The days of vaudeville must have been interesting in that all kinds of variety shows traveled from town to town to perform.....and if the performers were lucky, they'd be held over or booked for a return performance. On the other side of the program, if the act you'd paid to see wasn't good, you felt as though your money was wasted. And, that act wouldn't be seen again in that vicinity.
A century ago a popular vaudeville act in the Midwest was known as The Yankee Doodle Four. This act consisted of four Civil War veterans from Ohio and Michigan. The stage was set up to resemble an army camp with U.S. flags, a mess tent and stacked arms in front. The four veterans opened by marching onto the stage playing Yankee Doodle on fifes and drums.
After an introduction and explanation of the troupe, there was more music from cornet, violin, cello and banjo. The finale was what we might expect a playing of The Star Spangled Banner as a large flag unfolded at the back of the stage. As you can imagine, this was a very popular show in that time. Many veterans were still living, or their families retained the vivid memories of the war stories.
I can't determine how long this troupe existed, but I do know that it was formed and managed by Orson B. Smith of Collins, who also called his show Smith's Four Old Soldiers of '61. Orson Smith was a well-known Collins resident for several years. In 1880 he was living at Benton Harbor, Mich., and was by occupation a violinist. The 1900 census finds him in Collins, where he lived until going to the Veterans Home at Sandusky where he died April 1931, aged 81. His tombstone can bee seen in the Collins Cemetery.