Staging Vaudeville for a Twenty-First-Century Audience

by David Manod and Lyndsay Rosenthal


Vaudeville was the United States’ first mass entertainment. It offered a reasonably old form of entertainment—the variety show—cleaned up for a family audience. Vaudeville was the first popular entertainment to draw audiences from all classes, age groups, and regions, and it was the first to attract as many female spectators as male. According to B.F. Keith, one of the industry’s leading entrepreneurs, vaudeville audiences were not only “the young men, the men-about-town, and all sorts of men—who used to enjoy the old-time variety theatre. But men, women, and children of all degrees; in short, people in the fullest and most wholesome American sense of the word.”[1] At its peak, in 1910, there were 1,600 vaudeville theaters in the United States, located in every region of the country. Roughly, five million Americans attended vaudeville shows every week.

Vaudeville also differed from earlier forms of amusement in the way the business was organized and consumers enjoyed it. Local and regional chains of variety theaters were first created in the 1870s, and vaudeville (as a way of organizing variety entertainment) grew from those beginnings. To deliver variety shows nationally, theater entrepreneurs organized chains of theaters which consolidated bookings. They also organized cartels to divide territory, fix prices, and prevent rivals entering the industry. But vaudeville did not become popular just because it rested on a national distribution system. It grew because, in the late 1890s, the variety show caught on and became what people at the time called “a craze.” In its golden age, between 1900 and 1912, it was not uncommon for hundreds of people to queue up to see a vaudeville show. They did so because it was in vaudeville that they saw the latest fashions in clothing and coiffure, heard the newest songs from Tin Pan Alley composers, and laughed at the freshest jokes. The “headliners” vaudeville featured were the first entertainment celebrities, whose homes, salaries, romances, exercise, and eating habits were as important to consumers as their acts. As popular celebrities, vaudevillians helped create a modern style for Americans living in a rapidly urbanizing and industrializing society.

This article is intended to demonstrate the value of an extensive online research database, It aims to provide readers with information both on how to research vaudeville and on what kinds of information the database contains. The database comprises reviews taken from newspapers, the trade magazine Variety, and the Keith-Albee theater-manager’s books that have been digitized by the University of Iowa. The reviews that have been collected in the database were chosen because they offered information on the type of performance, the content of the act, and/or the audience’s reaction to it. Each entry contains the name, date, city, theater, and performance type along with a transcription of the original review. Users can quickly access this information using any of four different methods: performance name, type of act, theatre, or keyword search. With the performance search function, the acts can be further sorted by year, performance type, or location of theatre. The keyword search function will bring up any review with that word in the title or content of the review. The variety of search methods allows the user to tailor the database to their research goals.

There are over 80 different performance types listed in the database, which captures some of the best known and most obscure acts that appeared in vaudeville. It is especially interesting to trace the novelty acts that were used to generate interest in a bill. The Salambos, for example, was billed as an electrical novelty act. They used electricity to create trick effects and gave a demonstration of wireless telegraphy—a technology that had only been around for seven years in 1902. Tracing the history of the act tells us something about the rate of diffusion of new technologies. After a performance in New York, for example, the manager reported “it is about the same sort of act that they did in this country about five years ago, but is valuable because it is a novelty. They introduce several new effects in it and the audience was deeply interested from start to finish.”[2] We may assume that the novelty of an act like the Salambos, several decades after the introduction of electricity, would make it tiresome to audiences. In fact, a Boston manager felt that while the troupe offered was “an interesting trick exhibition,” their act “it is not worth big booking.” But this was not because of over-familiarity with electricity, as the manager believed “the majority of people cannot attain the proper understanding of what they are witnessing.”[3]

