Tuesday’s Tip: Elsie Janis- Not Always Where Expected

Elsie Janis from cover of "My Yankee Doodle Girl," a song from "The Slim Princess."
Elsie Janis from cover of “My Yankee Doodle Girl,” sheet music for a song from “The Slim Princess,” 1910.


Beerbower Family, Helbling Family (Click to go to tree)

You never know where one’s genealogical ramblings might lead, or where you might find your ancestors, so it is smart to keep an open mind.

While working on cleaning up e-files on my desktop after some marathon research sessions, I decided to listen to D. Joshua Taylor’s presentation at RootsTech/FGS 2015. He has a circus performer in his family so was talking about Cyndi’s List, the genealogical wonder that was created and is maintained by just one woman. Cyndi has a listing for ‘Entertainment’ so I jumped on the webpage and started searching for relatives who had been in the entertainment industry: Max Broida/Max Brodie (his stage name) and Elsie Janis (Beerbower). No hits for Max but Elsie came up under “Vaudeville Homepage,” which has a transcription of acts from the “Manitoba Free Press” in, surprisingly, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for 1913. I never expected to find Elsie there! According to the description of the website on Cyndi’s List, Winnipeg was part of the main vaudeville circuit for North America, so it does make sense when we understand the context. I had never thought to look at Canadian newspapers!

At the Winnipeg “Orpheum,” acts during the week of June 2-7, 1913 included:

“Miss Orford and Her Wonderful Elephants is the headline act. The finale consists in the sensational rescue of Miss Orford from a burning building.”

[Wonder if they used real fire? How exotic to have tropical elephants in the far north!]

“Lamberti gives impersonations of famous composers, living and dead. Not only does he assume the guise of each, but he plays compositions from their pens.”


“Ida O’Day in her original songalogue.”

[ A ‘songalogue,’ as you may surmise from the compound word, takes lyrics- sometimes from multiple songs- and instead of singing them, they are spoken and/or acted out. You can find YouTube videos of people doing that today. Ida was actually Ann (O’Day) Maples, who billed herself as ”Ida O’Day, the Merry Musical Maid,.’ She performed at the height of vaudeville, and spent 20 years on the stage; she gave it up when she married. Ann died at age 106 in 1987.]

“Foreign music halls have long been glad to welcome Carl and Lotty, a pair of most original eccentric dancers. Their work is not so grotesque as it is graceful, however, in spite of its general designation.”

[Interesting description of their dance style. They might have done very well on today’s programs such as “America’s Got Talent.”]

“There will be a new set of Edison Talking pictures, orchestra and photo plane.”

[‘Edison talking pictures’ are of course movies, but I have been unable to determine what ‘photo plane’ is in this context. It is a technical term in photography- “The plane in which a film or plate lies at the moment of exposure.” but it is still unclear as to what that meant inside the theater.]

And finally, here is what our Elsie, at age 24, was presenting:

“Elsie Janis presents three protegés of hers, in a sketch written, staged and rehearsed by herself. The trio consists of Val Harris, Rita Roland and Lou Holtz in a sketch called “Three in One.”

Elsie was a writer for stage and later screen, as well as a song-writer, comedienne, and actor.

See also “Wishful Wednesday: Elsie Janis.”


Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Cyndi’s List- Thank you, Cyndi, for all your hard work for so many years! http://www.cyndislist.com

2) Vaudeville Homepage: http://members.shaw.ca/winnipegvaudeville/.

3) “Stage star ANN O’DAY MAPLES, 106, who toured the United…”, Orlando Sentinel, September 5, 1987- http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1987-09-05/news/0140320099_1_vaudeville-oday-john-d

4) “My Yankee Doodle Girl” copyright 1910 by Chappell & Co. Ltd. Sheet music in collection of the author.

5) “Wishful Wednesday: Elsie Janis.” http://heritageramblings.net/2014/08/27/wishful-wednesday-elsie-janis/


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