. 5, 1868 at Portsmouth, Virginia
Indianapolis Freeman
1891
New York Dramatic Mirror, Jones says, "I was born ... in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1869" (11 January 1896, p. 17)
Says
11 January
17
New York Dramatic Mirror
1896
7
Virginia Old Births Index, 1867-1879, lists Isabella's birth as "Aug. 1869."
8
Isabella's age at the time of her death. In the Virginia Register of Deaths for 1870 (no. 66), "March 12"
9
Deaths, 1876 (no. 126)
Jeremiah and Henrietta had separated by 1876
10
Providence Sunday Journal, a well- meaning but error-filled biographical sketch by Maureen McGetrick, "'Black Patti'
Matilda was seven and that her father "may have died shortly after coming to Providence" (28 September 1980, pp. 14-21)
11
Matilda's father until 18 May 1912
12
Matilda's 1896 interview in the New York Dramatic Mirror, the interviewer says that "she began taking lessons ... from Mme. Ada Baron Lacombe in Providence" (11 January 1896)
14
Grave's Lane address, but "Mrs. Henrietta Joiner"
15
New York Clipper
p. 566 below
16
SPC from a September 1892 Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph places the concert in 1889
September
Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph
1889
January 1893 interview in SPC from the Chicago Evening Post
17
Tennessee and Jubilee in the name of Smith's troupe was indicative of the drawing power and fame of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group formed in the late 1860s
Smith
Tennessee and Jubilee
1860
18
"Abbey, Schoeffel, and Grau," it was printed in the Port-of-Spain Gazette, 12 December 1888
12 December
Gazette
1888
19
David Jones as a singer (13 July 1889
20
Smith followed this history with the information that there were three companies in existence in 1888
Public Opinion, 4 December 1888
4 December
Public Opinion
1888
21
Daily Gleaner of 13 August 1888
13 August
Daily Gleaner
1888
22
Times, a newspaper in Barbados, the chorus provided "a sort of echo" behind the scenes while Matilda sang the ballad (14 November 1888)
14 November
Times
1888
23
Antigua Observer, 8 and 17 October 1891
Antigua
8 and 17 October
Observer
1891
24
Annie Smith is listed in the Daily Gleaner as a soprano, Will Pierce, in his 22 June 1889
Smith
22 June
Daily Gleaner
1889
Florence Williams in the Freeman
25
Public Opinion, a newspaper published in Trinidad
Barbados Agricultural Reporter of 12 November
12 November
Barbados Agricultural Reporter
26
"After leaving port generally the only food that was consumed by most of the party was soup, but our party seemed to take great delight in feeding the fishes" (13 July 1889)
27
Chicago Evening News, January 1893 (SPC)
January
Chicago Evening News
1893
28
Freeman, 13 July 1889
13 July
Freeman
1889
29
New Era, 14 December 1888
14 December
New Era
1888
31
Freeman, 22 August 1891
22 August
Freeman
1891
32
Florence Williams's troupe, the New York Star Company, left New York on 20 October 1889
24 November, an "observer" from Kingston wrote to the Freeman
Kingston "were tortured by a group of 3rd rate singers, who have failed entirely. To-night a company of 'amateurs' will give a concert to aid them back to their homes. Let 3rd class men 'give us a rest.' The race is quite able to hold its own when singing is called for; therefore 'we' ought to try to be 'sine culpa' on our own ground" (14 December 1889)
33
Freeman, 13 September 1890
13 September
Freeman
1890
34
St. Thomas Bulletin (10 January 1891)
Thomas
10 January
Bulletin
1891
E. Grant. Of interest is the presence of Florence Williams, who had interviewed Will Pierce in 1889
nn. 28 and 32 above
36
Louis Brown was a bass, while Giovanni Mario (1810-1883)
38
Moscow to the Colored American, Woodward says, "I ... have had three offers for grand opera, but my present position pays me better, and I have [to do] less work" (22 July 1899, p. 5)
Says
22 July
5
Colored American
1899
39
Thursby (1845-1931)
Richard McCandless Gipson, The Life of Emma Thursby, 1845-1931 (New York: The New- York Historical Society, 1940)
Gipson
The Life of Emma Thursby, 1845-1931
1940
41
New York Times on Sunday, 24 April 1892
24 April
New York Times
1892
42
Levy (1838- 1903)
43
Russia, and... [at] the late Paris ex- position [of 1887]
Vieuxtemps's caprice "Les arpèges," Op. 15
"Souvenir d'Amérique, on 'Yankee Doodle,' " Op. 17
Beriot's Concerto No. 5
Alexander's wife, the Empress Maria, died in 1880
Yekaterina in a private ceremony and was about to proclaim her his con- sort when he was killed by terrorists' bombs in March 1881
44
