Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle was born in Smith Center, Kansas, on March 24, 1887, weighing 14 pounds.

His father, William Goodrich Arbuckle, named him after Republican politician Roscoe Conkling. The elder Arbuckle, a Democrat - thought Roscoe was illegitimate, and beat him constantly.

The Arbuckles moved to Santa Ana, California, in the Autumn of 1888.

In 1899, Roscoe's mother, Mollie, died. He was shortly therafter abandoned by his father. Roscoe survived by doing odd jobs at a hotel in San Jose. Singing while working in the kitchen, he caught the attention of a performer singing at the hotel. She took him to the neigborhood theatre, to perform on amateur night. He won, caught the attention of showman David Grauman, and soon Roscoe was in Vaudeville, as a singer and dancer.

In 1904, Roscoe joined the Pantages theatre circuit, and began touring the American West Coast.

In 1906, Roscoe Arbuckle was present during the San Francisco Earthquake, and was forced at gunpoint to clear debris.

In 1909, Roscoe appeared in his first movie, "Ben's Kid," a Selig production. He was so embarrassed to be in films that he didn't tell anyone about the experience!

That same year, he married Minta Durfee, a singer with whom he had fallen in love. On theatrical tours, they traveled to Hawaii, and then to Japan, and China. They returned to America in early 1913.

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