New York: French & Wheat, N.d. [ca 1868?]. First Edition. Octavo. Sewn pamphlet; original pictorial wrappers; 30,(2)pp. Expert paper restoration at bound edge, with stitching renewed; mild wear to wrapper edges; a complete, attractive copy.
Tom Wiggins, born into slavery in 1849, revealed his prodigious musical abilities at a very early age. His concert career began at the age of four, and by the beginning of the Civil War he had earned thousands of dollars for his enslaver, Georgia lawyer and publisher James Neill Bethune. Following emancipation, Tom chose to remain in the custody of the Bethune family, essentially remanding himself to their care for the remainder of his life. What other options Tom had available to him remain unclear, as is the degree to which his performances were coerced. In any event, by the time of Tom's death the Bethunes had amassed a fortune estimated at three-quarters-of a million dollars.
This souvenir programme, apparently issued shortly after Bethune's European tour of 1866-67, includes a brief biography of the artist (unsigned); testimonials from Ignaz Moscheles, Charles Edward Hallé and others, the latest dated 1867; and lyrics to accompany the vocal portion of the performance, including "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep," "Mother, Dear Mother, I Still Think of Thee," "Then You'll Remember Me," etc. A "Special Notice" on the inside rear wrapper states, "...Blind Tom can only play what he hears or improvises...his repertoire now numbers upwards of 5,000, entirely at his memory's disposal. From this extensive store Tom will introduce selections from Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Thalberg, Gottschalk, and others; and also give his marvelous and amusing Imitations, Recitations, Anecdotes, &c. &c."