Madame Olympia DesVall and Her Horses, Dogs, and Birds

olympia_desvall_large

Born in Germany in 1876, Olympia DesVall (Olympia Blumenfeld) was an equestrienne who performed not only with horses but also a troupe of trained dogs, and later birds. She was a third generation circus performer.

In written accounts, Olympia’s animals were said to “adorably follow her all around the ring”. She played throughout France and Germany before making her first trip to the U.S. in 1907 to play the Hippodrome. In 1914, she returned to play the Barnum & Bailey Circus. 

image

The following year (and for years thereafter) she toured the Keith circuit with versions of the same act including an appearance at the Palace. Joe Laurie, Jr. said that she had “the best bird act in the business”. Olympia’s sons were also in the act as children. Her two oldest sons later formed a musical comedy and animal act called the Novelle Brothers, and her youngest son became famous as a clown under the name Nolly Tate.

Olympia was still doing her act in 1920 — an item in a trade paper reports that she was suing a steamship company for the loss of many of the props and costumes pictures above (hopefully none of the dogs).

Olympia DesVall passed away in 1963.

Thanks to Brian Laurie-Beaumont, Olympia’s great grandson, who supplied some of the information that went into this post.

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.