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Earl Carroll As a pilot during World War I, c. 1918. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-165-WW-432[P1524]).

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Carroll, Earl (16 September 1893–17 June 1948), theatrical producer and songwriter, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of James Carroll and Elizabeth Wills, hotelkeepers. At thirteen, Carroll became a program boy at a Pittsburgh theater. At seventeen, having graduated from Allegheny High School, he was assistant treasurer and box-office manager at another theater. He worked his passage around the world doing odd jobs, wrote for an English-language newspaper in the Orient, and, after visiting New York, became treasurer at Pittsburgh’s Nixon Theater....

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Cole, Bob (01 July 1868–02 August 1911), actor, director, and composer, was born Robert Allen Cole, Jr., in Athens, Georgia, the son of Robert Allen Cole, Sr., a successful carpenter and political activist in the black community. Cole received musical training in Athens and finished elementary school after his family moved to Atlanta. He made his first stage appearance in Chicago, performing in Sam T. Jack’s ...

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Emmet, J. K. (13 March 1841–15 June 1891), actor and songwriter, was born Joseph Klein Emmet in St. Louis, Missouri. (His middle name is frequently spelled Kline.) Nothing is known of Emmet’s parents except that his father died young, leaving behind a son who had been able to find sporadic employment as a drummer with several St. Louis bands while unsuccessfully trying to become a photographer. On the elder Emmet’s death, Joseph became an apprentice to a sign painter who also made sets for local theaters. While working in the playhouses, the musically talented Emmet became fascinated with the stage and developed his own act with original songs and dances....

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Golden, John (27 June 1874–17 June 1955), theatrical producer, songwriter, and playwright, was born in New York City, the son of Joel Golden, a teacher and proprietor of a summer hotel, and Amelia Tyreler. Raised in Wauseon, Ohio, he went to New York at age fourteen to pursue a career as an actor. For seven years he struggled, accepting odd jobs and selling comic verses, the latter written after the manner of W. S. Gilbert, to the weekly humor magazines ...

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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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Sosenko, Anna (13 June 1909–09 June 2000), producer, songwriter, manager, and archivist, was born in Camden, New Jersey, one of three children of Rebecca Sosenko (maiden name unknown) and Simon Sosenko. The family was not one of means; Anna's mother ran a restaurant and a sometime boarding house, occasionally renting out rooms in the family home. Sosenko's formal education came to an end when she graduated from Camden High School. Her life would change, however, in her early adulthood when the family let a room to a struggling girl-pianist who toiled in a “five-a-day” (five shows a day) vaudeville theater across the street. The struggling pianist was Hildegarde Sell, the Milwaukee-born daughter of German immigrants. The two girls struck up an instant friendship and eventually a partnership that would make both their fortunes....