The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire (BHTNH) and the Andover Historical Society (AHS) are excited to announce the dedication of a new marker commemorating the life and works of celebrated Black ventriloquist and magician Richard Potter. The ceremony will be on Sunday, August 7, at 10:30 AM, at the Andover Historical Society’s Old Time Fair.
Fairgrounds will be open from 9 AM to 2 PM at Potter Place on 105 Depot Street in Andover. Fairgoers can enjoy food, live music, miniature train rides for children, and old-fashioned pumper car rides. The event is free and open to the public.
Guest speakers for the event will include John Hodgson, author of “Richard Potter: America’s First Black Celebrity,” and BHTNH Executive Director JerriAnne Boggis. There will be a short demonstration of 19th-century magic by Andrew Pinard, African drumming, and the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by vocalist Louise Grasmere.
Richard Potter, a magician, ventriloquist, and humorist in the early 1800s, was the first American performer to gain nationwide fame. He helped make popular entertainment a major part of American life.
Born in Boston to an enslaved mother, Potter studied there and in Europe with renowned performing artists. Early on, Potter’s wife Sally assisted him on stage. He toured the United States and Canada for nearly three decades, charming audiences with his humor, ready wit, and showmanship.
Nonetheless, he encountered racism and danger. Potter and his wife Sally, both Black, moved to Andover in 1815, where he built a house of his own design. The Potters are interred here at Potter Place.
On Friday, September 30, AHS and BHTNH will co-sponsor an evening to celebrate Potter’s influence on American theater, hosted by Proctor Academy. Award-winning magician, ventriloquist, and puppeteer Dan Richard will give a ventriloquism show. In addition, author John Hodgson will present a talk on Richard Potter’s impact on American theater. Hodgson published the definitive biography of Richard Potter in 2018, after 25 years of research on Potter’s life and career.
The Andover Historical Society owns and maintains several historic buildings including the grounds and family graveyard of Richard and Sally Potter, the Potter Place train station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a Boston and Maine railroad freight car and freight shed. The nonprofit offers museum tours on weekends, from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. For more info visit AndoverHistory.org.
The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire promotes appreciation and awareness of African American history and culture and fosters dialogue about race, diversity, and inclusion. The BHTNH offers educational programs, exhibits, curriculum development, and research that can change the way we understand human dignity when free of historical stereotypes. For more information, visit BlackHeritageTrailNH.org or call 603 570-8469.