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Hart, Tony (25 July 1855–04 November 1891), actor and singer, was born Anthony Cannon in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Anthony Cannon and Mary Sweeney, both of whom had emigrated from Ireland. He put on amateur performances as a child, but a pattern of delinquency began with disruptions at school and culminated in the near murder of a rival during a performance; his parents placed him in the Lyman School (a state reformatory at Westborough, outside Worcester) in 1865. He escaped several months later and traveled to Boston, where he supported himself as a singer, a bootblack, and a newsboy, and then to Providence, where he sang and danced in saloons and was dubbed Master Antonio by a saloon keeper. He joined a touring circus, and then Billy Arlington’s Minstrels; in 1870, at age fifteen, he joined Madame Rentz’s Female Minstrels. Dressed as a little girl, he evoked tears with a sentimental song, “Put Me in My Little Bed.”...

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Marilyn Miller Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1928. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-5397-005).

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Miller, Marilyn (01 September 1898–07 April 1936), dancer and actress, was born Mary Ellen Reynolds in Evansville, Indiana, the daughter of Edwin D. Reynolds, a lineman for the Cumberland Telephone Company, and Ada Thompson, who had theatrical aspirations. The Reynolds’ marriage broke up when Edwin was reassigned to another locale, and Marilyn’s mother rejected transferring the family. Marilyn was brought up by her mother and a stepfather, Oscar Caro Miller, who had sung, danced, and performed acrobatics in vaudeville and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas....

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Mills, Florence (25 January 1895–01 November 1927), entertainer, was born Florence Winfree in Washington, D.C., the daughter of John Winfree, a carpenter, and Nellie Simons, who did laundry. Educated locally, by age five Mills was winning contests in cakewalking and buck dancing. Her first professional engagement came as Baby Florence Mills in the second company (1902) of the Williams-Walker ...

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Lola Montez. As Mariquita in Un Jour de Carnaval de Seville. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112186).

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Montez, Lola (1818–17 January 1861), dancer and actress, was born Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of Edward Gilbert, a professional soldier, and Mary Oliver. At age four Eliza, as she was known, left with her parents for Calcutta, where her father had been posted. After his death in 1824, her mother remarried, and Eliza was sent by her stepfather, John Craigie, to live in Montrose, Scotland. Rebellious and individualistic even at this early age, Eliza was placed in the care of Sir Jasper Nicholls, a distinguished soldier and friend of her stepfather, with whose daughter Fanny she continued her education in Paris and Bath. In 1837 she eloped with Thomas James, an officer in the Indian army on leave in England; they had no children....

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Turnbull, Julia (18 June 1822–11 September 1887), ballerina and actress, was born in Montreal, Canada, the daughter of the actor and playwright John D. Turnbull. Her mother’s name is unknown. When she was three years old Julia’s parents moved the family to Albany, New York, where they managed a stock company. It was then that Julia and her sisters, Emily and Caroline, made their debuts as child actresses. In April 1828, at the age of five, Julia played the role of Justin in ...

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White, George (1890–10 October 1968), dancer, actor, and producer, was born George Weitz in the slums of New York City’s Lower East Side. Little is known of his parentage other than that his mother’s first name was Lena. He started to work at a tender age as a messenger boy, but he also danced for small change in the music halls of the Bowery until he was seven, when his family moved to Toronto. Canada did not offer him opportunities to be around racehorses, so at the age of eleven he ran away from home and became a racetrack exercise boy and jockey, first in Buffalo, then Detroit. He bet the horses avidly for many years. It was at about this time that he took the name White....

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Winfield, Hemsley (20 April 1907–15 January 1934), actor and dancer, was born in Yonkers, New York, the son of Osbourne Winfield, a civil engineer, and Jeraldine (maiden name unknown but perhaps Hemsley), an actress and playwright. Educated at public schools, Winfield showed an early interest in theater, perhaps prompted by his mother’s involvement. In 1924 he received his first role in a major production, in ...