For International Museum Day: On Huber’s Palace

May 18 is International Museum Day, which I’m certain is not intended to celebrate the kind of dime museums I normally write about here, but allow me to expand the day’s purpose. I’ve also written about the more conventional modern museums, as well, here and elsewhere, and I certainly will do so again. But here we do like to maintain a focus on the show business. Previously we have written about these:

P.T. Barnum’s American Museum

Moses Kimball’s New England (Boston)

Bunnell’s New American Museum

Assorted Bowery Dime Museums

B.F. Keith’s Gaiety Museum (Boston)

Wood’s Museum (Chicago, et al)

The Eden Musée

Sylvester Poli’s

Madame Tussaud’s

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditoriums

Hubert’s (Times Square)

The latter institution is often confused with the place we’ll be mentioning today, which was known as Huber’s Museum, sometimes Huber’s Palace Museum. It was built in 1888 by the partnership of George H. Huber and E.M. Worth, and originally known as Worth’s. Worth’s previous museum was on the Bowery. This new resort, which occupied five entire city lots, was on 14th Street near Union Square, the same “Rialto” that was also home to Tony Pastor’s and Keith’s Union Square. Worth pulled out of the new venture one within a few months, leaving Huber, who’d been in the business for a decade himself, to call it his own.

Acts who performed at Huber’s included Jo-Jo the Dog Face Boy; bearded lady Madame Devere; fat boy Chauncey Morlan; “Turtle Boy” George Williams; cooch dancers like Vera Olcott and Princess Radjah; sword swallowers Delno Fritz, Marie De Vere, and Alex Linton; and magicians Tom Selwyn and Prince Kar-mi. In 1894 Thomas Edison took some film of a pair of boxing cats at Huber’s, which you will find showcased on this fun website The Hatching Cat of Gotham, which has lots more details about the layout of the museum

During the 1910 season big cat trainer Pauline Russell was attacked and killed by one of her leopards, and Huber closed up shop, selling his multi-building complex, the location of which became the famous German restaurant and beer hall Luchow’s. As I wrote here, I’m pretty sure Hubert’s Museum (with a “t”), a different institution, run by a different guy, made hay out of the similarity of the name.

In recent times Huber’s Museum was re-created for the TV show The Knick (2014-15) with Clive Owen. And they seem to have to have done a reasonably realistic job!

For more on show business history, please see my book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.