Peculiar Sam is a dramatic ballad opera in four acts, and was written as a benefit for the then-famous minstrel Sam Lucas. The central character was created by Lucas, and Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins planned her text around 16 different vocal numbers using plantation songs, ballads, and spirituals as the basis for her score. The premiere of Peculiar Sam took place at the Boston Young Men's Christian Union on December 8, 1879. For a year, the show toured under the management of Z.W. Sprague, a white minstrel and impresario. The most successful production occurred in July 1880 at Boston's Oakland Gardens. Large crowds attended, and the play, revised into three acts and staged by Hopkins's group, the Hyers Sisters Combination, was a huge success. The plot of the drama is reminiscent of that of the ballad opera Out of Bondage by Joseph Bradford, which may have inspired the story.