Now What: Vaudeville Entertainers

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Q: My relatives were vaudeville entertainers. I know their stage names. Where might I find information about them?
A: Some books to start your vaudeville research include: The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville by Anthony Slide (University Press of Mississippi); Vaudeville, Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America by Frank Cullen (Routledge); and No Applause–Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous by Trav S.D. (Faber & Faber). You also could check back issues of the Vaudeville Times (available for purchase online), published by the American Vaudeville Museum, whose website also hosts a lengthy list of vaudeville performer profiles and history articles. The University of Iowa is home to the Keith/Albee Collection: The Vaudeville Industry, 1894-1935, which preserves much of the cultural and industrial history of the vaudeville circuit collected by Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward F. Albee. A finding aid to this collection is here. Some fragile items are in the process of being digitized.
Because you already know some of the places where your relatives entertained, you may be able to learn more online at sites dedicated to those theaters’ colorful histories. These range from the Vaudeville Theatre in London to Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, NY, to the Henry Strater Theatre in Durango, Colo. Try searching for the theater’s name or a place name plus the word vaudeville.

From the July/August 2015 Family Tree Magazine