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
"I'm the Yellow Kid"
Child with Yellow Kid doll
Ad for Hogan's Alley Show
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Class Warfare on the Urban Stage

YELLOW KID READERSHIP

Despite the portrayal of class tensions, the Yellow Kid appears to have enjoyed a broad audience, at the least evidenced by his widespread use in advertisements and products, which will be discussed again later in "Selling the Kid." The character probably appealed broadly to the working class because of his dialect and ridiculing of the rich, but there is plenty of evidence that the middle class was the primary audience. He was featured in theater shows as late as 1899 in Washington D.C., even after McFadden's Row of Flats ended (he appeared in numerous shows in Washington).1 Also in Washington, children sang "The Yellow Kid" during a Sunday-school presentation at St. Peter's Church as early as 1896 2 and in St. Teresa's Church at Masonic Hall in 1897.3 This points to widespread acceptance of the character, since such a concert was likely for a middle-class-or-higher audience. The Black Creek Burlesque Company at Kernan's Lyceum stopped in Washington D.C. that same year, closing with "The Yellow Kid of Hogan's Alley at Vassar College,"4 so apparently the Kid was moving on up in fiction as well as fact. One pupil in Caruana's Corps De Ballet performed a number as the Yellow Kid in Washington5 and the character was also a popular costume in the suburbs, appearing in society columns at least three times as a costume of choice.6 Barth notes that living alongside other city dwellers could may have encouraged people to act the part: "This was sometimes happily demonstrated as a willingness to masquerade at a party as someone else, one of the strangers from the next block."7 The middle and upper classes could try life as the Kid.

Yellow Kid PaperweightsThe Kid was also used (likely without permission at times) to bring in business for specialty and department stores such as Macy's, which primarily targeted a middle-class audience.8 A Jan. 3, 1897 "Woman About Town" in the Washington Post column cooed over the cleaned-up Yellow Kid blotter holiday souvenir one artist made: "It has the yellow kid in all his glory, or rather in all Miss Loury's [the artist's] glory, for he isn't at all the yellow kid we are wont to see. His gamboges gown is immaculate, his two-toothed smile smacks of Connecticut avenue , his hands are incased [sic] in white gloves, he carries a cane, and on his bosom is a great nosegay of holly. . . . nobody would ever think of staining him with a blot."9 The rich could clean up and appropriate the Yellow Kid just as they could Broadway, museums, concerts, and opera.

Yellow Kid stampIn his history of yellow journalism, W. Joseph Campbell debunks the idea that yellow journals like the ones the Kid appeared in were primarily read by immigrants, pointing out the foreign-language papers and mutual-aid organizations were likely their first resource.10 Campbell compared population data with growth in the number of immigrants in areas where yellow journalism proliferated and found no correlation.11 The Kid—and comics in general—were not, as some claimed, a phenomenon enjoyed mostly by illiterate or immigrant readers.
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1 "At the Theaters." Washington Post. 21 Nov. 1899: 3. Also "News and Gossip," Washington Post. 25 Dec. 1898: 20, "At the Theaters," Washington Post. 14 Jan. 1897: 7. "Plenty of Patronage." Washington Post. 9 Jan. 1898: 22. "An Ovation to Riley." Washington Post. 14 March 1889: 3. Display Ad of Bijou theater. Washington Post. 21 Feb. 1897: 19. All found in Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

2"Children Sing 'The Yellow Kid.'" Washington Post. 30 Dec. 1896: 4. Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

3 "News of the Suburbs." Washington Post 7 Feb. 1897: 11. Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

4 "The World of Amusement." Washington Post 25 April 1897: 22. Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

5 "Caruana's Corps de Ballet." Washington Post 26 May 1897: 2. Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

6 "News of the Suburbs." Washington Post 29 Nov. 1896: 13. "One of the most successful entertainments of the evening was the bal masque given by the ladies on Thanksgiving Evening in Central Hall." Clarence Walker dressed as the Yellow Kid of Hogan's Alley. "Social and Personal," 31 August 1900: 7. At a hop given at Fairview Cottage in Fauquier White Sulpher Springs, Va., Samuel Pole dressed as the Yellow Kid. "Carnival of the Skaters." Washington Post 6 March 1897: 8. At the grand masque carnival at the Convention Hall Ice Palace in Washington, D.C., "Master Morris Walsh as the yellow kid." Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

7Barth, Gunther. City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. 107.

8Display Ad. Washington Post 17 March 1897: 8. Display Ad. Washington Post 23 April 1897: 7 (bicycle). Display Ad. Washington Post 17 Dec. 1896: 8. Display Ad. Washington Post 18 March 1897: 8 (Robinson & Chery Co. clothes). Macy's Display Ad. New York Times. 3 Dec. 1897: 16. Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

9 "Woman About Town," Washington Post 3 Jan. 1897: 17. Proquest Historical Records. University of Virginia Lib. 30 Dec. 2003.

10Campbell, W. Joseph. Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001. 61.

11 Campbell 55-59.