James McIntyre (August 8, 1857 – August 18, 1937), minstrel performer, vaudeville and theatrical actor, and a partner in the famous blackface tramp comedy duo act McIntyre and Heath.

Family and early careerEdit

McIntyre was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin and began working at a young age to support his widowed mother. He showed an early aptitude for dancing and acting. According to the New York Times (August 19, 1937) McIntyre sold candy on trains and when "the passengers were in danger of being bored Jim would get out in the aisles and entertain them with his clever acting." He learned the dance form known as clogging, which is part of the tap dance style. In his early teens he was keen on joining the circus troupes that passed through Kenosha. His mother initially prevented him from doing so. In 1870 he did join the McKenzie circus and then in 1871 joined the Burton and Ridgeway ministrels and toured the South and Western states for a year. Later he performed with the Katie Putnam Troupe, and toured with the Great Transatlantic circus in 1873.

He married Emma Young (1862-1935). She was a dancer and balladeer known by the stage name "Maude Clifford" and performed as part of the Katie Putnam Troupe. Although they had no natural born children of their own they did adopt a daughter Maud Ainsworth Young (1892-1966). She was the biological daughter of Emma's older sister Annie Young, and in adult life Maud became the wife of the famous Brooklyn criminal trial lawyer and Kings County judge George Washington Martin II (1876-1948).

In his peak years as a star performer he gave an interview with the New York Times in which he claimed to have been responsible for introducing to vaudeville the Buck and Wing style of dance that is one form of tap dance. [1]

McIntytre-Heath PartnershipEdit

In 1878 he met his future working partner Thomas K. Heath (1853-1938) in Texas. They developed a blackface tramp duo minstrel act. McIntyre played the character of Alexander Hambletonian who was a buffoonish stable-boy. Heath acted as "Henry Jones" a clever black entertainer who frequently outwits Alexander. Their routines included an oft-performed skit known as the Georgia Minstrels where the character Henry persuades the witless Alexander to quit working as a stable-boy and joins a traveling show where he is promised fame and fortune. None of the fame or fortune materializes and Alexander has comical and outrageous tasks to perform under Henry's direction which allowed them to act out comedic dialogue, dance and songs. Another skit, called the Ham Tree, and which formed the nucleus of a later stage play, involved the two characters discussing how ham grows on trees that are three hundred feet tall.

Their acting partnership endured for some fifty years as they worked under the twin influential theater managers of Tony Parsons and Benjamin Franklin Keith appearing as stars in both vaudeville and Broadway. Their blackface minstrel shows were an influential model followed by later film stars such as Al Jolson. Their best known plays included:

  • "The Ham Tree" that was performed ninety times at the New York Theatre between August and November 1905[1] and included in the cast the comedian W. C. Fields.
  • "In Hayti" that was performed fifty-six times at the Circle Theatre between August and October 1909
  • "Hello Alexander" that was performed fifty-six times at the 44th Street Theatre between October and November 1919
  • "Red Pepper" that was performed at the Schubert Theatre in 1922


McIntyre died aged eighty at his estate in Nyack Bay, Southampton, Long Island, New York. He was buried in a cemetery at Southampton.


  1. ^ "Introducing Ragtime", New York Times, Nov 4 1916

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