American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.† Page 13


Birthplace of American Vaudeville

History XI

Stop the presses! There have been several books written about vaudeville this year, and more are expected. Before any publisher prints another word about the beginnings of vaudeville, letís get a couple of things straight: B. F.† Keith did not invent vaudeville, nor was he the first vaudeville entrepreneur to use the word to advertise his programs. Vaudeville was produced in Boston decades before Keith was born.

Keith didnít even originate the idea of Ďcontinuous vaudeville,í a rap a lot of folks would like to hang on him. He adopted the concept from the continuous loop of performances that was the modus operandi of the circus sideshow and dime museums, where he began his career.

Most big business barons donít invent anything. They are good at what they do because they see the usefulness to their own operations of the ideas and innovations of others (that was true even of Edison). Often the only thing an executive needs to do to establish his reputation as a shrewd operator is to hire the right people. This B. F. Keith did when he took on Edward F. Albee, a fellow alumnus of the sawdust circuit.