This website is part of The New York Public Library's Online Exhibition Archive. For current classes, programs, and exhibitions, please visit

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts > Vaudeville Nation

The Collections

The vast holdings of popular entertainment artifacts in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts document the building blocks of vaudeville – how performers presented their talents and how managers assembled them into programs and circuits.  Over the last 100 years, the Library for the Performing Arts has collected materials on thousands of performers, promoters, tour managers, theater buildings, and the critics, composers, writers, dance directors, and designers who worked with them.  The collections include the primary documents of vaudeville –jokes, scripts, songs from topical parodies to early jazz standards, and illustrated reviews.  Performers had the opportunity to present their specialty and talent only if they could bring themselves to the attention of the booking agents and theater circuit managers so they invested in promotional materials, such as cartes de visite and cabinet photographs, posters, illustrated letterheads, flyers, and calling cards.  Vaudeville also exists on historical recordings and film, from Mutoscope reels made early in the silent era for screenings on vaudeville bills to Vitaphone short subjects made in the 1920s as experiments and early successes in sound technologies. 

Visit a related NYPL web presentation, Performing Arts in America 1875 - 1923 .



Privacy Policy | Rules and Regulations | Using the Internet | Website Terms and Conditions | © The New York Public Library