Gilmore (1829-1892) was born in Ireland and came to the United States in 1849
Boston, Gilmore organized the National Peace Jubilee (1869)
World Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival (1872)
1880s, in addition to its national tours, the band played at Manhattan Beach, New York, each summer and at the St. Louis Exposition each fall
45
Chicago Herald notes that "Mrs. Jones is a negress almost as black as can be found, but she has a voice that would make many a Caucasian cantatrice jealous. This statement holds true both as regards the quality and the cultivation of the voice. It is one of great power and great range" ([8?] January 1893)
[8?] January
[8?] January
1893
46
Freeman cite concerts at various African American churches; see, for example, notices on 4 December 1891 (p. 6)
4 December
6
Freeman
1891
5 March 1892 (p. 1)
23 April 1892 (p. 6)
7 May 1892 (p. 3)
48
Brooklyn and Baltimore, it probably dates from the latter part of April or early May 1893
Black Patti's mention of Major Pond's giving up the contract in December 1892
52
David Levering Lewis, W E. B. Du Bois: Biography ofa Race, 1868- 1919 (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), particularly chapters 1-6
Lewis
1
18681919
W E. B. Du Bois: Biography ofa Race
1993
Willard B. Gatewood, "The Formative Years of William Grant Still: Little Rock, Arkansas, 1895-1911," in William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions, ed. Catherine Parsons Smith (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univer- sity of California Press, 2000), 21-38
Gatewood
The Formative Years of William Grant Still: Little Rock, Arkansas, 1895-1911
21
William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions
2000
53
Wallace's Ben-Hur
Sheridan's School for Scandal
54
Deane L. Root, "The Stephen Foster-Antonín DvoŘák Connection," in DvoŘák in America, 1892-1895, ed. John C. Tibbetts (Portland, Oreg.: Amadeus Press, 1993), 243-54
Root
The Stephen Foster-Antonin DvoŘák Connection
243
DvoŘák in America, 1892-1895
1993
Jean E. Snyder documents other aspects of the genesis of the piece in "A Great and Noble School of Music: DvoŘák, Harry T. Burleigh, and the African-American Spiritual," 123-48
24 January 1894 New York Herald review of the concert is given on pp. 366-70
24 January
366
New York Herald
1894
56
Edward "Ned" Harrigan and Tony Hart was seen on Broadway every season from 1872 to 1885
Charles Hamm, Yesterdays: Popular Song in America (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979), 279-81
Hamm
279
Yesterdays: Popular Song in America
1979
Jon W. Finson, Edward Harrigan and David Braham: Collected Songs (Madison, Wisc.: A-R Editions, 1997)
Finson
Edward Harrigan and David Braham: Collected Songs
1997
57
New York Dramatic Mirror on happenings on the foreign scene refers to her appearances in Paris at L'Horloge, an establishment very similar to the Winter- garten in Berlin: "The sensation of the week was the debut at L'Horloge of the Black Patti on July 1. She sang as well as I ever heard her sing, and the audience was genuinely delighted" (20 July 1895, p. 2)
L'Horloge
20 July
2
New York Dramatic Mirror
1895
58
New York Dramatic Mirror on 16 February 1895
16 February
New York Dramatic Mirror
1895
Berlin, in her 11 January 1896
Berlin and London openings (19 February and 16 April, respectively) corroborate the Mirror's version
19 February and 16 April
Mirror
59
Berlin reviews published in the Freeman are reprinted in full in Southern, "In Retrospect," 100-102
In Retrospect
100
Freeman
60
Black Patti's salary during 1895-96
Dramatic Mirror describes a dispute in which she con- tracted to appear for one performance at a New York Conservatory: "The price agreed on was $75. It was a stormy night, and the receipts were a good deal less than $75, so [the proprietress] tried to induce the singer to take less, which she refused to do. Mrs. Jones brought suit and the re- sult was a verdict in her favor for the amount named" (7 March 1896)
7 March
Dramatic Mirror
1896
61
1895, John W. Isham introduced The Octoroons
Isham
The Octoroons
1895
John Graziano, "Sentimental Songs, Rags, and Transformations: The Emergence of the Black Musical, 1895-1910," in Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on Musical Theatre in America, ed. Glenn Loney (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984), 213- 14
Graziano
Sentimental Songs, Rags, and Transformations: The Emergence of the Black Musical, 1895-1910
21314
Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on Musical Theatre in America
