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Ann Arbor. Michigan
SIEFKAS, James M., 1935-
A HISTORY OF THEATRE IN LA
FROM ITS BEGINNING TO 1900.
University of Missouri
- Columbia, Ph.D., 1972
University Microfilms. A
XEROX Company. Ann Arbor, Michigan
A HISTORY OF THEATRE IN LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN,
FROM ITS BEGINNING TO 1900
the Faculty of the Graduate School
University of Missouri-Columbia
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirement for the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
James M. Siefkas
Dr. Larry Clark, Dissertation Supervisor
The undersigned, appointed by the Dean of the
Graduate Faculty, have
examined a thesis entitled
A HISTORY OF THEATRE IN LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN,
FROM ITS BEGINNING TO 1900
presented by James M. Siefkas
a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
and hereby certify that in their opinion it is worthy of acceptance.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. GENERAL HISTORY OF
LA CROSSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
II. LA CROSSE THEATRES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
III. ACTING STYLES OF ACTORS THAT TOURED
AND INFLUENCED THEATRE IN THE AREA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
The Heroic or Democratic Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
The Romantic Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Neo Romantic or Classic Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Emotional Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Personality Performers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Comic Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
The Realistic Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
FREQUENTLY PRODUCED PLAYS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
CHEAP SHOWS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
GERMANIA HALL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . 112
OTHER PHASES OF LA CROSSE THEATRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
Spectaculars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Transvestism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
Showboats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
Famous Producer-Directors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
Black Entertainers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Wild West Shows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Indian Drama . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
Shows That Bombed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
VIII. CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
APPENDIX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
GENERAL HISTORY OF LA CROSSE
La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a city of 52,000 people, located on the
eastern bank of the Mississippi in the southwestern part of the state
at about forty-two degrees north latitude and at about ninety-two
degrees longitude. La Crosse has a university, a college, a technical
school, and numerous industries, such as Trane Company, an
known air conditioning firm; and G. Heileman Brewing Company, brewers of
Old Style, Blatz, and several other brands of beer. It is serviced by
railroads, bus lines, a highway network, and an airport. The only
characteristic, however, that La
Crosse (1972) has in common with
Prairie La Crosse when it was first settled by Nathan Myrick in 1841
is its location.
Long before white men came to the area that is now
La Crosse, it
had been a central trading point for the Indians. It was a good location
because a number of small rivers, the Black, Trempealeau,
Root, Coon, and Bad Ax emptied into the Mississippi
River within a
radius of fifteen to twenty miles. It was this location with its
potential for a lucrative fur trade with the Indians that prompted
Nathan Myrick and Eben Weld to establish the first trading post at
Prairie La Crosse, November 9, 1841. 1
La Crosse received its name from Lieutenant
Zebulon Pike, who was
commissioned by President Jefferson to explore the upper Mississippi
in 1805. He called the area Prairie La Crosse because it was a prairie
between the river and the bluffs and because the Sioux Indians who
lived in the area often played a ball game with a stick that had a thong
basket on one end. 2 The object of the game was to carry the ball beyond
the opponent's goal line. In the process there were many unlucky blows,
sometimes from friends as well as opponents. The game was spirited and
lively, for the Indians participating often wagered all they had on its
outcome. 3 The "Prairie" in the name Prairie La Crosse was
unnecessary by the first postmaster of the town--Nathan Myrick.
The fur trade with the Indians was profitable for several years.
In 1846, however, Myrick and his new partner, Harmon J. B. Miller,
decided to expand their operation and opened a sawmill on the Black
River. During the first two years of the operation, the Black River
was low so that logs that had been cut could not be floated down river.
The next year it rained heavily, flooding the river, tearing out the
dams, and scattering most of the cut logs. Myrick and Miller realized
little from their three years' investment in the lumber business.
