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Run to the Hills

May 17, 2010

Today’s post brings you a little tangential bit of my work. Behold an excerpt from the “Amusements” listings of the New York Times, March 4, 1894:

Who knew Iron Maiden had been around since 1894?

Also listed on this page:

• A concert by an orchestra of 100 Banjos and guitars

• Performances by a boxing kangaroo and “The Royal Wrestling Lion.” The latter was making his American debut at Madison Square Garden where apparently his “Trainer Feeds the Lion from His Mouth.” I’m assuming they meant the trainer’s mouth, otherwise the comment would appear to be unnecessary.

• Performances of Götterdamerung and Die Walküre conducted by Walter Damrosch at The Met.

• A lecture series on “Nearer India: Historic Cities, Mogul Palaces

• A production of Oscar Wilde’s “A Woman of No Importance”

• “Performing leopards, Oura’s Royal Japanese Acrobats.” It is unclear whether the acrobats are a separate entity from the leopards. One or both of them are described as “Marvels of Grace and Daring.”

Some of these ads definitely need some grammatical work.

The Amusements page of the New York Times in the 1890s makes for great reading. There was much less division between high and low brow entertainment back then. Circus acts, vaudeville shows, Wagnerian opera, it was all just one big show. They sometimes even coexisted on the same program. I read about a performance of a Chopin piano concerto sandwiched between an acrobat act and a troupe of dancing elephants on a vaudeville state. By the early twentieth century, the more familiar distinction between “Amusements” and concerts set in. The Times started separating amusements from serious music, and the genres went in different cultural directions. But in the 1890s, it’s all laid out for you on one page: Dogs and monkeys, a grand sacred concert and…IRON MAIDEN.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 1:58 pm

    I bet Paul Di’Anno was the singer, so they probably did “Murders In The Rue Morgue” and “Running Free”.

    A concert for 100 banjos and guitars? Cue the “Far Side” comic about the maestro in Hell!

  2. freshhell permalink
    May 17, 2010 3:07 pm

    Excellent! Though I don’t think I could handle 100 banjos in one place.

  3. May 17, 2010 3:12 pm

    Large banjo/guitar/mandolin orchestras were all the rage in that era. You can read about the phenomenon here: .

    But it is agreed that there may be such a thing as too many banjos.

  4. freshhell permalink
    May 17, 2010 3:14 pm

    My grandfather had a mandolin. Sure wish I had it now. No idea what happened to it.

  5. May 17, 2010 3:17 pm

    I’m itching for a mandolin myself. They’re tuned just like a violin, so I figure all I’ll need to do is figure out the right hand.

  6. May 17, 2010 5:28 pm

    The pastor in our church plays the mandolin.

  7. May 17, 2010 7:39 pm

    Smed, clearly I need to move to Minnesota.

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