Stars of Vaudeville #859: Professor Louis Sunlin
Louis Sunlin (born February 1857) was a clown and comedian who worked with a succession of trained animals, both in vaudeville and circuses. A second generation performer, he was born in Ohio and became a professional in 1880 under the employ of Sells Brothers Circus. He later worked for the Ringling Brothers and Wallace shows among others. His four footed partners included a pair of trained donkeys named “Pickles” and “Peanuts”; a troupe of trained dogs; a trained horse named Mizpah; and a singularly sagacious bull named King Bill, who could lie down, sit up, roll over, etc, just like a dog. If you’ve ever spent any time with cattle you know that they are truly dumb beasts, thus making Sunlin’s feat as a trainer all the more impressive.
At this stage there is some confusion about whether he is the same person as Lew Sunlin, who apparently had a song and dance act with his brother Charles, billed as the Sunlin Bros., and which operated its own circus “Sunlin Bros’ Great R.R. Shows” for at least one season.
In his last years he appears to have done the vaudeville world one last service by taking in the out-of-work female impersonator Mansel Vardaman as a household cook. Sunlin passed away in 1935.
For more on the variety arts, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
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