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Dolores “Dolly” <I>Vallecita</I> Hill

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Dolores “Dolly” Vallecita Hill

Birth
Spain
Death
13 Jan 1925 (aged 47)
Bay City, Bay County, Michigan, USA
Burial
Bay City, Bay County, Michigan, USA Add to Map
Memorial ID
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Dolores Vallecita a.k.a Dolly V. Hill was a Spanish-born animal trainer in big time vaudeville, specializing in big cats.

One finds references to her at least as early as 1906 at such major venues as Keith and Proctor’s Fifth Avenue Theatre, Coney Island’s Luna Park and houses in most of the major regional cities. She was generally spoken of as one of the best acts of its kind in the business. She had once trained animals for menagerie impresario Frank Bostock, and also circus showman Colonel George W. “Popcorn” Hall. Her troupe of six Indian leopards had a half dozen tricks: rolling globes, see saw, electric wheel, forming a pyramid, posing for pictures, and for the big finish they played bells and chimes while Vallecita accompanied them on piano.

In 1925 she had rented a vacant building (814 Saginaw St. currently "Old City Hall") in Bay City, Michigan for the purposes of training. It was there that her favorite leopard unexpectedly embraced her and accidentally tore out her throat. Buried locally, her grave went unmarked until 2010, when the local cemetery, with great fanfare, gave her a stone.

Her husband was New Yorker, animal broker, Arthur I. Hill. (No relation to local Saginaw lumber baron) He came to town for her funeral but left with out ordering a marker for her grave.

Excerpts from “Variety” 1920 (New York State digital library)

Prior to 1900 Miss Vallecita had never handled a wild animal. She was living in Natchez, Mississippi at the time, and raised Shetland ponies as a business proposition. This brought her in contact with circus people, to whom she sold her stock. During the course of a business deal with a circus man one day, Vallecita became interested in a pair of pumas,which the showman agreed to sell her at a bargain. The puma is variously known as the jaguar, wildcat and mountain lion, and is celebrated for its general all round cussedness and the honor of having the meanest disposition of any of the cat tribe. A leopard and an African lion were added, and the job lot assortment of beasts shipped to Vallecita's home in Natchez.
Making a practical test of her theory that all you have to do is "make 'em behave" Vallecita placed the happy family in an iron barred cage and proceeded to teach them individually and collectively how to jump through hoops, play dead, etc. The lion was tractable enough but the pumas and leopard seemed to have some ancient grudge to settle. For the first week or two Vallecita spent most of her time pulling the scrappers apart.

Within three months the pumas, leopard and lion were sufficiently proficient to appear with Vallecita, as an act with the Sells-Floto Circus. She remained with this outfit for two seasons, the only circus she ever appeared with. From 1903 until 1905, Vallecita played parks and out door shows in the west, making her debut in the east at Austin & Stone's Museum, Boston, in the spring of 1905. It was the first mixed group of its kind to be handled in the east by a woman and the act broke the house record for receipts at Austin & Stone's during the opening week. The engagement was extended to three months, following which Vallecita came to New York and packed 'em in for eight weeks at Huber's Museum, where she also smashed a record or two.

But breaking museum records and breaking into high class vaudeville was some-thing else again, and Vallecita finally decided to return to Denver, where she had established a residence, and dope out an animal act that would bring home the bacon in the two-a-day. Accordingly in Sept., 1905, Vallecita purchased five leopards, and evolved the act she is now doing in the Keith houses. For two months the leopards were housed and trained in a room on one of the upper floors of the old Windsor Hotel, Denver. The management naturally kept mum about the animal training stunt going on daily and none of the 600 guests was the wiser, until shortly before Vallecita was ready to open with her new act. When the guests eventually discovered the presence of the menagrie, instead of showing fear, many insisted on giving the animals the once over at close quarters, and Vallecita had her own troubles in shooing the curious ones away.

