Vaudeville and the Making of Modern Entertainment, 1890–1925

By David Monod

288 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 halftones, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6055-4
    Published: October 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6054-7
    Published: October 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6056-1
    Published: September 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5908-2
    Published: September 2020

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Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2020 George Freedley Memorial Award, Theatre Library Association

Shortlisted, 2021 Wallace K. Ferguson Prize, Canadian Historical Association

Today, vaudeville is imagined as a parade of slapstick comedians, blackface shouters, coyly revealed knees, and second-rate acrobats. But vaudeville was also America's most popular commercial amusement from the mid-1890s to the First World War; at its peak, 5 million Americans attended vaudeville shows every week. Telling the story of this pioneering art form's rise and decline, David Monod looks through the apparent carnival of vaudeville performance and asks: what made the theater so popular and transformative? Although he acknowledges its quirkiness, Monod makes the case that vaudeville became so popular because it offered audiences a guide to a modern urban lifestyle.

Vaudeville acts celebrated sharp city styles and denigrated old-fashioned habits, showcased new music and dance moves, and promulgated a deeply influential vernacular modernism. The variety show's off-the-rack trendiness perfectly suited an era when goods and services were becoming more affordable and the mass market promised to democratize style, offering a clear vision of how the quintessential twentieth-century citizen should look, talk, move, feel, and act.

About the Author

David Monod is professor of American social and cultural history at Wilfrid Laurier University.
For more information about David Monod, visit the Author Page.


"While other historians have tended to focus on either the business or artistic side of vaudeville, David Monod's impressive book explores how both must be taken into account to paint a complete picture of a foundational entertainment medium."--Larry Hamberlin, Middlebury College

"In this scrupulously researched, sharply theorized, and forcefully written book, David Monod addresses a relatively understudied arena of popular culture production, circulation, and reception with a truly interdisciplinary approach."--Jeffrey Melnick, University of Massachusetts Boston