American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 7

White Rats I

History VI

by Armond Fields

1900 appeared to be a very good year for the country.

The U.S. had handily defeated Spain and thereby gained control over the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam.  Business was booming.  Americans showed increasing interest in new technologies—automobiles, telephones, phonographs, subways and moving pictures—all still considered novelties.  Less than 8,000 horseless carriages existed in the entire country, and not yet ten miles of concrete roads.  One hundred taxi cabs solicited business on New York City streets. There was one telephone for every sixty-six people.  Prices were low.  One could buy a suit for ten dollars, a sofa for fifteen, a turtleneck sweater for eight cents.  For a penny, using a hand crank, one could watch moving pictures in Kinetoscope studios.  The public seemed upbeat about the nation’s future, happy and excited about their personal prospects.  Indeed, the dawn of a new century appeared bright and encouraging—but not for actors and actresses.

“Are you a Rat?”


“All right, then, come in.”