Daniel Decatur "Dan" Emmett (October 29, 1815 ? June 28, 1904), was an American songwriter and entertainer, founder of the first troupe of the blackface minstrel tradition.
Of Irish ancestry, he was born at Mount Vernon, Ohio, then a frontier region.
After working as a printer's devil and serving in the United States Army, Emmett joined a circus troupe in 1835. In 1842, in association with Billy Whitlock, Dick Pelham, and Frank Brower, he organized the Virginia Minstrels, which made their first appearance at the old Chatham Square Theatre in New York City on February 17, 1843.
Although blackface performance, in which white men painted their hands and faces black and impersonated caricatures of black men and women, was already an established performance mode at that time?Thomas D. Rice had created the character of Jim Crow nearly a decade earlier, and blackface had been widely popular ever since?Emmett's group are said to be the first to 'black up' an entire band rather than one or two performers. The group's full-length blackface performance is generally considered to have performed the first true minstrel show: previous blackface acts were usually either an entr'acte for a play or one of many acts in a comic variety show.
Emmett retired to his hometown of Mount Vernon in 1878 where he died on June 28, 1904, aged 88 years.
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