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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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Medicine Show: 1935

Medicine Show: 1935

October 1935. Medicine show at Huntingdon, Tennessee. View full size. 35mm nitrate negative by Ben Shahn for the Farm Security Administration.

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Medicine Show

I've since had the pleasure of viewing other pictures from this set. This is definitely a "blackface" player in a medicine show. I have good reason to believe that this is Tommy Scott from Doc Chambers' Medicine Show. Scott played guitar, sang, performed in blackface, and did a ventriloquism act (note the ventriloquist dummy in front).

Medicine Show

This is more likely to be a medicine show. A minstrel show performer would be much more elaborately costumed, and would probably (though not always) be a white performer in blackface.

Medicine shows often featured music and comedy playlets, almost always including a black stock character, and black musicians, all costumed much more rustically (as here). Indians were most often employed to lend credibility to the medicine's origins in the "natural healing arts of the Red Man".

Or Minstrel Show?

Medicine Shows were in the 1800s, mostly, and sold medicine--snake oil--and tended to use Indians. This appears to be a minstrel show instead?

[The caption cards for this and a similar photo both say medicine show. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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