In the spring of 1848, Myrick decided to leave
La Crosse. He gave
a number of reasons for his decision: his failure in the lumber business;
the removal of the Winnebago Indians from the area; and the resultant
decline in the fur trade. 4
In 1850, nine years after Myrick built his first trading post at
the site, La Crosse
had only six or eight houses. By 1853, the town had
grown considerably. In addition to its location on the
numerous influences, according to
contributed to the sudden
growth of the populations
1. The admission of Wisconsin
as a state in 1841 advertised
it to the public.
2. The final measures for the removal of the Indian tribes
from this area gave another stimulus.
3. The sale of land in this district was begun in 1848 at
Mineral Point. In 1853, a United States Land Office was
opened in La Crosse.
There began, then, a period of
immigration to La Crosse
4. La Crosse
County and the Town of
La Crosse were organized
in 1851. This was another advertisement for this section
and an assurance of a stable local government.
5. Here, as elsewhere, the anticipated building of railroads
gave stimulus to the growth of the population. Many
railroad projects were announced, most of which were
never realized. But from the organization of the
and Milwaukee Railroad Company in 1852, this subject was
kept constantly before the public until its completion in
By 1853, the population in La
Crosse was 745, and it continued to
grow, although its growth was not spectacular for a settlement with
such an advantageous location. 6 The population in 1855 was 1,637; in
1860, it had grown to 3,860; in 1865, it was 5,037; in 1870, it was
7,785; in 1880, it had grown to 14,505; by 1890, it was 25,090; by
1895, the rate of growth had slowed, for the population was 28,895. 7
The population of La Crosse
did not vary notably from that figure for
more than ten years.
Of all the factors that contributed to the founding and development
of La Crosse, the Mississippi
River and its tributaries were probably
the most important. The town was founded on its present site because
such men as Myrick could transport goods by river. The early means of
freight and passenger transportation were the canoe and the keel boat;
however, less than ten years after the first settlement in La Crosse,
the steamboat became of primary importance to development in the area.
After trunk railroad lines from the East began to connect with the
the steamboat lines received new stimulation. Additionally,
immigrants from Europe and the eastern states, who started populating
the area along the Mississippi,
used the steamboat for at least part of
their journey. As the immigrants became established, they needed large
quantities of goods and manufactured products, which the steamboats
transported. Later, when the immigrants produced a surplus, they used
the steamboats to send their products to market. The number of boat
arrivals at La Crosse
increased from 309 per year in 1853 to 1,200 by
1856. During the first eighteen days of June, 1856, there were 180
arrivals at La Crosse,
an average of ten each day. 8 In 1877, twice as
many steamboats were owned by La Crosse
residents as were owned by
residents in any single town north of
St. Louis. No other town above
St. Louis had a third as many pilots; in 1889,
twenty-six locally owned
steamboats were registered at the
Crosse port. 9
One of the most interesting exports by barge from
La Crosse was
river ice. Beginning about 1858, specially covered barges propelled by
towboats transported ice down river. By 1876, they moved an estimated
twenty thousand tons of ice from La Crosse
to Hannibal and
Missouri, and other points south.
The peak of the business was the
1879-1880 season when the ice company built thirteen new ice houses and
packed some forty thousand tons of ice. Unfortunately, the record
flood of 1880 ruined about thirty thousand tons of ice and also the
ice exporting industry. l0
The most important commodities transported by steamboat were wheat
and flour. Early farmers of the virgin soils of Wisconsin
grew wheat as a capital crop. In the 1850's, they shipped the wheat in
sacks, but by the next decade, businessmen erected large grain elevators
in the city. In 1863, the grain elevators received 44,000 bushels of
wheat in a single day. By 1869, the local elevator was handling 3,487,173
bushels of wheat a year, almost all of which was shipped by barge. 11
The steamboat business on the upper Mississippi
River peaked in the
early 1870's. Weakened by prolonged cut-throat competition among
and by the encroaching railroads that crossed the
and completed north and south connections, the steamboat became less
important to the area. Railroads now moved the grain, since it was
cheaper to leave the grain on the cars than it was to transfer it to the
steamboats. Steamboats continued to carry small amounts of wheat even
in the 1880's, but the great days of river grain shipment were over by
1879. Passengers also found it more convenient to travel by railroad,
and they abandoned the steamboats. 8y the 1890's, only one steamship
line was operating on the upper Mississippi.
