This entertainer rose to major stardom, and he cut his teeth right here in Dodge City.
Eddie Foy was born in New York City as Edwin Fitzgerald on March 9, 1856. He was the second child to Irish immigrants, Richard and Mary Fitzgerald. After Richard Fitzgerald died in 1862, Mary took Edwin and his three siblings to Chicago, where Edwin performed in streets and bars at six years old.
At 15 he changed his name to Eddie Foy. After touring bars in the west and being an extra in big-time theatrical productions, Foy, with Jim Thompson, traveled west again and built his reputation as a performer in mining camps and cow towns, notably Dodge City. He and Thompson performed their comedy act on opening night in Ben Springer's Comique Theater on July 4, 1878.
Foy’s first impression of Dodge City was dust – heat, wind and flat prairie – but above all dust! While approaching Dodge City by train, Foy saw a twenty-five foot high, one hundred foot long pile of buffalo bones. He recalled hearing Jim Thompson remark that they might be killing people in Dodge faster than they could bury them.
Despite Foy being in the Lady Gay dance hall when Texas cowboys shot up the place in late July, Foy and Thompson stayed until September and then returned the next summer. Cowboys called them the "pets of Dodge City."
According to Foy, Wyatt Earp broke up a fight over a woman between him and another actor and sent them both home to sober up. Foy also recalled being introduced to famous lawman, Bat Masterson while in Dodge City.
After touring the west, Foy's career on stage took off. Eventually he went on to have eight children with whom he formed a very popular vaudeville act in the early 1910's. "Eddie Foy and The Seven Little Foys" was successful for over 10 years. He played the indulgent father, though in real life he was strict.
The troupe even appeared in one movie. Around 1923, Foy and the children began going their own ways, though the four younger performed together until the mid-1930's. Foy died of a heart attack at 71 on February 16, 1928 in Kansas City while starring on the Orpheum circuit.
Foy's children continued working in show business and some were involved in a number of movies. Foy's life was portrayed in films in the mid-20th century, often with his son Eddie Jr. playing him. And in 2007, Eddie Foy's great-grandson Ryan Foy and grandson Irving Foy appeared in the stage musical "The Seven Little Foys," written by Chip Deffaa, which premiered at the Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury, Connecticut.
Foy was highly regarded in Dodge City and people here in Dodge were proud to see him climb the ladder towards stardom.
Robert M. Wright wrote the following about him, "He dressed pretty loud and had a kind of Fifth Avenue swaggering strut and made some distasteful jokes about cowboys.
Every night his theatre was crowded with them and nothing he could say or do offended them, but to the contrary, they made a little god of him. The people of Dodge have watched his upward career with pride and pleasure and have always taken a great interest in him and claimed him as one of their boys because it was here that he first began to achieve greatness."