Calvin Wagner was a popular minstrel entertainer in his day. He traveled across the country performing as a member of other minstrel shows until he formed his own troupe, "Happy Cal" Wagner's Minstrels and Brass Band. He appeared in Memphis in late November, 1875.
Wagner was born in 1840, where is in some dispute. His New York Times obituary said Syracuse while The Monarchs of Minstrelsy reported his birthplace was Mobile Alabama. Wagner died in 1916 and was buried next to wife Laura and his father George at Woodlawn Cemetery, Syracuse, New York.
Assembly Hall, three nights only
Nov. 25th, 26th and 27th,
And Saturday Matinee
The Old Reliables
Happy Cal Wagner's Minstrels And Brass Band
Reorganized for the Seasons of 1875-76.
The Largest and Most Complete Traveling Troupe in America.
Mr. Cal Wagner will positively appear at each entertainment.
Reserved Seats can be secured at Hollenberg's Music Store.
"Happy" Cal. Wagner was not born with that handle to his name, but just plain Calvin Wagner. Mr Wagner began comicalities at the age of 17, and at 70 is still "happy." Of course he played other minstrel engagements before appearing with Charley Morris' Company in 1864. In 1865 he was with Sam Sharpley's Ironclads, and the following year Wagner and (Sam) Hague's Minstrels could readily be seen if you had the price.
In 1867, January 21, to be exact, he joined Lloyd and Bidaux Minstrels; the following year found him with Fred Wilson's Minstrels, and on March 6, 1869, he left Wilson in St. Louis; that is, he left Wilson's company. It was getting time for "Happy" Cal Wagner's Minstrels, and accordingly that organization soon sprang into being. In the fall of 1870 this company came under the able direction of "Jack" Haverly; the partnership was dissolved November 8 1873. Mr. Wagner's Minstrels went on touring. In 1878 Wagner and (Ben) Cotton's Minstrels happened; that same year they unhappened. A year or so later Mr. Wagner joined Barlow, Wilson, Primsrose and West's Minstrels, closing with them in February, 1881.
Mr. Wagner's last appearance in minstrelsy was with Quinlan and Wall's Company, about five years ago. Cal Wagner was born in Mobile, Ala., July 4, 1840.
From the book Monarchs of Minstrelsy, from "daddy" Rice to date by Edward Le Roy Rice, 1911.
Syracuse, Jan 27, 1916--"Happy Cal" Wagner, once famous as a minstrel man, died here today at the age of 76. He was a thirty-second degree Mason and a member of the Chicago Lodge of Elks. In the days when minstrelsy was a popular form of entertainment Mr. Wagner was one of the best known of black-face artists. At one time he headed a company of his own which bore the name of "Happy Cal" Wagner's Minstrels, and during his long career he was a member of the Billy Emerson, Primrose and West, W.S. Cleveland, and the Barlow, Wilson, Primrose and West companies. Mr. Wagner was born in Syracuse.
Posted in the New York Times, January 28 1916.