Prince Kar-mi and the Viennese Venus

Prince Kar-mi, or simply Kar-mi, or Karmi, is one to add to our list of faux South Asians in the variety arts, for he was really Joseph Bryant Hallworth (1872-1956) of Chelsea, Massachusetts. He ran away at age 14 and for a time earned his living out west by fur trapping, prospecting and cow punching. This led to work as a knife thrower and sharp shooter with circuses and medicine shows. This is how he came to work in dime museums where he learned more exotic fare such as sword swallowing and the buried alive stunt circa 1890. It’s also where he met his wife, German-American sword swallower Kitty Fischer, who was billed as Victorina, the Viennese Venus. The pair worked together initially as the Victorinas. playing all the major dime museums: Huber’s (New York), Kohl and Middleton’s (Chicago), 9th and Arch (Philadelphia), Austin and Stone’s (Boston), et al. They also worked Buffao Bill’s Wild West. Later, their son joined the act and they worked the vaudeville circuits.

In World War One, both of Karmi’s sons were drafted, and he and Kitty retired to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he fell back on his skills as a printer and engraver, developed prior to his show biz career. It’s a skill he obviously had some grasp of; Google “Kar-mi” if you want to see some beautiful vintage color lithographs.

For more on variety arts history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,