I was toying around with my new subscription to Newspapers.com tonight and decided to use Bob Hope's May 29 birthday as an excuse to really test it out. What follows is an image intensive page celebrating Hope's earliest years in vaudeville—Newspapers.com passed my test with flying colors!
Hope's name is hard to spot in some of these earlier clippings, so when necessary I'll caption them above with directions to find him as well as credit to each paper, which will provide date and location.
Up first, it's Hope with partner Lloyd Durbin making their way through Logansport, Indiana. The pair are billed as "the two dancing masters" on the right side of this advertisement from the October 23, 1924 edition of the Pharos-Tribune.
Hope & Durbin move with Hurley's Jolly Follies into Ohio as presented in this ad published in The Salem News of January 19, 1925.
The following New Castle News ad has a lot going on, so you can click it to enlarge a little if so desired. Hope & Durbin are part of Attraction No. 2 on the bottom half of the page. You'll find them listed towards the bottom of the second column in this ad, published January 26, 1925 as the Jolly Follies hit Pennsylvania.
A brief description of each of the Hurley's Jolly Follies acts in this clip from The Morning Herald of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, May 11, 1925:
Hope has a new partner, George Byrne, and they're billed as "Dancing Sensations" at the bottom right of this ad appearing in the February 27, 1926 edition of the Hamilton Daily News of Hamilton, Ohio:
Still with Hurley's Jolly Follies and billed here as Lester Hope in this May 13, 1926 ad discovered in The News Herald of Franklin, Pennsylvania. Named again further down the page with Byrne as "dancing fools."
This next one may appeal more to fans of the later horror film Freaks (1932) than it does the Bob Hope fans—at least that's how I felt about this great shot of the Hilton Sisters headlining Reading's "foremost vaudeville theater," the Rajah. Way down below, at the bottom left, comes mention of "two boys that you will like"—Hope & Byrne, the Dancemedians. Discovered in the January 24, 1927 edition of Pennsylvania's Reading Times.
Dancemedians? What's that? The following day's copy of the Reading Times explains:
The Dancemedians moving up the bill, despite the typo on poor Brynes' name. Found in The Daily Times of New Philadelphia, Ohio, October 2, 1928 edition.
First mention I could find of "Bob Hope," a small one at the bottom left as one of seven vaudeville acts from the Varsity Eight. Advertising the Christmas show at the Riverside in the December 21, 1928 edition of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.
I embedded this one so you can click it to enlarge a little if necessary. Hope gains mention towards the end of the article as the incoming master of ceremonies in Decatur, Illinois. Discovered in the March 24, 1929 issue of the Decatur Herald.
Hope headlining at the Majestic on this April 10, 1929 ad found in The Pantagraph of Bloomington, IL.
Referring back to the earlier Decatur Herald article, here's the ad marking Bob Hope's debut as m.c. at the Lincoln. This one also from the Herald, April 13, 1929.
The following day the Dacatur Herald published this photo and brief article about the new m.c.
Winding down, we find Hope dominating the bill at the Lincoln in this April 27, 1929 ad from the Herald.
Last one, "Bob Hope's Farewell Whoopee Show," Decatur Herald, May 8, 1929: