In the New York of 1850, "decent folk' are beginning to tolerate the theater, while "young radicals" argue against slavery. Dimples Appleby, who leads a band of children street singers, lives with her grandfather, Professor Eustace Appleby, an old actor down on his luck who now teaches acting, singing and birdcalls, and who has resorted to petty theft, rumors of which Dimples refuses to believe. The children perform at the Drew estate uptown, and Dimples is apprehended trying to escape after furs are discovered to be missing. Informed of this, the professor returns with the furs and reports that he valiantly fought a thief to get the furs back. Before leaving, Dimples sees the professor snatch a cuckoo clock. The next day, she returns it to Mrs. Caroline Drew and says that she stole it herself. The kindly Mrs. Drew is interrupted in her talk with Dimples when she learns that her beloved nephew Allen is breaking his engagement with Betty Loring, the daughter of Mrs. Drew's friend, Colonel Loring, because of his infatuation with actress Cleo Marsh. Shocked, Mrs. Drew, who hates the theater, orders Allen to break with the actress, and Allen sadly says he will leave his aunt's home. After he goes, Dimples sees Mrs. Drew crying. Mrs. Drew takes Dimples back to the professor's shabby quarters and asks him to let Dimples live with her for the girl's sake. Dimples overhears her offer the professor $5,000, and after Mrs. Drew leaves, Dimples tearfully asks the professor not to sell her, whereupon he vows he would not do that for all the money in the world. Although cut off financially from his aunt, Allen has enough savings to produce the first performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin . He auditions Dimples for the role of "Eva," and hires the professor as his assistant. After the professor loses Allen's last $800 to a gang of con-artists, Allen's creditors threaten to have someone put in jail if the company does not pay its bills. To save her grandfather, Dimples agrees to live with Mrs. Drew for the $5,000. When the professor calls on Mrs. Drew for the money, he finds Dimples crying because she is lonesome without him, and he returns Mrs. Drew's check. Before he leaves with Dimples, however, he convinces Mrs. Drew, who is attentive to his flirtations, that a worthless watch which he got from the conmen was given to Napoleon by Josephine and accepts $1,000 from Mrs. Drew for the watch. As the play is about to begin without Cleo, who left Allen when his money was gone, Dimples brings Betty, whose father forbade her to attend, to see Allen backstage. Meanwhile, Colonel Loring declares the watch to be a fake, and with police in tow, Mrs. Drew and the colonel arrive at the theater to have the professor arrested. To avoid them, the professor dons an "Uncle Tom" costume and in blackface, performs the role until the actor cast as "Uncle Tom" also appears onstage in blackface. The professor is arrested upon exiting the stage, but the police, Mrs. Drew and Colonel Loring agree to remain until the end of the play rather than disrupt it. Moved to tears by Eva's deathbed scene, as played by Dimples, Mrs. Drew calls the play beautiful and tells the police to let the professor go. A year later, after a performance, Allen, now with Betty, announces to an audience which includes the professor, who kisses Mrs. Drew's shoulder, the first presentation in New York of a minstrel show, in which Dimples is starred.