12 From the 1870's forward,
depended progressively less on the river as a means of transportation.
Although La Crosse owed its founding and
early prosperity to its
location on the Mississippi River, it,
like many other towns, faced
eventual ruin unless it could secure railroad connections. Naturally,
during the years beginning about 1855, the single most important business
enterprise was the La Crosse
and Milwaukee Railroad. No other subject
occupied as much space in newspaper columns, for most editors and city
officials believed the railroad was the key to the future prosperity
of La Crosse.
When the railroad was finally completed (October 6, 1858),
there was a huge celebration. 13 Under the original timetable, trains
left La Crosse at 12:30 a. m. and 6:30 a.
m. for Milwaukee.
taking the 12:30 a. m. train could arrive in Milwaukee
after leaving La Crosse
in time for the 5:30 p. m. train for the East.
One could make the same trip now by car in four to five hours.
The La Crosse
and Milwaukee Railroad fulfilled one of the major
ambitions of the city--to be tied to the commerce of the East by rail.
La Crosse now
had a direct source of supply from the East to enhance
its future position as a trading center and way station for goods and
travelers going farther west. What was lacking were rail connections
with markets and frontier communities-farther west. The completion of
the railroad line on November 18, 1870, from La
Crosse to Wells,
made that juncture. 14 Lastly, the completion of the Chicago,
Burlington, and Quincy line along the east bank of the Mississippi
from Savanna, Illinois, to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1885, completed the
city's major railroad network.
The general commercial development of
La Crosse depended upon the
finished railroad system. Additionally, and of particular importance
to this study, the railroad network made it possible for many of the
best traveling troupes of the nineteenth century to tour La Crosse.
Since La Crosse was located on railroad
lines between Chicago and the
it was convenient for troupes to stop in
La Crosse and
play a night or two. Had it not been for this location between two
larger cities, no doubt fewer prominent theatrical troupes would have
toured La Crosse.
The location, coupled with reduced rates on the
railroads and in the hotels, encouraged theatrical companies to perform
in La Crosse.
During the last century, lumbering was the most important single
industry in La Crosse.
Again, La Crosse had a strategic location,
pine that was cut in the area drained by the Black, Chippewa, and St.
Croix Rivers had to pass through La
Crosse on its way to outside markets. 16
Logs cut and floated down the St. Croix increased from 300,000 board
feet in 1837-1838 to 75,000,000 in 1850, and peaked at 452,000,000 in
1890, after which lumbering began to decline. 17 Illustrating the
magnitude of the industry, the Black River carried over six billion
board feet of logs to La Crosse
between the years 1855 and 1899. 18
Because of its location on the Mississippi
and because of the amount
of logging in the area, La
Crosse built numerous sawmills. To get an
idea of the rapid growth of the lumber industry as well as the even more
rapid decline, the average annual cut of the sawmills between 1860 and
1869 was less than 20 million board feet. It increased to 47 million
board feet in 1870-1879, to 169 million board feet in 1880-1889, and to
177.7 million board feet in 1890-1899. The average cut between 1900
and 1903 had fallen to 40 million board feet. 19 Similarly, the number
of mill workers increased rapidly and then decreased even more rapidly
as the timber in the area diminished. The number of mill workers in
1882 was 1,301. This number increased yearly and peaked at 2,075 in
1893. Thereafter, the number of workers remained fairly constant until
1899. In 1900, there were only 480 mill employees, and by 1904, only
40. 20 Because of the failure of the lumber industry and its directly
related industries, more than three thousand men lost their jobs between
1898 and 1904. The attendant loss in payroll was more than a million
dollars annually. 21
To a city of less than 30,000 people, the failure of the lumber
industry was a serious blow-so serious that the population remained
relatively stationary for twenty years after 1900. Had it not been for
other industries and local manufacturing companies, La Crosse might have
suffered a decline in industry and population from which it would
never have recovered.
