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Vent Haven Museum

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2215.jpg (29753 bytes)Images

Gallery Seven: Jules Vernon (17 images)

Jules Vernon was a famous vaudeville vent. He was born Walter Lester Pope Knyvette in East India on April 2, 1867. He was the son of an English army officer, and he was educated at Oxford University.

09.jpg (81610 bytes)Vernon's act consisted of a number of characters who would carry on snappy, witty dialogue with one another and with Vernon. The dialogue was humorous and no doubt entertained the audience, but the audience was meant to be most entertained by Vernon's ability to switch quickly from one character to another. 

Vernon began losing his eyesight, and according to correspondence gathered by W.S. Berger, went blind on Christmas morning of 1920, at the age of 53, during a performance at the Orpheum Theater in Spokane, Washington. Vernon did not let his blindness stop him, however. He continued to perform and never revealed to audiences that he was blind. The characters in his act were mounted together on a bench, and Vernon's wife, prior to his show, would run a thread from the bench to the backstage area. Vernon would use the thread as a guide to lead him to his bench. Once in place, he knew where the controls were, and he performed as if he could see. Vernon continued to perform in this manner for years. He died on May 17, 1937, at the age of 70, when he was struck by a speeding taxi in San Francisco. 

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Vernon's famous bench and six of Vernon's seven figures are prominently on display in Building One of the Vent Haven Museum. Below are photos of each of the six characters on display, as well as a quick description of each.

0018.jpg (68599 bytes)Old Maid. She sang a song during the act.

 0017.jpg (60993 bytes) Nettie was the sister to George. She had a hairlip.

  0019.jpg (69171 bytes)George was Nettie's brother and had a terrible stutter.

 0020.jpg (64374 bytes)Sailor. 

 0022.jpg (59869 bytes)Joe was a "fresh kid" character and the main figure in the act.

 0021.jpg (51446 bytes)Happy. This character never spoke, but only laughed at the others' jokes.

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