1984
Graziano, "Opera, the Cakewalk, and a Farce: A Black Troupe in Great Britain, 1897-98," paper read at the annual conference of the Sonneck Society, Toronto, Canada, April 1990
Thomas L. Riis, Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890-1915 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), 13-22
Riis
13
Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890-1915
1989
Allen Woll, Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), 5
Woll
5
Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls
1989
62
January 1893, for example, in her Chicago Evening Post
January
Chicago Evening Post
1893
Detroit Tribune is headlined "HER FAVORITE Is 'L'AFRICAINE.' The Ambition of the Black Patti to Sing in That Opera. BUT HER COLOR'S AGAINST HER" (12 February 1893)
12 February
Detroit Tribune
1893
63
Black Patti's divorce from David in 1899
Providence until the latter died in the 1920s
64
Negro" is associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s
Freeman by R. W. Thompson
Ira Aldridge (1807-1867)
65
J. B. T. Marsh, The Story of the Jubilee Singers; with their Songs(Boston: Houghton, Osgood and Co., 1880)
Marsh
The Story of the Jubilee Singers; with their Songs
1880

Works Cited: Newspapers, Magazines, Journals, and Archival Sources

Works Cited: Newspapers, Magazines, Journals, and Archival Sources
Agricultural Reporter (Barbados)
Black Patti's Scrapbook of Press Clippings, Dr. Carl R Gross Collection, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Manuscript Division, Howard University [SPC]
Borsen-Courier (Berlin)
Buffalo Inquirer
Bulletin (St. Thomas)
Chicago Conservator
Chicago Evening News
Chicago Evening Post
Chicago Herald
Chicago Tribune
City Directories, Providence, R.I., 1870-1923
Cleveland Gazette
Colored American (Washington, D.C.)
Daily Chronicle (Georgetown, British Guiana)
Daily Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica)
Daily Saratogian
Dayton Herald
Empire (Toronto)
The Entr'acte (London)
The Era (London)
Evening Mail (Toronto)
Gall's Newsletter (Kingston, Jamaica)
Gazette (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad)
Globe (Bridgetown, Barbados)
Globe (Toronto)
Indianapolis Freeman
The Message
New Era (Trinidad)
New York Age
New York Amsterdam News
New York Clipper
New York Dramatic Mirror
New York Herald
New York Review
New York Sun
New York Times
New York World
Norfolk (Va.) Journal and Guide
Observer (Antigua)
Old Births Index, 1867-1879, Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics
Pittsburg Post
Pittsburg Times
Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph
Post (Berlin)
Providence Journal-Bulletin
Providence Sunday Journal
Public Opinion (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad)
Register of Births, City of Providence, Rhode Island State Archives
Register of Deaths, Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics
Register of Marriages, City of Providence, Rhode Island State Archives
Springfield Republican
St. Louis Commercial
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
The Stage (London)
Times (Bridgetown, Barbados)
Vanity Fair

Works Cited: Books and Articles

Works Cited: Books and Articles
Chitty, Alexis. "Carlotta Patti." In Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Sir George Grove, 2:674. London: Macmillan, 1894.
Chitty
Carlotta Patti
674
2
Dictionary of Music and Musicians
1894
Daughtry, Willia E. "Sissieretta Jones: A Study of the Negro's Contribution to Nineteenth Century American Concert and Theatrical Life." Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1968.
Finson, Jon. Edward Harrigan and David Braham: Collected Songs. Madison, Wisc.: A-R Editions, 1997.
Finson
Edward Harrigan and David Braham: Collected Songs
1997
Forbes, Elizabeth. "(4) Adelina [Adela] (Juana Maria) Patti." In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, 14:303. London: Macmillan, 1980.
Forbes
(4) Adelina [Adela] (Juana Maria) Patti
303
14
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
1980
Gatewood, Willard B. "The Formative Years of William Grant Still: Little Rock, Arkansas, 1895-1911." In William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions, edited by Catherine Parsons Smith, 21-38. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.
Gatewood
The Formative Years of William Grant Still: Little Rock, Arkansas, 1895-1911
William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions
2000
Gipson, Richard McCandless. The Life of Emma Thursby, 1845-1931. New York: The New-York Historical Society, 1940.
