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Fields, Lewis Maurice (01 January 1867–20 July 1941), theater performer and producer, was born Moses Schoenfeld in Poland, the son of Solomon Schoenfeld, a tailor, and Sarah Franks. The family immigrated to New York City during his childhood. He made his stage debut at the age of ten as half of a bumbling blackface act in a Lower East Side amateur show. From that time on the stage was his passion and his meal ticket. Growing up in the Bowery slums in the 1870s, Schoenfeld embraced acting as an alternative to working in a sweatshop, as did his father and brothers, or running with a gang. He found early encouragement among his classmates at Public School No. 42 on Allen Street; they responded with laughter to his acrobatic antics while the teacher’s back was turned. From the very beginning, Fields’s philosophy was simply, in his own words, “to give the public what it wants.”...

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Weber, Joseph Morris (11 August 1867–10 May 1942), vaudeville comedian and producer, was born Joseph Moishe Weber in New York City, the son of Abraham Weber, a schechter (kosher butcher and lay officer of the synagogue), and Gertrude Enoch. As the seventeenth child in this Jewish immigrant family from Poland (via a stopover in Birmingham, England, where the family learned English), Weber began at age seven working part-time in a cigarette factory while still attending Public School 42 on Allen Street in New York’s Lower East Side. His life changed dramatically the following year when he literally bumped into another immigrant child, ...