Hubert's Museum entrance, circa 1960.

Hubert's Museum


HubertsSunNews.jpg HecklerNews.jpg

[Dime Museum]

[Flea Circus]


History:  
From the mid-1920's until 1965 this greatest of New York City institutions occupied 228-232 West 42nd Street near Times Square— the former location of Murray's Roman Gardens, 
a legendary opulent "lobster palace" closed by prohibition.  The building which housed Hubert's dime museum was a schoolhouse built in the 1880's by the prestigious architects 
McKim, Mead & White.  Hubert's is legendary for serving as the sometimes and seasonal  home for many of the greatest freak, novelty, sideshow and variety acts for four decades—
not to mention the last working flea circus in America.

The origin of Hubert's seems to be on Coney Island, where a 1925 advertisement for "Hubert's Museum" in The Show World magazine lists "Hubert Miller, Owner" and
shows a photo of the namesake museum on the Coney boardwalk taken by Edward Kelty.  A 1927 Kelty photograph of the same location shows the sign altered to read 
"Huber's Museum."  The final "t" has been dropped, perhaps signifying a change in ownership.

Did Hubert Miller sell-out and move Hubert's Museum to 42nd Street in 1925?  Yet another Kelty photo dated 1925 of "Hubert's Museum" at the 228-232 42nd 
Street location seems to suggest this.  (There was a "Huber's Museum" owned by George Huber located on 14th Street in New York from 1888-1910). 

By the late-1930's Hubert's Museum was owned by Bill Schork & Max Schaefer, who relocated Hubert's to the basement of the building to make room for their street-level pinball parlor 
and shooting gallery.  The subterranean space inside "Schork & Schaefer's Penny Arcade" was reached from the street entrance below the Hubert's marquee, through a turnstile, 
and down a wide L-shapped staircase, that led to a columned, linoleum paradise lined with several four foot-high stages where 6-10 performers alternated giving shows from 11am-Midnight,
6 days a week-- closed Tuesdays.  In 1925 admission was "Afternoons 10¢, Evenings 15¢, Sundays and Holidays 15 and 25 Cents".  

The Heckler's Flea Circus eventually occupied a walled-off area of the Hubert's basement, guarded by its own ticket box and sliding wooden door, which opened to small room where the 
Professor and fleas did their thing for an additional admission (10 Cents, then 15 Cents, and finally 25 Cents).

Hubert's hosted the flea-training Heckler family-- father William, and sons William Jr. and Leroy from 1925 or 1926 until 1933.  Leroy "Roy" Heckler took over the operation in 1933, 
and kept the fleas dancing at Hubert's until his retirement in 1957.

Hubert's was a mecca for millions, from the high-toned, tuxedoed Broadway theatre crowds of the 1920's and 30's, to the down and dirty Times Square street toughs who frequented 
the spot until its demise in the mid-1960's.  Immortalized by A.J. Liebling, Joseph Mitchell, Diane Arbus, Lenny Bruce, Tiny Tim, Andy Kaufman and many others, Hubert's was a world 
onto itself.

In its later years, from approximately 1956 until its closing, the museum was managed by R.C. (Richard "Charlie") Lucas, known as "Woo-Foo", a former Ringling Brothers
fireeater.  Lucas' wife, Mary Sahloo (Mary J. Wigfall), whom he married in 1943, was known as "Princess Sahloo" and "Princess Wago" and performed at Hubert's for many years as the
"Voodoo Jungle Snake Dancer."

Little has been written about Hubert's final days, but from the pages of R.C. Lucas's personal diaries, the day to day grind of the running the museum in the mid-1960's was a mental 
and physical strain, which along with declining profits, and the relentless chokehold of sleaze and decay, which characterized 42nd Street, doomed Hubert's to an untimely death.
By late 1965 Lucas was gone, and "Hubie's" stopped its live performances— the downstairs basement remaining open free of charge with its decaying exhibits until 1968.  A few seconds of 
film in the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy capture Hubert's neon entrance -- a last fleeting glimpse of the NY legend.


Performers & Exhibits: 
Hubert's hosted many of the greats (and not so greats) of the sideshow, variety and novelty world. The list of performers 
and exhibits below is necessarily incomplete, and only represents a cross-section. Please feel free to add to it, or confirm, or deny its accuracy, by submitting information  via the 
form below. 

Hubert's Line-up 1925 (partially identified from Edward Kelty photograph)

Zip "The What's It"xxxxxxxMartha "Armless Wonder"xxxxxxxChief Running Elk & Princess Beppa (and papoose Bright Eyes) "Indian Performers "

Carlson Sisters? "Twin Fat Girls" xxxxPhilipino Midgets "Brother & Sister"xxxxxxxHoag, David "Chinless Wonder"xxxxxxUnid'ed Black Giant Etc. Etc.