Location was an important factor in how an act was received by an audience. The material would sometimes contain geographic quirks that only appealed to some patrons. Certain subjects or performances types could be received differently in different cities. Within the database, the acts can be sorted by city, which allows one to see how geography affected audience responses. The Song Birds was a satire on the opera war in New York with characters based on Oscar Hammerstein, Enrico Caruso, and Nellie Melba that toured the circuit in 1909. It received rave reviews in Brooklyn, where one manager exclaimed: “It is enjoyable from the rise to the fall of the curtain. A production better suited to vaudeville has yet to be placed on a stage, and although the story is local, centering in the rivalry of the grand opera impresarios, the comedy can scarce fail anywhere.”[4] Despite this assessment, Song Birds did not appeal to all vaudeville audiences. The act received a less enthusiastic response in Cleveland which was blamed on the fact that “the fore part of the act consists mostly of New York local stuff, and I do not think the general Cleveland Audiences understand it; at least they did not seem to this afternoon.”[5] However, audiences in cities closer to New York, including Providence, Boston, and Philadelphia, raved about the performance. The manager at Keith’s in Philadelphia wrote, “I could not conceive of a vaudeville travesty constructed on more popular lines. The hits were applauded and the musical numbers got big hands.”[6] The success of the Song Birds shows us both that opera appealed to turn-of-the-century popular theater audiences, even though some found its New York references perplexing. This also tells us that vaudeville audiences in the area around Manhattan were sufficiently familiar with the character at the Metropolitan and Manhattan operas to find their caricature amusing.

Taste did, however, change over time and this can be traced in the reviews. During the war years, for example, patriotic and political material became popular with vaudeville patrons. The singer, Nora Bayes, struggled to win over her audience during a 1915 performance in New York until she sang “‘We’ll Celebrate the End of the War in Ragtime’ that has a kick in its final line that will not fall down anywhere while Germany is keeping Woodrow on the pan.”[7] But, politically charged material did not always go over well with audiences looking for an escape. This was especially true for American audiences who had endured two years of war, watched as Europe struggled to rebuild and witnessed a Communist Revolution in Russia. Singer Blanche Ring had to cut her once popular patriotic tune “Bing, Bang, Bing’em” for a performance in 1919 in favour of “an audience song which doesn’t go as powerfully, but which is more suitable to entertainment of folks who pay to be amused, not harangued.”[8] Similarly, when Milt Collins appeared at Keith’s Providence in 1920, his comedy monologue secured some laughs with the audience, but the manager was “afraid that some of his material is dangerous politically.”[9]

Managers’ reports and reviews in the trade press allowed theatres to track the development and sustainability of every act. Searching the database by the name of a specific act and sorting it by year can reveal how an act evolved over the course of its run. The Sunny South, to consider just one example, was billed as a comedic dancing and singing ensemble comprised of a group of 10–12 African-American men and women. An early performance in Trenton in 1904 received praise from both the audience and the manager. Set on a plantation, “the act is set off very prettily with exceptionally appropriate and artistic scenery in keeping and in character with this offering. ‘The Sunny South’ is a good act, away from the ordinary vaudeville offering and goes good here.”[10] The act continued to live up to expectations during performances in Buffalo and New York City the following year.[11] But over time, the act lost its appeal, sometimes as personnel changed, and sometimes because the audience simply grew tired of the act. This points to the fact that vaudeville audiences were made up of repeat customers, who generally went out to a show every week. While performances by the Sunny South in 1906 still went over well in Philadelphia and New York, in Cleveland, the manager complained that they were not as good as previously: “had these people billed as fifteen colored comedians, singers and dancers. In the first place there are not fifteen, but ten, to continue in error, they are not comedians, and they can’t sing. Their dancing is excellent, in fact it is the whole act. Their opening was weak, and scores in the audience left the theatre. Their rapid-fire dancing at the finish is the only thing that carries the act. It is not the Sunny South of a year ago by any means.”[12]

Even experienced vaudevillians could not rest on their laurels and while one poor showing did not necessarily mean an act was terminated or relegated to a lower circuit, a bad run could be fatal. Mediocre or disappointing acts were often re-booked in the hopes that performers had been able to improve their acts after they had the opportunity to run through it several times while incorporating criticism and feedback. This happened to the Sunny South which, after its poor showing in 1906, returned to the stage in Cleveland the following year and received rave reviews. The manager wrote, “This act without a doubt was the hit of the show. They certainly have improved since the last time they were here, and I don’t know of any act of this kind, that we have ever played, that went as good as this one did to-day.”[13] The act continued to delight audiences in the Northeast throughout 1907.

