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Hibernicons: Irish-themed Panorama Shows and Harrigan's Hibernian Company
Pat Touhey's first known musical engagement was with a hibernicon, an Irish-themed panorama show, 1885-86. For an overview of his experience, see Pat Touhey's Earliest Known Tour. The material below is about hibernicons generally, other hibernicon companies, and the activities of Harrigan's Hibernian Company before and after Touhey was with it.
To begin with, recollections of hibernicons by one who saw them:
"Things We'd Like-"
'In the days of our youth, long before motion pictures had ever been dreamed of, there used to be organizations traveling through the country featuring what were known as panoramas. These used to be set up on the stage a short distance from the back drop.
'The panoramas consisted of a series of paintings about five by eight feet. They were attached to two upright spools and the operator usually was a boy who sat out of sight beside one spool and wound it up as the other spool unwound. There was a curtain in front with an opening just large enough to make a frame for the picture.
'Among the most popular of these panoramas were those with a special appeal to the Irish people of whom there were many immigrants in those days. In connection with the showing of the panorama and its accompanying lecture, a number of specialty performers took part. The lecturer usually played the part of the head of a small party of tourists taking in the beauties of the Emerald Isle. There would be an Irish comedian acting as a guide who would break into a song or a dance at the slightest provocation. He was accompanied by a soubrette who played the part of an Irish colleen, and she could execute an Irish jig "like nobody's business." Then there would be a blackface comedian, a protean artist who specialized in character changes and an old fashioned Dutch comedian with wooden shoes and a paintbrush beard attached to his chin.
'Among those companies which remain in our memory were McEvoy's Mirror of Ireland, McGill & Strong's Hibernian Minstrels and Howarth's Hibernicon. There were others in different parts of the country of which we had no knowledge. Some of the most prominent comedians of a later date served their time with those old Irish panoramas. [Mention here of John T. Kelly, "The Rolling Mill Man"] Another who rose to the top was Jerry Cohan. He was "Dublin Dan" with Howarth's Hibernicon and Mrs. Cohan was the colleen. This was before the days of the "Four Cohans" of whom he was the leader, with Mrs. Cohan and their talented children, George and Josephine Cohan forming the company. George M. Cohan is known today as America's best loved actor.'
Plattsburgh [NY] Daily Press April 15, 1939 p. 4 column 1
From NYS Historic Newspapers
Irish-themed panorama shows are a nearly forgotten offshoot of a category of entertainment known as panoramas. The first panoramas appeared about 1790, and were enormous paintings which covered the wall of a large circular room, giving the viewer the impression of being surrounded by the image. Battle scenes such as Waterloo or Gettysburg, or landscapes, like the gardens at Versailles, were appropriate subjects. Next came "moving panoramas," where long paintings were mounted on scrolls, as described above. In these exhibitions, the audience was seated before the painting, and a lecturer described what was shown, often accompanied by a piano player. Moving panoramas were most popular in the mid-nineteenth century. One of the most successful of these was John Banford's Panorama of the Mississippi, which depicted what was seen on a boat trip up (or down) the Mississippi River between New Orleans and St Louis.
By the early 1850s there were moving panorama shows about Ireland which toured in the United States. And by 1860 one touring company, the MacEvoy family, had developed a new form of presentation, which, instead of one lecturer, involved the lecturer with comedians, dancers, musicians, all on a "trip to Ireland." Michelle Granshaw, who has done groundbreaking research on this topic, calls this new form the "hibernicon," after the name the MacEvoys used for their company starting around 1863.
The MacEvoy family companies (family members split off and started their own) were very successful and inspired many imitators. The programs of many companies featured The Professor, a lecturer; a pair of American tourists; Barney, the Irish jaunting car driver and guide, and Nora, Barney's sweetheart. There is a narrative, if not a plot, regarding Barney's wooing of Nora, and breaks in the presentation for songs, dancing and "specialty" acts of various kinds. Granshaw argues that hibernicons were a precursor to modern musical theater and musical comedy.
Hibernicons were active in the US from about 1855 to 1910. The high water mark was in the 1870s, when "dozens of companies toured America and Canada." (Granshaw, p. 36) By 1885, when Pat Touhey performed with Harrigan's Hibernian Company, hibernicons were in decline.
