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Mon, 04.22.1867

The Hyers Sisters Debut On Stage

The Hyers Sisters

*The Hyers Sisters performed their first stage show on this date in 1867.  They were Black Vaudeville Act singers and pioneers of Black musical theater.  

The duo was Anna Madah and Emma Louise.  Their father, Samuel B. Hyers, came west to Sacramento, California with their mother, Annie E. Hyers (née Cryer), after the Gold Rush. He made sure his daughters received both piano lessons and vocal training with German professor Hugo Sank and later opera singer Josephine D'Ormy and they performed for private parties before making their professional stage debut at Sacramento’s Metropolitan Theater.

Anna was a soprano and Emma a contralto. Under their father’s management, they embarked on their first transcontinental tour on August 12, 1871, where they performed in Salt Lake City to much acclaim.  They were later called "a rare musical treat" by Saint Joseph, Missouri’s Daily Herald, and earned equal praise in Chicago, Cleveland, and New York City. Their tour reached Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as New Haven and Providence. They visited Boston, performing in the 1872 World Peace Jubilee which was one of, if not, the first integrated major musical production in the country.  

The Hyers’ family organized a theater company, where they produced musical dramas starring Anna and Emma, including Out of Bondage, written by Joseph Bradford and premiered in 1876, Urlina, the African Princess written by E. S. Getchell and premiered in 1879, The Underground Railway, by Pauline Hopkins in July 1880, and Hopkin’s stage version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in March 1880. Additionally, they performed Colored Aristocracy Hopkins.  Overall, they had at least six shows between the late 1870s and 1880s. They set the path for black musical theater and performance in the years that followed. They traveled until the mid-1880s with their own shows and continued to appear on stage into the 1890s. Though Emma Louise had died, in 1901, Anna Madah continued to travel with a show of John Isham.  



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