Recommended New Book:


Remarkable Specialty Acts in Variety,

Vaudeville and Sideshows

at the Turn of the 20th Century as Seen by their Contemporaries

compiled by

Charlie Holland

187 pages, softcover, published 1998 by Holland & Palmer,

London 12.99RRP

Also available at


In tribute to the "dumb acts" that were often relegated to the opening or closing slots on a vaudeville bill yet were able to tour the world successfully without the limitation of language, Charlie Holland has pulled together articles written during the ten year period between 1894 and 1904 about 28 of the top specialty acts of the day.

Some of the acts described in this book became vaudeville headliners well-remembered today such as W. C. Fields and Cinquevalli. But most of the magicians, plate spinners, trick bicyclists, sharpshooters, contortionists, strongmen (and women) and other performers featured in Mr. Holland's book have little claim on memories today. Yet it is fascinating to read descriptions of their inventive acts. Especially charming are evocations of acts once popular during the 19th Century--paper folding, paper tearing, hand shadow images--and one wishes to applaud the creators for the elaborate visions they created in a matter of seconds.

So many academics and self-anointed historians (your reviewer included) are writing about the history and performers of a century ago, that it is refreshing, instructive and entertaining to read accounts by those who were there. Several photographic illustrations appear on each page so one gets a good sense of the act.

Mr. Holland prefaces his compilation and each of his seven chapters with a brief introduction. He knows his history, shares insights and anecdotes, and writes engagingly. We're glad to have this book for our collection; it provides material not easily found elsewhere.

~frank cullen~


American Vaudeville Museum

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