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Melissa Vickery-Bareford

Dooley, Ray (30 October 1896–28 January 1984), comedienne, was born Rachel Rice Dooley in Glasgow, Scotland, the daughter of Robert Rogers Dooley, a noted circus clown and theatrical manager, and Mary Dougherty. The family immigrated to the United States while Rachel was still an infant, eventually settling in Philadelphia. Dooley attended public schools and studied theater under her father’s minstrel act, which also included her three older brothers....

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Eltinge, Julian (14 May 1883–07 March 1941), female impersonator, was born William Julian Dalton in Newtonville, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Dalton, a mining engineer, and Julia Edna Baker. His father’s profession took him to the West, where Julian went to schools in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Butte, Montana, as well as in Boston on his family’s return there. He was working as a clerk in a dry goods store at $3.50 a week when he auditioned for the First Corps Cadets of Boston, an all-male amateur theatrical troupe noted for the plausibility of its female impersonations. He played the small role of Mignonette in Robert A. Barnet’s burlesque ...

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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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Joice Heth. P. T. Barnum's advertising poster from December 1835 reads, "JOICE HETH is unquestionably the most astonishing and interesting curiosity in the World! She was the slave of Augustine Washington, (the father of Gen. Washington,) and was the first person who put clothes on the unconscious infant, who, in after days, led our heroic fathers on to glory, to victory, and freedom. To use her own language when speaking of the illustrious Father of his Country, 'she raised him.' JOICE HETH was born in the year 1674, and has, consequently, now arrived at the astonishing AGE OF 161 YEARS." Courtesy of the Somers Historical Society.

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Heth, Joice (17??–19 February 1836), performer, exhibited by P. T. Barnum as the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington., performer, exhibited by P. T. Barnum as the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. Circumstances of Heth's birth are murky, as is virtually her entire life before her first encounter with Barnum in Philadelphia. By 1835 she was held as a slave by John S. Bowling of Paris, Kentucky, and exhibited in Louisville, Kentucky (at the Louisville Museum), and Cincinnati, Ohio, where the outlines of her stage act began to take shape. Telling stories about her swaddling of the young Washington, singing hymns that she supposedly taught him, answering questions from curious visitors, and submitting her remarkably frail and wizened body to public scrutiny, she became known at once as a person of historical significance and as a natural curiosity, or freak....

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Janis, Elsie (16 March 1889–26 February 1956), variety artist and writer, was born Elsie Jane Bierbower in Marion, Ohio, the daughter of John Eleazer Bierbower, a railway worker, and Jane Elizabeth Cockrell, a real estate agent. At the age of four she was a natural mimic, adept at picking up the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of visitors to her parents’ home. Though she was considered a dreadful child by the proper ladies of Marion, “Little Elsie” soon became a popular addition at church gatherings, dinner parties, and club affairs. Her formal career began with a local stock company, where she made her debut as Cain in ...

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Loftus, Cissie (22 October 1876–12 July 1943), actress and mimic, was born Marie Cecilia Loftus Brown in Glasgow, Scotland, the daughter of Ben Brown, a music hall comedian, and Marie Loftus, a music hall singer. Her childhood was spent at boarding schools and backstage at the theaters where her mother played. She left the Convent of the Holy Child, Blackpool, England, in 1892 to become her mother’s dressing room maid....