Chevalier Ira Paine: Master Shot of the World

Strange but true, but I learned about American music hall sharpshooter Ira Paine (1837-1889) from researching the famed Folies Bergère in Paris.

Born in Hebronville, Massachustetts, Paine was a trained tenor and initially sang in variety theatres, circuses, and with minstrel companies earlier in his career. In off hours he went out to the woods to shoot for recreation. Discovering that he was a crack shot with both pistols and rifles, he developed a new act around this novel skill circa 1860. Winning several titles and breaking numerous records, he was soon performing before the Crowned heads of Europe, and was even made one of the nobility himself (the title was bestowed on him by the King of Portugal). He performed as far away as St. Petersburg, but also spent a lot of time in my own home state of Rhode Island, where he had siblings. Paine was also noted for several original inventions related to his unique trade. He was only 52 when he died suddenly during a Paris engagement.

For more on the history of variety entertainment, please read my book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous