Biographical Sketch for Vincent James Silk
Scope and Content
Title: Vincent Silk Papers
Identifier/Call Number: 992.082
Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library
Language of Material:
7.5 Linear feet
Date (inclusive): 1908-1990
Vincent James Silk (1902-1992) started his career as a singer and drummer, then performed in vaudeville as a comedian and
band leader. Alongside his work as a performer, Silk was actively involved throughout his career with the American Guild of
Variety Artists [AGVA], holding several local and national positions. He served in the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII as
Director of Plant Protection, as Chief Investigator and as Police Chief respectively. Silk worked as a private investigator
for several years, while still performing at various events. Later in life, he performed as a Master of Ceremonies/monologist
for private and community events, especially for the Press Club of San Francisco, of which he was a member until his death.
The papers also include documents and photographs from Silk's wife, Charlotte Ade. The Vincent Silk Papers document his various
careers and his family and organized into the following series:
Charlotte Ade Biographical Files
American Guild of Variety Players [AGVA]
Press Club of San Francisco
Collected Publications and Writings
Silk, Vincent James, 1902-1992
This collection was received April 20, 1992 from Jack Rosenbaum (columnist for the
San Francisco News-Call and
San Francisco Chronicle) and Charles Calvert (
San Francisco Independent) with a second donation received on October 30, 1992 from Jack Rosenbaum and Julia Leavitt.
Biographical Sketch for Vincent James Silk
Vincent James Silk was born May 13, 1902 in San Francisco, California. He started in the performing arts field very early.
In his childhood, he was a singer and drummer and advanced to become a vaudeville comedian and leader of a band, playing with
vaudeville circuits such as Chataqua Circuit, the Keith Albee Circuit, eventually becoming a mainstay with the popular Fanchon
& Marco circuit in 1927. He became the leader of his own band and performed as a Guest Conductor/Master of Ceremonies at America's
largest theater at the time, the Fox-Detroit. He spent a year in Detroit and a year at the Fox in Brooklyn. From 1933-1939,
Silk joined a vaudeville tour with the Fanchon & Marco Circuit and performed on both coasts. During this time, Silk became
involved with the American Guild of Variety Artists [AGVA], an association he would retain throughout his life. At one point,
Silk was appointed the National Representative for the Pacific Coast. He helped organize AGVA offices in Portland; Spokane;
Seattle; Vancouver, B.C. and Hollywood. He was the Executive Secretary for the San Francisco local branch and served on the
local Executive Board and the National Board of Directors. Later he worked as an arbitrator on several high profile trials.
From 1942-1946, Silk served in the U.S. Army Air Force as Director of Plant Protection, then as Chief Investigator and later
retired as Police Chief. Initially stationed at McClelland Field in Sacramento, he was to organize all police and fire departments
for air fields in eleven Western states. He also spent time at March Air Force Base in San Bernardino, CA. Other duties included
organizing and maintaining Identification Bureaus and conducting investigations regarding sabotage and subversive activities.
After the war, he headed a government operation to investigate surplus property theft across the United States and Mexico
borders. It resulted in a recovery of over $1 million.
Following the war, Silk worked as a private investigator for several years. Silk worked as a private investigator of personal
injury cases for the law firms of Belli & Ashe and Hoberg & Finger, Esq. He also worked for San Francisco City Hall for Assessors
Joseph Tinney and Sam Duca. Throughout his work as an investigator, he continued to perform in theaters and night clubs as
a "Banquet Speaker"/Master of Ceremonies/monologist for private and community events in the United States and Canada. One
of the organizations he performed for regularly was the Press Club of San Francisco (also known as the Press and Union League
Club of San Francisco). He was a deeply committed member until his death and participated in various activities. For example,
for many years, he gave the annual eulogy for their past president, Will Aubrey.
Silk was involved with several unions and clubs alongside AGVA and the Press Club of San Francisco. Other memberships and
affiliations included: the Knights of Columbus; Ancient Order of Hibernians; Elks Club; Screen Actors Guild & Extras Club;
and the Bay Counties Peace Officers Association; American Federation of Television & Radio Artists; American Federation of
Musicians; Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; Associated Operators of Los Angeles County; Civil Air Patrol; and Deputy
Sheriff for the Counties of Santa Clara, Sacramento and Riverside.