As this example shows, responding to audience feedback was a crucial component when crafting a successful act. The database reveals the important role the theatre manager played as a conduit between the audience’s expectations and the success of an act. The manager tailored pieces to suit the tastes of their patrons and would often recommend that performers cut or changed parts of their acts. These suggestions could include shortening the act, cutting out certain elements, or eliminating lewd or offensive material. Filtering performances by the keyword “cut” or “eliminate” will bring up any review that has contained that word. After a poor performance in Boston in 1903, the manager there suggested that comedian Beatrice Moreland alter her material to play to audiences in that city. He complained that “some of her stories were too pointed for use here and we were obliged to cut them, even though they went in Philadelphia and Portland.”[14] The success of a bill generally depended on the reaction of the audience rather than on how a manager rated the quality of the acts.

Especially popular in vaudeville were acts that maintained a snappy, upbeat approach. Brander Matthews, who taught drama at Columbia University at the turn of the century, thought “the attitude of the vaudeville audiences toward the vaudeville stage is one of the most interesting … the vaudeville audience wants its results quick, it wants to a snack of the big feasts in the show business. It wants an acrobat, a knock-about team, some trained animals, then a play, then some dancers, a song, a conjuror, another play, and so on. It is a restless, impatient audience, but it is the most appreciative of them all. There they sit, their show-instincts open to conviction, without any particular art microbe to oppress them.”[15] Managers were especially hostile to anything that worked as a drag on a show. Although one Boston audience apparently enjoyed a dramatic sketch put on by Mary Hampton and company in 1903, the manager was concerned that no one had caught “one glaring error” that he felt ruined the moment of an otherwise bright piece—a violin solo in the middle of the sketch. While the solo was there to allow for a costume change, the manager reported “I have modified the solo somewhat but hope by the end of the week to eliminate the entire thing and in its place introduce some real lively stage business. I can’t for the life of me see how this sketch could have gone along with this glaring error being allowed to run so long. Possibly it has not been over the circuit, if it has I should like other opinions of it.”[16]

To be successful in this type of fast-paced theater, players learned to fix attention on themselves. Their goal was to establish some kind of connection that might transcend even weak or old material. Vaudevillians came to term the method they used to secure spectator attention the “direct appeal.” Media scholar Henry Jenkins described this as a kind of “affective immediacy,” a bond of fellowship created between audience and performer. According to Caroline Caffin, a contemporary observer, it was the casual geniality of the vaudeville house, “that feeling of good-fellowship,” that made audiences attentive. The audience “loves to be on confidential terms with the performer, to be treated as an intimate. It loves to have the actor step out of his part and speak of his dressing-room, or hint at his salary, or flourish a make-up towel.”[17]

Naturalness of manner was considered essential to success in vaudeville. Spectators responded most positively to those performers who behaved like they were not acting and whose words and movements “seem to break out spontaneously.” Recognizing this, performers often talked to the audience during their acts, though managers urged them not to single out individuals. The singer and comic, Maud Dunn, after cracking a joke that did not work, would urge audience appreciation with the line: “think it over.” Similarly, Ching Ling Foo, vaudeville’s premier Chinese magician, after producing a bowl of rice or a child from under his cloak, would ask the audience in Chinese-American stage dialect: “you likee?” Emma Carus, after singing “None of Them’s Got Anything on Me” to a 1908 New York audience, exclaimed: “I’m glad that’s over.” The audience apparently agreed. Animals that refused to perform were common and trainers had to manage the result calmly as audiences were hostile to those who looked like they were angry. Riene Davies, who had a performing bulldog, would apologize for the animal’s “ill manners” and then offer recitations to fill up the time. Kidding the audience was another common trick. Francis Wilson, the comic sketch artist, used to close her performance with the comment: “Ladies and Gentlemen: You have behaved beautifully, you have laughed and applauded with an intelligence that is almost human.”[18]

