Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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RICE, Thomas II., actor, born in New York city, 20 May, 1808; died there, 19 September, 1860. He was first apprenticed to a wood-carver in his native place, and received his early theatrical training as a supernumerary. Later he became a stock-actor at several western play-houses. About 1832 he began his career in negro minstrelsy at the Pittsburg and Louisville theatres with success, repeating his performances in the eastern cities for several years to crowded houses. In 1836 Rice went to "England, where he made his debut at the Surrey theatre in London. This was followed by prolonged engagements in the British capital and other large cities of the United Kingdom. On 18 June, 1837, he married, in London, Miss Gladstone, and soon afterward returned to his native land. He was for a long time the recipient of a large income, which was squandered in eccentric extravagance. In the days of his prosperity he wore a dress-coat with guineas for buttons, and his vest-buttons were studded with diamonds. Rice's extraordinary career was suddenly brought to its close by paralysis, which destroyed the humor of his performances. For a short time in 1858 he was with Wood's minstrels, where his name stood for the shadow of an attraction. His life ended in poverty and suffering, and he was buried by subscription. Among his favorite entertainments were "Bone Squash Diavolo," a burlesque on "Fra Diavolo" ; " Othello," a burlesque tragedy; and the farces of "Jumbo Jura" and the "Virginia Mummy." His songs " Jim Crow," " Lucy Long," "Sich a gittin up Stairs," and "Clare de Kitchen," all set off by grotesque dancing, were hummed and whistled throughout the land, and became equally popular beyond the ocean. Rice was, in reality, an accomplished genteel comedian, who elevated negro-minstrelsy to respectability. He was without forerunner or successor. Ethiopian comedy died with him.
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