Education: Minstrel's End

The man who composed Ida ("sweet as apple cider") died last week in a $3-a-day Manhattan hotel room. He was Eddie Leonard, last of the great minstrels, whose blackface showmanship, eager voice and nimble feet kept him at the top of U.S. vaudeville for nearly 40 years.

Born Lemuel Gordon Toney, son of a land-owning Virginia family impoverished by the Civil War, Eddie Leonard entered minstrelsy by way of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. The late John McGraw, unimpressed by the rookie's batting average, advised him to change his name and try show business.

Eddie Leonard earned fame and a fortune by his...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!