Gipson
The Life of Emma Thursby, 1845-1931
1940
Graziano, John. "Opera, the Cakewalk, and a Farce: A Black Troupe in Great Britain, 1897-98." Paper read at the annual conference of the Sonneck Society, Toronto, Canada, April 1990.
---. "Sentimental Songs, Rags, and Transformations: The Emergence of the Black Musical, 1895-1910." In Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on Musical Theatre in America, edited by Glenn Loney, 211-32. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984.
Gipson
Sentimental Songs, Rags, and Transformations: The Emergence of the Black Musical, 1895-1910
211
Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on Musical Theatre in America
1984
Hamm, Charles. Yesterdays: Popular Song in America. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.
Hamm
Yesterdays: Popular Song in America
1979
Hare, Maud-Cuney. Negro Musicians and Their Music. Introduction by Josephine Harreld Love. 1936. Reprint, New York: G. K. Hall, 1996.
Hare
Negro Musicians and Their Music
1996
Hill, Errol. "The Hyers Sisters: Pioneers in Black Musical Comedy." In The American Stage: Social and Economic Issues from the Colonial Period to the Present, edited by Ron Engle and Tice L. Miller, 115-30. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Hill
The Hyers Sisters: Pioneers in Black Musical Comedy
115
The American Stage: Social and Economic Issues from the Colonial Period to the Present
1993
Lewis, David Levering. W E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919. New York: Henry Holt, 1993.
Lewis
W E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
1993
Marsh, J. B. T. The Story of the Jubilee Singers; with their Songs. Rev. ed. Boston: Houghton, Osgood, and Co., 1880.
Marsh
J. B. T. The Story of the Jubilee Singers; with their Songs
1880
Pleasants, Henry. The Great Singers, from the Dawn of Opera to Our Own Time. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966.
Pleasants
The Great Singers, from the Dawn of Opera to Our Own Time
1966
Riis, Thomas L. Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890-1915. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.
Riis
Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890-1915
1989
Root, Deane L. "The Stephen Foster-Antonín DvoŘák Connection." In DvoŘák in America, 1892-1895, edited by John C. Tibbetts, 243-54. Portland, Oreg.: Amadeus Press, 1993.
Root
The Stephen Foster-Antonín DvoŘák Connection
243
DvoŘák in America, 1892-1895
1993
Sampson, Henry T. Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Early Black Musical Shows. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980.
Sampson
Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Early Black Musical Shows
1980
Snyder, Jean E. "A Great and Noble School of Music: DvoŘák, Harry T. Burleigh, and the African-American Spiritual." In DvoŘák in America, 1892-1895, edited by John C. Tibbetts, 123-48. Portland, Oreg.: Amadeus Press, 1993.
Snyder
A Great and Noble School of Music: DvoŘák, Harry T. Burleigh, and the African-American Spiritual
123
DvoŘák in America, 1892-1895
1993
Southern, Eileen. Biographical Dictionary of African-American and African Musi- cians. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982.
Southern
Biographical Dictionary of African-American and African Musicians
1982
---. "An Early Black Concert Company: The Hyers Sisters Combination." In A Celebration of American Music: Words and Music in Honor of H. Wiley Hitchcock, edited by Richard Crawford, R. Allen Lott, and Carol J. Oja, 17-35. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990.
Southern
17
A Celebration of American Music: Words and Music in Honor of H. Wiley Hitchcock
1990
---. "In Retrospect: Black Prima Donnas of the Nineteenth Century." In The Black Perspective in Music 7, no. 1 (1979): 95-106.10.2307/1214431
95
---. The Music of Black Americans. 2d ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1983.
Southern
2
The Music of Black Americans
1983
---, ed. Out ofBondage (1876) and Peculiar Sam; or The Underground Railroad (1879). Volume 9 of Nineteenth-Century American Musical Theater. New York: Garland, 1994.
Southern, Eileen, and Josephine Wright. "Sissieretta Jones (1868-1933)." In The Black Perspective in Music 4, no. 2, special issue (July 1976): 191-201.10.2307/1214508
191
Story, Rosalyn M. And So I Sing: African-American Divas of Opera and Concert. New York: Warner Books, 1990.
Rosalyn
And So I Sing: African-American Divas of Opera and Concert
1990
Woll, Allen. Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
Woll
Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls
1989
This content is only available via PDF.