The Yellow Kid on the Paper Stage
Introduction Origins of the Kid Class Warfare on the Urban Stage Race and Ethnicity Selling the Kid The Death of the Kid
The Bradley Martin Ball
"The New Year's Fancy Dress Ball in McFadden's Flats."
"Grand Opera in Ryan's Arcade."
"Christmas Eve in the Kitchen."
"Opening of the Hogan's Alley Athletic Club."
"A Turkey Raffle in Which the Yellow Kid Exhibits His Skills with the Dice."
"The Yellow Kid Introduces A. Monk, Who Enlivens the Pool Tournament in McFadden's Flats."
Click on images above for a larger view, description, and source information.

Class Warfare on the Urban Stage

MASQUERADING AS THE OTHER CLASS,
GAMBLING AND contradictory expectations

While the Hogan's Alley kids masqueraded as the rich, the rich were imitating Europeans. The late 19th-century for the rich was gilded gold rather than yellow; upper-class fashion and habits paid tribute to the European aristocracy. The upper class nursed a fascination with recreational hunting, horses, and works of art; they married their daughters to poor European aristocrats in order to become royalty.1 Guests at an 1897 ball thrown by New York elite Cornelia and Bradley Martin were asked to attend in costumes of the aristocracy of yesteryear.2 (A December 1896 McFadden's Row of Flats shows a similar fancy-dress ball). In the same year, Outcault drew "Grand Opera in Ryan's Arcade" (Ryan's Arcade, November 28, 1897 New York Journal), in which the kids spoof a production of Faust. The Yellow Kid plays bass while standing on a box that mocks, "De Bradley-Martin Box/ No smokin nor swearin aint allowed." On the right-hand side we see the stage manager/prompter push a fancily dressed African-American girl away, saying, "Git out of here/Dis aint vaudeville," hinting that vaudeville was associated with more egalitarian attitudes and that the working class resent the class divisions being drawn in cultural venues.

"The Racing Season in Hogan's Alley." Many New Yorkers of all classes shared an interest in gambling, but what you could gamble on was tightly controlled by what class you belonged to. When an outraged public claimed high entrance fees at the Jerome Park racing track in Fordham excluded middle and lower classes, New York City banker August Belmont maintained that "[r]acing is for the rich."3 Horse racing also faced the wrath of church leaders and moral reformers because of gambling, crooked races, and animal abuses associated with the sport.4 Rumors about fixed races enraged the public and spread distaste for betting, especially in poolrooms, where the lower classes could gather to gamble and take part in the sport that was otherwise often excluded from them. New York passed a number of laws that banned betting or certain kinds of betting throughout the 1890s, which New Yorkers usually found ways to circumvent.5 The Yellow Kid himself is shown gambling in "Opening of the Hogan's Alley Athletic Club" (New York World, September 27, 1896), in which he plays poker6, in "Fortune Smiles Upon the Yellow Kid at Monte Carlo" (New York Journal, March 7, 1897; at a casino likely only frequented by the rich), and offscreen in "A Turkey Raffle in Which the Yellow Kid Exhibits Skill with the Dice" (New York Journal, November 22, 1896). He appears in a pool hall in "The Yellow Kid Introduces A. Monk Who Enlivens the Pool Tournament in McFadden's Flats" (New York Journal; November 29, 1896; the "A. Monk" being a monkey). A sign on the pool table reads "Rules/No English Kin be Used in Playin Dis game, cause we are Irish an not anglomaniacs-ye must shoot wit de small end of de cue—an also you must shoot wit de cue—dis aint crokay. Double barrel shoot guns are barred B dis game is on de level—naturally." The cartoon mocks the upper-class attraction to "immoral" pastimes that are more often in public associated with the lower class (who are then viewed as being more immoral), as well as act as a jibe against their Anglophilia. The Kid invites readers to enjoy the seedy life; the burlesque dancers in the background, likely seen as prostitutes or bad girls by some, complete the image of low-class loose morals. By so closely identifying tenement residents with gambling, Outcault may confirm readers' stereotypes; however, Outcault also invades the middle/upper class realm of the athletic club and casino, revealing the "low-class" behavior there.
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1 Beckert, Sven. The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 258-259.

2 Beckert 1-2.

3 Beckert 259.

4 Riess, Steven A. "Sports and Machine Politics in New York City, 1870-1920" The Making of Urban America. By Raymond A. Mohl. Wilmington: SR Books (1984). 106.

5 Riess 109.