Back in July of 1982 Alice Geron and I had fun creating the Centennial for the Shooting of Jack Harris. That's Gary Yantis standing over the headstone pretending to be Jack Harris at the site of Jack's grave. Double click below and view the slide show and you will also see an enlarged image of the source for the origin of Vaudeville.
I was looking on Google for the first Vaudeville Theatre in the United States and I was surprised to see that people are still giving credit to a theatre in Boston which was started in 1883.
I added this page to help straighten the matter. The origin of Vaudeville is a French term and comes from Valley of the Vire where a form of variety acting took place. If you look through the pictures to the right one of the pictures comes from a book that was giving credit to a traveling company in 1883 that called itself a Vaudeville troop.
Jack Harris was a proprietor of a saloon and theatre in San Antonio. This theater opened about 1872 and by 1873 was calling itself the Vaudeville Theatre. Jack Harris was a popular man in San Antonio and held sway over the sporting community and the politics of San Antonio. He never held office, but was head of the Democratic Party in San Antonio.
Jack Harris was shot by Ben Thompson on July 11, 1882 and this made national headlines. Then on March 11, Ben Thompson and King Fisher were killed in the Vaudeville Theatre. This made front page of the New York Times.
The acting at the time was known as Variety and the name gradually changed to Vaudeville. The acting in the Vaudeville Theatre in San Antonio and about a half dozen other saloon and theatres in San Antonio was also Variety. When the east picked up the term from San Antonio, it began calling the form Vaudeville and that spread west again. Returning to its origin.
Now what does all of this have to do with movie theatres. The answer is that many of the original theatre circuits around the country were playing vaudeville in the theatres and then began showing movies in between. Gradually movies became more popular than Vaudeville and Vaudeville was phased out and the theatres concentrated on film.
But even in San Antonio, the big movie palaces, such as Majestic and the Texas Theatres were showing Vaudeville acts into the thirties and the forties.