Hibernicons were generally, though not exclusively, marketed to Irish and Irish-American communities. There was some effort to present the programs as suitable for families, as uplifting, educational. Despite the Roman Catholic Church's aversion to theatrical performances because of potential immoral or sinful conduct, Granshaw indicates that hibernicons were generally accepted, and were sometimes performed at church fairs and other fundraising events.
Pat Touhey was not the only Irish piper to play for a hibernicon. Others include:
Charles Ferguson with the grand "Panorama of Ireland" 1852
John Hicks with "Healy & Cohan's Hibernian Comedy Company" 1873
Patrick Fay with the "Tableaux of Erin" company circa 1874
John Egan performed with Touhey in the "Harrigan's Hibernian Company" 1885
John Harney toured with "Harrigan's Hibernians" 1886
Frank Kenney with the "McAvoy Hibernican Co." 1886
"Fitzpatrick" with the "Harrigan's Hibernian Tourist Company" 1890 -there is a small chance this may be Patrick J. Fitzpatrick
L. P. O'Brien performed at a panorama presented by the Halley Brothers, Montreal, 1894
Plenty of information has been compiled about moving panoramas, available in books and websites. In 2018, when I write this, there is comparatively little to be found about hibernicons. Michelle Granshaw's dissertation, cited below, opened my eyes to the history and extent of this kind of entertainment.
As far as is known, none of the hibernicon paintings survive.
Granshaw, Michelle The Hibernicon and Visions of Returning Home: Popular Entertainment in Irish America from the Civil War to World War I doctoral dissertation University of Washington 2012, 373 pages.
Other companies of Irish-themed panoramas, surely an incomplete list:
MacEvoy's Hibernicon or New Hibernicon active 1863-88
O'Reilly's Grand Panorama of Ireland active 1852
Dr. Corry's Ireland in Shade and Sunshine* active 1871
Erin and the Brennans active c. 1873-74
Dalley's Historic Hibernia* active 1874
Baker's Grand Hibernian Gems* active 1874
McGill and Strong's Minstrel Company* active 1876
McNevin's Panorama of Ireland, with Dan Nash and Kate Cooper, active 1880
Grattan's Panoramic Mirror of Ireland active 1881-82
The Dan Nash Hibernian and comedy company active 1885, 1893^
Dan Nash's Panorama of Ireland 1892^
Howarth's Great Hibernian Comedy company "Mirror of Ireland" active c. 1885-9 as Howorth's Hibernia* 1886
Dan Nash's Hibernicon Comedy and Specialty Company 1886-7
John Sheehan's Hibernian Tourists active 1891
Sullivan's Hibernian Comedy company "Mirror of Ireland" "Kitty of Cork" active c. 1894-5
Howorth Hibernica Co. 1906
Most of these names from Fulton History index; those with asterisk from "Appendix: Database of Irish Vaudeville Acts 1865-1905" in Irish Stereotypes in Vaudeville, 1865-1905 by Jennifer Mooney, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. With up arrowhead, from Odell, George C. D. Annals of the New York Stage, Columbia Univ. Press 1949 vol. XV pp. 449, 533.
Granshaw (p. 36) also lists these companies as "touring in the late 1860s and 1870s:"
Blaisdell's Gigantic Panorama of Ireland known as the Hibernicon
Dailey's Hibernicon Minstrels
John MacEvoy's New Hibernicon
Frank McEvoy's New Hibernicon or Ireland in America
Sullivan and Emmett's Panorama of Ireland
Bordwell's Mirror of Ireland
Healey's Hibernian Minstrels and Mirror of Ireland
Flaherty's Mirror of Ireland
McGill and Strong's Mirror of Ireland
Erin and the Brennans
John MacEvoy's Erinopticon
Dr. Barlow's Mirror of Ireland
Harrigan's Hibernian Company before Pat Touhey joined it circa 1873-1884
What follows is a grab-bag of references to Harrigan's Hibernian Company; almost everything I could find. Its history is not straightforward and information is sometimes scant. For entries like these during the time Pat Touhey was in the company, see Touhey References 1885-99. For entries about the company after Touhey left it, see below.
' "Jerry Cohan's Irish Hibernia," was the name of a troupe dad organized and started on tour when we finished with "Daniel Boone." With a panorama of Ireland, showing thirty-odd scenes, a couple of Irish bagpipers and a jaunting car, we toured the one-night stands for seven or eight months. My job with this show was driving the two mules hitched to the jaunting car on parade, and taking tickets at the front door, besides selling song books during the intermission.
'I got my first experience as an advertising agent with this show. Dad and I used to pass out handbills to the factory hands during the lunch hour, while the Irish bagpipers would drone their jigs and reels. When the "Hibernia" troupe closed, we went back to Keith's (1888).'
Cohan, George M. Twenty Years on Broadway And the years it took to get there Harper & Brothers NY (1924) p. 14
The book The Piping of Patsy Touhey by Pat Mitchell and Jackie Small (Na Piobairi Uilleann 1986) quotes an article, "Still a 'Phenom.' " by Rennold Wolf from the New York Sunday Telegraph about George Cohan and "Jerry Cohan's Hibernica."
NY Sunday Telegraph Sep. 18, 1904 Magazine Section p. 6 column 1
New York NY Morning Telegraph 1904 - 0207
There was Healey & Cohan's Hibernia, also known as Healy & Cohan Hibernian Comedy Company, active 1873-74, as far as I can tell. Advertisements refer to Tim Cohan. This may be Jerry Cohan, or may not. First reference to Jerry Cohan with Healy & Cohan's Hibernia is Feb. 1875, below. There may be an earlier reference, Reading, PA Nov. 16-17, 1874, below, but records I have seen are not clear.
Reading, PA Grand Opera House Dec. 12-13, 1873
'Amusements. - Healey & Cohan's Hiberniana, or a Tour through Ireland, opened last night at the Grand Opera House, to a fair and much pleased audience. The scenery and incidents were well represented and an interesting descriptive lecture was given by Mr. John E. Healy. A pleasing variety entertainment was also given by the members of the Hibernia Comedy Company. A "Chicken Concert" on the Irish bagpipes was an amusing feature, and was loudly applauded. Altogether, the entertainment was the best thing in the panorama line that has been given in Reading for a long time. This afternoon there will be a matinee, the prices of admission to which will be 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults. This evening the entertainment will close, and we advise all who wish to see and admire the beautiful scenery, &c., on canvas, of the Green Isle of the Ocean to attend.'
Reading [PA] Times and Dispatch Dec. 13, 1873 p. 4 column 1
Harrisburg, PA Grand Opera House Dec. 22-23, 1873
Healy & Cohan's Hibernian Comedy Company headed by Mr. Tim Cohan. Dr. J. E Henly, lecturer in description of the scenery. "Mr John Hicks, with Irish bag pipes."
Harrisburg [PA] Telegraph Dec. 22, 1873 p. 2 column 6 ad+
Wheeling, WV Hamilton's Opera House Dec. 29-31, 1873-Jan. 1, 1874
'The Beauties of Ireland. ... for the Opera House, commencing on next Monday evening, the Healy & Cohan Hibernian Comedy Company, of which an exchange speaks in the following favorable terms:
'A very large audience assembled at National Hall last evening, on the occasion of the first performance of the Hibernians. This is a peculiar entertainment, varied and pleasing to the general public, as their manifested satisfaction proved. The panorama posesses much scenic merit, a number of the views being picturesque and beautiful; among which we may mention Boston harbor, Sunset view of Kilkenny, Ruins of the Seven Churches on the Shannon, Glendalough, the Bridge and town of Bray, the Vale of Avoca, Carlingford on the Boyne, Tully Castle, Armagh, Loche Foyle, True Bay, and others. There was a profusion of music, presented in the popular form of song by the performers, all of whom were excellent in their respective roles. The two lady vocalists were in fine voice, and the ballads, pathetic and humorous, were well given. Particularly noticeable were "Come to the Shamrock Isle," "Mollie Darling," "My Heart is Over the Sea." Mr. Cohan, as the Guide, exerted himself to please the audience and succeeded. He is a good comedian, and his "handling" of his feet particularly in the African breakdown, Irish jig and German Valse, was inimitable. Mr. Price sang several songs most acceptably, and the Dutch duet between him and "Barney" created a furore of applause. Then there were airs on the Irish bagpipes, a curious but not very musical instrument, including the "Chicken Concert," and all interspersed with amusing dialogue. ...'
