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Progressive Era to New Era
Cities During the Progressive Era
A Trip to the City, or At the Phone Booth

In the early 1900s vaudeville, a form of popular theater consisting of a variety of comedy, song-and-dance, magic, and other acts, was extremely popular. In this unpublished vaudeville comedy monologue, written in 1909, a young woman from rural New York makes her first visit to the "big city." Excerpts from the monologue are provided below. What perceptions of city life do the authors portray in the monologue? What perceptions do you think rural people might have of cities today?

View the entire document from which this excerpt was drawn from American Variety Stage, 1870-1920. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


Standing outside a phone booth in New York City, Miss Sue ....... addresses the audience.

You talk about the city being full of traps and snares, every word is true. Here I've been kind enough to come here and pay the city a visit, got on a car, paid my fare, five cents, and he gave me a receipt for it: he called it a transfer to another line. Well, anyhow, the car was so crowded that I had to stand up, and bye and bye the car stopped and a passenger got on and the conductor yelled step forward, and I had to move up. On the next corner, another passenger got on and the conductor yelled step forward, and I had to move up. On the next corner another passenger got on and the conductor yelled step forward, and I had to move again. By this time I was as far forward as I could get. Just then the car stopped and three passengers got on the front of the car, and the motorman yelled "step back and let these people in." They had me running one of those marathon races. I know I paid my fare but I swear I walked all the way. . .

When I left home to come to town my dad said, "Sue, now look around
Remember everything you see
So when you come back
You can tell it to me."
I thought I'd have a little fun
so I went to a museum.
I went to the box and paid my five
To see old Bosco eat them alive.
To the Bearded Lady ten cents I gave
And said for goodness sake go get shaved
I turned around and holy smoke
There was the man with the broken throat
Then everybody started to go
Down to the moving picture show
The Salome Dance it wasn't so bad
But of course I couldn't tell it to dad
I went and had my picture took
I got it here in my pocket book
Took a trip to Coney Isle
And took a ride in a automobile
Went and had my fortune told
They said I'd find a bag of gold
If everything she says comes true
I'll live till a hundred and ninety-two
She charged a dollar -'twas awful strong
But if I pay less
I won't live so long
But she said give me two dollars flat
I'll let you live even longer than that
I went in for a bite to eat
the folks down there are an awful cheat
Coney Isle is no place for Sue
Imagine a quarter for an oyster stew
There's lots of other things I saw
But I can't think of any more
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View the entire document from which this excerpt was drawn from American Variety Stage, 1870-1920. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.