Medicine Shows, and Rag Operas
The dust is beginning to fly...time is now accelerating and history is written many times
a day. Change is so fast, that the music can only look back. The cowboy begins to
remember and romanticize the times in their song, for the times they are a changin'.
Many historians say, that it was during these next two decades that the West came to a
close. Last four mile horse race. Many of the great Indian Nations are defeated.
Minstrel and Medicine shows take the music around the land in these early years of
entertainment. Traveling shows were taking music from the cities to the rural areas be-
fore we saw the inventions of radio and the phonograph. One of the most popular and
common traveling shows at this time was the Medicine Show. The "physick" wagon,
with its fast talking "doctor" or "snake oil" salesman. Most of the shows had a white man
that would paint his face black and sing and play to draw a crowd, then the "doctor"
would sell his "snake oil" cures and shuck and jive. A famous "mystic healer" was Dr.
Frank "White Beaver" Powell, who was a friend of Buffalo Bill Cody. There were also
names like Don Pedrito, Dr. Mud, Indian John, the Milling Brothers (Texas' "outlaw"
medicine men), George Halleck Center, and William Kroeger, the "Priest-Healer" of
Epiphany, South Dakota.
Another form of entertainment developing during this era was the "blackface-minstrel"
show. These were like a variety show, with banjos, knee slapping, blackface humor, and
dancing. These were popular in the South. Also, in the rural South we are seeing the rise
of gospel music. Much of the singing was done in the church and it was a big part of the
black churches in the South. Camp Meetings were getting popular where the new
religions were growing and they were taking their church on the road in tents.
The century is three-quarters over and Alexander Graham Bell pioneers the electric tele-
phone that will revolutionize communication. The Boston Symphony has its genesis in the
Boston Philharmonic Club. The Kentucky Derby has its first running at Louisville's new
Churchill Downs. Sioux go to war because of gold rush in their Black Hills. What is now
gospel music first named after Ira Sankey P.P. Bliss's Gospel Hymus is published. In
1876 Bell Telephone open for business...A.G. Bell gets patent for telephone he sent the
first clear telephone message --into a nearby room - to his assistant, Mr. Watson. “Mr.
Watson, come here, I want you,” were the first words spoken into the invention that Bell
As the Nation becomes 100 years old in the year 1876, the saxophone was played by
Etta Morgan at New York City’s Olympic Theatre. This was a new instrument to most.
In Montana Indian Chief Crazy Horse won the two-hour Battle of the Little Bighorn,
Montana, wiping out the army of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. The battle became
known as "Custards Last Stand" or the Battle of Little Big Horn. The Nation is seeing
the great cattle drives to Kansas and Colorado is admitted to the Union. Nikolaus A. Otto
invents a four-cycle gasoline engine and San Francisco and Los Angeles are linked by
rail. Western Union retains Thomas A. Edison to improve on Bell's telephone and
Crazy Horse surrenders and Sitting Bull goes to Canada
As this busy year continues Mark Twain publishes The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and
the Mimeograph is invented by Edison. The National Baseball league is formed and
George Washington Bradley pitched the first no-hitter in baseball by leading St. Louis to
a 2-0 win over Hartford. Wild Bill Hickok is murdered 8/2 at Deadwood in Dakota Ter-
ritory New York's Central Park is completed after 17 years of work. At the 1876 Phila-
delphia Centennial celebration, The Corliss Steam engine was the biggest yet built. In
1877, Thomas Edison invents a hand-cranked "phonograph or speaking machine" for
playing back stored sounds, demonstrated. The first recording is "Mary Had a Little
Lamb." The first Bell telephone is sold in May and 778 are in use by August. Emile
Berliner invented the microphone. This was used to help AG Bell help further design the
telephone. Crazy Horse is stabbed to death while in captivity.
There is no doubt that the pace and race of man and technology has gone into high
gear. Not only on the frontier and in the building of a nation, but in the entertainment we
are seeing inventions that will pioneer the world of entertainment that we all still live with
till this day. In 1878, Thomas Edison patents the Phonograph and forms the Electric
Light Company where he went to work on more of his inventions.
