On Stage! The Arkansas Traveler Tours America
For thirty years Kit The Arkansas Traveller was one of the most popular plays in America. Opening in Buffalo on April 20, 1869, the play debuted to great acclaim in New York City in 1871. Frank Chanfrau and, later, his son Henry, owned the production and starred as Kit Redding, touring until 1899. So popular was the play that it maintained an annual engagement in Boston from 1872 to 1889.
Kit began with a version of the traditional dialog between a Traveler and the Squatter and ended with "The Great Bowie-Knife Fight." Tying together two 19th century images of Arkansas – the Traveler and the bowie knife – the drama involved the search for a kidnapped child. Along the way came shooting, gambling, drinking, and robbery, punctuated by an explosion on the steamboat.
While the script portrayed protagonist Kit Redding with a rough nobility, Arkansas retained its negative stereotype by the association of all of those frontier characteristics with the state.