Her act all set, Vallecita brought the troupe to New York to try for the big vaudeville houses. Like most successful vaudevillians she experienced great difficulty in getting in, the managers explaining they like the idea of a five-leopard act but were afraid it would prove too sensational for women and children. Percy William, after several parleys consented to try the turn at the old Brooklyn Music Hall, later the Gotham, in East New York. The turn went over and through Williams' recommendation was booked for all the first class houses shortly after. This was in December, 1905. The act has since played the big time there each season continuously, with the exception of 1907-8 when Vallecita toured the world, appearing in London, Berlin, South Africa, etc. Another home season was shortened a few weeks for a run at the principal vaudeville house in Havana, Cuba.

The leopards like their human brethren in show business are inclined to be very temperamental at times. "Grace” who is 18 years old, the eldest of the five leopards and the sole remaining one of the original quintet, belonged to the late Bob Fitzsimmons, the heavyweight champ when she was a cub, and "Grace" never seems to have gotten over it. This is the largest leopard of the group and the one which growls a bit when forced to do her stunts against her will. She won't enter the cage for exercise unless it is unoccupied by the others. Grace is decidedly exclusive, carrying herself as a real prima donna, and refusing to work unless she is placed in the largest traveling cage between shows. This is a sort of star dressing room, and each of the animals evince an astounding knowledge of the fact by showing unmistakable signs of pleasure when placed in it once in a while when Grace is being exercised. "Cuba” is 8 years old and the baby of the act. She got her name when bought from a traveling showman in Cuba, while Vallecita was playing there. Cuba has a good disposition but Victoria is very tricky and always looking for a chance to slip something over, either on the keepers, Vallecita or the rest of the troupe. “Victoria” is 10 years old and the only one Vallecita feels she has to watch while in the cage, despite that "Tom", one of the males has a man killing "rep." Tom came from the Hagenback-Wallace show. He is 8 years old and as playful as a kitten. Notwithstanding this outward show of good nature Tom is reputed to be a bad actor, and is credited with having killed, one of the Hagenback keepers about five years ago. Tom's chief pleasure is to start something as soon as he gets in the cage and let the others fight it out, while he looks on. "Chico"” also a male, is 10 years of age and was with the Ferrari outfit until three years ago.

Dolores Vallecita a.k.a Dolly V. Hill was a Spanish-born animal trainer in big time vaudeville, specializing in big cats.

One finds references to her at least as early as 1906 at such major venues as Keith and Proctor’s Fifth Avenue Theatre, Coney Island’s Luna Park and houses in most of the major regional cities. She was generally spoken of as one of the best acts of its kind in the business. She had once trained animals for menagerie impresario Frank Bostock, and also circus showman Colonel George W. “Popcorn” Hall. Her troupe of six Indian leopards had a half dozen tricks: rolling globes, see saw, electric wheel, forming a pyramid, posing for pictures, and for the big finish they played bells and chimes while Vallecita accompanied them on piano.

In 1925 she had rented a vacant building (814 Saginaw St. currently "Old City Hall") in Bay City, Michigan for the purposes of training. It was there that her favorite leopard unexpectedly embraced her and accidentally tore out her throat. Buried locally, her grave went unmarked until 2010, when the local cemetery, with great fanfare, gave her a stone.

Her husband was New Yorker, animal broker, Arthur I. Hill. (No relation to local Saginaw lumber baron) He came to town for her funeral but left with out ordering a marker for her grave.

Excerpts from “Variety” 1920 (New York State digital library)

Prior to 1900 Miss Vallecita had never handled a wild animal. She was living in Natchez, Mississippi at the time, and raised Shetland ponies as a business proposition. This brought her in contact with circus people, to whom she sold her stock. During the course of a business deal with a circus man one day, Vallecita became interested in a pair of pumas,which the showman agreed to sell her at a bargain. The puma is variously known as the jaguar, wildcat and mountain lion, and is celebrated for its general all round cussedness and the honor of having the meanest disposition of any of the cat tribe. A leopard and an African lion were added, and the job lot assortment of beasts shipped to Vallecita's home in Natchez.
Making a practical test of her theory that all you have to do is "make 'em behave" Vallecita placed the happy family in an iron barred cage and proceeded to teach them individually and collectively how to jump through hoops, play dead, etc. The lion was tractable enough but the pumas and leopard seemed to have some ancient grudge to settle. For the first week or two Vallecita spent most of her time pulling the scrappers apart.