1879, in Menlo Park, New Jersey, Edison gave his first public demonstration of incan-
descent lighting with the words, "Now it's on. Now it's off." This same year he turns on
a lamp and it burns for 24 hours. The world is experiencing a paradigm shift. Through
the end of this decade the American culture will experience a transformation, a sort of
metamorphosis. The inventions that have been patented and will come into being over
the next two decades will be like never seen before in the history of man. Will Rogers is
born this year, and F. W. Woolworth opened a 5 cents store in New York. The country is
seeing its first intercity phones with the multiple switchboard making the phone a com-
merical success. The Ute Indians are having to fight in Colorado. In the world of the
new form of theater known as vaudeville The Mulligan Guard's Ball is performed.
In 1880, T.A. Edison is perfecting the electric light. Electricity lights all of Wabash, Ind.
in an April demonstration of the Brush arc-light system, and a mile of NY's Broadway is
being lit by electric lights. The "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" gets its name and Tom Mix
is born this year. Elevated steam trains rumble up and down NY's Second, Third, Sixth
and Ninth Avenues and the U.S. Railroad is beginning to settle all parts of the U.S.
The 1st cash register is patented. The first wireless telephone message is transmitted
6/3 by Alexander Graham Bell on the photophone and the first photographic reproduction
in a newspaper appears March 4 in the NY Daily Graphic. George Eastman, perfects a
process for making dry photographic plates. This year Los Angeles has a population of
11,183, up from 5,728 in 1870. We are continuing to see the speed up of the new tech-
nological advancements that would change the world.
In 1881, President Garfield is shot and Gun fight at O.K. Corral in Tombstone Arizona
takes place--Wyatt Earp and his two brothers and Doc Holiday are shot. A decade of
unprecedented U.S. railroad construction begins.
A second "Jim Crow" law passed in Tenn. legis-
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe links up with the
Southern Pacific at Deming, NM. The Southern Pacific
Railway links New Orleans with San Francisco, and
Henry Villard gains control of the Northern Pacific by
means of a pool he has formed to monopolize.
Pacific Northwest transportation The Norfolk and
Western Railroad is created by a reorganization of
roads that began with a 10-mile road in 1837
lature segregates black passengers on railroads. Thomas Edison's Edison Electric
Light Co. creates a subsidiary to furnish factories and large department stores with
individual power plants. Photographic roll film is patented 10/11 by Wisconsin inventor
David Henderson Houston. and also in the world of entertainment, the player piano is
patented by John McTammany, Jr. of Cambridge, MA. Barnum & Bailey's Circus is
created by a merger that joins the 10 year-old P.T. Barnum circus with that of John
Anthony Bailey. The US Lawn Tennis Assc. is formed and Polygamy is outlawed-anti
Mormon measure of Congress. A vaccine to prevent anthrax in sheep and hogs is
found by Louis Pasteur. Kickapoo Indian Medicine Co. is founded by U.S. promoters
John Healy and Texas Charley Bigelow who hire 300 Indians (none of them Kickapoos)
from Indian agents, pay each one $30 per month plus expenses, and have them stage
rodeos, rope tricks, and war dances to promote Kickapoo Indian Oil, Salve, Cough
Cure, Pain Pills, Wart Killer, and the like. Healy and Bigelow will be joined in Pennsy-
lvania by promoter Edward "Nevada Ned" Oliver (who's never been anywhere near
Nevada) who will specialize in catarrh powders made of menthol, sugar, milk, and
Chicago meat packer Gustavus F. Swift perfects a refrigerator car to take Chicago-
dressed meat to eastern butchers from the city. Judge Roy Bean is considered "law
west of the Pecos," and Jessie James is shot in St. Joseph, Mo. Buffalo Bill Cody
produces "The Old Glory Blowout," some consider the world's first rodeo. In what has
been called the birth place of vaudeville, Tony Pastor, who earned fame as a circus
ringmaster and variety vocalist, presented the first "clean" variety show at New York's
Fourteenth Street Theater.
