He started his female impersonation career in white-face and flaxen wig: in 1843 he was a member of a troupe called The Albino Family.
Thomas Dartmouth Rice had pioneered black-face performance but without cross dressing. Pike and his colleagues added the latter and became The Harmoneon Family, later The Harmoneons. As such they appeared in 1847 at the White House in Washington before President James Polk. Slide says that this makes Pike, who was playing Fanny, the first female impersonator to perform for the US President.
After his Washington triumph, Pike joined Ordway's Aeolians in Boston, and in 1857 left to form his own troupe, Pike's Harmoneons.
|Pike in the 1880s|
He was also active as a legitimate actor, and wrote more than one hundred songs.
- Anthony Slide. Great pretenders: a history of female and male impersonation in the performing arts. Lombard, Ill.: Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 160 pp. 1986: 16.
- William J. Mahar. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999: 316.
For whatever reason the Wikipedia article on Pike mentions neither that he was a black-face performer nor that he was a female impersonator.
And also, Pike is hardly mentioned in John Strausbaugh's otherwise excellent Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation, 2006.