The Beloved Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Barry



Today is the birthday of James Maurice  “Jimmy” Barry (1868-1940). Barry was originally from Boston; his father was a harness-maker who immigrated from Ireland (although I’ve also seen it written that he was an authority on Shakespeare and manager of the Old Howard Theater.  Jimmy started out acting in New England stock companies throughout the 1890s. In 1895 he met and married fellow actor Josephine “Josie” Richards, from Plymouth, Pennsylvania. The pair remained on the legit stage until 1899, when they debuted in vaudeville as “Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Barry”.

For almost 30 years the pair appeared in a series of self-penned sketches with original songs and rural characters and settings. They were said to perform with an actor’s subtlety, as opposed to broad clowning, and are almost always mentioned in terms of respect as veterans and professionals, one of those “solid” and “popular” acts.

The snippets one finds of them in newspapers tell a story in fragments:

In 1905, they appear at Keith’s in Bronxville in a sketch called “The Skin Game”…

In 1906, an ad in a Bridgeport paper describes their act: ” Care pursuers, in a rip-roaring, rattling sketch entitled “Village Cut-Ups”.What this jolly pair will do to your troubles will be a plenty.”

In 1910, they played Poli’s in Meridien, Connecticut…

After this, though, the references are invariably to Keith houses, strictly big time. They played:

Indianapolis, 1913…

Toronto, 1914, in a sketch called “The Rube”…

Syracuse, 1920…

Portland, Maine, 1922…

In 1926 they played the Palace. 

They seem to have retired circa 1928 to their home in Dingman’s Ferry, PA. Jimmy died in 1940; Josie in 1958.  Interestingly, her brother William and Jimmy’s sister Edwina were also a stage couple (more on them in a subsequent post). And Jimmy’s brother William was also in the act for a time.

For more on vaudeville history, including performers like Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Barry, 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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