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Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America / Edition 1

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Overview

Dioramas and panoramas, freaks and magicians, waxworks and menageries, obscure relics and stuffed animals--a dazzling assortment of curiosities attracted the gaze of the nineteenth-century spectator at the dime museum. This distinctly American phenomenon was unprecedented in both the diversity of its amusements and in its democratic appeal, with audiences traversing the boundaries of ethnicity, gender, and class. Andrea Stulman Dennett's Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America recaptures this ephemeral and scarcely documented institution of American culture from the margins of history.

Weird and Wonderful chronicles the evolution of the dime museum from its eighteenth-century inception as a "cabinet of curiosities" to its death at the hands of new amusement technologies in the early twentieth century. From big theaters which accommodated audiences of three thousand to meager converted storefronts exhibiting petrified wood and living anomalies, this study vividly reanimates the array of museums, exhibits, and performances that make up this entertainment institution. Tracing the scattered legacy of the dime museum from vaudeville theater to Ripley's museum to the talk show spectacles of today, Dennett makes a significant contribution to the history of American popular entertainment.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814718865
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

A teacher, actor, and director, Andrea Stulman Dennett received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University. She has written on many aspects of popular entertainment from television talk shows to disaster spectacles at the turn of the century.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
1 The Origins of the Dime Museum, 1782-1840 1
2 Barnum and the Museum Revolution, 1841-1870 23
3 The Peak Years: From the Civil War to 1900 41
4 Freaks and Platform Performers 66
5 Lecture Room Entertainments 86
6 Waxworks and Film 106
7 The Dime Museum Reconfigured for a New Century 124
Epilogue 144
App. A: Chronology 149
App. B Dime Museums 151
Notes 155
Selected Bibliography 179
Index 193
About the Author 200
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