- (1823-1900)A circus clown who became a major icon of mid-19th-century American popular culture, Rice was born Dan McLaren in New York. He spent his early years living in frontier towns and working, at various times, as a jockey, as a minstrel man, and as agent for Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Choosing a life in the circus, Rice merged his lowbrow comedy with that of William Wal-lett, his sometime rival. In 1848, Rice and Wallett began performing together with Wallett imitating noted Shakespearean actors of the day, while Rice offered rowdy parodies. His native American humor and mocking of the powerful, dressed in a red and white striped "Uncle Sam" costume, endeared him to audiences who were particularly amused when Rice ran a semi-serious campaign for the U.S. presidency in 1868. Despite frequent bouts with alcohol, Rice ultimately moderated his drinking and toured, giving temperance lectures. He became one of the most popular entertainers of his day, making his last one-ring circus appearances in New York in the early 1890s.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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