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Fri, 05.18.1888

The Tutt Brothers, Vaudeville Act is Formed

The Tutt Brothers

*The Tutt Brothers were celebrated on this date in 1888. They were a Black song and dance team that performed in the American Vaudeville era. 

They were producers, writers, and performers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Salem Tutt Whitney was born in Logansport, Indiana, as was his brother J. Homer Tutt. They were also known as Whitney & Tutt, Tutt & Whitney, and the Whitney Brothers. They created over forty revues for black audiences. Whitney originally intended to become a minister but later decided to become a performer and left college. He attended the National School of Journalism and gained amateur experience in acting, comedy, and writing.

From 1888 through 1905, the brothers performed in their traveling tent show Silas Green from New Orleans. The show, which ran until the 1940s, was bought by circus owner Eph Williams although the brothers never received payment. They formed the Smart Set Company in the 1910s, possibly taking over from Sherman H. Dudley. From 1910 to 1925, Whitney and Tutt produced more than 40 revues for black performers and audiences, writing and performing themselves.

Some of their performers found fame, including blues singer Mamie Smith who danced in the brothers' Smart Set as a teenager. One of their main productions was a musical farce called George Washington Bullion. Starring Whitney as a tobacco plantation owner, it was popular with audiences and ran for two decades. Their musical Oh Joy! played on Broadway for four weeks. It had originally starred Ethel Waters when performed in Boston, but when the only theatre space they could find in New York City was on a tennis court under a tent, Waters pulled out and was replaced by Ethel Williams.

Both brothers played in The Green Pastures (1930). They also acted in films, including Birthright (1924), Marcus Garland (1925), The Broken Violin (1927), and A Daughter of the Congo (1930). Salem Tutt Whitney died in Chicago February 12, 1934, and J. Homer Tutt died in Los Angeles February 10, 1951.

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