The Library of Congress THE LOC.GOV WISE GUIDE
HOME Buy Fresh, Buy Local Before Laurel and Hardy, There Was Joe and Carrie The Changing Role of the Citizen-Soldier Have Fun, Will Travel A (Family) Tree Grows in the Library How the West Was Won Are You Doing All You Can?
Before Laurel and Hardy, There Was Joe and Carrie

The most famous comedic duo of all time arguably is Laurel and Hardy. They became famous during the early half of the 20th century for their work in motion pictures and also appeared on stage throughout America and Europe. However, this tag-team didn’t pioneer the genre. In fact, the comedy routine existed long before the two began appearing together in 1927.

Joseph Hart Vaudeville Co. direct from Weber & Fields Music Hall, New York City. 1899. “How to Enter Vaudeville,” by Frederic LaDelle

At the turn of the 20th century, the most common way to enjoy humor was to attend a vaudeville show, a variety show that might include comedians, dancers, singers, performing animals, acrobats and magicians. Vaudeville teams doing comic routines were also popular. Joseph Hart and Carrie DeMar were one hot-ticket act. Their musical medley, “Foxy Grandpa,” was hailed by the New York Times in 1902, which said “The music is by Joseph Hart, who also takes the part of Foxy Grandpa with a very considerable degree of humor and delicacy of characterization. Miss Carrie DeMar is a slangy but wholesome young protégé of grandpa’s.”

Much of today's humor evolved from vaudeville, which began to decline in popularity after 1932. It was at that time that the leading vaudeville theater, the Palace Theater in New York, replaced live acts with film.

You can read more about the history of vaudeville in America’s Library in the humor section of the “See, Hear and Sing” chapter.

America's Library is a Web site for kids and families that provides more than 4,000 “historical anecdotes” richly illustrated with materials from the Library of Congress. This interactive site appeals to users of all ages, with its fascinating, sometimes idiosyncratic, details of U.S. history.

The Library is home to significant and unique resources pertaining to American popular entertainment. The American Variety Stage is a multimedia collection selected from various Library holdings that illustrates the vibrant and diverse forms of popular entertainment, especially vaudeville, which thrived from 1870-1920.

Famous jokeman Bob Hope got his start on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s. His collection is housed at the Library of Congress. You can check out a sampling, including pages from his joke file, at the online exhibition “Bob Hope and American Variety.” The exhibition is also permanently on view in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.

The Library’s collection of recordings from the Edison companies includes motion pictures and sound recordings of vaudeville acts and comedy routines and songs. Browsing by subject is the easiest, as many of the sound recordings are further divided into subject matter of humor, like “courtship,” “department stores” and “police.”

A. Joseph Hart Vaudeville Co. direct from Weber & Fields Music Hall, New York City. 1899. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Call No.: POS - TH - VAU .J67, no. 7 (C size) <P&P>[P&P]

B. “How to Enter Vaudeville,” by Frederic LaDelle. Michigan: Excelsior Printing Company. 1913. General Collections, Library of Congress. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.