Pastor, Tony, 1837-1908

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Tony Pastor (1837-1908) was an American variety performer, songwriter, and theater owner. Known as the "Father of Vaudeville," he became famous for his comic songs in the 1860s. As an impresario, he developed family-friendly variety shows that served as an alternative to the bawdy and male-oriented Vaudeville performances of the time.

From the guide to the Tony Pastor Letter, 1893, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

American variety performer and theater manager.

From the description of Tony Pastor Collection, 1861-1908 (bulk 1866-1890). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122617191

Tony Pastor was a central figure in the establishment and development of vaudeville in America. Nicknamed "The Dean of Vaudeville," Tony Pastor was a former actor who opened his first variety theater in New York in 1865, and his second in 1881. He was known for influencing vaudeville performers towards using more family-friendly material, thus broadening the popularity of the form.

From the guide to the Autograph album belonging to Tony Pastor, 1886-1887, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

The Father of Vaudeville, Antonio Pastor was born in Brooklyn in 1837 and spent his life as an entertainer and theater manager. He made his first public appearance at the age of six singing at a temperance meeting. As a child he produced his own plays at home, and his first professional engagement was in 1846 at P. T. Barnum's Museum. The following year he began performing as a blackface minstrel with the Raymond and Waring Menagerie and then joined Welch, Delevan and Nathan's Circus as a clown, staying with the troupe until 1853. He was ringmaster at age fifteen and subsequently he joined Mabie's circus as a singing clown.

Pastor made his debut in variety in 1860 as a comic singer. He achieved acclaim when he appeared at the American Concert Hall at 444 Broadway (known as the 444 ) in April 1861, just as the Civil War was breaking out, and closed his act with The Star Spangled Banner. Subsequently he became famous for his topical songs, the subjects of which were often derived from newspaper articles. In 1865 Pastor entered management when he opened Tony Pastor's Opera House in partnership with the minstrel show performer Sam Sharpley. The same year he formed Tony Pastor's Variety Show, the first of his traveling minstrel troupes which would tour the United States throughout the 1890s. In 1866 Sharpley quit the partnership but Pastor continued to manage the Opera House, appearing at every performance, until 1875 when he took over the Metropolitan Theatre at 585 Broadway. It was here that he worked to perfect the form of entertainment known as legitimate vaudeville, variety which was suitable for women and children as well as the traditional male audience.

In 1881 Pastor leased the Germania Theatre and renamed it Tony Pastor's New Fourteenth Street Theatre, announcing that it would be catering to the ladies, and presenting for the amusement of the cultivated and aesthetic Pure Music and Comedy, Burlesque, and Farce. Tony Pastor's, as it came to be known, played variety shows until 1908. It was the most popular New York theatre of the 1880s, paving the way for the theatrical ventures of the impresarios B. F. Keith and Oscar Hammerstein, but by the first years of the twentieth century theatergoers had gone northward to venues in Times Square. In 1908 the Fourteenth Street Theatre became a motion picture theater; the same year, Pastor decided not to renew the lease. He died that year in Elmhurst, Long Island, survived by his wife Josephine Foley. They had no children.

Pastor's legacy extended beyond cleaning up variety entertainment. He recognized the talents of many performers who would later become famous, including Weber and Fields, Lillian Russell, Maggie Cline, and Nat C. Goodwin. It was noted at his death that his estate was valued at a mere $72,500 because he gave away more than $1 million in his lifetime. After he entered theater management, the multitalented Pastor continued to perform on the stage; the resulting rapport with his players doubtless contributed to the success of his shows. Though in many respects he could be considered a nineteenth century figure unable to adjust to twentieth century business, his astute widening of the theater audience to include women and children allowed future theater entrepreneurs to reap great profits.

From the guide to the Tony Pastor Collection TXRC99-A26., 1861-1908, (bulk 1866-1890), (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Tony Pastor was a central figure in the establishment and development of vaudeville in America.

Nicknamed "The Dean of Vaudeville," Tony Pastor was a former actor who opened his first variety theater in New York in 1865, and his second in 1881. He was known for influencing vaudeville performers towards using more family-friendly material, thus broadening the popularity of the form.

From the description of Autograph album belonging to Tony Pastor, 1886-1887. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122455017

Tony Pastor (1837-1908), singer, songwriter and theater manager considered by many to be the Father of American Vaudeville, was born into the theatre.

His father was a violinist in the theatre orchestra at Billy Mitchell's theatre in New York and six year old Tony sang at temperance meetings. He followed his brothers into circuses and variety shows expanding his range of talents to include acrobatics, clowning, ring mastering, and minstrelsy. With the onset of the Civil War, he seemed to have found his true calling as a singer of topical songs, most with a sentimental or comic edge.