The failure of the lumber industry directly affected theatre in
the area. Except for the cheap shows, area residents did not have
money to go to the theatre. Additionally, since La
Crosse stopped growing
while other cities in the general area continued to grow, the prominent
traveling troupes went to the larger populated areas and by-passed
The people of La Crosse
were a mixture of many nationalities. In
1870, 3,500 La Crosse residents were
foreign-born; in 1880, the number
had risen to 5,400 La Crosse
residents who were immigrants. The census
of 1890 shows 16,700 residents were natives, and the rest, or about
8,400, were born outside the United States. Of this group, about 3,000
were from Germany,
about 2,700 were from Norway,
about 400 from Bohemia,
about 400 from Ireland,
about 200 from England,
and about 200 from
By 1900, the number of foreign-born residents had decreased
to about 7,200. Of this number, over 4,000 were from Germany and
residents participated in a variety of activities to
keep themselves entertained. Hunting, fishing, and shooting were popular
during the nineteenth century and still are. Because of the long
winters, ice skating and tobogganing were popular sports. La Crosse
had several commercial toboggan slides, where an individual walked up
a flight of stairs pulling his toboggan and then rode his toboggan
down the hill.
Bowling was one of the first games that had a structure built
specifically for it. The first bowling alley, of sorts, was built in
1843. The game continued to be popular during the remainder of the
Archery illustrates a long list of sports that became a craze for
a time and then disappeared. The first archery club was organized in
1877 as a social affair where both men and women participated together.
The craze terminated in a few years. The sport that best qualified as
a craze, however, was roller skating. Within two years, beginning in
1884, businessmen constructed nine skating rinks. One rink, the
Central, cost $4,000--relatively expensive for the period. Sometimes
as many as 4,000 people skated at the rinks daily. The craze quickly
disappeared, for by 1886 the rinks opened only for special occasions.
In the 1890's, bicycling became an important means of transportation
as well as a means of entertainment. In 1896, there were forty-five
bicycle dealers in La Crosse.
Clubs formed to provide social outings
and to hold races. A specially banked bicycle track was built that
provided seating for 2,000 spectators.
La Crosse citizens also became
involved in other sports: baseball about 1867, tennis about 1890,
basketball about 1894, and golf about 1900.
In addition to sports, La Crosse
residents found entertainment in
dances, county fairs, and circuses. A prominent feature of the circus
during the nineteenth century was the morning parade that all could
see without cost.
Another important source of entertainment was the theatre. The
remainder of this study will concentrate on that aspect of the history
of La Crosse,
focusing on the period between 1858, the first recorded
theatrical performance, and the end of the nineteenth century. Nineteen
hundred is a logical terminating point because
La Crosse changed
substantially about the turn of the century: The Spanish-American War
retarded theatrical presentations, and the previously mentioned demise
of the lumber industry, which happened about 1900, caused a severe
depression in the area. Residents had no money to spend on the theatre.
The depression caused the population to stop growing, and it did not
start growing again until about 1920. Since other cities in the area
were growing, prominent acting groups went there and avoided La Crosse.
There is no single reason why a historical study of theatre in
La Crosse is
significant; the reasons are many and varied. First, the
public, in general, tended to like the plays and the actors
that were popular in larger metropolitan areas. There were, of course,
a few exceptions. This adds interest and a measure of significance to
the study. Second, a study of theatre in all of the small cities of
nineteenth century America
is impractical. From a study of La
one may make inferences about similar cities, a possibility that adds
to the significance of the study. In addition to these two reasons,
an examination of the available evidence indicates that there are some
special features to the theatre of La Crosse. For example, (1) more
than thirty nationally and internationally prominent actors toured
La Crosse; (2) La Crosse built a theatre that was completely lighted by
electricity in 1888, only three years later than Steele MacKaye's Madison
Square Theatre; (3) some traveling companies that came to La Crosse
were able to attract as much as ten per cent of the La Crosse population
to the theatre nightly; and (4) La Crosse had an active community theatre
from 1878-1888. This combination of the typical and the atypical
theatrical occurrences provides sufficient impetus and significance
for the investigation that follows.
