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The Story Of America’s First Celeb: Richard Potter

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Potter actually was that proficient at tightrope dancing—he was adequate to attract discover from the in any other case jaded London crowds in 1801. Quoting one newspaper on Potter’s tightrope efficiency:

He balances, whereas on the wire, 100 full wine glasses; may also go seven instances by way of a small hope, and, what continues to be extra astonishing, he balances seven widespread chairs at one time … He balances on his face a standard wine glass, on the sting of which is a small sword. He tosses up oranges and eggs, whereas on the wire, performs on the violin, and goes to his knees.

Potter and a extra skilled tightrope dancer named Signor Manfredi toured France and England, performing in Paris through the 1802-1803 Peace of Amiens after which making their approach to America. Potter ultimately teamed up with and educated beneath John Rannie, one in every of a pair of touring Scottish ventriloquist-magicians, after which teamed up with and educated beneath Charles Durang, the oldest son of John Durang. (Spending his youth being educated by masters in numerous fields—Richard Potter feels like Batman).

Potter married a freedwoman, Sally Harris, in 1808. In some methods, it was a dream match for him: she was stunning and from a well-to-do household of freemen. He wasn’t well-known but as a performer. However he knew individuals—vital individuals—they usually ensured that the wedding was talked about within the matrimonial notices of a number of Boston newspapers, a recognition virtually remarkable, probably unprecedented, for blacks within the metropolis at the moment. 

Boston, right now, was a middle for protest and reform actions affecting Blacks, particularly the antislavery motion. Potter by no means performed a public function within the motion, partially as a result of he was touring so usually, partially as a result of he was in persona a personal, reserved man, and partially, as a result of he didn’t need to alienate any of his potential viewers. However Potter was a member of the African Lodge of Boston, which ultimately grew to become often known as the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, the primary Black Masonic lodge in America. The members of the Lodge have been outstanding members of the Black neighborhood in Boston. The Potter marriage newspaper notices could have been a favor performed by these males for a junior member.

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