Acting as though one was not the key to vaudeville performance. Many players had to present widely contrasting moods and temperaments in their 15 minutes on stage while making each of those feelings appear genuine. Blanche Ring felt the way to put over a song was “to take the audience into your confidence. Try to make each hearer think that you are singing directly to him or her. All the favorite balladists I have heard have possessed this faculty to a marked degree … They seem to get right at you … once a singer gets an audience humming with her, or singing the refrain, then it is easy sailing … I take a purely animal, or fleshy, pleasure in getting my audience with me.” Others spoke of honesty, light-heartedness, and an ability to share the pleasure they took in performing as critical ingredients. Singer Adele Rowland told a reporter that a performer needed “something” to succeed with audiences. “There are girls, you know, that have real talent—sing well, dance well, look well—who never seem to get anywhere. It must be lack of personality. Perhaps my something is alertness. I’m dreadfully alert, you know.” Appearing relaxed but remaining engaged on stage might sound simple, but many described it as hard work. May Robson, a musical-comedy star who tried performing in vaudeville in 1904 soon quit, declaring it much easier to play a part than to act like one wasn’t.[19]

The vaudeville database is especially useful for tracing how vaudeville’s peculiar aesthetic infused different genres. To choose just one example, what we today recognize as American popular music developed in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Historians have offered a variety of explanations for why modern popular music emerged in this period. For those who describe popular music as a business, the precipitating cause was the growth of commercial song-writing and publishing, industries centered on 28th Street in New York (Tin Pan Alley). For musicologists like Eric Wilder and Peter van der Merwe, the development of a style with African-American characteristics—a bluesy feel and syncopation—was critical.[20] Less well documented is the influence of performance on the character of popular music and, in particular, of vaudeville, as the medium through which mainstream music was disseminated. The discussion below will show that vaudeville was a venue whose performance culture strongly influenced the development of modern commercial music.

In the early twentieth century, popular musicians did not appear in concert halls and there were few large auditoria. Those wanting to see a performer or hear the newest compositions could go out to a restaurant or nightclub with a floor show, or attend an operetta or musical comedy, but those were expensive options and not widely available. New music could be heard in the sheet music sections of department, five and dime, and music stores, but there was nothing exciting about hearing songs auditioned in that way. Vaudeville was consequently the destination of choice for those wanting popular musical entertainment: it was reasonably inexpensive, available coast to coast and it offered the thrill of live performance. Because of this, vaudeville was instrumental in disseminating the new popular music of the early twentieth century, Tin Pan Alley tunes especially, but also ragtime, blues, and, to a limited extent, jazz. Singing acts made up roughly a quarter of all vaudeville performances and they became increasingly important as time went on. Between 1902 and 1906, 15% of all acts featured singers; over the next five years, that number jumped to 25% and from 1912 to 1922, it stood at 36%. The steady concentration on singing evidenced vaudeville’s role as the primary venue for listening to live popular music.[21]

With well over 10,000 entries in the database, singing was one of the most popular acts on vaudeville. About one-third of all vaudeville singing acts featured a solo performer singing with an accompanist. These kinds of act remained popular because of their simplicity and wide range of appeal. Singing acts generally required little set up or props, so they could be played in front of the curtain while stage crews set up the back for a more complicated act. But despite their simplicity, singing acts were, with comedy skits, the most popular of all vaudeville acts. Song selection was crucial to performers like ragtime singer Blanche Ring. While performing at the Colonial in New York City in 1906, she was “saved by her final song ‘Waltz Me Around Again Willie.’ The house joined in after applauding the first verse. She is badly in need of a catchy number.”[22] Ring’s final song selection became popular with the Colonial crowd “who yelled their heads off on it” and forced her to repeat it five times at another performance three years later.[23]

