American Variety Stage, 1870-1920, is a multimedia anthology that showcases popular entertainment forms, especially vaudeville, from 1870 to 1920. The materials include memorabilia documenting the career of Harry Houdini, English- and Yiddish-language playscripts, souvenir playbills and programs, theater posters, motion pictures, and sound recordings. Many items include the bawdy humor and ethnic stereotypes typical of the period.
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These online exhibits provide context and additional information about this collection.
- For Houdini, Houdini: A Biographical Chronology
- For Theater Programs and Playbills, Program: Bijou Theatre
- For English-Language Playscripts, The Lone Hand Four Aces
- For Yiddish-Language Playscripts (in Yiddish), About Yiddish Playscripts
- Forms of Variety Theater
These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection although they may not be all-encompassing.
- Development of the Industrial United States, 1876-1915
- Emergence of Modern America, 1890-1930
Related Collections and Exhibits
- American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
- Baseball Cards
- Creative Americans: Portraits by Van Vechten, 1932-1964
- Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
- Inventing Entertainment: The Edison Companies
- The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906
- Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885
- Origins of American Animation
- Detroit Publishing Company
Recommended additional sources of information.
There are currently no other resources for this collection
Specific guidance for searching this collection.
Each page of the playscripts and the playbills has been digitized as an image. This means that these items are not full-text searchable. However, the subject terms in the bibliographic records are searchable. Use the Subject Index to give you ideas for search terms and help narrow your search.
There are two categories of playscripts: English-language playscripts and Yiddish-language playscripts. There are no English translations available for the Yiddish-language playscripts. However, the subject headings in the bibliographic records for these playscripts are in English.
The ten sound recordings in American Variety Stage, 1870-1920 are not searchable. You can browse the Title List for Sound Recordings to find information about these items.
Searching this collection is very challenging. Students may be frustrated by the layers they must go through in order to find items relative to their search. Use the different indexes and special presentations to help guide you through the material. For help with searches, go to the American Variety Stage, 1870-1920 Subject Index or Author Index.
For help with general search strategies, see Finding Items in American Memory.
Several items in the collection contain ethnic stereotyping and bawdy humor typical of the period. Teachers may find that when using the collection with students, context-setting conversations about racism, stereotyping, and discrimination in turn-of-the-century America may be necessary.