Such was his popularity that he was able to leap into "legitimate variety," appearing as a comic singer at various theatres in New York and on the road before assembling his own company and establishing himself as a manager in his own theatre. He opened in 1865 at 201 Bowery, remaining there for ten years, after which he made the jump to 585 Broadway, which became renowned as Tony Pastor's. From there, in 1881, he joined the northward flow of theatres to the Tammany building on East 14th Street, within earshot of the theatre district at Union Square. He remained there for the rest of his professional life.

From the description of Tony Pastor collection, 1863-1959. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122575698

Tony Pastor (1837-1908), singer, songwriter and theater manager considered by many to be the Father of American Vaudeville, was born into the theatre. His father was a violinist in the theatre orchestra at Billy Mitchell's theatre in New York. At the age of six, young Antonio sang at temperance meetings, which may have influenced his later determination to remove the influence of alcohol in his own theatres. As Tony Pastor, he followed his brothers into circuses and variety shows, expanding his range of talents to include acrobatics, clowning, ring mastering, and minstrelsy. With the onset of the Civil War, he seemed to have found his true calling as a singer of topical songs, most with a sentimental or comic edge.

Such was his popularity that he was able to leap into "legitimate variety," appearing as a comic singer at various theatres in New York and on the road before assembling his own company and establishing himself as a manager in his own theatre. He opened in 1865 at 201 Bowery, remaining there for ten years, after which he made the jump to 585 Broadway, which became renowned as Tony Pastor's. From there, in 1881, he joined the northward flow of theatres to the Tammany building on East 14th Street, within earshot of the theatre district at Union Square. He remained there for the rest of his professional life.

When he began as a singer in the variety theatres, they catered mostly to an all male population with the exception of the gallery prostitutes, who frequented the music halls in search of customers. Pastor was determined to clean up the theatres, present a wholesome and attractive bill of acts, and entice women into his theatres. Although his first efforts were not successful, he resorted to giving away all sorts of prizes to lure the female population and his actions gradually paid off. As one wag observed, Pastor's shows became so clean that "a child could take his parents into his theatre."

Under Pastor's tutelage, many of the stage luminaries of a later era began their careers at his theatres, notably Weber and Fields, Harrigan and Hart, Lillian Russell, May Irwin, Nat Goodwin, Denman Thompson, the four Cohans, and many others. Not only was he successful in finding and showcasing performers, he gave work to many writers, composers and lyricists, whom he commissioned to provide the songs and skits for his shows. He made a yearly trip to England to survey the English music hall scene and to buy up songs he thought he might be able to use. His lasting contribution was in transforming the variety show into American vaudeville, similar yet different from its European counterparts, by presenting a broad array of American performers singing and dancing to American songs.

From the guide to the Tony Pastor collection, 1863-1959, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Pastor, Tony, 1837-1908,. Autograph letter signed from Tony Pastor, New York, to unidentified recipient [manuscript], 1889 March 26. Folger Shakespeare Library
creatorOf Tony Pastor Collection TXRC99-A26., 1861-1908, (bulk 1866-1890) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Pastor, Tony, 1837-1908. Tony Pastor Collection, 1861-1908 (bulk 1866-1890). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Fields, Armond, 1930-. Armond Fields American Theatre collection, 1856-2000 (bulk 1895-1925). University of Southern California, USC Libraries
creatorOf Pastor, Tony, 1837-1908. Autograph album belonging to Tony Pastor, 1886-1887. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Pastor, Tony, 1837-1908. Tony Pastor collection, 1863-1959. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Welch, E. T. Irish and Civil War song sheets, circa 1850-1865. Louisiana State University, LSU Libraries
creatorOf Tony Pastor collection, 1863-1959 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Autograph album belonging to Tony Pastor, 1886-1887 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Tony Pastor Letter, 1893 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf Pastor, Tony, 1837-1908,. Autograph letters signed from Tony Pastor, New York and St. Louis, to various people [manuscript], 1873-1885. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Armond Fields American Theatre collection, Bulk, 1895-1925, 1856-2000 USC Libraries Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bowyer, Frederick person
associatedWith Bowyer, Frederick. person
correspondedWith Daly, Augustin, 1838-1899 person
associatedWith Fields, Armond, 1930- person
associatedWith Frueberger, Edward. person
associatedWith Irwin, May, 1862-1938 person
associatedWith Jonghmans, E. person
associatedWith Jonghmans, E. person
associatedWith McGlennon, Felix person
associatedWith McGlennon, Felix. person
correspondedWith Moore, John, b. 1814 person
associatedWith Osborne, Charles, fl. 1885-1900 person
associatedWith Poole, John F., 1835-1893 person
associatedWith Tony Pastor's New Fourteenth Street Theartre corporateBody
associatedWith Tony Pastor's New Fourteenth Street Theatre. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (N.Y.)
United States
New York
New York (State)--New York
United States
Subject
Theater
Theater
Theater
Autographs (Signatures, etc.)
Dance and theatre
Music-halls
Music-halls
New York
Traveling theater
Traveling Theatre
Vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville
Occupation
Entertainers
Activity

Person

Birth 1837-05-28

Death 1908-08-26

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