The next year was an important one in the history of electricity generation with the birth
of purpose built power stations. On the 12th of January Thomas Edison opened the
'Edison Electric Light Station' at no. 57 Holborn Viaduct. Soon after, on the 27th of
February, the Hammond Electric Light Company opened the Brighton power station
which claims to be the first permanent and viable public power supply. New York is now
being lit up. The world's first electric fan is devised and we see the first electric lighted
Christmas Tree. Electric cable cars are installed in Chicago and Western Electric pro-
duces telephones for Bell Co. Internal combustion engine powered by gasoline is in-
vented, and Standard Oil owns all oil cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
1883, was an important year in the evo-
lution of the entertainment business,
when Buffalo Bill Cody creates his Wild
West Show and prepares to create an
entire new realm of entertainment. When
his show opens in Omaha, NE. and on
another front Thomas Edison pioneers
the radio tube.
Benjamine F. Keith opens theatre in Boston where vaudeville will see more growth
as an entertainment form. Life Magazine begins publication and Treasure Island
by Robert Lewis Stevenson is published in the literature worlds. Northern Pacific
Railroad is completed and the U.S. Railroads adopt Standard Time. The Navy
constructs steel ships, the first steel constructed frame buildings are built and the
Brooklyn Bridge links American's two largest cities. Also this year Karl Marx dies
and Benito Mussolini is born, and the first fully automatic machine gun is invented.
1884, Ringling Brother's Circus starts and the first annual New York Horse Show is
produced. On another front and a land mark in history of entertainment, a German
Paul Nipkow applied for a patent covering an image scanning system that would be
the beginning of television. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written and the patent
for linotype machine is given. Cattle business is said to be the biggest business in
the West and Annie Oakley joins Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, and the first
skyscraper is begun in Chicago and we see the first glider flights. Bullfighting was
introduced in Dodge City, Kansas. Standard Time is invented as the Central Pacific
Railroad is merged into the Southern Pacific Railroad and Seattle gets first rail link to
the East. The compound steam turbine is invented and the first operation for removal
of a brain tumor.
The next year, 1885, the cattle business is the biggest business in the West ...the cattle
barrons are born and Annie Oakley joins Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The first com-
mercial moving-picture film was produced in Rochester, NY. by Eastman Kodak. The
roller coaster was patented by L.A. Thompson of, where else, Coney Island, NY. The
Santa Fe Railroad extends its service to Los Angeles and the first skyscraper built in
Chicago, and on the West coast Stanford University is formed.
In Italy, Marconi gets first patent for the invention of the radio and in the U.S. the first
practical phonograph, better known as the gramophone, was patented. Again, we
are seeing historical and marks in the evolution of the entertainment business. Between
the invent of the radio and the phonograph the music business is being born, with 1886
we are seeing electricity now begin to make huge changes in day to life and the business
that will be come known as the entertainment business. Another event that would begin
the creation of another entertainment begins with the first rodeo in America held at
Prescott, Arizona. Sitting Bull joins the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and the Apache
Chief Geronimo is captured as the Indian wars are coming to a close. Most of the
urban areas are getting electric lighting and the the first electric street car begins to run.
Grover Cleveland became the first U.S. President to get married in the White House,
and Charles M. Hall completed his invention of aluminum. The Statue of Liberty is given
to U.S. and Harper's Weekly runs Frederic Remington's paintings on the cover. Out
West the first trainload of California oranges leaves Los Angeles and in Chicago Sears
Roebuck begins. Coca Cola goes on sale May 8 at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta,
pharmacist has formulated a headache and hangover remedy whose syrup ingredients
include dried leaves from coca leaves. Dr. Pepper and Rootbeer is introduced.
In 1887 Thomas Edison invents the first motor-driven phonograph and opens new lab in
W. Orange, NJ. Edison's new phonograph plays cylindrical wax records and forms his
phonograph company. Emile Berliner is working on some improvements on Edison's
Phonograph. Heinrich Hertz's electric waves will be the basis of radio communication
and Hannibal W. Goodwin of Newark, NJ applied for a patent for celluloid photographic
film --the stuff from which movies are shown. The entertainment business is getting
ready to kick up some dust for sure. In the U.S. now there are 200,000 telephone
listings and Buck Taylor, King of the Cowboys is published.
"I am experimenting upon an in-
strument which does for the eye
what the phonograph does for
the ear, which is the recording
and reproduction of things in
--Thomas A. Edison, 1888
Edison was responsible for the invention of the Kinetograph (motion picture camera) and
the Kinetoscope (a peep-hole motion picture viewer). William Kennedy Laurie Dickson,
who was assistant to Edison worked with him in 1988, to create the virtual beginning of the
motion picture industry. The single-viewer Kinetoscope gave way to films projected for
mass audiences. He also produced films for public viewing. Most were pictures of famous
people, news events, scenic views. From actual pictures they began to develop dramas.
There were 341 Edison films.
Thomas Alva Edison profoundly
influenced modern life inventing
things like the incandescent light
bulb, the phonograph, and the
motion picture camera. It is told
that he acquired 1,093 patents,
and sold many of his inventions
to the public. Mr. Edison was for
sure a early pioneer and began to
kick up some dust as the
1890s were ready to begin.
As the last year of the 1880s is ready to come to a closing Santa Fe Railroad opens
new rail lines in Chicago, The National Geographic Society is founded in Washington
DC and the typewriter ribbon was patented by Jacob L. Wortman of Philadelphia. In
1889 Cecil B. DeMille is born and the 1st movie film developed by Edison. Electric
lights are installed at the White House and slot machines are invented. The Columbia
Phonograph Company was formed in Washington, DC. In Europe Hitler is born and
in the US Montana, South Dakota and Washington become states. Land Ho! At noon,
the sound of a gun shot was the only signal needed for thousands of settlers to rush into
the Oklahoma territory to claim land "sooners" name give to those that left too soon.
The Sioux Indians secede Dakota Territory to the U.S. and the first American football
team is organized.
Edison invents the prototype of the 1st juke box--Edison Tinfoil Phonograph with 4
listening tubes and a coin slot for each. Ever Ready batteries are introduced and the
world's first electric elevators are installed and in New York the first real skyscraper
opens with 13 stories. The Wall Street Journal has its beginnings as does the Mayo
Clinic. Texas outlaw Belle Starr is hot dead in Oklahoma. The railroad was an industrial
phenomenon that held a magnetic and romantic place in the past, and at the present time
in history. Of course many people were beginning to move around on the railroads and
they carried their music and songs. Buffalo Bill Cody and some of the Circus promoters
began to move their shows on the railroad.
In 1890, Sitting Bull is killed. Many historians say that these days were the end of the
"West." There is the battle at Wounded Knee. The fastest time for a train is set at 78.1
miles per hour. One percent of the U.S. population had more wealth than the other 99%.
In New York William Kemmler is the 1st person to die in an electric chair. Wyoming, the
state with the smallest population entered the Union this day. US has 125,000 miles of
railroad in operation In 1891, Edison gets his first patent for a movie camera, Carnegie
Hall opens in New York. In Nashville, Tennessee the Ryman Auditorium is built for revivals.
he first National Forest is set up and we take the first photos of the sun. Out west we are
seeing the range wars between the cattlemen and sheep herders.