In the late nineteenth century, volume and clarity of diction, rather than personality or character, was considered most important in rendering songs in the popular theater. Singers who sang “tough” songs, impersonating working-class characters, or “coon” songs, impersonating African Americans, were especially popular. Because vaudevillians had to project their voices to the top balconies of theaters seating 2,000 or 3,000 people, their songs were often called shouts. Clear diction was critical in shouting because popular song in the late nineteenth century was a form of story-telling, and the most popular featured a clear narrative. Leading shouters, like May Irwin and Sophie Tucker, were known for singing loud, not well. “Most everyone understands … songs,” a critic commented, “but the talent couldn’t quite make out whether Sophie [Tucker] was trying to sing or to break a ceiling rafter with her voice,” while another reviewer described Tucker’s voice as a combination of a fog horn and a steam calliope. Emma Carus, another popular shouter, was said to sing “with the softness of a salute from a warship.” Falling back on the conventional metaphor for attributes that seemed un-feminine, journalists often described female singers’ voices as masculine. Many of the most popular were contraltos and they were called female baritones. At the same time, because they were females, it was not considered proper for them to be too emotionally involved in the performance, especially when they were depicting the urban poor or racialized characters. Singers like Tucker and Carus tended to perform in one place on stage, moving little and using their faces and hands for emphasis. They laid emphasis on telling a musical story clearly and loudly so that even those in the back of the house could hear their words.[24]

Around the turn of the century, however, the direct appeal began to change the way singers performed and, as it did, to transform popular music. The growing emphasis on the performer inspired composers to make their work less narrative and more personal. Instead of songs telling stories about others, composers increasingly used the first person. Singers who were selling their personalities naturally presented the music as expressing their own feelings. This encouraged publishers to link vaudevillians more fully to the songs they produced and after 1900, they were paying them to have their pictures on sheet music covers. The song-writer, Irving Berlin, who was just emerging as one of vaudeville’s premier composers, said that it was no longer necessary to tell a story in songs and he wrote lyrics in the first person, so that the singer “talks directly to the auditors.”[25] This change reflected the growth of celebrity, personality, and a vaudeville performance culture that rested on the “direct appeal.” Female singers, one vaudevillian explained, used to “depend upon tonnage to put them across. Those days have slipped into the discard. Now patrons want to see and hear [performers] … who can sing.”[26] Authenticity was achieved by “naturalizing” the delivery and making the song more personal and this individualization, paradoxically, enhanced the song’s marketability. All this resulted from the critical shift in the singer’s role from storyteller, where the real identity of the performer was erased, to a melding of the performer’s emotions with those of the character in the song.

Among the first to deliver songs in a personal way was Ohio-born Clarice Vance. Originally known as a “tough girl” who stomped onto the stage and sang in a stentorian way, “hard, loud and faultless in articulation,” in 1900, Vance tried a more subdued approach. At Keith’s Bijou in Philadelphia, Vance surprised audiences with a performance of a popular song free of shouting. She was one of the earliest singers to shift attention to her vocal quality, her crisp diction, and lyricism. Her lightened, sweetened sound did not excite the gallery as it did when she bellowed a story, but she claimed to be more satisfied with her work. “I find my audience enjoy the quiet, modest way in which I sing my songs more than they do the blustery, knockabout shouting style generally used in the rendition of coon songs,” Vance explained. In her view, the new more personal songs, which she called “ragtime” “should be sung on the stage like they would be in the parlor.” Similarly, singer Nora Bayes proved a big hit with vaudeville audiences with her “forward,” highly personal approach to song, something more suited, one manager initially thought, to a club or cabaret. Her style was “not particularly pleasing to an older theater goer,” a manager explained, when she broke into vaudeville in 1904, but she worked in a “gingery way” and gained “really good applause.” [27]

