The Vaudeville genre was particularly popular in the United States and Canada from the late 1900s until its decline in the 1920s. Including musicians, dancers, actors in short scenes, comedians, magicians, animals, and many other acts, these performances were various and unique, often having little relation to one another, yet grouped on one bill. The bill was repeated throughout one circuit generally and then replaced with a new build to complete the circuit again.
Aida Overton Walker is a name that should be more familiar to vaudeville and theater lovers than it is for she was the foremost African-American star of her generation which comprised the early years of the 20th century. Her national and even international fame was such that she was a living legend of black show business and in fact her vision of a world with dignified and respected black show business artists who did not have to demean themselves onstage was years ahead of reality.
No vaudeville collection would be complete without a commentary on the greatest of all vaudeville and Broadway stars of the 1910s and 1920s, Al Jolson. The University of Arizona collection has a large number if not a complete number of Jolson sheet music including one piece signed by him personally.
The identity of a woman is a constantly changing dynamic. In history, women were classified as second class and unequal to their male counterparts. Most of their jobs were traditionally limited to the kitchen and having children; they could not vote, get equal pay, or even own land of their own. In the beginning of the 20th century and particularly the Roaring Twenties, however, things began to change. More Americans lived in cities and the average wealth doubled. Women had more freedom than previous generations as they now had the right to work and had higher paying jobs.
Helene Anna Held (Warsaw, 1873?– New York, August 12, 1918), known as Anna Held, was one of the most inventive, beautiful and engaging stars of the beginning of the 20th century. Her birth date is uncertain, variously reported to have occurred in Warsaw or Paris anywhere from 1865 to 1878. She is usually thought to be Polish and she was fond of telling stories about her past that may or may not have been true. A birth date in the 1870s seems to fit best with earliest visuals we have for her in which she appears to be a young lady not long out of her teens.
Annette Hanshaw (Manhattan, October 18, 1901 – Manhattan, March 13, 1985) was born Catherine Annette Hanshaw. A number of her family members were in vaudeville and she was brought up to love the entertainment business although she studied art and design and wanted to be an artist and portrait painter. She was an exceptionally beautiful girl and had a lovely singing voice that came across wonderfully clearly over the radio and on records at the local stations she would sing for.
This series consists of photographs, printed matter, a newspaper clipping, photocopies, and correspondence documenting the career of Arthur J. McWatters and Grace Tyson. Arthur's surname is sometimes spelled McWaters. There is a color copy of a 1902 document from Herrman the magician, giving McWatters exclusive permission to perform one of his own illusions. A 1903 Saginaw program lists McWatters & Tyson Co. performing "Scenes in a Dressing Room." Most of the photographs are of McWatters and Tyson, but also include other performers. Some of these toured as part of McWatters & Tyson & Co. There are also photographs of Bessie Burton (of Tyler & Burton), Hal David, and Fred Nolan. One color snapshot depicts a poster of McWatters & Tyson in company with John and Ethel Barrymore. A copy of a family photograph from 1936 is included. The correspondence is from Evan S. Williams, the son of McWatters' niece Helen Southgate Williams; he donated the collection to the American Vaudeville Museum in 2004.
Included here are autographs of various celebrities who are not otherwise represented in this archive. An autographed sheet music of Al Jolson is included within his entry and there is another in the Harry Carroll entry. Some of the autographs collected on the music are not from vaudeville stars:
Benjamin Franklin Keith (B. F. Keith) was a vaudeville entrepreneur and known as the father of the “bigtime” entertainment. B.F. Keith was born in January 26, 1846 in Hillsborough Bridge, New Hampshire. He died in March 26, 1914, at The Breakers, Palm Beach Florida. Mr.
Beatrice Fairfax Tell Me What To Do 1915 – This popular vaudeville song sung by famous singing comedienne Emma Carus is about America’s first newspaper advice column, “Ask Beatrice Fairfax”, which began in 1898 and was written by Marie Manning. It anticipated the Dear Abby and Ann Landers columns by half a century. Despite becoming a national success story and having her column made into a hit song and even a major film, Manning was denied pay increases because she was “doing woman’s work” and eventually resigned in protest.