1 Albert H. Sanford and H. J. Hirshheimer,
A History of La Crosse,
Wisconsin, 1841-1900 (La Crosse:
La Crosse County Historical Society,
1951), p. 15.
2 Ibid., p. 9.
4 Ibid., p. 29.
5 Ibid., p. 55.
7 Ibid., p. 206.
8 Ibid., p. 133.
9 Ibid., p. 142.
10 Ibid., p. 135.
11 Ibid., p. 134.
12 Ibid., p. 143.
13 Ibid., p. 79.
14 Ibid., p. 145.
15 Ibid., p. 249.
16 Selma S. Cusberg, The Lumbering
Industry of La Crosse.
1841-1905 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1953), p. 4.
19 H. J. Hirshheimer, "The Passing of the Sawmill and the
Growth of Manufacturers in La Crosse,
1880-1905," La Crosse Historical
Sketches, Series Three (2nd ed.; La
1937), p. 70.
20 Cusberg, p. 67.
21 Hirshheimer, p. 77.
LA CROSSE THEATRES
The La Crosse Opera House was the city's first notable building
dedicated to the amusement of the public. Marcus M. Pomeroy built
it in 1867 on the corner of Main and
Fourth Streets; it cost $80,000. 1
The building occupied seventy feet along Main Street and one hundred
ten feet along Fourth Street, and had more than one use. The first
two stories provided offices for the Democrat newspaper as well as an
apartment for Pomeroy, while only the third floor was equipped for
presenting plays. The stage was twenty-four by thirty-two feet and
had "all the furnishing necessary for a modern theatre." 2 The
was typical of other theatres of the period; it was lighted with gas,
and was furnished with several generalized settings.
The Opera House itself was not fully euipped [sic] until the fall of
1869. At that time Pomeroy described the theatre in the
It is a fact not generally known that this city has the finest
opera hall, erected by M. M. Pomeroy the past year, that there
is in the state.
Admittedly, Pomeroy's above statement and his description of the
Opera House that followed were probably biased, since he owned both
the La Crosse Democrat and the theatre; however, it is the only detailed
description of the building. According to his account, the main floor
seated 1,000 people and the circular balcony seated 400 people.
Private boxes at each side of the proscenium were carpeted and furnished
in what Pomeroy called "good style." 4 Private boxes were
theatres of the period. Even Booth's Theatre in New
York, the most
progressive theatre built in America prior to 1880, had a
boxes on either side of the stage. The stage of Pomeroy Opera Hall,
measuring twenty-four by thirty-two feet, the largest in the state, was
lighted with footlights and "celebrated sunlight reflectors," 5
controlled by a single gas cock that could darken the stage immediately.
Gas had been in general use in theatres of America since the 1840's.
Gas tables, comparable to the modern light control board, had also
been in general use for about two decades prior to the construction
of the Opera Hall. Pomeroy did not mention a gas table, so one must
infer that in that respect the Opera Hall was behind other contemporary
Pomeroy promised the public that "there will be ten complete scenes
in Pomeroy Opera Hall by the 25th, which will render the hall better
for theatre than any in the West." 6 He continued, saying there
be scenes of brooks; sea; mountains and rocks, behind which the red
man could hide; parlors; prisons; and four others. The drop curtain
was unique. It was a painting showing cards of local businessmen. At
the top and on each side was a reproduction of the American flag; and
crowning it all, in the center and at the top, the scene painter,
Mr. F. A. Lydston, painted the portrait of none other than K. M. Pomeroy.
