Jolly Corks:  A fraternal organization that arose in New York and Philadelphia in the late 1860's. The founding is usually credited to Charles Vivian, a young Englishman whose celebrity on the fringes of American theatres was minor compared to his magnetism in the nearby bars. At the time, the most popular venues in either New York, or Philadelphia were minstrel halls. The "corks" was not a reference to the "burnt cork" of blackface, but a drinking game played with the corks used to bottle alcohol. The Jolly Corks were short lived. Their fledgling social club gave way to an expanded ideal of "benevolence" and social responsibility, primarily supported by the blackface performers then reigning in New York. Among these proponents of a newly-cast "Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks" were the headliners of their first benefit in 1868: Bryant's Minstrels, Sharpley & Cotton's Minstrels, the San Francisco Minstrels, Kelly & Leon's Minstrels, Richard Hooley's Brooklyn Minstrels, Tony Pastor's Combination, Emerson, Allen & Manning's Minstrels, and the Theatre Comique Company. ("The Entertainment of the Age. Colossal Minstrel Festival. First Annual Benefit of the Performer's Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks," Advertisement, New York Herald, June 7, 1868, 12; "An Authentic Sketch of the Origins of the B.P.O. Elks," New York Clipper, December 26, 1903,1043) For these blackface stars there was an all-too-vivid knowledge that many of their ranks had died penniless.The Elks combined a social agenda with the hope of retirement plans for the profession. This was a moment in labor history when the glitter of "professionalism," implied mingling with the men of higher social and economic stature. The most exclusive of these "professional" alliances was The Players Club. In it, Edwin Booth brought together New York's wealthiest and most powerful to fraternize with the male luminaries of legitimate theatre: Joseph Jefferson, Francis Wilson, Richard Mansfield and many others who themselves began their careers acting in blackface. (Francis Wilson, Joseph Jefferson: Reminiscences of a Fellow Player, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906, 248-49)