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De Angelis, Thomas Jefferson (30 November 1859–20 March 1933), actor and musical performer, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of John “Johnny” De Angelis and Susan Loudenschlager, stage performers. He was thus born to a theatrical heritage. His uncle, Thomas Rosa, taught him dancing and gymnastics, and his father gave him voice lessons. De Angelis also attended a few classes in public schools in both Philadelphia and New York, but his formal schooling was sparse....

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Hall, Pauline (26 February 1860–29 December 1919), singer and actress, was born Pauline Fredericka Schmidgall (or Schmitgall) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Little is known of her parents other than that her father was an apothecary and her mother was a keeper of an actors’ boardinghouse. Pauline’s humble background was significant to her career primarily because the actors living in her childhood home caused her to be stagestruck at an early age. She was young when she committed herself to the “profession,” as she called it, performing at age fifteen in a ballet presented by R. E. J. Miles at Robinson’s Opera House in Cincinnati, “where she stepped out of the chorus to sing a small part” and “then chose the stage name of Hall” (Clippings File). She then went to the Grand Opera House until Miles, still her manager, put his “America Racing Association and Hippodrome” on the road, and Hall was featured in the street tableaus and drove a chariot in races at the indoor entertainments....

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Held, Anna (18 March 1865?–13 August 1918), actress and singer, was born in Warsaw, Poland (although she often claimed to have been born in Paris, France), the daughter of Maurice Held and Yvonne Pierre. Her true birthdate is a matter of considerable conjecture. Most sources give 1873 or 1877 as the year, but more recent research has provided evidence that Held was actually born in 1865. Her father was a glovemaker, but after he became seriously ill the family moved from Warsaw to Paris and opened a restaurant. Held worked in the restaurant, as did her siblings, and she also worked in Parisian shops sewing buttonholes, making curled ostrich feathers, and constructing fur caps. She occasionally sang in her father’s restaurant and was clearly drawn to the stage at an early age. She made her debut in a café concert in 1889, impressing her audience by singing in Spanish, French, German, and Polish. After her father’s death, Held moved with her mother to London where she sought chorus work and made her legitimate theater debut at London’s Princess Theatre in 1889. She also performed in London’s Yiddish Theatre. She slowly moved up to featured roles both in England and on the Continent, where she performed in the elegant El Dorado and La Scala cabarets in Paris. While starring in other top-notch European cabarets in Germany, Amsterdam, Hungary, and Scandinavia, Held also performed in the palaces of royalty and the mansions of the rich. Her celebrity was such that at this time she was the model for two Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs. Also at about this time, Held secretly wed a fifty-year-old South American named Maximo Carrera in 1894. They were separated after a short time....

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Hewlett, James S. (fl. 1821–1831), actor and singer, , is said to have been born on Long Island, New York, presumably toward the end of the eighteenth century. His parents are unknown, and nothing is known about his childhood. As a young man he worked as steward on passenger ships, and he is said to have been an avid playgoer. In 1820 New York City had a black population of about 11,000, out of a total of about 125,000. The one theater in town, the Park, admitted African Americans to only a section of one of the balconies. When ...

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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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Olcott, Chauncey (21 July 1860–18 March 1932), actor, singer, and composer, was born John Chancellor Olcott in Buffalo, New York, the son of Mellen Whitney “Jack” Olcott, a horseman and stable operator, and Margaret Doyle. Olcott became interested in performing while growing up in Buffalo. He sang continually, influenced, he said, by his father’s fine voice and his mother’s stories of her Irish heritage. His first professional appearance was in blackface with Emerson and Hooley’s Minstrels. He also appeared with Haverly’s Original Mastodon Minstrels (he traveled to London with the company), Carncross’s Minstrels, and Thatcher, Primrose, and West’s Minstrels. In these companies Olcott sang sentimental songs and sometimes appeared in comic sketches....

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Lillian Russell Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91178).

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Russell, Lillian (04 December 1861–06 June 1922), entertainer, actress, and singer, was born Helen Louise Leonard in Clinton, Iowa, to a well-to-do family. Her father, Charles E. Leonard, was the publisher of the local newspaper, the Clinton Herald, and her mother, Cynthia Howland Van Name, was an early and ardent feminist. Her family moved to Chicago in 1865, and she attended local schools, completing her formal education at the Park Institute, a finishing school. However, as she later recalled, her most significant education occurred at home: “Our family was a musical one. We sang and danced and played, and all my sisters had exceptionally fine voices, which were carefully trained.” Her parents subsequently divorced after separating in 1877, and, with her mother and sisters, she moved to New York City. Within a short time, she secured a chorus part in Edward E. Rice’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ...