American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 38

Lotta Crabtree

Little Lotta Crabtree was to her era what Mary Pickford and Shirley Temple were to theirs: America’s most beloved child star.  Lotta’s career, however, lasted longer than both Mary’s and Shirley’s combined—forty years, 1855 to 1892.  In her retirement years she took up good causes and painting, and gladly forsook the spotlight.  She was an early proponent of animal protection and veterans’ benefits, and in her will she left her considerable fortune to benefit veterans, the poor, the impoverished sick, needy actors, talented students in the arts, to give discharged convicts another chance and to protect and combat cruelty to animals.

Lotta was one of the generation of Fairy Stars, gifted youngsters who danced, sang and acted on the stage.  The Fairy Stars were especially revered in the Wild West, where Lotta began her career, but the craze for talented tykes took hold in most of America up through vaudeville and early sound films.  Lotta danced especially well, and displayed a mischievous personality on the stage that set her apart from her more prim competitors.