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Charles Sholes to Sarah Sholes

Charles Sholes.
Charles Sholes to Sarah Sholes, Autograph Letter Signed, February 9, 1854. 4pp.
Sholes, Charles C. (Charles Clark), 1816-1867.
Papers, 1843-1867.
Call Number: Milwaukee Mss BS
Archives, Golda Meir Library

This letter from Wisconsin politician, newspaperman, and businessman Charles Sholes to his wife, Sarah, describes a performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin at The National Theatre in Washington D.C.:

It seemed to me that no one could witness the performance, and realize the truthfulness of its representations of the dark features of Slavery, without swearing in his heart an undying hostility and enmity against this most accursed of all inhuman institutions.

Dramatizations such as this appeared within months of the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, all without the knowledge or consent of Harriet Beecher Stowe. At least eight versions were produced before the Civil War, from big-city stages to tent productions in small towns.

The novel had been written to be read aloud, full of melodrama and episodic suspense, and played well to the stage. The characters gained a place in the national consciousness, and theatrical productions played a large part in the process. Theatre brought Uncle Tom to a large popular audience and brought the characters to life, transforming Uncle Tom into a national catharsis greater than the popularity generated by the book itself.