Michael B. Leavitt

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Michael B. Leavitt
Born1843
Died1935

Michael B. Leavitt (1843-1935) was an American theater entrepreneur, manager, and producer. He entered show business as a blackface minstrel show singer. By the 1860s, Leavitt had made the leap to management and, following the precedent set by others, was touring variety show troupes in rural areas, billing them as authentic city entertainment.

Biography

By 1870, Leavitt had made a name in the theater industry by importing acts to North America from Europe. Leavitt's companies toured both the United States and Mexico. He sometimes worked in partnership with his brother, Abraham Leavitt.

In his memoirs, Leavitt claimed to have made several innovations in American show business. For example, he credited himself with the introduction of lithographic theater posters to the United States in 1872 after he had brought some back from Europe. By the end of the 1870s, lithographic printing had begun to supplant block printing for theater advertising. Another of Leavitt's claims was that in 1880, he was the first to use the term vaudeville to describe a variety show.

Magic acts he managed included Alexander Herrmann and Harry Kellar.[1] "Whenever I open a new theatre," Leavitt once said, "I want to insure of large crowds, I will have Herrmann the Great play the date." Herrmann was always a drawing card where ever he played, receiving fifty percent of the gross receipt earning $75,000 a year (about $3 million in today’s figures).

He also conceived of the show which would be called 'The Triple Alliance." Leavitt contracted with Frederick Eugene Powell to perform his act of classic magic, Servais Le Roy to showcase his original illusions and the comedy spot in the bill with Imro Fox.

Books

  • Fifty Years in Theatrical Management (1912)

References

  1. Steinmeyer, Jim (2005). The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer". New York City: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-78671-770-X.
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