American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2010 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 10

B.F. Keith

For more information about B.F. Keith,

see Vaudeville Times Volume IX, Issue 2


AVM recommends Vaudeville Wars: How the Keith-Albee and Orpheum Circuits Controlled the Big Time and Its Performers by Arthur Frank Wertheim (2006, Palgrave-Macmillan, ISBN 1403968268).

1846 — 1914

Regarded by many as the founder of vaudeville, it is no easy to matter to assess the accomplishments or scrutinize the character of Benjamin Franklin Keith. He spent most of his formative years working in circuses and dime museums. When he ventured on his own he unsuccessfully teamed with a succession of partners, but it was his wife, Mary (who had the backing of the Roman Catholic archdiocese centered in Boston) and Edward Albee, a fellow circus man and New Englander who started as Keith’s employee, who became Keith’s invaluable partners. The questions are whether Keith truly was the genius behind the largest and most important vaudeville circuit in America, was more a figurehead than the head of a vaudeville empire or a canny back-country New England who knew good advice from bad and acted on it.