Dan Daly (and Siblings)

The above photo is of Dan Daly, most famous of six Daly siblings hailing from Revere, Massachusetts. It’s an Irish name, and a common one, although this brood seems to be unrelated to either actor/manager Arnold Daly or playwright Augustin Daly. Timothy was the oldest. Then there were Tom, Bob and Bill (known as “Captain Bill”) and the sisters Lucy and Maggie. The sisters were dancers and were married to the vaudeville team of Ward and Vokes.

The older brothers were born in the 1850s. Tom had started out with a partner at Boston’s Howard Athenaeum, then he was joined by Bill. Still teenagers, the brothers debuted in New York in 1871 with Newcomb and Arlington’s Minstrels**, followed by engagements with Carncross and Dixey’s and the Haverly troupe. Tom and Bob are said to have given Dan, who was about ten years younger, an entree into show business in a production called “Vacation”. Tom died in 1892, due apparently to old injuries from an attack upon him in Chicago several years earlier (according to the book Monarchs of Minstrelsy). Bob was also dead some time prior to 1904. Bill got out of show business and operated and raced a yacht co-owned by Dan, hence his “Captain” nickname.

While Dan had gotten his start in minstrelsey like his brothers, and also performed in vaudeville, he gained fame as a star of Broadway shows. He was billed as an “eccentric comedian” and devised a unique style of talking slowly and moving in a measured, automatic fashion that was so distinctive that fellow performers like Cissie Loftus and Fay Templeton did impressions of it. His Broadway shows included productions of The Belle of New York (1897) with Harry Davenport, Phyllis Rankin, and La Petite Adelaide; The Rounders (1899) with Davenport, Rankin and Joseph Cawthorn, The Cadet Girl (1900) with Adele Ritchie and Bessie Wynn; The Girl From Up There (1901) with Davenport, Fred Stone, Dave Montgomery, Harry Kelly, Charles T. Aldrich, and Bobby Burns; The New Yorkers (1901); and John Henry (1903), in which he got top billing.

Unfortunately, like his brother Tim, Dan had consumption for years. It finally killed him in 1904. His wife had predeceased him by a week or two, a possible factor in his finally succumbing to the awful disease. Daly was apparently a much loved Broadway “character”, who held court on the sidewalk in front of the Vendome Hotel where he resided, adopted stray dogs, and ingratiated himself with hansom cab horses by bribing them with sugar cubes. According to friend Eddie Foy he was also fond of devouring snails at Rector’s.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous

**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.