Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels

Event Information

Kelly and Leon's Minstrels Hall (720 Broadway)

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
21 August 2021

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

07 Feb 1870, Evening
08 Feb 1870, Evening
09 Feb 1870, Evening
10 Feb 1870, Evening
11 Feb 1870, Evening
12 Feb 1870, Evening

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Shoo fly don't bother me; Shu fly don't bother me; Shew fly don’t bother me
Composer(s): Howard
aka Down in the valley where the daisies grow
Composer(s): Nish
Composer(s): Barker
Text Author: Harding
Participants:  Edwin Kelly
Composer(s): Lockwood
Text Author: Lockwood
aka Stump orator; Any other man
Participants:  Francis Leon
aka Coming through the rye
Text Author: Burns
Participants:  Cool [minstrel] Burgess
aka Sunflower
Participants:  Cool [minstrel] Burgess
aka Double clog reel; Double clog exercises
aka Work, flute, unidentified
Participants:  J. G. [flautist] Withers
aka Grand scene Norma


Announcement: New York Herald, 30 January 1870, 7.

Reopening of Kelly & Leon’s Minstrels at their old headquarters, following renovation of the hall.

Announcement: New York Clipper, 05 February 1870, 350.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 06 February 1870, 2.
Review: New York Herald, 08 February 1870, 7.

“Last night was the opening night of the talented troupe of minstrels known by the above name, and the little house, 720 Broadway, was well filled by an appreciative and highly respectable audience. ‘The only Leon’ is the greatest minstrel of them all. His make-up of female characters, added to a natural feminine voice, with a wondrous facility for accomplishing every description of dance, charmed, enlivened and immensely amused the audience. ‘When Sammy Comes Home,’ ‘Shoo, Fly,’ ‘Norma in One Scene’ were mainly sustained by Leon’s talents. As a burlesque operatic singer he is certainly without a peer. The first part, which includes the entire vocal and instrumental talent of the company, might be enriched and improved by a minstrelsy selection of a higher and more popular character. In this respect the programme was somewhat below the ordinary run of talented minstrel companies. The entertainment offered, even with this exception, is worth the time and the cost; but there is a large margin yet left for improvement and enterprise, and in Hervé’s great comic opera of  ‘Le Petit Faust,’ which is promised for Monday night, this will no doubt be manifested.”

Review: New York Clipper, 19 February 1870, 366.

“Kelly and Leon opened with their minstrel troupe at their old headquarters, 720 Broadway, lately known as the Waverly Theatre, on the 7th inst., with the following party. There were fourteen in the first part, consisting of Cool Burgess on the bone end; S. S. Purdy, tambourine end; Edwin Kelly, interlocutor; C. R. Clinton, Wm. Brockway, and J. H. Surridge, three of the quartet, three violins, clarionet, cornet, flute and double bass. The quartet is right good, and the instrumental music is fair. The singing of ‘Daisy Valley,’ by Mr. Clinton, was cleverly rendered. He possesses a good voice and uses it with discretion. Edwin Kelly sang the ‘Soft Dew is Sleeping’ in a pleasing and effective manner. Although Mr. Kelly does not sing as well now as he did two years ago, he nevertheless is a pleasing balladist. Surridge was deserving of an encore for his singing of ‘Don’t You Go, Tommy,’ for he executed it very well. Mr. Surridge shows signs of great improvement in his singing since we last saw him. Mr. Purdy was as laughable as ever on the end, but we failed to hear a new gag either from him or Cool Burgess. They were the same old ones that have done service for many a day. Purdy has toned down considerably in his style, which is decidedly more preferable. Cool Burgess is too boisterous to hope for success as an end man. All such screeching and screaming as he indulges in answers better for the olio than the first part. It is solely on his screeching that Mr. Burgess looks for a laugh, as he is not very funny in his remarks. The olio opened with Leon, who sang in costume ‘When Sammy Comes House’ and for an encore gave a stump speech on ‘Women’s Rights,’ followed by a fancy dance. In the terpsichorean business Leon has no rival that puts on burnt cork, for his movements are as graceful as many of our premier danseuses, while his movements are as quick as lightening. Sam Price followed with the ‘Haunted Home,’ which did not amount to much. This was followed by Cool Burgess, who sang ‘Coming Through the Rye,’ ‘The Sun Flower,’ and did a verse of ‘Nicodemus Johnson.’ It is in the olio that Mr. Burgess is really good, for whatever he does is laughable in the extreme. Quilter and Goldrich did a double clog dance and song, but they require a good deal more practice at singing and dancing before they can be called even clever. Burgess, Purdy and Clarke did the act of ‘The Deluded Victim,’ and kept the audience in roars of laughter. J. G. Withers did a solo on the Boehm flute very well, and the ‘Shoo Fly’ was well done by Leon and Purdy. James Clarke played a banjo solo and was satisfactory. He picks upon the banjo as if he was master of it, and sings well. While the house was not crowded any night during the week, the attendance was fair.”