Vaudeville, Hats & the River

Here is another collection of cultural tidbits taken from Jessie’s diary. ~

Vaudeville sister act, Madeline & Dorothy Cameron
Vaudeville sister act, Madeline & Dorothy Cameron

Vaudeville was the biggest form of live entertainment in 1912. All kinds of acts were included in the traveling shows — magicians, dramatic sketches, opera singers, comedians, barbershop quartets, etc. etc.   I think Jessie and her friends saw most of the shows that came to town. The Orpheum was one of the theaters she frequented, and it was there on February 6, 1912, that Jessie saw 1,000 Pounds of Harmony – the hefty men of the Primrose Quartette and thought they were “grand.” These gentlemen were quite popular for some years on the vaudeville circuit, and they got their name, as you might guess, because each of them weighed about 250 pounds.

Vaudeville c.1910, You Naughty boy!
Vaudeville c.1910, You Naughty boy!

On March 30th Jessie took her friend Willie Swift to the Orpheum to see the show. She especially enjoyed  a sketch called The Woman Who Knew. Not everybody enjoyed that act though. A review in Variety (22:6, 4/15/1911) about a performance at the Keith Theatre in Philadelphia had this to say:  “The bill at Keith’s was running smoothly and at a good speed until The Woman Who Knew came on stage. Mme. Besson is featured in the Victor H. Smalley piece. According to the program she is a famous portrayer of Zaza and Camille. If this is true, she might be able to get away with a similar role on vaudeville, but as The Woman Who Knew she is hopeless. The sketch has no merit and is badly played.”

Also on March 30th Jessie writes: “Enjoyed being with Willie so much. After the show we bumbed around and saw every-body sporting their new lids. I wore mine of course. It’s real mannish – English shape.” I would love to know exactly what that hat looked like, but instead here are some 1912 advertisements for women’s hats.

fr. Sears Catalog 1912
fr. Sears Catalog 1912

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the end of March Memphis was soggy with rain and the Mississippi River was higher than it had been in years. After church on Sunday, March 31st, Jessie and her family drove over to see how the River had risen. “It’s awful,” said Jessie.  The Great Flood of 1912 was beginning, and I’ll look at that in my next posting.

A train in Memphis finds the tracks are submerged. Flood of 1912.
A train in Memphis finds the tracks are submerged. Dated April 2, 1912.

 

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