Archive for the German Category

William F. Mangels: Fun-Maker

Posted in Amusement Parks, BROOKLYN, Coney Island, German, Impresarios with tags , , , , , , , on February 2, 2017 by travsd


Today is the birthday of William F. Mangels (1867-1958). Born in Germany, Mangels moved to the U.S. in 1883 and became a bicycle repairman. His understanding of wheels, gears, chains, and sprockets let to work on carousels, which led to the formation of his own carousel manufacturing company. Mangels also invented his own original rides, such as “The Whip” and “The Tickler”. He also authored the book The Outdoor Amusement Industry: From Earliest Times to the Present. His headquarters was of course Coney Island. Go here for some pix and description on an exhibition about him we caught at Green-Wood Cemetery a few months back. But, confidentially, I think it’s pretty funny that a guy who made amusement park rides was named “Mangels”. Because…ya know.


1895: Muller, the German Clown Cat That Brought Down the House in New York City

Posted in Animal Acts, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Dime Museum and Side Show, German with tags , , on December 11, 2016 by travsd

“His collection of tabbies is the only show made up entirely of feline soubrettes that was ever organized in the world. Everything they do is performed with the upmost grace. They are as clever as …

Source: 1895: Muller, the German Clown Cat That Brought Down the House in New York City

Klinkhart’s Troupe of Midgets

Posted in Circus, German, Little People with tags , , , , , , on November 30, 2016 by travsd


I stumbled across this image the other day and got curious. I could only find a few facts: this troupe of little people was managed by German born Oscar Klinkhart (ca.1897-1975). They were with with the Al G. Barnes show between 1926 and 1931. According to some sources, they were later with Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and got stranded near Riverside, California ca. 1936, where they founded one of the many legendary “Midgetville” communities. Later Klinkhart retired to Logsden, Orgeon.

For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Tomorrow: The Annual German-American Steuben Parade (2016)

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, German, ME, My Family History, PLUGS, Steuben Day with tags , , , on September 16, 2016 by travsd

Much like New York’s  German American community itself, the German American Steuben Parade maintains kind of a low, dignified profile. As compared with, say, the St. Patrick’s and Columbus Day parades, the Steuben Day parade (which is just as big, I might add) doesn’t get a lot of airplay. In fact, you may never even have heard of it — or New York’s German community, for that matter.

In the 19th century, Germans were second only to the Irish in terms of ethnic presence here. And they’re STILL here; they merely assimilated. Two World Wars had something to do with that. The irony? America got millions of desirable Germans, starting with the ones who fled the backlash after the Revolution of 1848 and the increasing militarism and oppression in Germany in the late 19th and early-to-mid twentieth century. With them came some of the world’s best music, food…and beer. Need I say more? Well, I will. Here are some vaudeville-related facts about the Germans in the U.S.:

  • The Germans brought that wonderful institution the beer garden with them. Its civilized family atmosphere (in contrast with the rowdier saloons) became a model for what came to be known as Polite Vaudeville.
  • The Germans brought their music with them, including marches, which when played with syncopation by African Americans, gave birth to ragtime and jazz.
  • The Germans (Austrians especially) brought light comic opera (operetta) with them, which rapidly morphed into the American theatrical form known as musical comedy.

This year I’ll have an enhanced appreciation of the celebration, having gotten a firmer grasp of the Germans in my background. Like all Anglo-Saxons, I naturally have early Medieval ancestors from North Germany (the Angles, Saxons and Jutes) and many Frankish ancestors besides. I’ve discovered Medieval ancestors from all parts of Germany, Cologne, Cleves, Bavaria,Thuringia, Westphalia, Rügen and the Palatinate. In comparison with my English, Scottish, Irish, French and Dutch ancestry, my RECENT (modern) German ancestry is quite small. I’ve found a small handful as late as the late 1500s. My most recent full-German ancestor is my (7th) great grandmother Margaret Cypert (1716-1799), whose parents moved to Pennsylvania from Strasburg, I’m assuming for religious reasons (Margaret was a Quaker).

Come celebrate their contributions today. The parade marches up Fifth Avenue from 68th to 86th Street today from 12 to 3pm.  More details here.


Stars of Vaudeville #998: Hy Mayer

Posted in German, Silent Film, Vaudeville etc., VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , , on July 18, 2016 by travsd


Today is the birthday of illustrator, cartoonist and animator Henry “Hy” Mayer (1868-1954). Originally from Germany, he began his career as an illustrator in Munich, then worked his way west to Paris, then London, then finally New York, moving to the U.S. in 1886. He illustrated several children’s books, became a political cartoonist for the New York Times in 1904, and chief cartoonist at Puck starting in 1914.

Starting in 1909 he began contributing animations for films to Universal Studios, where he turned out several popular series for over a decade. From 1920 through 1926 he created the “Such is Life” Series for Film Book Offices of America (later to be part of RKO).

Like many cartoonists, Mayer also played big time vaudeville and revues. He was on the very first bill at the Palace in 1913, and was also featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1913. His personal appearances seem limited however. Much more often, his popular films would be incorporated into vaudeville bills as attractions themselves.

Here he is at work!

For more on vaudeville  historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Stars of Vaudeville #977: Louis Mann

Posted in Broadway, Comedy, German, Hollywood (History), Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2016 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Louis Mann (1865-1931). Mann was a major figure of the Broadway stage from the turn of the last century almost until his death. Of German parentage, he started out in German language productions as a child actor; German characters would continue to be the mainstay of his career, both in drama and comedy. This is evidenced by the surnames of those characters on his IBDB page:  Hoch, Hofbrau, Blinker, Plittersdorf, Pfeiffer, Pumpernick, Schnitzler, Bauer, and Kraft. In 1903, he produced his own starring vehicle The Consul. Later that year and into 1904, he appeared in the Weber and Fields extravaganza Whoop-de-Doo. Shortly after after appearing with her in a revival tour of the play Incog in 1906 he married his co-star, the actress and soon to be playwright Clara Lipman, with whom he was to collaborate frequently over the rest of his career.

At any rate, though he was a major Broadway figure, German schtick was a mainstay of vaudeville, and Mann was known to grace the stage of the Palace at least a couple of times, in 1914 and 1925.  Ironically, his last performance turned out to be his only real movie role, as the martyr like immigrant father in the melodrama  The Sins of the Children (1930) with Robert Montgomery, Leila Hyams, Clara Blandick,  and Dell Henderson. 

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


Stars of Vaudeville #942: Sylvester Schaffer

Posted in Acrobats and Daredevils, German, Jugglers, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, Music, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2016 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Sylvester Schaffer (1885-1949). Schaffer was a second generation star of the Berlin variety stage. His father was the Austrian-Bohemian juggler and painter George Sylvester Schaffer. Schaffer fils had both those skills, and was also a magician, lightning sketch artist, musician, acrobat and trick rider. He was often called as the “one man variety show”.

Shaffer’s public persona was not unlike Houdini’s, and like the American escape artist Schaffer was also considered a dashing sex symbol and starred in a series of silent adventure movies during the 1920s. Also like Houdini, Schaffer was an international star, and he toured American vaudeville many times in the teens and twenties, including the greatest venue of all, the Palace, where he presented a lavish stage show with ten elaborate sets.

When Hitler came to power Schaffer fled Germany and settled into semi-retirement in Los Angeles, concentrating on visual art and music studies for his remaining years.

To find out more about  the history of show businessconsult 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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