Craig posted an image of one of the more tantalizing Albany Ale references so far. Our new best pal eh-vah, Brian, emailed us a most excellent notice of the program for a musical or burlesque at 514 Broadway in New York City from the week of 23 September 1872. At the base of the notice is a description of a play entitled Cash or The Way of the World! which includes the synopsis of each scene. Scene 3 is described as follows:
SCENE 3 - LAGER BEER SALOON. The Printer's Holiday. Donohue in search of his wife. "All Red and no White." ALBANY ALE VERSUS NEWARK LAGER BIER. Woodward and his friends indulge in wine. The Waiter Girl resents an insult. JEFFERSON SASSAFRAX HELPS HIMSELF. Donohue finds his wife. Jeff gets his mad up. GENERAL ROW AND BUSTLE.
Apart from the screamingly neato Albany Ale reference, it looks a lot like a 1970s British comic take on an 1870s comic show. I assume the quotation marks indicate a song but not sure on the difference between capitalization and small case. Maybe it's just an example of the EXCITING FONTS OF THE POST CIVIL WAR ERA.
But that is not actually the exciting thing. Notice the name of the playwright. Poole. Look at the top up there at the heading of the notice. The business manager of the theater is John F. Poole. His play "Cash" is subtitled the name of a famous early 1700s play, The Way of the World by Congreve. Thank God I took 18th century Lit in 1983.
An Irish immigrant, Poole managed NYC burlesque theater and also wrote songs and plays for performances. He wrote political burlesque and made fun of the classics of literature. He wrote contemporary parodies of other current plays. Here are three of his broadsides or sheet music. This song might reflect nativist v German tensions as could be set out in the play. He also was a founder of the Actor's Fund. He was a lad well placed in the middle of things.
This is an article about Poole. Turns out he wrote the still famous song "Tim Finnegan's Wake" - or at least it's famous if you grew up in eastern Atlantic Canada and spent evenings as a youth in Nova Scotian taverns hammering tankards and pint glasses into thick table tops shouting along with Scots, Irish, Caper and Newfie tunes sung at breakneck speed by bands of earnest drunk young men. And that song inspired James Joyce who wrote the book Finnegans Wake in 1939. Serious neato.
All of which asks a question. What is the role of ale and music hall theatre in the second half of the 1800s? I notice that the doors opened an hour before performance. What were people doing? Getting all jacked up before the show? How close was this social circle to the world of Gangs of New York set not that many years earlier? Right about when baseball was taking off along with all that modernity we so enjoy. What was he recollecting about his youth, his long life, when City engineer Charles H. Haswell, in his mid-90s in 1899, called Albany Ale "a mighty good drink"?