If you happen to find yourself near Girard, Pennsylvania between today and Sunday, may I suggest you take yourself over to the Dan Rice Days Festival?
“Who is Dan Rice and how’s he rate a festival?” you may well ask (and it’s sad that you had to). Dan Rice was one of the most important show business figures of the 19th century, up there with P.T. Barnum, Tony Pastor, and Harrigan and Hart. Many people aver that he was the visual model for Uncle Sam. Technically, he was a circus clown, but back in those nebulous days, with no textbook definition about what such a thing was supposed to be, circus clowns could talk. And Rice did. It was his whole bag. In many ways you could say he was the fore-runner of stand-up comedians, or at the very least, folksy monologists like Will Rogers. If you want to know more, I HIGHLY recommend this excellent book: Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard Of by David Carlyon. It’s a highly entertaining book, rich in detail not just about Rice but in show business in general at the time. And, if you’re wondering why the Dan Rice Days Festival takes place in Girard, Pennsylvania, an excellent explanation is here.
And to learn still more about show business history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.