|Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives|
There have been many African American clowns, but before Brian Wright, Jamarr Woodruff, Sean Davis, Gregory Parks, Onionhead, Huel Speight, Danise Payne, Reggie Montgomery, Bernice Collins, Dusty Fletcher, or Bert Williams (and many more) - there was Gordon Bunch.
|at the 1906 World's Fair|
Gordon, to my knowledge, is the first man I can find record of being an African American "clown", calling himself as such, who wasn't just a white man in blackface like Eph Horn.
|click to enlarge|
If he was an old-timer in the profession in 1904, I wonder how far back his career went? More research!
After the World's Fair, Bunch accompanied the horse on a midwestern tour, reaching Minneapolis on March 30, 1906, along with veterinarian Stanley Davis and groom Sam Davis.
Not long after, Bunch performed at Luna Park in Cleveland Ohio. A reviewer called him "one of the good clowns." He also took his clowning to the vaudeville circuit. I found the following account of an adventure he had one night, posted in the book "Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Musical Shows" :
|Courtesy of the Tennessee |
State Library & Archives
He was billed as "The Mysterious Komedo - The Mechanical Wonder" on the vaudeville stage. I found record of this act in the November 20th 1916 issue of the Xenia Daily Gazette (Xenia, Ohio) under the COLORED SOCIETY column-
Hundreds of people were attracted to the windows of the Adair Furniture Company, Saturday evening, and marveled at the appearance of Mr. Gordon Bunch. Mr. Bunch was made up as a mechanical figure or "dummy" in such a way that it was impossible to detect wether he was real or artificial. On this coming Thursday evening, Mr. Bunch will present his big feature, "The Power of Man," at the opera house.
According to census records, he was listed as a "Ticket Taker" in Cleveland, Ohio in 1917.