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In 1879, Mr. Sousa conducted an amateur theatrical production of the new comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, HMS Pinafore, in Philadelphia. He says in his memoirs (Marching Along, published in 1928, book report coming soon):
The immediate success of Pinafore was, to some extent, due to an admirable topical joke. Just before it was produced, Disraeli had appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty, W.H. Smith, head of a firm of publishers! Mr. Smith was a keen business man, a clean politician, and an excellent administrator but the connection between books and battleships was not apparent to the sea-dogs of the British Navy. Gilbert worked the joke for all it was worth in Sir Joseph Porter’s song, And Now I’m Ruler of the Queen’s Navee.
Its popularity in America was enhanced, not so much by the British joke, above referred to, as by an editorial in the Public Ledger–the very standard of Philadelphian respectability–known most descriptively as the “Philadelphia Bible”. Mr. Childs, its editor (a highly respected gentleman who presented all his callers with a cup and saucer as souvenirs of the happy occasion!), enthusiastically brought forth an editorial, pointing out the innocence, the cleanliness, and purity of Pinafore, in contrast to the tights and coarseness of the French pieces so often produced. The effect was electrical! People who had never been in a theatre in their lives came to see Pinafore. Here was emancipation for pent-up youth; all the myriads of Puritanical parents suddenly discovered that the theatre really gave innocent enjoyment, and was not such a den of the devil as they had been taught to believe.