As singer Blanche Ring made clear, the new style evolved because of the need to express one’s personality in vaudeville. It became more important to convey intimacy and to draw audience attention to the stage than to make sure everyone heard the words of a story. In fact, words became less important than the feelings being conveyed. In the variety theater you have to “give it to them plainly. Give it to them so that they must get it whether they are listening or not,” she told Variety in 1909. People often asked her how she was able to “swing an audience along?” Ring said the answer was getting “the gladness in circulation by being glad yourself through and through.” As syncopation and ragtime’s energy infused romantic, sentimental, and comic songs, it seemed to modernize traditional musical genres. Not surprisingly, rhythm became an instrument in the direct appeal as singers moved with the music and tried to appear more involved in it. According to singer Adele Rowland, the way to put a song over in vaudeville was by using “a direct appeal … the slightest assumption of insincerity or affectation is fatal.” Any artist who, when singing, would “clinch her heart, shut her eyes, or otherwise prove herself devoid of real feeling … would exit from vaudeville.” The increased focus on the star performer was the essence of the thing to Nora Bayes: “you have to make them [the audience] forget themselves. If you can set them to thinking about your blues instead of their own, they are taken completely out of themselves … [then] you are really entertaining them,” she explained.[28]

In singing, as in other vaudeville acts, direct appeal brought the issue of performer personality to the fore and entertainers had to make themselves seem likeable or appealing. Nora Bayes, for example, employed subtle devices to sell herself to audiences, even though a reviewer in Variety dismissed it all as “simplicity itself,” for no matter what she sang “it is the individuality of the entertainer herself that carries her offering.” Caroline Caffin was more astute and saw the craft in the performance. She dissected Bayes’ method, observing her efforts to disarm the audience by acknowledging it when she came on stage, with a sideways glance, followed by “a dimpled smile” and then a shy downward look, “as though she would hate to think you might not like her.” Then, reassured by the applause, the performer faced the audience and offered “a curving smile” pursued by a sudden upward glance “to see if you caught the curving smile which followed your applause.” Bayes’ smiles, Caffin wrote, were offered “with an archness which flatters you that she is confident you can see the humor as well as she can” and her songs were rendered “so simply and naturally that it is hard to catch the artifice.” The popular singer’s personality, a comedian remarked, was the yeast that raised her dough, proof of the skill with which she concealed her preparation.[29]

Vaudeville stars like Nora Bayes appear frequently in the manager’s reports. Using her name as a keyword search brings up over 50 entries. From here, you can break down her performances by year, which allows one to see how her routine or its reception changed over time. In one of her earliest performances in 1903, she arrived late to Philadelphia causing a delay but lived up to the praise she had previously received in Providence. The manager reported, “She has a way of talking and acting her songs after the style of Edna Wallace Hopper, and although some of the more conservative in the audience might raise objections to her ‘drunk’ song, she possesses the cleverness to carry it artistically.”[30] By 1905, she was considered a “singing comedienne,” so important was her style; in Boston, the manager reported “her dialect is excellent and she appears to have lost considerable of the freshness that characterized her initial appearance here. She receives two and three curtain calls.”[31] A Palace Theatre review emphasized that “Lyric and melody are of secondary consideration to the usual Nora Bayes routine, the principal’s personality, delivery, and stage tact constituting the value proper and she seems to have those three essentials in abundance right now, more so than ever. She walked off with all honors.”[32]