According to Pomeroy, "The curtain is a good picture and suits
Evidently the public did not agree, because Pomeroy received numerous
complaints about mixing business with entertainment. He received so
many complaints that he changed the drop curtain within a few months,
still believing, however, that it suited exactly. Pomeroy's description
of the other settings was detailed even though probably not unbiased.
The first scene was: "A parlor, acknowledged by all to be the
in the West, with its gold and crimson and beautiful proportions." 8
The second scene, according to the Democrat, showed:
A deep wood. . . the native wilderness standing out in true
denseness. And here where nearly all in shade and density,
with the beech tree and the elm, lies darkly still, a
lakelet, into whose water a little promontory thrusts its
rude cheek to catch the kiss of the faltering rays of the
setting sun. . . There is life, a romantic trueness, about
the scene. 9
The next scene was a landscape of a shaded valley grove with a village
in the distance and a river and a road winding through. "The clouds,
the winding river, the stately hills, etc., reminds one of a real
upon the Mississippi."
10 The fourth scene was a sea scape. The
mood was cold and chilly with large waves tossing upon the rocks and
a few trees attempting to grow along the shore. 11 The fifth drop was
a street scene in which, in Pomeroy's words, "Every style of
is embodied. . ." 12 The sixth scene was an old kitchen with
walls and falling plaster. The seventh scene was a prison. Pomeroy's
description of the seventh scene was equally subjective. He spoke of
"the prison with its hors [sic], and chains, and bolted iron door,
ghostly and hideous." 13 The eighth scene was another interior--a
chamber, with a frescoed ceiling, a marble mantle, a coal grate, and
a carpet. Additionally, there were several scenes of rocks, boats,
"all of which work well with admirable illusion and effect. . . Mr.
Lydston has again proven that for scenery or portrait painting, he had
no equal in the West." l4
To make sure that the La Crosse audience was well aware of the
capacities of his Opera House, Pomeroy, in a critique of a production
of Uncle Tom's Cabin, described the effect of the well equipped stage;
At Pomeroy's Opera Hall last evening, the entire audience was
hushed for a moment as the scene was presented which showed
Eliza and her child crossing the Ohio on the floating blocks
of ice. It was as natural as life itself; the roaring
water and swaying ice presented a picture that a
audience was little prepared for, and developed the
magnificence of the scenery and capacity of the stage. 15
Even though Pomeroy as editor of the paper could give the Opera
Hall liberal advertisement and promotion, the Pomeroy block which
included offices, stores, and the Opera Hall was not a financial success.
Also, Pomeroy Opera Hall was probably not as well equipped nor as
adequately designed as Pomeroy said, for in 1878 as an organizer for
the Greenback party he returned to
Crosse to present a speech. Only
three hundred people attended, and the Democrat used this occasion to
comment upon Pomeroy and his theatre building that he had advertised
His Greenback lecture. . . cannot be better described than by
comparing its logic to the architecture of the opera hall that
Brick (Pomeroy) advertised so tremendously when building it
and which really cost about $80,000 but is so miserably planned
that there is not a good room in it and that it never could
be rented at a price that compared with other buildings near
it. Within a year the insurance company that loaned $30,000
to Brick on the building and had to foreclose its mortgage to
save any of the debt, offered, without getting a purchaser,
to sell the building for $14,000. 16
In 1879, the Opera Hall was remodeled and renamed La Crosse Opera
House. Mr. Harding was in charge of the interior design of the new
hall; the decor was modern. set off with sprinkles of Japanese figures.