Wheeling [WV] Daily Intelligencer Dec. 25, 1873 p. 4 column 2 ad+ column 4
The ad, same page, has "Tim Cohan" and "John Hicks, with Irish Bag Pipes."
Jersey City, NJ Nov. 15-16, 18, 1872
Hartford, CT April 14, 1873
Portland, ME May 12-14, 1873
South Providence, RI Aug. 29-30 1873
Reading, PA Dec 12-13, 1873
Harrisburg, PA Dec. 22-23, 1873
Cleveland, OH Jan 26-31, 1874
Columbus, OH Feb 16-17, 1874
Portsmouth, OH Feb 27-28, 1874
Madison, IN March 11-12, 1874
Columbus, IN March 13-14, 1874
Logansport, IN March 25-26, 1874
Elkhart, IN April 10-11, 1874
Marshall, MI April 18, 20, 1874
Providence, RI July 1874
The company probably split up in Summer 1874. Dr. Healy took his tableau out west. An engagement in Oakland, Ca., Sep. 10-12, 1874, for example:
Oakland, CA Brayton Hall Sep. 10-12, 1874
"Dr. Healy's Hibernian Gems Eighty-five Beautiful Views of Ould Ireland, Painted on Ten Thousand feet of moving canvas. Views from every county and every object in the Ould Sod, faithfully portrayed by the Irish Comedy Company, headed by ... [list of players]."
Oakland [CA] Evening Tribune Sep. 7, 1874 p. 2 column 3
Jerry Cohan apparently bought in to the company which stayed in the east. Perhaps a 2nd panorama was painted which stayed in the east? See NY Clipper, Nov. 20, 1875, below.
Scranton, PA Oct 10, 12, 1874
Providence, RI Oct. 13, 1874
Reading, PA Nov. 16-17, 1874 Mr. Jerry Cohan is mentioned.[?]
Sioux City, IA Nov. 28, 30, 1874
Quincy, IL Jan 2, 4, 1875
New Castle, Pa Opera House Jan 7, 1875
Healy & Cohan's Hibernia failed to appear "The concern had broken up in Ohio."
NY The Spirit of the Times Jan. 16, 1875 p. 554 column 2
New York NY Spirit Of Times 1875 Jan-Dec Grayscale - 0074.pdf
"Jerry Cohan, specialist, is open for an engagement. He also advertises that he will dispose of a half interest in his Hibernians."
New York Clipper Feb. 20, 1875 p. 375 column 5
New York NY Clipper 1873-1875 - 0793.pdf
"An Established Success Dr. J. E. Healy's Hibernian Gems. A new and magnificent work of art, representing the principal points of interest in Irish Scenery and History, together with the famous, genuine, original Jerry Cohan and his talented company [list of names].... The public and production[?] are warned against parties using some of our names in connection with an Irish panorama advertised for sale."
New York Clipper Nov. 20, 1875 p. 272 column 5 ad+
New York NY Clipper 1875-1877 - 1266.pdf
St. Johns, NF Sep. 1878
Healy's Hibernian Minstrels list of players not including Cohan.
New York Clipper Sep. 28, 1878 p. 215 column 5
New York NY Clipper 1879-1880 - 0632.pdf
Bangor, ME Opera House June 25, 1883
"Cohan, Sellon and Burns' Grand Triple Show. Including the Famous and Only Jerry Cohan's Irish Minstrels, Irish Brigade Band and Orchestra. Healy and Cohan's Hiberniana. The Best Panorma of Ireland's Scenery Extant."
Bangor [ME] Daily Whig and Courier June 20, 1883 p. 2 column 6 ad+
Brooklyn, NY The Standard Museum March 24-29, 1884
"Succeeding March allotments gave ... Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Cohan (24th-29th)...."
Odell, George C. D. Annals of the New York Stage, Columbia Univ. Press 1940 vol. XII p. 377
An indication that Jerry Cohan did other kinds of engagements during this period.
