Vaudeville was a premier source of entertainment for many Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century. Vaudeville theaters around the United States consisted of a variety of acts from singers and comedians to animal trainers and human marvels. In this paper I will take a look at some of the most intriguing acts I could find. Such acts include celebrities, humans performing incredible feats like surviving being shot by a cannon multiple times or spewing flames, and the so called missing link between man and ape.
When looking for some of the more interesting Vaudeville performers one that immediately stuck out to me was that of Painless Parker. Painless Parker or Edgar Parker, his original name, was a practicing dentist who distracted his patients from the pain of tooth pulling by the use of showgirls, brass bands, and even some whiskey or cocaine-based “hydrocaine” (Meier). After graduating from the Temple University School of Dentistry in Philadelphia in 1892, Parker returned to his hometown in Canada to practice dentistry (Meier). Soon after he discovered there was not much business to be had in Canada and took his practice to the road to the United States becoming the “P.T. Barnum of dentistry” (Enemark and Thuras).
In the United States, Parker's Vaudeville act traveled throughout the country in his horse-drawn wagon to not only give medical care but to give them a show too (Meier). Parker promised painless extraction of teeth for fifty cents and if the extraction was not painless he would refund his patient five dollars, which is equivalent to $115 dollars today (Enemark and Thuras). Parker became world renowned for his painless extractions which had several procedural aspects. These were the showgirls, singing, dancin...
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