Silk married Charlotte Ardenell Ade in 1953. She was a dancer for groups such as the the Dorothy Kilgore Group and Pavley-Oukrainsky
Silk died in San Francisco on March 28, 1992.
Scope and Content
The Vincent Silk Papers includes original documents and photographs emcompassing Silk's life from his childhood to his senior
years. It includes materials collected over the course of extensive work with associations such as the American Guild of Variety
Artists and the Press Club of San Francisco.
The Papers have been organized into the following series:
Series I: Biographical Files includes documents and materials related to Silk's childhood and career as performer, his military career during World War
II, press clippings, correspondence, and membership and affiliation cards.
Series II: Charlotte Ade Biographical Files includes correspondence, writings, clippings, and ephemera related to Charlotte Ade, Vincent Silk's wife from 1953-1980 (her
death). Also included are documents pertaining to an interrogatory of Ade regarding a car accident in 1975.
Series III: Original Writings contains original songs, manuscripts, joke routines, and other original writings by Silk along with some related documents.
Series IV: American Guild of Variety Players [AGVA] contains materials related to Silk's membership and work with the American Guild of Variety Artists [AGVA]. The materials
include documents such as original AGVA contracts, certificates from conventions, documentation from Silk's work on the AGVA
Executive Committee, and documents pertaining to AGVA legal proceedings Silk participated in. This series also includes newsletters
and magazines with articles about the union's activities as well as issues of "AGVA News". As Silk served as an arbritrator
for AGVA, this series includes transcripts and related documents on AGVA trials he was involved with, such as those involving
actress Penny Singleton and singer/actor Roy Rogers.
Series V: Press Club of San Francisco includes materials related to Will Aubrey, one of the Club's presidents, documents from various events and activities, including
certificates and commemmorations to Silk, such as to commemmorate his entry to the Press Club of San Francisco Hall of Fame.
As Silk was heavily involved in the Press Club for several years, the series also includes documentation from the club's Board
of Director committee minutes from 1970-1988.
Series VI: Collected Publications and Writings contains printed newsletters, booklets, and cards as well as unpublished manuscripts collected by Silk. Also included are
Emcee. The collection also includes an extensive run of professional comedy writer Robert Orben's
Orben's Current Comedy newsletter from 1959-1985.
Series VII: Photographic Materials includes includes photographs of Vincent Silk in performance; with family and friends; in the context of his various jobs;
portraits and headshots; photographs of various celebrities and public figures; and photographs of theater marquees and promotional
signs for his performances. There are also several images related to Charlotte Ade, especially from her work at the Pavley-Oukrainsky
Ballet and the Dorothy Kilgore Dance Group. There are also several images from various AGVA conventions. This series also
includes images from various Press Club of San Francisco events such as when the Press Club hosted Princess Margaret during
her visit to San Francisco, an event with Clint Eastwood promoting the show
Rawhide, as well as prominent San Francisco and California policians and public figures such as past governor Goodwin Knight; past
San Francisco Mayors Angelo Rossi and George Christopher, renowned sculptor and designer Beniamino Bufano, among others.
Series VIII: Programs includes program books and promotional collateral from events Silk directly participated in.
Series IX: Scrapbooks includes scrapbooks highlighting Silk's performance career in the 1920s as well as two childhood scrapbooks. Also included
are excerpts from a scrapbook from his wife, Charlotte Ade.
Series X: Sheet Music/Arrangements includes acquired music arrangements, most likely used for performances by Silk and his orchestra and/or bandmates in the
1920s and 1930s.
The Vincent Silk Papers are arranged in the following series:
- Biographical Files
- Charlotte Ade Biographical Files
- Original Writings
- American Guild of Variety Artists [AGVA]
- Press Club of San Francisco
- Photographic Materials
- Sheet Music and Arrangements
- Collected Publications and Writings
[Folder Title], Vincent Silk Papers, Museum of Performance + Design.
The collection is open to all researchers with no restrictions.
Museum of Performance + Design holds property rights and publication rights to the Silk Papers. All other copyright belongs
to identified creators.
Collection was processed by MP+D Staff.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
American Guild of Variety Artists
Clippings (Information artifacts)
Performing arts--United States.
Press Club of San Francisco