1892 T.A. Edison patents a radio, In the early days of radio people would build their own
radios, "hands" or "tinkers" they were called. These crystal and battery operated radios
were first a instrument used to connect people with their friends. By 1892 it was realized
that electricity could be used for heating and two years later it was possible to 'cook
electric'. General Electric is created and Rudolf Diesel patents his international com-
bustion engine. Telephone service between New York and Chicago is established. A
gasoline buggy produced in Springfield, MA may be the first US motor car. Sierra Club
is founded by John Muir and Shell Oil has it's beginning. In Oklahoma the the Dalton
Gang is shot and the Arapho and Cheyenne and Crow Indian territories are opened to
In 1893, Henry Ford builds the first auto and mankind would never be the same. Some
historians say that this event is one of the most historic landmarks in the history of
modern day man. This year there is the economic panic of 1893. In the west the
American Buffalo herd falls down to 1,090 and is on the verge of extinction. From the
massive buffalo hunts with hunters even shooting from trains and the U.S. army tactic to
bring the Native American to an end they would kill off the buffalo. The world's first ferris
wheel goes up. And, the great Edison plays another great roll in the history of the enter-
tainment business when he completed the world's first motion picture studio--his Black
Maria in New Jersey.
In 1894 the kinetoscope was demonstrated by its inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, in New
York City. The kinetoscope is a viewer that held 50 feet of film -- about 13 seconds
worth showed images of Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill. The demonstration was actually
called the first peep show, as one had to peep into the device to see what was on the film.
Movies were not projected on a screen at that time. These kinetoscopes began to spread
to other cities in the East. W.K. Dickson received a patent for motion picture film. Also
on the entertainment front Sears offers seven guitar models in its catalogue and Marconi
sends a radio wave 3/4 mile. "Wireless' is born. Billboard Magazine has its beginning
the Texas gun slinger John Wesley Hardin is killed while playing poker in El Paso, Texas.
As 1895 rolls along Louis and Auguste Lumiere patent Cinematograph and Woodville
Latham demonstrated the first use of a moving picture projected on a screen in New York
City. The first patent for auto driven by gasoline and the first auto race in the U.S. is
held this year. Sigmund Freud releases theories of psychoantalytic theory and x-rays are
discovered. In Los Angeles Wilshire Blvd. opens between Los Angeles and Santa
Monica Blvd. The Diesel engine is invented and the first electric power is generated from
Niagara Falls where Westinghouse is building a huge power plant. The U.S has its first
U.S. Open Golf Tournament and "Oh Promise Me" was sung by Jessie Bartlett Davis in
the premiere of the operetta, "Robin Hood", which opened at the Grand Opera House in
The rural face of America is changing the country. By the 1880's half of the population is
found in the cities and working jobs in factories. A far cry from the long hours and hard
work of agriculture in the rural areas of the land. This gave people more time and money.
In the cities people were wanting to be entertained. The minstrel show and medicine
shows that had be one of the main stays of entertainment for the past decades was on the
decline. We were yet to see the phonograph, radio or movies come on the entertainment
1896, we see the first projection of film on screen seen in New York. Utah is admitted to
the Union, gold is discovered in Alaska and Samuel P. Langley experiments with steam
propelled aircraft, and Westinghouse builds a power generator at Niagara Falls. Historian
Stephen Ambrose says, "At the beginning of the 19th century people thought nothing was
possible. By the end of the century, people thought anything was possible. In many ways,
that's more American than anything else--that sense that anything is possible." He argues
that the greatest advance were made during the 1840s, which saw the invention of the train,
the steamship and the telegraph. The first US public showing of motion pictures in April
of this year is at Koster, Music Hall in New York, where employees see Thomas Edison's
vitoscope an improvement on his 1893 Kinetoscope. Also in New York is the first known
auto accident. The Gramophone is being perfected by E.R. Johnson. Gold is dis-
covered in Alaska and the Nobel Prize is established.
Next Part of Kicking Up Dust we will see some huge advances in the industrialization of
this new and still forming Nation. Again, we will also see how the growth of the entertain-
ment business is spurred, if you will, by these technological inventions and advancements
across the land. How travel and new forms of travel will spread the entertainment and
how, as mentioned the new populations forming in cities with more time on their hands
will want to fill in their spare time with the past time of entertainment.
1897, Jimmie Rodgers is born.
The man that started it all
and the turn of a century
We would love your help
continuing this story...if you have any important dates or
information that helps us tell the story of the evolution of the music and
entertainment business send them to us and we will add to KICKIN' UP DUST