During the last third of the 19th century,energetic vaudeville entrepreneurs sprang up in different sections of the country and began to mark off turf: Keith and Albee in Boston, F.F. Proctor in upstate New York, Beck and Meyerfeld in San Francisco, Kohl and Castle in Chicago, Tony Pastor and Oscar Hammerstein (separately) in Manhattan. Hyde and Behman began in Brooklyn.
Please remember that this was back when Brooklyn was not part of what we now call New York City, which wasn’t incorporated in its present configuration until 1898. It was a separate town, divided by Manhattan island by a river (the first bridge across was built in 1904). It was its own municipality with its own population and its own entertainment needs. In the late ’70s a young Brooklyn grocery clerk named Louis Behman and his schoolmate Richard Hyde opened their first theatre, the Volks Garden, on Adams Street. (This was following an earlier experiment with a temporary music hall at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia). In 1890, they expanded, building their first Hyde and Behman’s Theatre. By 1882 they were building, buying and leasing theatres all over Brooklyn, and soon after that, their empire would include theatres in Manhattan, Newark, Pittsburgh and Chicago (where they bought and rehabilitated the Iroquois, site of the famous fire and Eddie Foy’s heroic deeds.) In 1900, the partners collaborated with most of the other major managers in creating the first vaudeville cartel, but they were not to last long into the new age that development portended. Behman died in 1902; Hyde in 1912.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.