Posts Tagged ‘entertainers’

On this day in 1906, Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri and christened Freda Josephine McDonald by her mother, Carrie McDonald.  Homeless at the age of 12, she was discovered dancing on a street corner three years later and recruited to join the St. Louis Chorus.  She is perhaps best remembered for her performances at the Folies Bergères in Paris throughout the 1920s where she danced in her iconic banana skirt and often appeared on stage with her pet cheetah, Chiquita.  Through the 1930s, she rose to fame as a singer, dancer, and actress.  In 1937 she became a French citizen, and as World War II progressed, she shifted her focus toward supporting the underground resistance movement.  After the war, she often returned to the United States where she was active in the American Civil Right Movement, speaking at the 1963 March on Washington and famously refusing to perform before segregated audiences.

Josephine Baker with the Nobel Prize winning political scientist, Ralph J. Bunche, ca. 1960. Image courtesy of the UCLA Special Collections via Calisphere, the Online Archive of California.

You can find more primary sources about activists and entertainers of the twentieth century through Opening History.


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On May 3, 1903, Harry Lillis Crosby was born to Harry Lincoln and Catherine Helen Crosby in Tacoma, Washington, the fourth of seven children. At the age of six, he earned the nickname “Bingo from Bingville.”  Shortened to “Bing,” the name stayed with him throughout his career.  Crosby performed with several bands throughout the 1920s and made his radio debut in 1931. Within a year he had performed in 10 of the top 50 songs on the radio. Throughout the 1940s his acting career proved as successful as his musical career, and today he is widely regarded as one of the most popular and successful performers of the twentieth century.  Crosby continued to perform until his death at the age of 74 in 1977.

Bing Crosby with Phil Harris and Bob Littler listening to record player, Seattle, 1956. Image courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry via King County Snapshots.

You can find primary source documents relating to Bing Crosby and the history of film and radio broadcasting at Opening History.

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On October 23, 1925, Johnny Carson was born in a small town in Iowa.  From an early age, Carson expressed an interest in performance and entertainment, beginning with magic tricks that he performed as “The Great Carsoni.”  After a brief career in the military, he returned to the Midwest where he studied radio and speech at the University of Nebraska.  Following his graduation, he began a successful career in broadcasting that led him from Omaha, Nebraska to Los Angeles, California.  He is, of course, best remembered for hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for thirty years from 1962-1992. Through his work in television, he became a household name and a true American icon.

Johnny Carson and Jack Benny receive key to the city of Anaheim from Mayor Pebley on January 12, 1967. Image courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library, accessed through Calisphere.

You can find more on the history of television and broadcasting at Opening History.

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