American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2010 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 22

Harley Mankin

The Frog Man

1888 — 1969


Harley Mankin, “the man who can do what no other man kin,” spent years in vaudeville and circus developing his Frog Man act. Along the way, he learned to contort his body into improbable positions, worked as an acrobat, juggler and escape act. It was as a contortionist that he made his greatest mark. Clothed in a green costume, replete with hundreds of imitation scales, he began his act inside a water lily. As the flower opened he leapt onto nine foot high pedestal where he twisted his arms, legs and torso into various postures associated with frogs.

Although well paid, Harley was more or less locked by the conventions of vaudeville into the opening act slot on bills. But his act took him all around the world from North and South America to South Africa to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Some seasons he traveled with circuses such as John Robinson’s; others he played the prestigious Keith and Orpheum circuits of vaudeville. He retired in 1930 to his farm in Fremont, Michigan.