Today is the birthday of the legendary Harry Relph, a.k.a. “Little Tich” (1867-1928), star of English music hall and pantomime, and a much loved guest artist in American vaudeville. His name bears explanation. “Little” is obvious; he stood only 4′ 6″ in adulthood. “Tich” comes from a rough resemblance to a man named Arthur Orton, who generated a lot of publicity by claiming to be the rightful Baron Tichborne. While the performing Tich had many funny characters, The Tax Collector, the Gendarme, the Spanish Senorita, and many pantomime dame characters, he is best known to posterity for his Big Boot Dance, performed with a pair of 28 inch slapshoes, and lucky for us recorded on film. Check it out on Youtube.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville and performers like Little Tich, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and also Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,