In 1924, unbeknownst to the local business community on Bay Street and Grant’s Town, Governor Cordeaux gave permission for the Brown and Dyer minstrel and carnival show to come to Nassau, for three weeks, during Christmas.
This would make the second time the carnival came to Nassau that year. Local business owners were livid.
In March 1924, all of the Brown and Dyer carnival equipment had only just left Nassau. They sailed on the Nassauvian arriving in Miami on March 16. Now they were set to return for Christmas 1924.
A tremendous amount of equipment, performing animals and carnival performers had to be transported out of Nassau, only to return again, some seven months later.
In the meantime, the Brown and Dyer, which contracted other circuses and carnival services under their brand, had contracts to perform in America for months.
Brown and Dyer, also had a popular ‘black in black face’ act as part of the carnival. Black in blackface were coloured persons performing slapstick comedy and telling jokes.
By 1924, there was a heavy emphasis on ‘clean’ advertised in these minstrel shows. In the 1920s, a number of carnival and minstrel shows began to be more risqué. Remember this was in the prohibition era. Women wore popular flapper dresses and some types of dancing, which was considered too lewd and suggestive for family audiences, had to be edited out depending on where the show was performing.
OCTOBER 1924 – Within the business community of Nassau, the question soon became… why was the carnival given permission to return?
“The report that the Brown and Dyer shows will be visiting Nassau in December is causing righteous indignation among the business community who feel that their interests should be considered before this Show is allowed to return and monopolise all the money in circulation in the Xmas season. A company of this kind makes a heavy intake into the trade, and Ian it altogether elevating and helpful to the masses interesting though it may be. We now understand (not officially) that they have already been given permission to return for three weeks in December and it is said that they will come on even a more elaborate scale than the last time. It’s up to the business community to lay their case before the Government and protest vigourously against the return of the show, especially for so long a time.”
Bay Street businesses sign petition against Brown and Dyer carnival and minstrel show coming but Government had already secretly given permission and couldn’t turn back! —October 1924
Among other concerns was that these carnival games, disguised as skill, were really gambling machines and games of chance.
Local business houses, who depended on the Christmas trade from local shoppers, were livid.
Businesses were even more upset to find out that the carnival paid no amusement taxes to come and made a whopping £10,000 earlier that year in 1924. All of that locally made money would sail away with them when they left.
Businesses arrived that if Bahamians spent similar again at Christmastime, they would have no money to spend in local businesses.