- The first "Yankee" character appeared in American plays as early as 1825 as a figure of New England origin and with a personality combining a variety of attributes, including sentiment, patriotic fervor, simple good-heartedness, rustic hominess (with a critical eye for urban and European opposites), an inclination toward frugality, and a penchant for storytelling. The character was often named "Jonathan," although he appeared under other names. Perfected by a series of actors beginning with Englishman Charles Mathews, the character was taken on by American actors including James H. Hackett, George Handel "Yankee" Hill, Danforth Marble, and Joshua Pilsee all before the mid-19th century. The character became a stock figure in American drama and can be seen in a range of "rustic" characters or "rubes," as George M. Cohan subsequently labeled them in his plays and musicals. Such later guises of these characters, from James A. Herne's New Englander "Captain Dan Marble" in Sag Harbor (1900) to the numerous Midwestern variations that populated numerous comedies and musicals from the 1910s to the 1930s, continued the tradition.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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