Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852, and became an instant classic, helping to drive the abolitionist movement and allowing insight into slavery that was not commonly taught or considered. While Stowe refused to license the book for dramatic adaptation, plays based on the book were very popular; called "Tom Shows," these were more along the lines of blackface minstrel shows, and many lost the meaning of the book entirely.
The most famous adaptation was by George L. Aiken, who created a six-act play to stand entirely on its own. His adaptation became a standard for many Broadway shows to follow, and a prototype version of the show was produced as early as August 23, 1852 at the Purdy's New National Theater in New York, only a few months after the novel's publication. The proper opening came in 1853 at New York's National Theater, and was an enormous hit. Aiken himself played George Harris, and Stowe viewed it later; while she still did not license the novel, she approved of Aiken's version.