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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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BEACH AND BOWERS. Beach and Bowers was a minstrel show starring Bobby BEACH and Otis BOWERS. Organized in Dubuque in late 1882, the two performers delighted local audiences. In 1884 they took their show on the road with the Star Light quartet and a young comedian. (1) Beach and Bowers were part of the "burnt cork" entertainment of the time when white performers covered their faces with the ash of cork to make themselves look black. In later years, the type of entertainment became controversial. (2)

By 1894 the performers realized that their continued success would depend upon more money. In 1895 they incorporated as 'Beach and Bowers' with Beach serving as president; George N. Richardson, vice president; and Otis Bowers holding the offices of secretary and treasurer. The corporation was to continue for five years with its place of transacting business being Dubuque and its business that of presenting minstrel shows and other entertainments. The capital stock was set at $5,000 with $3,000 being invested immediately by the principals. (2) In December 1894 the announcement was made that two local businessmen, who wished to remain anonymous, decided to financially support the artists. Bowers left for the east coast to recruit new talent and look up former member of the cast. Beach remained in the city planning a schedule and obtaining costumes. (3) Despite his lesser executive position, Bowers owned half of the company from 1895 to 1901. (4)

Image courtesy: The Sunday Oregonian, Oct. 7, 1900. http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83045782/1900-10-07/ed-1/seq-16.pdf

The troupe of performers at this time totaled thirty-two. This included a band, drum corps, and buglers.

A typical program began with Beach and Bowers introducing a variety of singing and dancing numbers. This was followed by "bone solo work" by Beach and Bowers. This musical number was followed by acrobatics or acts including "grotesque comedians." The evening closed with a trained dog act carried out under the direction of Beach.

In August 1895 papers were filed for the incorporation of "Beach and Bowers New Minstrels." The incorporators included Bobbie Beach, president; Otis Bowers, secretary/treasurer; and George Richardson, vice president. In addition to the minstrels, the new show featured a band, drum corps, and buglers. (5)

The company of Beach and Bowers traveled from Indiana to Washington State. They also returned to their hometown to entertain.

         The Dubuque boys, Bobby Beach and Otis Bowers 
         bring their minstrel company to the Grand this
         The company that Beach and Bowers have this year
         is the best they have ever had...A matinee will
         be given at 2:30 this afternoon and another
         performance tonight. (6)

Beach left the company which was maintained as Bowers and Busby's Minstrels by Bowers and a new partner Al Busby, also a Dubuque native. James Stuart, a black-face comedian, and George Thompson sang solos to round out the act. (7)

The controversy surrounding the content of minstrel shows led to a decline in their attendance. Bowers died a pauper. (8)

See: Curry HOWARD



1. "Amusements," The Daily Herald, August 10, 1884, p. 3

2. Enderlin, Donald. Unpublished research notes. Vertical files, Carnegie-Stout Public Library. Mar. 14, 2014

3. "Beach and Bowers," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 8, 1894, p. 8

4. Simpson, Jerald. Online: http://genforum.genealogy.com/bowers/messages/1680.html

5. Ebderlin

6. "Beach and Bowers," August 10, 1895, p. 8

7. "Does Credit to Dubuque," The Dubuque Herald, November 16, 1899, p. 8

8. Enderlin