American vaudeville is known today as the once premier varietal stage program that comprised of various short unrelated acts such as chorus girls, acrobats, magicians, dancers, and movies. Across the nation were chains of theaters of every size and grandeur, which circuited these traveling performers or Vaudevillians that dazzled and entertained Americans of every age. Vaudeville was the nation's first form of wide spread mass entertainment in the United States and helped set the patterns that became the backbone for our contemporary mass entertainment such as television and radio. Stemming from the ever-evolving American lifestyle, vaudeville was a reflection of American culture and mass entertainment at the turn of the 20th century and had a considerable impact on the development and progression of motion pictures. .
Throughout history, variety acts such as storytelling, juggling, and dancing have entertained countless audiences around the world such as ancient Greece, England, and France. The conception of the varietal act in America did not begin with the development of vaudeville but rather from other preexisting institutions such as circuses, burlesque, and music halls. Already established in America as early as the nineteenth century were other forms of theatre entertainment aimed for the masses such as professional singers, dancers, and Shakespearean plays.
Capitalizing on the new wave of European immigrants into the United States after the war ceased in 1820 were concert saloons. Saloons offered a form of escape in the form fun, drinking, and entertainment for these immigrants who were often struggling to find work, poorly paid, and living in cramped quarters. As these saloons prospered and expanded, many began offering free "adult" shows to entice customers such as scantly clad burlesque type waitresses, which initially gave variety entertainment a bad reputation.