Today is the birthday of the prototypical American stage Irishman, Chancellor “Chauncey” Olcott (1858-1932). Starting out in minstrel** shows, he had moved up to Broadway by the turn of the century, largely with the sponsorship of Lillian Russell. In addition to having been an actor and performer he was also a songwriter. His most lasting legacies are the songs “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “My Wild Irish Rose”.
To find out more about 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.
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.