By the turn of the twentieth century, the modern vaudeville program or playbill was established throughout the United States. What is the difference between playbills and programs? Sometimes none, but often a playbill describes a long, narrow listing of acts with a short description, printed on one side of the paper. A cheap throwaway, like you see here. A program is a little classier—a folded piece printed on both sides; maybe even a booklet. That was the form that survived to today—when you go to a theater today, you are handed a program, not a playbill.
Both versions were cheap. Consequently, few were saved, even for souvenirs, and there are very few left today, even though there must have been hundreds of thousands printed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In spite of their rarity, the public is uninterested in them, so they sell very for almost nothing. I buy them at antique shows or on line for $2-10.
I want to buy more vaudeville playbills, but can’t find any. If you come across one, please let me know!