There is something to be said for the excellence wrought (indeed, necessitated) by the fierce competition in vaudeville. Case in point: these ponies. Horses are notoriously dumb beasts, in the scheme of things (beautiful but dumb, even if they ARE smarter than cows). You’ve seen them perform live….at most, they are generally trained to run around in a circle, or tap their hooves on cue. The ponies in this clip, however, are doing tricks I would associate with a dog act. Very smart. I don’t know how the trainer did it; in fact I don’t know who “Tom Tinker” is. This little film was one of a series taken by one Hans A. Spanuth in Chicago in 1919 and 1920, now in possession of the Library of Congress. If more information gallops in, we’ll let you know.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.