Sullivan and his family were vaudeville, medicine, and tent show performers who entertained in small towns, especially in the Southeast. Their act included monologues, singing, dancing, acrobatics, and comedy, including blackface. These papers document their careers as small-time entertainers who managed to eke out a living through their talents.
Advertisements, publicity materials, photographs, letters, appointment calendars, and work papers of W. Oscar Sullivan, his wife Aline Moore, and his daughters, Laverne and Virginia; papers mostly relate to the show business careers of Sullivan, members of his family, and associates. Their activities included travelling medicine shows, vaudeville acts, and stage shows. Most of the photographs are unidentified and undated. The publicity releases, theater handbills, newspaper clippings, numerous handwritten scripts, ideas for jokes, songs, and other materials are also often undated.
Many diaries and daily account books are included but often do not indicate the identity of the record-keeper or his/her associates. Some racist materials contained in the comedy acts reflect the prejudices of Sullivan's time and his Southern background. His reference to black persons in his diaries and songs is degrading, and comedy routines involving black characters portray them stereotypically.
W. Oscar Sullivan Papers, Archives Center, 1900-1960, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C