Within three months the pumas, leopard and lion were sufficiently proficient to appear with Vallecita, as an act with the Sells-Floto Circus. She remained with this outfit for two seasons, the only circus she ever appeared with. From 1903 until 1905, Vallecita played parks and out door shows in the west, making her debut in the east at Austin & Stone's Museum, Boston, in the spring of 1905. It was the first mixed group of its kind to be handled in the east by a woman and the act broke the house record for receipts at Austin & Stone's during the opening week. The engagement was extended to three months, following which Vallecita came to New York and packed 'em in for eight weeks at Huber's Museum, where she also smashed a record or two.

But breaking museum records and breaking into high class vaudeville was some-thing else again, and Vallecita finally decided to return to Denver, where she had established a residence, and dope out an animal act that would bring home the bacon in the two-a-day. Accordingly in Sept., 1905, Vallecita purchased five leopards, and evolved the act she is now doing in the Keith houses. For two months the leopards were housed and trained in a room on one of the upper floors of the old Windsor Hotel, Denver. The management naturally kept mum about the animal training stunt going on daily and none of the 600 guests was the wiser, until shortly before Vallecita was ready to open with her new act. When the guests eventually discovered the presence of the menagrie, instead of showing fear, many insisted on giving the animals the once over at close quarters, and Vallecita had her own troubles in shooing the curious ones away.

Her act all set, Vallecita brought the troupe to New York to try for the big vaudeville houses. Like most successful vaudevillians she experienced great difficulty in getting in, the managers explaining they like the idea of a five-leopard act but were afraid it would prove too sensational for women and children. Percy William, after several parleys consented to try the turn at the old Brooklyn Music Hall, later the Gotham, in East New York. The turn went over and through Williams' recommendation was booked for all the first class houses shortly after. This was in December, 1905. The act has since played the big time there each season continuously, with the exception of 1907-8 when Vallecita toured the world, appearing in London, Berlin, South Africa, etc. Another home season was shortened a few weeks for a run at the principal vaudeville house in Havana, Cuba.

The leopards like their human brethren in show business are inclined to be very temperamental at times. "Grace” who is 18 years old, the eldest of the five leopards and the sole remaining one of the original quintet, belonged to the late Bob Fitzsimmons, the heavyweight champ when she was a cub, and "Grace" never seems to have gotten over it. This is the largest leopard of the group and the one which growls a bit when forced to do her stunts against her will. She won't enter the cage for exercise unless it is unoccupied by the others. Grace is decidedly exclusive, carrying herself as a real prima donna, and refusing to work unless she is placed in the largest traveling cage between shows. This is a sort of star dressing room, and each of the animals evince an astounding knowledge of the fact by showing unmistakable signs of pleasure when placed in it once in a while when Grace is being exercised. "Cuba” is 8 years old and the baby of the act. She got her name when bought from a traveling showman in Cuba, while Vallecita was playing there. Cuba has a good disposition but Victoria is very tricky and always looking for a chance to slip something over, either on the keepers, Vallecita or the rest of the troupe. “Victoria” is 10 years old and the only one Vallecita feels she has to watch while in the cage, despite that "Tom", one of the males has a man killing "rep." Tom came from the Hagenback-Wallace show. He is 8 years old and as playful as a kitten. Notwithstanding this outward show of good nature Tom is reputed to be a bad actor, and is credited with having killed, one of the Hagenback keepers about five years ago. Tom's chief pleasure is to start something as soon as he gets in the cage and let the others fight it out, while he looks on. "Chico"” also a male, is 10 years of age and was with the Ferrari outfit until three years ago.


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  • Created by: Mike
  • Added: Sep 10, 2016
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID:
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169704482/dolores-hill: accessed ), memorial page for Dolores “Dolly” Vallecita Hill (10 May 1877–13 Jan 1925), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169704482, citing Elm Lawn Cemetery, Bay City, Bay County, Michigan, USA; Maintained by Mike (contributor 48863978).