Don’t Try and Get One Over On Nettie Kelley Adams

Nettie Kelley Adams

Nettie Kelley Adams, National Vaudeville Association member

Kensico Vaudeville Project #1
Name: Nettie Kelley Adams
Act: Singer
Born: 28 Feb 1887
Died: 8 July 1934

It is appropriate that the first name to be added to the Kensico Vaudeville Project is a female singer, since women were so vital to the success of vaudeville. This is one of the graves in the National Vaudeville Association (N.V.A.) burial grounds.

Nettie Adams was a star vocalist at the turn of the century. In 1901 she was called “a blithesome soubrette” in the Morning Telegraph when she was in a dispute with her manager, Joseph Farley, over $50 due her after appearing in Hogan’s Alley. The touring vaudeville show was based on the New York World comic section of the same name, by R. F. Outcault, which had sprung from the 1891 vaudeville song “When Hogan Pays The Rent.”

Farley pulled a stunt on the teenage star: she unwittingly paid for a cast party out of her own pocket. Farley handed her a cheap ring and borrowed $50 for the soirée (about $1,200 in today’s money). When Farley didn’t come across with her “loan” to him, the 14-year-old Adams met up with him at 3:30 a.m. outside O’Neill’s, near Seventh Avenue and Thirty-fifth Street. Two fellow actresses were waiting. “He ceased smiling when Miss Addie Wills stepped behind him and suddenly pinioned his arms,” the newspaper reported. “Then Miss Eva Williams and Miss Adams fell on him tooth and nail, and the jolly joker says he felt as if all the cast of Canterbury were clawing at his countenance.” She got her money, and Farley ended up with torn clothes and lost his silk hat.

In 1908 Adams was in a vaudeville company appearing in Yonkers at the Orpheum Theatre; Adams was among eight acts that preceded a basketball game between the Columbias and the Orpheus team from New York. Adams “sang popular melodies” on the bill.

When she died in the summer of 1934 she was 47 years old. Her family purchased a stone gravestone and didn’t get an N.V.A. bronze marker.

Kensico Vaudeville Project
Project Updates and Roster of Names

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  • New York Morning Telegraph, 14 June 1901, p. 12
  • Yonkers Statesman, Feb. 1908
  • Martin Conboy, The Press and Popular Culture (Sage Publication, 2001)
  • Old Fulton New York Post Cards
  • Trav S.D. No Applause—Just Throw Money, The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous (Faber and Faber, 2005).