Selected references to Harrigan's Hibernian Company after Touhey had likely left it circa 1886-1890
What follows is a grab-bag of references to Harrigan's Hibernian Company; almost everything I could find. Its history is not straightforward and information is sometimes scant. For entries like these during the time Pat Touhey was in the company, see Touhey References 1885-99. For entries about the company before Touhey joined it, see above.
"Season of 40 Weeks. Wanted for Harrigan's Hibernian Tourist Company Commencing [Tuesday] August 31 , A Good Contracting-agent, Irish Comedian, 2[?] Sketch-artists, male and female; [etc.]..."
New York Clipper June 26, 1886 p. 239 column 3 ad+
New York NY Clipper 1885-1887 - 0668.pdf
Ad for Harrigan's Double Hibernian Co., similar to others, but describing the parade as including along with pipers riding in a jaunting car, "Harrigan's Irish Brigade Band, W. C. Groves, Leader, escorted by Major Kibble, Military Drill Expert and Lightning Musket Juggler, at Noon. Free to All!"
Yonkers [NY] Statesman Sep. 3, 1886 p. 2 column 6 ad+
Yonkers NY Statesman 1886 - 0806.pdf
Red Bank, NJ Opera House Sept. 25, 1886
"On Saturday Evening Harrigan's Double Hibernian company of Irish and American comedians will play in the opera house. The play is of the variety order, and is entitled, "The Two Barneys: or Mulligan's Double." The two Barneys are twin brothers who have been separated since childhood. They are engaged as guides by a party of American tourists in Ireland, and although they do not meet until the conclusion of the play, yet they are continually taken for each other by their respective masters and sweethearts. There is some good Irish scenery introduced."
Red Bank [NJ] Register Sept. 22, 1886 p. 1 column 4
Middletown Township Public Library, N.J.
Chester, PA Holly Tree Hall Oct. 12, 1886
The Harrigan Tourists.
"Harrrigan's Hibernian Company drew a packed house at Holly Tree Hall last evening. ... The music of the Irish pipes elicited warm applause...."
Chester [PA] Evening Times Oct. 13, 1886 p. 4 column 6
Digital Archives of the Delaware County Library System
Ogdensburg, NY Opera House Oct. 28, 1886
'Tomorrow evening will be a night of fun at the Opera House. The Woonsocket [RI] Reporter, speaking of Harrigan's Hibernians, says:
' "The panorama of Irish scenes forms a pleasing, though minor, portion of Harrigan's entertainment, the racy sketch of Irish life and character, as given by the company, being predominent. When the cast of characters was scanned over, and the names of Jerry Cohan and his talented wife, Dave and Clara Williams, Geo. Leslie, Frank Duffy Will Bamford, John Harney, the Irish piper, and others, a good show was assured...." '
Odgensburg [NY] Journal Oct. 27, 1886 p. 4 announcement column 5 ad+ column 6
NYS Historic Newspapers
Another announcement this show:
"Harrigan's Hibernian Tourists Co. appear in this city to-night...." [Oct. 28] Quoting from The Miners' Journal, of Pottsville, Pa [undated], "The bagpipe playing of Pat Toohey and John Hagan was a revelation to many who thought they had heard bagpipes before...."
Ogdensburg N.Y. Advance and Democrat Oct. 28, 1886 p. 5 column 3
ogdensburg-advance-1886 - 0341.pdf
Note: The first known use of this Miner's Journal review was in the Reading, PA Daily Times and Dispatch, Jan. 22, 1886 p. 4 column 3
Harrigan was using this review and description in promotional material as late as Oct. 1889, by which time the show had changed considerably.
Scranton [PA] Republican Oct. 21, 1889 p. 2 column 3
The review also used here:
Harrigan's Double Company.
"At Fehr's Opera House, on Friday evening, Sept. 3d, will appear Harrigan's Double Hibernian Company, which last year gave one of the most amusing and instructive entertainments ever held here. The Pottsville Miners' Journal says...."
Port Chester [NY] Journal Sep. 2, 1886 p. 1 column 7
Port Chester NY Journal 1885-1886 - 0575.pdf
The possible Port Chester engagement, 1885, not counted as a gig for Pat Touhey.
Elyria, OH Elyria Operahouse Dec. 6, 1886
"Dec. 6th, '86 Harrigan's Double Hibernian ! Company...." variant of usual ad, including ' "Cuponti" the Hindoo Wonder, In feats of Juggling.' Also an article, column 3, reprinting a review from the Hazelton Pa. Sentinel, Oct. 9th. Describes the show in some detail, mentions bagpipers, but no names.
