SHUBERT, family of U.S. theater proprietors and producers. SAM (1875–1905), LEE (1876–1953), and JACOB J. (1877–1963) became Broadway's most powerful theatrical dynasty. They were born in Syracuse, New York, sons of a peddler. Their rise to theatrical prominence began early in life. They first took over the Grand Opera House in Syracuse, and then acquired touring companies and theaters in upstate New York. In 1900 the Shuberts produced "Quo Vadis?" at the Herald Square Theater, New York, and from then until the 1920s they engaged in fierce competition with Klaw and Erlanger, the major theatrical syndicate prior to the Shuberts' arrival. Sam died in a railroad disaster, but the other brothers continued to build their theatrical empire. By 1956, the family enterprise owned or controlled about half the legitimate theaters in the nation, including 17 on Broadway. Faced with a government anti-trust suit, the brothers agreed to sell twelve theaters, and sever their connection with theatrical booking business. The Shuberts produced more than 500 plays. Jacob was one of the early backers of Florenz *Ziegfeld, and among the stars the Shuberts introduced to American audiences were Al *Jolson, Eddie *Cantor, Marilyn Miller, Fanny Brice, Ray Bolger, and Bert Lahr. They had a reputation as aggressive businessmen, but also displayed a sentimental feeling for the theater. Speaking on the decline of the legitimate stage, Jacob once said late in his career: "When they tear down a theater it's like someone in the family dying."
H. Taubman, The Making of the American Theatre (1965), index, s.v.; J. Stagg, Brothers Shubert (1969); A. Greene and J. Laurie, Show Biz From Vaude to Video (1951), index, s.v.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.