Italian Culture:
Mr. WONDERLAND

The Tuscan entrepreneur who modeled kings, queens and presidents and transformed, forever, the entertainment landscape in Nord-Eastern USA.

On the night of May 31,1937, when Silvestro Zefferino Poli passed away, he had become the greatest theatrical impresario of his time and his state was worth $30 million dollars.

A Tuscan by birth and  a figurinaio, by training, 21-year- old Sylvester Poli sailed from Italy in 1881 for New York City, with little more in his pockets than the ability to carve lifelike figures from wax and a strong headed mind.

In New York  he was to assist in the elaboration of wax effigies for the new Eden Museum, were famous and infamous historical figures got immortalized by his hands. He had learned his trade from M. Dublex with whom then he went to Paris with as his apprentice, working at the Grèvin Museum.

Trailer
Mr Wonderland: il racconto di una bella vita da emigrante dimenticata.

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But the promise of wealth offered by those who came back after “aver fatto l’America” took him to the promised land of milk and honey.

With the death sentence of seven anarchists in Chicago, Poli got a brilliant idea. Since  the trial had created an international sensation, Poli got authorized to replicate them in wax with their real clothes. Then in a storefront, he exhibited the figures and later on took them on the road. By1888, he had opened dime museums in Rochester, N.Y., Staten Island and Toronto.

National Vaudeville Association Under the Auspices Vaudeville Managers’ Protective AssociationN.V.A. Benefit Fund Tenth Anniversary Jubilee

Photograph of Sylvester Z. Poli

By 1892 he was in New Haven, Connecticut, and his first museum was born: the Poli Eden Musee. One of almost 30 to come, from then on, he kept building theaters that became luxurious places for vaudeville shows, like the Wonderland Theatre, and by 1916 he was the world’s largest individual theater owner, some people used to compare him to P. T. Barnum.

So after Poli vaudeville never was the same. As Brett Page said

“The most famous grand opera singers and the greatest actors and actresses appear in their room. The most renowned dramatists write some of its playlets. The finest composers cut down their best-known works to fit its stage”

Subsequently Silvestro Zefferino Poli, by becoming Sylvester Z Poli,  achieved the American dream and transformed, forever, the vaudeville landscape in America.

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