Illustrated advertising envelope promoting Billy F. Travise’s Souvenir Minstrels. Henry Millard.
Illustrated advertising envelope promoting Billy F. Travise’s Souvenir Minstrels

Illustrated advertising envelope promoting Billy F. Travise’s Souvenir Minstrels

Marietta, Ohio: 1892. Envelope or Cover. This advertising envelope features an illustration of ascending hot air balloon and a text that reads, “Billy F. Travise’s * Souvenir Minstrels * Season ’92. & ’93. Touring Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky.” The reverse notes that for the next season, the show will be renamed “The Travise-Bennedict Original Souvenir Minstrels.” It is franked with 2¢ carmine postage stamp (Scott #220) and addressed to the manager of the Coalport, Pennsylvania opera house. The cover is in nice shape; minor postal soiling and slightly reduced on the right where it was opened. Very good. Item #008692

This travelling regional show that toured the Mid-West was apparently short-lived. Billy Travise is only briefly referenced in period newspapers as an actor, comedian, and show producer. However, Henry Millard, the company’s Advance Representative, was a long time member of the travelling show community, having been a “bill poster” for the famous Adam Forepaugh Circus in the 1870s, the business manager of the Black Brothers Ten Cent Show in the 1880s, and the business manager for the Belmont Show until it died while touring in 1890. One member of the Forepaugh Circus remembered him as “a beat whom I fed and lodged (guaranteeing his hotel bill) in 1872, and secured a position for the summer; he proved recreant in each case, was bounced for incompetency, and I paid the SUCKER’S hotel bill, $25.” (See Charles F. Day’s route book at the Circus History Society.)

It’s not clear exactly what type of show this was because almost all carnivals and circuses at this time included minstrel performances as part of their midway line up. For the most part, minstrel shows—which were incredibly popular with both blacks and whites—began with all of the members performing a dance routine with songs and jokes, continued with humorous monologues and stump speeches, and concluded with a slapstick plantation sketch or parody of a popular play. It’s also not clear as to whether the show included a balloon ascension, although it is probable that it did, as these attractions occasionally accompanied carnival engagements.

An exceptionally scarce visual record of a small circus-minstrel Midwestern travelling show. Nothing else similar for sale in the ephemera or philatelic trade. Not listed in The American Illustrated Cover Catalog, and no auction records of other similar items besides this example.

Price: $300.00