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George M. Cohan Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1933. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 236 P&P).


Cohan, George M. (3 or 4 July 1878–05 November 1942), performer, writer of songs, musicals, and plays, and producer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Jeremiah “Jerry” John Cohan and Helen “Nellie” Frances Costigan. (Cohan’s middle initial stands for Michael.) At the age of seven, Cohan was sent to the E Street School in Providence. His formal schooling lasted six weeks, after which the school sent him to rejoin his parents and sister, Josie, in their theatrical travels. He took violin lessons and played the instrument both in the theater orchestra and in a trick violin act he devised. The Cohans went on their first road show as a family in 1889; when the show failed they went back to ...


Kalmar, Bert (16 February 1884–18 September 1947), vaudeville entertainer, lyricist, and writer for the musical stage and films, was born in New York City. Nothing is known of his parents. Born into a poor community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, as a child Kalmar became known as “the marvel of the neighborhood” for parlor stunts, hat juggling, and sleight-of-hand tricks. He ran away from home at the age of ten and entered the world of entertainment in tent shows, initially as a magician. Kalmar created and performed good-natured parodies of the popular songs of the day, the high point of many comic acts. His professional breakthrough occurred when he was hired by Mortimer Theise to imitate ...