According to Mr. Harding, the La Crosse Opera House was by far the
"handsomest and best theatre" in the state, outside of Milwaukee. l7
For this remodeling, Mr. W. J. Gunning painted entirely new sets
of scenery. According to the Chronicle, Gunning said that he had made
the prettiest and most serviceable set of scenes in the state. 18
Based upon the description of the drop curtain, however,
may not have been the most appropriate word. The drop curtain represented
a scene from Byron's poem, "Sardanapalus." The Chronicle
described the drop curtain:
The gorgeous old king occupies a throne to the right; a
female slave whose beauty entirely justifies her relations
to him, is seated by his side, while grouped about are
Assyrian officers watching two dancing girls in the center
foreground. On the opposite side, the musicians form a
dusky group on a raised platform. Slaves with fans of
ostrich plumes and peacock feathers surround the king,
while one on bended knee, presents wine on a salver. In
the background, the hanging gardens rise terrace on
terrace crowded with palms and strange foliage, while far
in the distance there is a glean of water and a bit of
blue sky. In the immediate foreground from an upright
standard, a lambent flame flares in the wind, suggesting
spicy odors of burning incense, and hinting at the vast
rolling billowy sea of fire which swept away the earthly
magnificence of the cruel voluptuary and set his spirit
free to seek its healthier heaven. The picture is one of
which the public will not soon weary. 19
The Chronicle continued by describing nine additional scenes. The
description of Rocky
Pass best illustrates
the type of scenery used:
This represents rocks piled in confusion in the foreground,
and rising in steep declivities on the left; to the right
there is a hill, bare of shrub or tree, except one stunted
and twisted cedar, suggesting fierce and unrelenting
blasts. In the center, but back among the hills, a
waterfall pours down; the distance is filled with mountains,
high over which cold, white clouds are flying. The sky
and clouds and mountain peaks are in perfect harmony and
the picture as a whole is more worthy an audience than
some shows. 20
The article described in similar detail the Horizon, Palace Interior,
Dark Wood, the Garden, the Street House, the Fancy Chamber, the Kitchen,
and the Prison, and concluded:
All these scenes are supplied with the necessary wings;
carpenter work and accessories are first class, and the
whole outfit is modern, elegant and creditable to the
artist, the owner, and the city. 21
The scenery described above was typical of the last century. Prior
to 1880, there may have been an occasional box set with scenery designed
specifically for a particular play, but this was not usual.
Another theatre, Germania Hall, on the corner of Fifth and Ferry
Streets, was used primarily for amateur productions. Germania Hall was
originally Turner Hall, remodeled into Germania Hall in 1877. The stage
of the new hall was eighty-two feet deep and fifty-two feet wide; the
proscenium opening was twenty-two feet high and twenty feet wide.
The theatre was uncommon because it had no proscenium boxes. 22
Even Booth's Theatre, which in several ways marked the beginning of
a new era in theatre design, had a few boxes on either side of the
proscenium. One might conclude, therefore, that Germania Hall was
ahead of its time in this aspect. However, since the space where the
boxes would have been was used for dressing rooms, and since the theatre
was small, it is more reasonable to conclude that boxes were omitted
merely to provide extra space. The theatre was forty feet by one
hundred feet, and held five hundred people, plus two hundred fifty more
in the gallery. The seats were raked so that the rear seats were
eight inches higher than the front seats. 23 A cluster of gas burners,
(referred to as gas sun burners) placed in the center of the ceiling,
lighted the auditorium. Bracket lights were used under the gallery
and at the proscenium. 24
The third theatre building in La
Crosse opened January 11, 1889. 25
Of this theatre Sanford said: "The La
Crosse Theatre was built in
1888 on Fifth Street
where the Hoeschler
was a real theatre with a sloping floor, appropriate seating, a gallery,
and gas lights." 26 Sanford
probably used the term "real theatre" to
imply a comparison between the La Crosse Theatre and the antiquated
Pomeroy Opera Hall.
On the occasion of the opening of the La Crosse Theatre, the
president of the theatre company, J. W. Losey, stepped in front of
the curtain and addressed the nearly full one thousand two hundred
seat house. He started by mentioning that he and some of his associates
had seen a well equipped and designed theatre in Chicago, and each
wondered why La Crosse did not have a safe, compact theatre. The
associates circulated a subscription and within forty-eight hours had
raised 340,000. I. H. Moullon, James McCord, J. J. Hogan, A. