American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.† Page 6

Vaudeville Trust

History V

A dozen years earlier, in 1895, Abe Erlanger had been the organizing force that formed the infamous Theatrical Trust with his partner, Marc Klaw, and Charles and Daniel Frohman, Alf Hayman, Sam Nixon and J.F. Zimmerman.† The Trustís purported purpose was to impose order and sensible business practice upon a theatre scene which was burgeoning rapidly in every way: geographically, commercially and artistically.† Their true goal was to control every legitimate theatre of consequence, every booking route, the means of production, the hiring of talent and the sale of tickets.

The Trustís success was so complete that only a few extraordinarily gifted actors such as Minnie Maddern Fiske and a few resourceful producers such as her husband, the dogged Harrison Fiske, or the revered David Belasco could buck the Trust year after year and survive professionally.† One source of help to rebel producers were the Shuberts who would embrace any available good cause or foul means to purchase a foothold in the entertainment business.† The Shubert Brothers, Sam, Lee and Jake, were small time fringe players, easily overlooked, who slipped into New York theatre life almost unnoticed until they couldnít be dislodged.