Chas. Mack with 10 puppets

An American Punchman, 1861 - 1934

by Donald Charles O'Keeffe

Charles W. McCarty was born on 15 May, 1861 in Boston, Massachusetts to immigrants from County Cork, Ireland. In the footsteps of his father, a trunk maker, he entered the trades. He became a licensed plumber and gas fitter, and operated his own business in Boston but his true calling was the performing arts. This is evidenced by his being instrumental in the production of Galas, Balls and the like throughout the 1880s.

The compelling nature of these activities caused Charles to re-evaluate his contribution to society. This inexorable draw, the seduction of the stage, culminated in his decision to study ventriloquism and magic. To ensure access to as many hearts as possible, he would brook no barriers. Given the discriminatory climate of the time, "No Irish Need Apply" signs were a fact of life in 19th century Boston, Mr. McCarty became Professor Charles Mack and performed his art from the 1890's through the late 1920's regaling crowds throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania

Though widely billed as "The Children's Entertainer," there were many in the audience who brought their children along as an excuse to witness this remarkable Punchman. The great pride he took in his performance is evidenced in this quote from a newspaper clipping in which he responded to a suggestion in The Billboard that "movies" may have killed the Punch and Judy shows:

"I say no. If Punch is done by an artiste who can use the 'reed or squeaker' and has some conception of character work, it will always be a big hit. When a good reed worker who can be heard all over the picnic ground starts the Punch 'voice' just notice how the 'kids' (big and little) will run to see the show."

On 4 May 1934, as did the genteel times of which he was most vibrantly a part, he too passed on.

 

Note:
Donald Charles O'Keeffe, the author of
this brief biography, is the grandson
of Charles McCarty (Prof. Chas. Mack)
& archivist of the original Prof. Charles
Mack Scrapbook and memorabilia.

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