Little Egypt was the stage name for several popular exotic dancers, who had many imitators. The first Little Egypt appeared at the “Street in Cairo” exhibition at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Another danced at Herbert Seeley’s bachelor banquet in New York in 1896, enjoying a brief moment of fame after New York police raided the party. After that several other women adopted the name and toured the United States, until the name became almost synonymous with exotic dancers generally. The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, held in 1898 in Omaha, included performances by a dancer advertised as Little Egypt.
A woman claiming to be the “original Little Egypt” appeared in August of 1897 in Omaha, where she attracted police attention for wearing men’s clothing (then a highly suspicious act for a woman). “Little Egypt avers that she is the original,” said the Lincoln Evening Call on August 27, 1897, “and the authorities believe she is.”
“Sunday she was shown a telegram from [C. E.] Kohl & [George] Middleton Chicago [vaudeville managers], reading ‘Our Little Egypt here all right.’ As she has referred the matter of her identification to the Chicago firm she was asked to give her version of why they had wired as they had.
“She said, ‘It’s just this way. There are four ‘Little Egypts’ in this country, three in Chicago and one in Minneapolis. They claim to be ‘Little Egypt,’ but I am the only genuine one. You will see that Kohl & Middleton do not say they have the original, because they know that they have not. They have been enjoined by my manager from using the word ‘original.’ Then again, they would not admit that I had left Chicago, because they fear it would injure their business. Just the same I am the girl who did the dance on a banquet table at the Seeley dinner, and Kohl & Middleton know it. . . .’
“Sunday morning [police] Matron Ryan and other women who had taken an interest in ‘Little Egypt,’ fitted her out in a suit of woman’s clothes and in them she looked very pretty. During the day a female musician from Fritz Wirth’s [music hall] called at the matron’s rooms and after talking with the girl told Matron Ryan that the girl was in her opinion the original ‘Little Egypt.’ She had seen her many times in Chicago. Fritz Wirth called with a friend and tried to arrange to put the girl on the boards at his place, but the police would not give their consent. Saturday a stranger, looking much like a well-to-do showman, called on the girl and had a talk. Who he was is not known.
“At 11 o’clock yesterday ‘Little Egypt’ walked into the matron’s room at the police station and said that she had been the guest of an Arabian family on South Thirteenth street. She also said she was arranging with Fritz Wirth to give an exhibition at his music hall for a few nights in order to make enough money to get home. The police say they have no charge against her and as long as she stays dressed as a woman they have no intention of molesting her.”
Frank A. Rinehart’s photo of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition’s Grand Court. The exposition included performances by a dancer advertised as Little Egypt.