Because of the strong presentation of personality in song, the direct appeal made vaudevillians easy subjects of impersonation. Well-known acts and performers like Bayes were subject to imitation. Some performers faithfully followed the formula of a popular act in the hope of emulating its success. Others hoped to capitalize on the notoriety of vaudeville celebrities. A keyword search reveals that Bayes’ name appears frequently in other female acts where her style of personality was imitated. Cecilia Loftus, Belle Blanche, and Madeline Livingston all used impersonations to great effect in their performance. Not all entertainers were as successful, however. In 1906, Cecelia Weston sang at the 58th Street Theatre in New York during which she reportedly made “the most of her hit with Nora Bayes’ song, whom she does not credit.”[33] The following year, she continued to mimic Bayes’ performances but was unable to match her success. Personality was apparently crucial. After performing at the Alhambra, the manager noted Weston “sings Nora Bayes nonsense songs and other novelty items [but] lacks cleverness. Extremely tiresome.”[34] Singer Daisy Dimond also used some of Bayes’ material, but it did not go over with the audience. The manager at Keith’s Cleveland in 1905 reported, “She is singing one of the songs sung here by Nora Bayes. Miss Bayes made a big hit with it, and this woman didn’t.”[35] Material was only one part of an act, for performers like Bayes part of their success stemmed from their ability to make a song reflect a personality and in doing so to connect to their audience.

The emphasis on communicating personality or individuality grew as the supply of variety artists increased and the public looked for singular elements in a performance. Popular song provides a good illustration of the unfolding relationship between self and performance as singers personalized what had traditionally been a form of story-telling. Although songs continued to express sentiments and described characters that were not the performer’s, singers in vaudeville wanted to sound like the music was an outpouring from their own soul, to make the content seem authentic and reflexive.

The transformative relationship between vaudeville performance practice and popular song is only one of the many subjects that can be studied using the database Our hope, in making the material accessible to researchers, is that it will inspire new research into popular entertainment, audience sensibilities, and American tastes. Mobilizing knowledge, and making it widely accessible, are mandates of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada which generously funded the database. Its funding supported the research of a dozen contributors to the website. We hope the existence of this new research tool will encourage researchers to ask their own questions and explore the links between the tens of thousands of reviews that are now available. Whether your interest lies in locating an ancestor who performed in vaudeville, documenting the history of roller-skating or stand-up comedy, or exploring gender or ethnicity on stage, we hope you will find a useful resource in


[1] BF Keith, “Selecting Vaudeville Acts,” New York Times, 10 January 1904.


[2] Manager Report, “1902, The Salambos, New York City,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 2 September 1902–3 September 1903. Accessed from


[3] Manager Report, “1902, The Salambos, Keith’s Boston,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 2 September 1902–3 September 1903. Accessed from


[4] Manager Report, “1907, The Song Birds, Brighton Beach Music Hall,” Variety, 7:3 (20 July 1907). Accessed from


[5] Manager Report, “1907, The Song Birds, Keith’s Cleveland,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 23 September 1907–12 March 1908. Accessed from


[6] Manager Report, “1907, The Song Bird, Keith’s Philadelphia,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 4 February 1907–9 September 1907. Accessed from


[7] Manager Report, “1915, Norah Bayes, Palace, New York,” Variety, 40:3(17 September 1915). Accessed from


[8] Manager Report, “1919, Blanche Ring, Majestic, Chicago,” Variety, 53:13(21 February 1919). Accessed from


[9] Manager Reports, “1920, Milt Collins, Keith’s Providence,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 13 September 1920–8 December 1921. Accessed from


[10] Manager Reports, “1904, The Sunny South, Trent Theatre, Trenton,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 28 November 1904–28 August 1905. Accessed from


[11] Manager Report, “1905, The Sunny South, Shea’s, Buffalo,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 28 November 1904–28 August 1905. Accessed from; Manager Report, “1905, The Sunny South, Keith’s Union Square, New York,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 4 September 1905–23 April 1906. Accessed from; Manager Report, “1905, The Sunny South, Keith’s New York,” Variety, 1:2 (23 December 1905). Accessed from


[12] Manager Report, “1906, The Sunny South, Keith’s Cleveland,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 30 April 1906–4 February 1907. Accessed from


[13] Manager report, “1907, The Sunny South, Keith’s Cleveland,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 4 February 1907–9 September 1907. Accessed from


[14] Manager Report, “1903, Beatrice Moreland, Keith’s Boston,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 2 September 1902–3 September 1903. Accessed from

[15] Brander Matthews, “Why Everyone Loves to Go to the Theatre,” New York Times, 2 June 1907.


