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Archives on the Air 274: Child Star – Bill Mahan papers

In the 1930s, the young actress Shirley Temple was all the rage. The singing, dancing wonder kid appeared in movies and advertisements. But she wasn’t the only cute kid appearing on screen. There were dozens of child actors during that same period. One of them was Bill Mahan.

Mahan first appeared on the radio as a precocious two-year-old. Soon he landed a place in the Tacoma, Washington Mickey Mouse Club. His parents moved to Los Angeles, which gave him a shot at stardom.

By the time he was five, he had signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. He was cast as Bobby, the youngest member of a fictional family featured in the Jones Family movies.

The movies followed the family in their comical everyday adventures. Several of the storylines were written by Buster Keaton. The movie series was so popular, the cast was even sent out across the U.S. on personal appearance tours.

See the Bill Mahan papers at UW’s American Heritage Center to learn more about his life as a child star.