A citation below claims that George Lederer is responsible for changing the name from "variety" to "vaudeville." Perhaps he did popularize the American use of "vaudeville," although he did not coin that word.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
2. A play or stage performance of a light and amusing character interspersed with songs; also without article, this species of play or comedy. Now in frequent use in the U.S. to designate variety theatre (VARIETY 9b) or music hall.
1827 T. DIBDIN Reminiscences I. xii. 268, I also had the honour..of being selected by her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth to write a sort of vaudeville farce. c1831 J. H. REYNOLDS in J. R. PlanchÃ© Recollections & Reflections (1872) I. xii. 181 And lure for you the light Vaudeville from France. 1833 LYTTON Godolphin ix, Fanny..was inimitable in vaudeville, in farce, and in the lighter comedy. 1842 DICKENS Amer. Notes (1850) 65/2 The third, the Olympic, is a tiny show-box for vaudevilles and burlesques. 1862 M. E. BRADDON Lady Audley xxxix, Country people always go to see tragedies. None of your flimsy vaudevilles for them! 1876 GEO. ELIOT Dan. Der. xx, Is this world and all the life upon it only like a farce or vaudeville, where you find no great meanings? 1891 Times 28 Oct. 13/4 A vaudeville entertainment, which was continued for about three months. 1899 MORROW Bohem. Paris 15 Paris, the great city, the vaudeville playhouse of the world. 1911 G. B. SHAW in Daily Graphic 2 Dec. 4/3 There are vaudeville theatres in America and variety theatres in England.
22 October 1889, New York Times, pg. 1:
Miss Ida F. Newcombe, daughter of Mr. Richard S. Newcombe of the law firm of Donahue, Newcombe & Cardoza, at 96 Broadway, was on Saturday married to George Washington Lederer, business manager of Herrmann's Transatlantique Vaudevilles, the company now playing an engagement at the Union-Square Theatre.
9 October 1938, New York Herald Tribune, pg. 36, col. 4:
George Lederer Dies at 76;
Veteran Theatrical Producer
Introduced Vaudeville Into the United States, Pre-
sented Long List of Musical Comedy Successes
and Discovered Many Stars
Introduced Word "Vaudeville"
The word "variety" in America at that time was in almost the same disrepute which the word "burlesque" later fell. To avoid being associated with the current variety companies Lederer called his troupe a "vaudeville company." The word passed into the language.
The troupe was a huge success, and Lederer triumphantly toured them across the country.