[16] Manager Report, “1903, Mary Hampton and Co., Keith’s Boston,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 2 September 1902–3 September 1903. Accessed from

[17] Henry Jenkins, What Made Pistachio Nuts? Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992): 61; Caroline Caffin, Vaudeville (New York: Scurfield, 1914): 21.

[18] Henry Evans, “Adventures in Magic, the Chinese Question,” The Sphinx (18 September 1919): 160-61; “Massey and Kramer,” Variety, 28 April 1906; “Emma Carus,” Variety, 19 September 1908; “Riene Davies,” Variety, 1 January 1910; “The Passing Show,” The Times (Washington), 4 November 1900.


[19] “Vaudeville No Refuge,” New York Herald, 9 October 1921; New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Collection, MWEZ + n.c. 19,064, Blanche Ring Scrapbook, clipping: San Francisco Examiner, April 27, 1911; “Adele Rowland,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 May 1909; “May Robson in New Comedy,” New York Tribune, 5 September 1905.


[20] David Suisman, Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); Alec Wilder and James Maher, eds., American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); Peter van der Merwe, Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

[21] Calculated from data in website. Accessed from


[22] Manager Reports, “1906, Blanche Ring, Colonial, New York City,” Variety, 4:3(19 May 1906). Accessed from


[23] Manager Reports, “1909, Blanche Ring, Colonial, New York City,” Variety, 13:9(2 June 1909). Accessed from


[24] New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theater Collection, MWEZ x n.c. 21,061, Ned Wayburn Scrapbook, clipping: “She Is a Burlesque Queen ‘Bouncing,’” Evening World, 3 November 1911: Sophie Tucker Scrapbook, clippings: Show World, 29 September 1909; Evening Telegram, 12 October 1909 and Vancouver Paper, 4 July 1910; Sargent Papers, clipping: “Campbell Is Shy.”

[25] Irving Berlin, “Words and Music,” The Green Book Magazine, 14:1(July 1915): 104-5.


[26] “In the Spotlight’s Rays,” Cincinnati Enquirer, 9 November 1924.


[27] “Clarice Vance,” San Francisco Call, 18 April 1899; “Amusement Notes,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 22 April 1900; “Clarice Vance,” Newport Daily News (RI), 14 July 1903; “Miss Clarice Vance,” Indianapolis News, 7 November 1903; “Vaudeville at the Grand,” Indianapolis Journal, 10 February 1903; “How to Sing a Ragtime Song,” Detroit Free Press, 27 January 1907.


[28] “Blanche Ring,” Variety, 11 December 1909; Blanche Ring, “How to Put ‘Em Across,” The Green Book Magazine, 8:1 (July 1912): 45-47; “Popular Air Has Appeal,” Los Angeles Times, 20 July 1924; Nora Bayes, “Why People Enjoy Crying in a Theater,” The American Magazine, 85:4 (April 1918): 33-35.


[29] Caffin, Vaudeville, 27-29; “Nora Bayes,” Variety, 11 March 1906; “How to Make a Hit in Vaudeville,” Broadway Weekly, 28 September 1904.


[30] Manager Report, “1903, Nora Bayes, Bijou, Philadelphia,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 21 September 1903–14 March 1904. Accessed from


[31] Manager Report, “1905, Nora Bayes, Temple, Detroit,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 28 November 1904–28 August 1905. Accessed from


[32] Manager Report, “1915, Nora Bayes, Palace Theatre,” Variety, 41:5 (31 December 1915). Accessed from


[33] Manager Report, “1906, Cecelia Weston, 58th Street, New York,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 21 September 1903–14 March 1904. Accessed from


[34] Manager Report, “1905, Caecilia Weston, Alhambra, New York City,” Variety, I:1 (16 December 1905). Accessed from


[35] Manager Report, “1905, Daisy Dimond, Keith’s Cleveland,” University of Iowa, Keith-Albee Vaudeville Collection, Manager Reports, 28 November 1904–28 August 1905. Accessed from