 

Hubert's Line-up 1928? (from advertising card)

Ajax "Sword Swallower"xxxxxBarBaron Paucci "Smallest Perfectly Formed Man In The World"xxxPrincess Lalla "Oriental Dancer" mmmCliko "Dancing Bushman"

Liberra "Double Bodied Man" xxxxFlea Circus "300 Trained & Performing Fleas"xxxxxxxx"Glass Blower"

 

Hubert's Line-up Dec 5 1956 (from R.C. Lucas' Diaries)

Dewise Purdin "Handless Sharpshooter" (Closes March 27) xxxxxxxAlex Linton "Sword Swallower" (Closes April 3)xxxxxxxLydia Suarez "Contortionist"

Jean Carroll "Tattooed" xxxxxxxxxxTosu "Magician" (Closes March 27)xxxxxxxx"The Gold Fish Bowl"xxxxxxExtra Added Attraction: E. Pearson (Closes April)

Woofoo "Jump On A Bed of Nails" (Extra) xxxxxJohn Dillingers, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie Parker "Crime Exhibit"xxxxxCollyer Mansion Exhibit

Headless Woman In A BoxxxxxxxxxxxSepidor Woman Head in A Wed [sic] xxxxxxxxxxGirl Walking on Razor Sharp SwordxxxxxxxxxxFire Eat

 

Hubert's Line-up June 12 1958 (from R.C. Lucas' Diaries)

Sailor Jim White "Strong Man" xxxxxxxAndy "Potatochips" Patoachess "Comedy, Songs, Dancer" (Russian Midget)xxxxxxxE.D. Hall "Comedy Artist"xxxxxxx

Susie "Elephant Skin Girl" (Charlotte Vogal) xxxxxxxCount Bernadino "Calypso" xxxxx

Two Young Ladies "Blow Off "xxxxx"Paintings On Pin heads"xxxx"The Electric Chair"xxxxx"Sword Box"

 

Hubert's Line-up November 18 1958 (from R.C. Lucas' Diaries)

Ray Gorden "Magician" xxxxxxxCongo Jungle Creep "Voodoo man" (Hezekiah Trambles-Trimble?)xxxxxxxLady Estelline (Pike) "Sword Swallower"

Lydia "Contortionist" xxxxxHarold Smith "M[usical] Glass[es]"xxxxxxxxxxxxSealo "Seal Boy"

 

Hubert's Performers Mentioned In R.C. Lucas' Diaries

Princess Sahloo (Mary Lucas) "Voodoo Jungle Snake Dancer" xxxxxxxJulius B. Shuster"Balls [Juggler?] " xxxxxxxBorivoye Kijajich "Mad Magician"xxxxxxx
Jack Dracula "Tattooed Man" xxxxAlbert-Alberta "Half-Man Half-Woman" xxxxAurelio O. Tobias "Yo-Yo Top Spinner "xxxxxxxMs. Carrie Adams "Midget?"x
Yvonne & Yvette "Siamese Twins" <Unconfirmed, though mentioned Dec 17, 1958 "Two girls bo[r]n xjo[i]ne[d] by their head, will be big & best act in Hubert's Museum"> 
Keller "Keyhole Man-- Contortionist " (Zeller?)x

 

Other Performers Known To Have Performed At Hubert's

Prince Randion "Human Caterpiller" (His last performance at Hubert's)mmmmHarold Smith "Musical Glasses" mmmmShary O'Hara "Bird Woman & Her Pets " xxxxxx

Francis Duggan "Contortionist In A Barrel" mmmmRuss Lewis "Ventriloquist" xxHovey Burgess Amster "Battleax Juggler & Unicyclist" mmmm

Presto "Magician" (Earl Johnson?)xxxPrince Julian "Magician" mmmmEdna Price "Lady Sword-Swallower" mmmmCharles Phelan "The Brooklyn Strong Boy"

Dave Madden "Juggler" xxxxJoe Allen "Human Corkscrew"xx xxxxLarry Love "The Human Canary" (Tiny Tim)

 

Other Performers Thought To Have Performed At Hubert's From Pitch Cards & Photos in Lucas' Collection

Alfred Langevin "Eye Smoker" xxxxxJose DeLeon "Armless Wonder" xxxxxJohnny Cumming "Clown?" xxxx xxxxRosto "Juggler" xxxx

Renee "Dancer?" xxxxxxBobby "Tables" Davis "Table Dancer" xxxx"Brandy Alexander" "Dancer?"xxxDriss Ben Ahmed "Cobra Snake Charmer"

Tiahha Boody "Strong Man" xxxxxxJ.H. "Strong Man"xxxMyrtle "The Four Legged Girl- Optical Illusion"xxxMike "Baffling" Bates "Escape Artist "

Margie "Midget Girl" xxxxMargie "Midget Girl" xx

 

Hubert's Performer List from Bill Ballantine's Wild Tigers & Tame Fleas (circa 1955):

Lady Olga "Bearded Lady"xxxxxAmok "Philippine Headhunter"xxxxxLady Grace "Mindreader"xxxxHenry Burton "Spider Boy"

Sylvia-Chester "Half-and-Half"xxxxxMiss Lambert "Contortionist"xxxxxFrank Lentini "Three-Legged Man"

 

Owners, Employees & Others Affiliated With Hubert's:

Max Schaefer "Owner" xxxx"Bill Schork "Owner"xxxx Francis Schnise "Ticker Seller" (1950's-60's)xxxxxx

 


I know something new about Hubert's Museum:

showhistory.com is looking for personal reminiscences, anecdotes, biographical and historical data, omissions, corrections,

differences of opinion, photos etc. We will compile your information and publish it on this page after reviewing it. If supplying

information from published sources, please note the location so that we can give proper credit. If we use your information you

will be added to our Contributors page.

My Name:
My Email Address:
My involvement with showhistory:
What I know:

  

 


I know something new about Hubert's Museum:

showhistory.com is looking for personal reminiscences, anecdotes, biographical and historical data, omissions, corrections, differences of opinion, photos etc. We will compile your information and publish it on this page after reviewing it. If supplying information from published sources, please note the location so that we can give proper credit. If we use your information your name will be added to our Contributors page.
My Name:

My email address:

My involvement in show-biz or show-biz history:

What I know:

     

Last update: 1/10/04