Old West Entertainers

Post by Doris McCraw


I love entertainment; movies, plays, opera, and symphony along with so many other forms. One thing I always stop and read when I’m researching is the entertainment that those in the 1800s enjoyed. Since I’ve been in the ‘stacks’ lately researching an outlaw for an upcoming presentation and paper, I thought I’d share some ‘lighter’ news.

Many think of the Old West as cowboys, outlaws, and generally an overall free for all. That was not always the case. There were many a traveling company who were available and put on many shows across the Western states. You also individual entertainers who ‘rode the circuit’.

In Colorado Springs in 1881, the town was treated to a presentation of Camille.  You can follow the link to the ‘review’ of the event. camille in colorado springs 1881

How about the “Old Time Medicine Show”? Back Stage with a Medicine Show Fifty Years Ago by William P Burt is an article from the Colorado Magazine from July 1942. If you would like to read the article, and I suggest you do, follow this link: http://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/files/Researchers/ColoradoMagazine_v19n4_July1942.pdf

Back then, there was no television, radio let alone computers and streaming. Many people found ways to entertain themselves with dances, musical recitals. If you look at the city directories of the day, you would find a number of musicians and actors offering their services as teachers. I suppose dreams of making it were just a valid back then as now.

You had people like Lilly Langtree, Sarah Bernhardt, Eddie Foy, Blind Tom, Lotta Crabtree and many a traveling theater companies. Of course there were the Booth’s, one of whom became famous for his actions as opposed to his talents, which from reviews of the day were considerable.

So the next time you turn on the television, radio or listen to your device, remember the ‘entertainers’ who became famous in the early day. Maybe even check out your own newspapers to find out who entertained folks back in the day. You may be surprised.

And to book release news, I’ve a story in the newly released Medieval anthology “One Yuletide Knight” from Prairie Rose Publications.

One Yuletide Knight by [Macgillivray, Deborah , Townsend, Lindsay, Breeding, Cynthia, Raines, Angela, Kincaid, Keena, Sherry-Crews, Patti, Wells, Beverly, Thompson, Dawn]
Doris Gardner-McCraw -Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

Angela Raines – author: Where Love & History Meet

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


16 thoughts on “Old West Entertainers

    1. It seems we always seek out forms of entertainment. It breaks the routine of life. Hope you enjoy the links.

      Thanks for the congrats. Doris


  1. Doois when I was about twelve years old, I checked out a record from the local public library that contained a story of the old west. In one bar scene, a woman sang something, accompanied by a piano. Right then, I decided I would be a saloon singer when I grew up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Abbie, what a wonderful memory and dream. I applaud you’re following the dream and are singing. To me that is so very special. Doris


  2. I often think of the ways people entertained and were entertained in the years before television. My dad played his violin occasionally, my brother the accordion. My uncle played violin also. My sister and I played piano. My brother and I played harmonica. Neighbors provided music at barn dances before my time. That all stopped with TV. A loss to everyone I’m thinking.


    1. Neva, while TV is nice, I do miss the get togethers that happened in the old times. I still remember going to the Chautauqua revival when I was young. Of course, many times I was on the stage doing the entertaining, and oh how I loved it. *Sigh*. I love that you had so much music in your life. What a gift. Doris


  3. Interesting post, Doris. I forget how much entertainment people in the Old West had access to. Mark Twain and Joel Chandler Harris on the lecture circuit. Wouldn’t you love to have seen them?


    1. And of course Ocsar Wilde in Leadville among other stops in the US. Like you, I would have loved to been able to hear them. Now, I settle for Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain…and I’ve seen him live 3 times. Doris


  4. I enjoy listening to music that relates to what I’m writing. When I wrote Moshe’s War, I listened to Hebrew music and music from the 40s and 50s. Now, I’m listening to Native American music and music from the 1915-1920 era. (What a funny sound they created. Many recordings sound like it was done in a tunnel at the time.) Listening to the music that relates to my writing helps me “feel” my characters more. I move into their world a little more. I’m feeling what they feel.


    1. Debra, Music is such a universal communicator. I can understand how listening to the music of the time helps to dig into the character and space. I have always enjoyed the music from the 1800s through today. Best to you on the next stories. Doris


  5. Entertainment sometimes lifts people from the drudge of their existence,and I’m sure that was as true in the old West as it can be today. I’m sure all of the earliest societies had travellers/ or special residents who provided entertainment. The Celtic peoples of Ancient Britain had bards who provided music, song and story poems. And in the Old West I’m sure sometimes a campfire evening was brightened by someone singing.


    1. Nancy, I agree. I just found a you tube recording of a Viking song and fell in love with it. I would have loved to hear the old Celtic music as it was being performed. Ah heaven. Music is the beat of society. Doris


  6. To me it seems that the entertainment venues weren’t all that different from today? How interesting to note that people offered their services (learning guitar, etc.) in the local newspapers. Very interesting posts. Thank you Doris.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it Linda. Entertainment in the Old West has been a fascination for me for some time now. It also isn’t always easy to track down, which may explain my tenaciousness. LOL Doris


  7. Once again you have covered an aspect of the past I hadn’t considered before. I am sure it was a lot harder to become famous back.then. Thanks for sharing and Congrats on the book.


    1. I think famous was more regional for the most part unless you were in the ‘big city’. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the well wishes on the book. I so enjoy sharing the spotlight with these amazing women. Doris


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