Several years since our friend Dan Marble, the celebrated representative of Yankee characters, was performing an engagement at Detroit, and was persuaded by some friends to take a trip to Chicago, and give them a taste of his quality in the lake city. [1] Dan. consented, and on board of the good steamer Constitution, commanded by a skillful captain, under the care of Doty, one of the best lake engineers, and piloted by Gus. McKinstry, they set out in the fall of the year for their northern destination. All went “ merry as a marriage bell ;” they had a successful trip up,--Dan. had a successful engagement—and back they started for Detroit. But now the elements became rebellious ; whether rude Boreas resolved to keep this favorite son of Momus up there in his northern home, we know not, but when the vessel that bore his fortunes—his own comical self—had nearly reached the head of the lake, against a head wind that would almost tear off a shirt collar, they ran out of wood, and were forced to scud back to Milwaukee a “ leetle dust faster than they wanted tu.” They loaded up with the fuel again, and shutting their teeth with determination, they shut tight the safety valve, and tried it again right in the teeth of a hurricane. After puffing, and blowing, and wheezing, and coughing, the old boat had to give in, and hunt a harbor. Fate drove them into Grand River—we say fate did it, in order, as we think, to keep up the character of a grand stream by opening a dramatic temple on its banks, with an exhibition of the budding greatness of a genius. Fate, you know, has the ordering of such things.

The noble steamer came to anchor in the quiet river, between its towering sand banks, and old “ blow hard” tossed the lake wave on the outside, top-mast high, with glee, at having pinned Dan. Down came an inhabitant of the town of Grand River, who had seen Dan perform at Buffalo, and recognising him, up he posted to spread the news. In the meantime, those on board were wondering how they should pass the weary hours, if the fierce wind continued its fury. Presently, down comes another resident to the boat, a small cat-skin cap on his head, a Canada-mixed coat on, and dressed in deer-skin breeches.

“ Whar is he ?----which is him ? consarn his comic pictur, show him out—ha-ha-ha !”

“ Who are you lookin’ after mister ?” enquired the pilot.

“ Why Dan.—corn twist him—Dan. Marble, to be sure.”

“ Well, here I am, old fellar,” answered the pilot, “ take a look at me !” The pilot weighed about 220 lbs. and had on an old sou-wester tarpaulin. Back stepped the inhabitant of Grand River, as if to get a good look and take in all his dimensions at one stare. Gus., the pilot, made a wry face at his cat-skin observer, and out he burst :

“ Ha-ha-ha!--ho-ho-ho !--he-he-he !--cuss me ef you aint jest as I heard on you—we’ve got you, have we ? ha-ha-ha !--stop till I go git the fellars, and by grist mills you’ll have to gin us some playin’!” and forthwith off started the cat-skin cap and deer-skin breeches, their owner pausing every hundred yards to ejaculate--

“ Ha-ha !--we’ve got him !”

In a short time he returned, sure enough, with half the town with him. A number of the business men of the place waited upon Dan., proper, and requested that he would amuse them and pass away his own time by relating some of his Yankee stories, singing songs, &c., tendering him, at the same time, the second story of a storehouse for his theatre. Dan consented, and all hands on board entering into the spirit of the thing, they soon constructed a temporary stage, with a sail for a back scene and the American flag for a curtain. Night came, and with its shadows came the inhabitants of the town of Grand River—the owner of the cat-skin cap and his party among the number.

In order to make his performance varied, Dan made arrangements to produce the skunk scene, from the “ Water Witch ;” and drilled Doty, the engineer, Gus., the pilot, the clerk of the boat and the mate to perform the English sailors in the scene. It will be remembered by those who have witnessed it, that they catch the Yankee just as he has killed a skunk, and are about to press him as a sailor ; he persuades them to see a specimen [unclear] his shooting—they stick up the dead skunk as a mark, and while he gets [2] their attention on the object in one direction, he retreats in the other, showing off in his exit a specimen of “ tall walking.” After considerable drilling his assistants were pronounced perfect ; but the pilot swore that, to play an English sailor, he must get disguised, so accordingly he primed with a double quantity of grog. His associates, jealous of his natural acting, say he had to get drunk before he could look at the audience.

Up went the curtain, and on went Dan. ; of course the audience were amused—they couldn’t help it; but cat-skin looked in vain for his Dan. At length the skunk scene opened, and on came the pilot at the head of his party. The deer-skin breeches could hardly hold their owner ; he ha-ha’d and ho-ho’d as if he would go into fits. Gus. clapped his eye upon him, and screwed up his face into as many lines as a map, which finished the effect with Cat-skin—he rolled off his seat, almost convulsed. Now commenced the seat with Yankee Dan., and when he told Gus. to stoop down and watch his shot, it was with considerable difficulty that the pilot balanced himself in any such position. While they were stooping, off started Dan, in their rear, and, to keep up the scene, off they started in pursuit ; Dan., according to plot, hid behind the R. H. wing, front—his pursuers should here pass him and cross the stage, allowing him, by a Yankee trick, to escape ; but that portion of the plot Gus., the pilot, had forgotten ; he, therefore, came to a dead halt and looked round for Dan. ; there he was, and out shouted Gus, :

“ Come out, old fellar—I see you !”

Dan. shook his head and signed for them to go on.

“ No, you don’t,” says the pilot ; “ we caught you fair, and I’m d—d if you shan’t treat !”

The effect was irresistible ; Dan. had to give in, and the curtain dropped before a delighted audience—a collapsed pair of deer-skin breeches, and upon the first night of the drama in Grand River. The owner of the cat-skin cap and deer-skin breeches maintains to this day, that the pilot was Dan. Marble.

“ Them other fellars,” said he, “ done pooty well, but any ‘ coon, with half an eye, could see that that fat fellar did the naturalest acting !”

St. Louis Reveille.


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 15.26 (23 August 1845): 299. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text reads “city,”
[2] Original text reads “getsf.”
[3] Original text omits final quotation mark.

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