Elyria [OH] Daily Telephone Nov. 30, 1886 p. 3 column 3 ad column 4
Ypsilanti, MI Opera House Jan 1, 1887
Ypsilanti [MI] Commercial Dec. 31 1886 p. 5, column 6
Lockport, NY Hodge Opera House Monday Jan. 17, 1887
Harrigan's Double Hibernian Company
Typical ad; just below it an ad for W. H. Power's Company, "The Ivy Leaf" at Hodge Opera House, one night only, Jan. 19.
Lockport [NY] Daily Journal Jan. 17, 1887 p. 2 column 5
Lockport NY Daily Journal 1886 Nov-Mar 1887 - 0272.pdf
Auburn, NY Academy of Music Jan. 25, 1887
'Tuesday Evening, January 25, Harrigan's Double Hibernian Company! ... Watch for the Grand Parade. Greatest team of Bagpipes ever from Old Ireland, riding on a Rale Ould Jaunting Car, drawn by Ulster ponies, "Dublin Jackeen" and "Mullingar." '
Auburn [NY] Bulletin Jan. 24, 1887 p. ? column 5 ad+
Newspaper Auburn NY Daily Bulletin 1887 - 0078.PDF
Port Chester, NY Fehers' Opera House April 15, 1887
"Fehers' Opera House One Night Only, Friday April 15 Harrigan's Double Hibernian Co. ... Mr. & Mrs. Jerry Cohan Supported by a strong Comedy Comedy... Watch for the Grand Parade Greatest Team of Bagpipers ever from O[ld Ire?]land. ... Thos. Harrigan, Proprietor. Jerry Cohan, Manager."
Port Chester [NY] Journal April 14, 1887 p. 5 column 7 ad+
Port Chester NY Journal 1887-1888 - 0118.pdf
Fort Wayne, IN Academy [Theatre?] Nov. 9, 1887
'Fort Wayne. ... At the Academy, "Keep it Dark" played to good business 10,11,12, as did Harrigan's Tourists 9. ... One of the attractions of Harrrigan's Tourists is a panoramic view of interesting Irish scenes.They also make a street parade with several persons playing Irish bagpipes.'
New York Clipper Nov. 19, 1887 p. 569 column 3
Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections
Brazil, IN Music Hall Nov. 26, 1887
"At Music Hall, Saturday evening, Nov. 26th. Harrigan's Tourist Co. of Irish, American, German and Swiss Comedians, eight in number, and two Colleens, two Guides, two Pipers and six Musicians. ..."
Brazil IN Clay County Enterprise Nov. 23, 1887 p. 3 column 4
Decatur, IL Dec. 6, 1887
Local News. "The Harrigan Tourists to visit Decatur Tuesday evening are now on their third annual tour."
Decatur [IL] Daily Republican Dec. 2, 1887 p. 6 column 1
Bridgeton, NJ Wilson's Opera House Sep. 15, 1889
Mentions "... the child wonder, Josie Cohan...."
Bridgeton [NJ] Evening News Sept. 16, 1889 p. 4 column 4
Lockport NY Hodge Opera House Feb. 21, 1890
Harrigan's Hibernian Tourist Company
Quotes from a review in The Sun of Scranton, Pa.:
"... Fitzpatrick, the bagpiper, struck to the core of Irish hearts."
Lockport [NY] Daily Journal Feb. 17, 1890 p. 3 column 6
Lockport NY Daily Journal 1889 Nov-Mar 1890 - 0375.pdf
Similar announcements, likewise quoting from the review in the Scranton Pa. Sun for performance in Brockport, NY, "next week,"
Brockport [NY] Republic Feb. 13, 1890 p. 3 column 6
For performance in Bath, NY at the Casino, Feb. 28, 1890,
Bath NY Steuben Courier Feb. 28, 1890 p. 3 column 1
Bath NY Steuben Courier 1887-1890 - 0667.pdf
For performance in Ithaca, NY at the Opera House, March 4, 1890,
Ithaca [NY] Daily Journal March 4, 1890 p. 3 column 3
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