Sable:  As in 'sable brethren'; a white transformational strategy used to magically turn blacks into animals.

Simon Pure:  A claim of truth in advertising.  "'The real Simon Pure,' is a phrase meaning the genuine article; the real thing, as 'This whisky is the real Simon Pure."  John Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms. A glossary of words and phrases, usually regarded as peculiar to the United States, 1848.  The origin of the phrase is credited to Simon Pure, a character in Susanna Centlivre's "Bold Stroke for a Wife" (1717), who for part of the play is impersonated by another character.  

The Campbells were among the the earliest minstrel bands. Many subsequent combinations of performers also advertised themselves as "The Campbells" in an attempt to cash in on a well-known brand: So look for Jos Murphy, Luke West and Mat Peel, the real Simon Pure Campbells. All others are spurious.  "Advertisement," New York Herald, April 9, 1854. The unintended irony of this advertisement lies in the general premise of blackface performance as an authentic impersonation... of enslaved and free blacks, Chinese, Native Americans, Germans, women, etc.  

Shoddy:  A recycled material made from cotton waste... quickly proven to be an inferior material and abstracted to mean any inferior product, workmanship, or construct.

If you have taken any notice at all of the how things are generally managed, you will see in ninety-nine cases out of every hunded, the moment one of Uncle Sam's boys show their shoddy overcoats and blue worsted trousers inside the door the pretty waiters, will go for them as if shot out of a gun and stay by them as long as there is a shot in the locker.  "Broadway Below the Sidewalk: Pretty Waiter Girls and Underground Concert Halls, Number 12, The Reveille," New York Clipper, April 8 1864.

The Magic Photograph Album, with 12 Photographs. These are not 'shoddy copies' but the genuine French Carte de Visites from life. Price $3. Catalogue sent in sealed envelope on receipt of red stamp.  Address orders to Peter Watson, Publisher, New York.  "Advertisment," New York Clipper, February 6, 1864.


Skedaddle: Allegedly coined by George Christy, presumably banked from black vernacular.  The term describes hurried abandonment.  Variant spellings abound:  skadaddle, skeedaddle, skeddadle, skedadle, etc.  The term has a murky connection to an early 20th century phrase, "23 skidoo."  Skedaddle makes a sudden debut in print during the Civil War, often in the context of a military rout, or the flight of potential draftees to Canada.  

One of the most amusing things connected to the war is the number and oddity of the new terms which it is bringing into use. Two of these beats the dictionary all hollow! These are the verb "skedaddle," to run away, now as commonly used to signify the act of running away, as if it had been used by Johnson and adopted by Webster - and the noun "shenanigan" used on the western coast almost universally, to signify secession, humbug and  trickerv. We shall have a pleasant vocabulary for Europeans to study, one of these days. "Coining words," Ottawa (Illinois) Free Trader, May 10, 1862.


Sketch: This term probably originates in art, especially drawing or painting, and describes a rough prelude to a finished, fully-formed product.  In the dramatic arts it came to mean a short work, as opposed to mounting a full-length production.  (This is probably the same line of thought adopted by literature to describe “vignettes.” ) In any event, blackface performers found the term very useful and called some of the dramatic interludes in the show “Charcoal Sketches.”  An n-gram of the term “sketch” also suggests that the proliferation of the word was inversely related to the spread of photographic images throughout the world.  The frequency of the printed use of the term climaxes at the very moment when photographic images and cameras are first mass marketed to consumers.


Specialty artist: “Specialty” suggests a narrow field of interest or skill.  In the world of minstrelsy there was only one specialty – the imitation (and mockery) of blacks.  Within that categorical imperative it is possible that an “accurate” impersonation of a plantation darkey was a sub-specialty.  Other sub-specialties might include the Northern dandy, and so on. 


Smut:  Burnt cork, negroes, blackness, dirt, and vulgarity all ran together in mid-19th century minstrelsy.  

December 14, 1857, he seceded from Wallack's and joined Geo. Christy's Negro minstrels, where he played the female characters in black.  It is rather odd that he should have taken to such a profession. Not that playing the Negro is disreputable; but still, smut is considered objectionable, whether on the lips or the cheeks, in action or in countenance. Col. T. Alston Brown, "Dramatic and Other Sketches, New Series, Number 11,'Geo. Holland,'" New York Clipper, June 27, 1863.

West and Benedict are a splendid team of end men, and, to their own credit and the credit of the company which they represent, they entirely exclude "smut," which grates on the ear of any but the low-minded. "Negro Minstrelsy," New York Clipper, April 6, 1867


Staats Zeitung: Advertised as the leading German-language newspaper in New York during the second half of the 19th century.  Immediately after Dan Bryant’s death (1875), Cotton & Reed’s Minstrels performed in the 23rd St. theatre that Bryant had occupied for more than a decade.  The content of the performances was altered every week.  A synopsis of the scenery and incidents was published daily in Staats Zeitung, and this fact was printed on the playbills. 


Stereotype: A term originally derived from printing technology:  the opposite of moveable type.  A stereotype was a fixed plate permitting no movement of individual characters or letters.  See New York Times, August 1, 1875, for an early use of the term that transcends the technical definition by equating “hackneyed” with “stereotyped.” 


Subscribe: A verb once defined, and generally understood as, the act of signing with one’s own hand, a document, usually a legal one, to which one is bound.  Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1850.  In this (former) understanding a subscribed affidavit would be an authentic one, signed (scribed) beneath (sub) the statement.


Syndicate: In the middle of the 19th century the noun syndicate was understood to be a governmental council or body that oversaw the imposition of monetary controls, e.g. the setting of fees, or the management of creditors in cases of bankruptcy.  By the outset of the 20th century an additional definition had appeared :  “a combination of capitalists to promote some special undertaking or speculation.”   Harry Peck, New Websterian 1912 Dictionary Illustrated