Skip to main content

Bercu Gross Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: B356
The material in the collection includes items, photographs, and papers related to Dorothy Bercu Gross and her husband Norman Gross, her extended family, and her Vaudeville career in the 1920s and 1930s. Her father owned the Chicago Hide, Fur and Wool Company in Douglas, Wyoming and Denver, Colorado. The collection spans from the late 1800s to 2015 and illustrates an extended Jewish family and vaudeville performers.

Dates

  • 1904-2015

Creator

Language of Materials

Majority of collection is in English but there are items written in Yiddish as well.

Primarily English, but also Yiddish and German

Extent

44 Linear Feet (estimate: 18 archival records boxes plus numerous flat boxes of varying size)

Scope and Contents

The collection includes papers, records, correspondence, photographs, photograph albums, scrapbooks, newspapers and newspaper clippings, framed photographs, documents, quilts and needlework, Vaudeville costumes and instruments, books, and record albums.

Biographical / Historical

Nina Dorothea (Dorothy) Bercu (1917-2015) was born in Douglas, Wyoming, on June 14th, 1917 to George and Olive Bercu. Her father was a Jewish immigrant from Romania, and her mother hailed from Minnesota. The American West provided many economic opportunities for Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and Jewish-owned businesses were a feature of many western towns. Her father owned the Chicago Hide, Fur, and Wool Company in Douglas, Wyoming and Denver, Colorado. Dorothy and her younger sister Harryette became popular Vaudeville performers, dancers, acrobats, and dance studio owners. They performed as the “Bercu Sisters” on the Orpheum circuit, which stretched from Chicago to California. The sisters toured and performed in the 1920s and 1930s. Their acts encompassed tap dancing, Mexican style dances, and acrobatics, and were often performed with Dorothy and Harryette wearing extravagant costumes. At times they were billed under "Mort S. Silver," who was their mother's brother Ima Mistachkia. Dorothy grew up in Wyoming, but as a show business performer, she traveled widely. Over the course of three decades (1917 to 1939), she resided variously in Douglas, Denver, Grand Junction, Albuquerque, and Salt Lake City. In 1941 Dorothy married Norman Gross, a doctor who became a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. The couple moved to Dallas, Texas and had three children: a daughter, Valerie, and two sons, Gary and Dennis. The family traveled extensively. Dorothy also had a later career as a dance and fitness instructor.
Vaudeville was a popular form of variety show in the United States from the 1890s through the 1930s. It developed into a family entertainment venue after it evolved from more risqué types of shows performed for frontiersmen in the mid-1800s. Many early well-known American Hollywood stars, such as W.C. Fields and Will Rogers, worked in Vaudeville, and a number of the early performers were Jewish.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in six series: 1.) Vaudeville, 2.) Dorothy Bercu and immediate family, 3.) Norman Gross and immediate family, 4.) Norman and Dorothy Gross and children, 5.) Gross extended family, 6.) material culture.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred by Valerie Schreiber for her mother Dorthy Gross, 2013.

Accruals

Accruals are expected.

Creator

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Contact:
2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428