With all the movies and series that entertain us today, it can sometimes be hard to imagine what Americans did for entertainment in the past. Before the technology for filmmaking existed, how did they spend their free time? Casinos, piano playing and singing, theatrical shows and vaudeville acts all played a part in keeping them entertained.
Gambling and playing casino games
When casinos first appeared in the U.S., they were called saloons. In the cities of Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Saint Louis, people would gather in saloons to gamble and drink. In the early 20th century, gambling became illegal in the U.S., but it was legalized in Nevada in 1931.
From that time, some of the world’s best casinos sprang up on the Las Vegas strip. Today, many states in the U.S. have legalized gambling and online casinos have become extremely popular. Playing at an internet casino, such as Parx Casino, offers the opportunity to explore exciting deals and earn money on different games.
The piano craze
Before the existence of recorded music, young women who could play music and sing well were seen as highly accomplished. The piano was invented towards the end of the 17th century, but it was only after the 1920s that more Americans began to prosper and could afford pianos. Everyone would gather around the piano in the parlor and listen to young ladies playing and singing songs such as Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer.”
In the decades before the Civil War, minstrel shows provided popular entertainment for the working class. Performers would blacken their faces as caricatures of slaves and sing and dance in skits. Minstrels would form companies and tour around the country, holding shows where the atmosphere was rowdy and audience participation was expected.
Theatrical shows were very popular in the 1850s and 1860s. They featured singers, dancers, musicians, and comedians. Initially, shows were designed more for male audiences and were quite lewd. To draw in larger crowds and make more money, theatre managers began to adapt their material to suit families. The new types of shows featuring clean jokes and low-ticket prices were known as vaudeville shows.
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From the 1880s to the 1920s, troupes of performers would tour the country and put on vaudeville shows. A typical show would include a variety of acts, such as juggling, dancing, acrobatics, magic, and singing. Many of the performers had a whole repertoire of skills. The members of these traveling troupes would often spend months on the road and only earn enough to just get by.
Movies in 2022 will see Thor, Spiderman, Batman, Dr. Strange, and other superheroes on the big screen again. It’s hard to believe that moviemaking is barely over a century old! The movies of today are light years away from the vaudeville shows of the past. What did Americans do for Entertainment Decades Ago?