Today is the birthday of Lew “Bud” Bloom (Ludwig Pflum, 1859-1929), billed in vaudeville as “The Society Tramp”. Originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, he started out as a circus clown, boxer, and actor in melodramas. In 1888, he played the part of a tramp in a play called “The Red Spider.” His portrayal was so popular he worked up a vaudeville act around it and played it on the circuits for years. By the early 1890s he was a headliner. Bloom can be said (and he did say it in his publicity) that he was the first of the tramp stage comedians, preceding even Nat M. Wills. Starting in 1892 he had an act with his wife Jane Cooper, called “A Picture from Life”, with her playing the New England spinster foil to his objectionable hobo. One of his jokes was “I don’t spend all my time in saloons. I can’t. They have to close sometimes!”
Bloom is also notable for having become a friend to the painter R.A. Blakelock and a major collector of his works. He also dabbled in oil painting and late in life was guilty of an art hoax, having forged a painting of Mary Todd Lincoln, claiming it was by Francis Carpenter. This story broke last year; see the New York Times article about it here.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville and performers like Lew Bloom, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.