Born today in 1825, George L. Fox comes way too early to have been in vaudeville, but he is a crucial figure in American variety history as a clown, actor and comedian (not to mention director and producer). He was born into a performing family in Boston (quite rare at the time), playing juvenile roles with his siblings before quitting to be an apprentice tradesman for a time. As a young adult he rejoined the act, which eventually moved to New York. In 1850, he split off on his own and became a low comedian at the National Theatre on the Bowery, where he was popular for the next seven years, playing Bowery Bhoys, Yankees and similar comic types. He also directed what is considered a serious and respectful version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (unlike many that came after), written by his cousin George Aiken.
Towards the end of the decade, he became interested in British style pantomime, becoming one of the crucial figures in transplanting that form of theatre to the U.S. (for a time it was as popular in the U.S. as it was in England). He began building his own company, first at the Old Bowery Theatre, then the New Bowery (which he built). After serving for a year in the Civil War, he returned and performed for a time at Barnum’s American Museum. In 1866, he was hired to manage the Olympic Theatre. The following year, he played the title role in the pantomime Humpty Dumpty, the role for which posterity best remembers him. He died in 1877 following a series of strokes. (Side note: Vaudevillian Harry Fox, supposed inventor of the Fox Trot, claimed to be one of his descendants.)
To find out more about the history of variety, including influential performers like George L. Fox, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other fine establishments.