21 April 2010

Raffaele Todesca - Vaudeville Trick Cyclist

Ralph Todesca circa 1920.
It's still unclear whether the woman in the chair was his wife Mary, or his daughter Mary Gladys.

Last month we had an inquiry from the Todesca branch of our Torre family.  You'll find the previous post here.  Go ahead and check it out .... I'll wait.

I was excited to find we had a vaudeville entertainer in our midst, and even more delighted  to find that a photograph of Ralph (while performing) was still in existence.  Thank you, Andrea and Fawn for sharing this treasure!

Raffaele (aka Ralph Albert) Todesca was born in Torre le Nocelle on 4 May 1879 to Gennaro Antonio Todesca and Carmela Petriello.  He emigrated to the States on 5 April 1897 on board the Furst Bismark and settled in the Roslindale, MA area.  He married Mary de Luca of Palermo, Sicily circa 1900.

SS F├╝rst Bismarck (1890)

Ralph and Mary worked the vaudeville circuit in the early 1900's.  For the most part up until 1911 or so the act was billed as the "Todesca - Keating Trio", however after 1913 it seems to have been known only as "Todesca and Todesca."

I have yet to discover who Keating was, but I suspect he may have somehow been involved with the Keating Wheel Co. - a bicycle manufacturing company that was started in 1893 in Holyoke, Mass. by Robert M. Keating - who was not only a baseball player, but also an accomplished inventor.

Below are a few newspaper articles and advertisements I've come across that describe this talented act.


From the Indianapolis Star, 30 Sept 1921


 Fitchburg (MA) Daily Sentinel Review, 15 April 1909


 The Cummings Theatre, Fitchburg, Mass.

Fitchburg Daily Sentinel 16 April 1909


14 Jan 1922 Advertisement in the Olean Evening Herald (NY)

The Olean Evening Times, 10 Jan 1913 

The Washington Post, 22 Jan 1911.  Check out the matinee prices:-)

The Eau Claire Leader (Wisconsin) 18 Nov 1923
Inflation - admission is now 30 cents a ticket!



Ralph and Mary had two children - Mary Gladys Todesca, born 1903 and Roger Rudolf, born in 1909.  Roger traveled with his parents and remembers growing up in hotels all over America.  His favorite pastime was sliding down the hotel banisters and as an infant he was put to sleep in the dresser drawers, causing him to be claustrophobic later in life. 


Roger Rudolph Todesca circa 1917


Ralph's 1921 Petition for Naturalization states that wife Mary was in the Mattapan State Hospital in Massachusetts.  On 25 Dec 1924 she died of tuberculosis, in the arms of her son Roger.  Ralph eventually moved to Los Angeles and became a theater usher.  In 1956 he purchased a home in Camarillo, California where he remained active growing olives for the neighbors, and doing his own home repair work well into his eighties.  He died in Camarillo on 27 Feb 1967.




Search Massachusetts Naturalization Records At Footnote

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing fellow! I knew a man, Stevie Tooze, who played piano in Boston vaudeville houses - wonder if they knew each other? Perhaps he was a bit later, as he was born abt 1890.

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