- Collection ID:
Collection is in English.
- Physical Description:
The collection documents Marks's years as a harpist on the Midwestern minstrel circuit. It includes sheet music and song books, theater programs, posters announcing minstrel shows, newspaper articles and advertisements.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection contains the personal and professional papers of musician Peter Marks dating primarily from the mid to late nineteenth century. These materials provide valuable insight into life before and after the Civil War mainly through correspondence and other primary sources documenting domestic activities. The materials also provide invaluable insight into how a musician was able to make a living teaching music and performing in classical music concerts, as well as, with minstrel troupes.
Minstrelsy, created in the early 1800s was a comedic form of entertainment using song, dance, skit, musical performances and other variety acts as part of the program. Shows would often change on a weekly basis and troupes would travel around the country performing their own unique talents. Before the Civil War minstrelsy was most often performed by a white person like Peter Marks in black face and tended to use characters that lampooned African Americans as stupid, lazy, clumsy, and superstitious. After the Civil War, however, minstrels were occasionally performed by African Americans, who were usually a part of a publicity stunt. Several advertisements in this collection include images of minstrels in blackface, as well as, playbills and programs. Peter Marks was during his time one of the most well known musicians to come out of the minstrelsy circuit working alongside many other big name performers.
The collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1, Personal Papers, 1800s-1909; undated
Series 2, Professional Materials, 1849-1915; undated
Subseries 2.1, Playbills, Programs and Advertisements, 1863-1879; undated
Subseries 2.2, Sheet Music, 1843-1901; undated
Subseries 2.3, Publications, 1849-1915; undated
Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
During his time, Peter Matthew Marks was said to have been one of the premier traveling minstrel musicians in America during the Civil War. Marks was born February 21, 1843 to parents William Augustus Marks and Anne Mooney (Marks) in Ireland. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. By the time, he was twenty he was a skilled musician in piano, harp, and guitar. Marks performed with various minstrel troupes in and around Cincinnati, Ohio. During the war, he served as a member of the Ohio militia for one month before leaving to continue his musical career. Marks met and married Mary "Emma" McKitrick. Mary "Emma" McKitrick was born October 29, 1841 in Hamilton Butler, Ohio to parents Daniel Mckitrick and Ruth Burlingame. Emma also had an aunt, Emily Burlingame and an uncle, Nathan Burlingame on her mother's side whom she communicated regularly with. Peter and Emma settled in Cincinnati and raised two sons Eugene (1871-?) and Ralph (1875-1950) Marks. While in Cincinnati, Marks performed the minstrelsy circuit working alongside many big name celebrities. He is associated with at least eight different minstrel troupes, including Carncross and Dixey's Minstrels, Burgess, Pendergast, Hughes, Donniker and La Rue's Minstrels, and Monitor Campbell's Minstrels. While his primary career was performing with troupes he also gave solo performances and provided private lessons. Peter Marks ultimately left the minstrel circuit and went on to become a professor at the Cincinnati College of music. He died in 1883.
This collection was processed by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist, 2015.
Vanessa Broussard Simmons
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the Archives Center in 2014, by Mark Jessee in honor of the Archie and Camille Jessee Family.
Using the Collection
Peter Marks Minstrelsy Collection, 1800-1915, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Hooker-Howe Costume Company Records, circa 1922-1938
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012