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Tom Brantford

Blue Collar Rat

Water Rat 008


Born 20 October 1858 in Brantford, Ontario, elder son of Samuel Jarvis McCormick and Grace Beard Carruthers.

Family moved to America (? New York) when he was a few months old, and was presumably educated in New York.

As a young man he was intermittently "at sea" for about 10 years, visiting Australia, China, the West Indies, Africa, etc. Initially he was a seaman "before the mast", but rose to 2nd Officer, and then gained his Chief Officer's Certificate. During his "sea" years he took some time working on his uncle's stock farm near Melbourne, Australia, where he broke horses and exported them to Calcutta, Bombay and Singapore.

At one time he was a bare fist knuckle fighter in New York, working under the name of Tom McCormick.

He first entered show business in the mid-1870s when he worked with Dan Rice's Circus Combination in New Orleans, America, doing a riding act and a song and dance routine.

It must be around this time that he adopted his stage name of Tom Brantford, after the town in Canada where he was born.

He married, on 2 March 1884, Beatrice Isabelle Oberdieck, in Manhatten, New York. Bertie (as she was known) was a regular partner in his acts, especially during the first half of his career.

The first date I can find when he worked formally in Music Hall is 31 March 1884, when he joined the Marked for Life Company on the east coast of America. He then played with several other companies until June 1888 when he first came to Britain, where he stayed for the next 17 years, with only two brief spells back in America. While in Britain he worked in London and area mainly for MacDermott & Holmes (and its later derivative companies) and did eight provincial tours with Moss & Thornton.

Newspaper notices and reviews show that he was fully employed in America from mid-1895 to mid-1888 and then in Britain from mid-1888 to mid-1896. His employment then seems to have slowly declined (although I may still not have found some notices). In early 1906 he was declared bankrupt, and this may have been the reason for his leaving England, for in August 1906 he returned to America, where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked with a variety of companies until retirement in 1929. He retired to Monteague in Michigan, where he died on 23 November 1942.

His main Music Hall act was that of a "Human Band" or "One-man Band", where he reproduced all the parts of a German Brass Band using his mouth only. This seems to have been a very popular act throughout his career. He was a great mimic, but had numerous acts, often involving his dog Dude.

While working in Britain he also ran some Livery Stables in Balham, close to his home, and in mid-1900 even ran a stage coach between Blackpool and Lancaster! He owned some racehorses which raced at several courses in England in 1901-1903, but without much success. He also drove trotting horses in Europe in 1905.

Biog supplied by The Great Grandson of Tom.
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