Sonia Delaunay, Abstract Composition with Semicircles

Geometry and Color: Sonia Delaunay and Bellingham Public School Students

As part of their distance learning materials, local students were asked to make artwork in the style of influential, Paris-based artists Robert and Sonia Delaunay. While the Delaunays’ works have […]

Man with cheetahs and mountain lions in circus act in 1910

Vintage Vaudevillians

Curated by Jeff Jewell, Historian and Archivist

Vintage Vaudevillians is a photographic exhibition that highlights a dozen vaudeville acts that performed in Bellingham in the early 20th century. Originally used to promote the acts, these publicity photos were saved by James Warwick, stage manager at downtown theaters during vaudeville’s heyday.

James “Jim” Warwick had a 54-year career in Bellingham theaters, starting as a stagehand at the Lighthouse Theatre in 1897. He was stage manager at both Beck’s Opera House and The Grand during the heyday of vaudeville in the early 20th century when Bellingham was on the competing Pantages and Sullivan-Considine circuits. Warwick worked directly with performers, catering to their needs and whims, and had a longstanding reputation as a dependable, gracious host.

Vaudevillians, once scheduled by a venue, commonly forwarded photographs of themselves to the theater for use in advance publicity. After their week-long gig, the promotional portraits were returned to the act or, more typically, thrown away. But Warwick kept them as souvenirs of the personalities and performances he witnessed on the Bellingham stage.

With the rise of motion pictures and subsequent disappearance of vaudeville, Warwick worked as a film projectionist for more than 30 years at the American Theater on Cornwall Avenue. After his death in 1967, his daughter Mary donated his collection — more than 750 photographs from the vaudeville era — to the Whatcom Museum. 

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.

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