Playwright and actor Joseph D. Clifton emerged as a popular force in the 1880s as much on the power of his pen as his abilities as a leading man. He fashioned a series of tragicomic melodramas that intermingled variety and melodrama in peculiarly effective ways. Some of his plays were starring vehicles for other performers, such as "777," but in 1887 he organized and led a star company featuring his own creations, "Myrtle Ferns," "The Ranch King," and "Libby Prison."
One element of all of these productions was elaborately realistic scenery, another was the incorporation of Clifton's famous trained dog, Trix. His follow-up in 1893 "Wife for Wife" proved only moderately successful and his company dissolved. In the later 1890s Clifton was back playing in other's plays, and made a memorable impression in "The Woman in Black." His playwriting impulses were satisfied penning one act dramas to be used by legitimate actors during vaudeville stints, such as "Straight Tip Jim" for William Robyns and his wife in 1899 and westerns such as "Nobody's Claim" for the Holden Company. David S. Shields/ALS