From the George Fox University website,
No! Not that George Fox!
That is the George Fox my character Eli Smith would know. This George Fox is the man who started the Quaker movement in the 17th century. Today that movement is known as the Society of Friends or the Friends Church. Eli’s family was Quaker and, although he claims to reject his family’s faith, Eli has been imbued with just enough Friends theology and practices to make it difficult for him to sever those ties completely. But I'm not talking about Eli.
And I’m not talking about that George Fox. I’m talking about the one I saw when I walked into the Carousel Gallery at the Heritage Gardens and Museums in Sandwich, Massachusetts. The one who was embodied in a creepy trade figure. The one that looks like this:
My photo taken at the Carousel Gallery, Heritage Gardens and Museums, Sandwich, MA
Maybe it’s me. Maybe clowns give me the creeps. But if I saw this thing standing in front of a shop, I’d cross the street.
And now for the history.
This is a representation of an actor by the name of George Lafayette Fox. The figure presents him as his clown character in the play “Humpty Dumpty.” Here is a photo of what he looked like in his makeup and costume in the mid-1800s. Next to it is a representation of Fox in real life. Personally, I like him better without the makeup. But then again... clowns...
Because it is well-established that I’m a history geek, I have ordered an old book from Alibris about Fox. But for now, information from Wikipedia will have to suffice. And, yes, I know that Wikipedia is not always reliable or correct. When I was an adjunct professor, I used to warn my students not to use it for information, but to look instead at the references at the end of the articles and use them for research.
But this is an emergency. Well, maybe not an emergency. It’s just that I won’t get the book for a few days to a few weeks.
Let’s move on.
George Lafayette Fox (whose nickname was Laff) was born 3 July 1825 to Howe and Emily (Wyatt) Fox in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Theater was in his DNA. His parents were stock players at the Tremont Street Theatre (Boston), and in good theatrical tradition, Fox and his brothers and sister trod the boards at an early age. Brothers Charles and James and sister Caroline went into the theater. George, meanwhile, was apprenticed by his parents to a merchant. Apparently, they didn’t think he could make it as an actor.
I learned some interesting tidbits about George Fox’s family. It was not average and certainly not invisible. His brother James was an actor, graduated from Harvard law school, had a successful law practice, and was elected to serve as the mayor of Cambridge for four terms.
George’s sister Caroline also has historical importance. She married George C. Howard, another actor, who in 1852 employed his cousin George L. Aiken to pen a play based on a Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The play led to a sequel, which was followed by a six-act dramatization that proved so popular it was performed into the 1930s.
According to the author of the Wikipedia article, “The play had probably a greater impact than the novel by visually depicting the cruelties of slavery and was a boost to the abolitionist movement.” Maybe, maybe not. My historical “spidey-sense” says that far more people were likely to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin either in its original serialized format or as a novel than they were to go to the theater. But… I’ve been wrong before.
While George’s family was not in the upper echelon of historical figures, they did have an impact on their time and their culture. I have to say, I was impressed!
Since this is turning into a big post, let’s wait until tomorrow to learn the specifics on George Fox and his life.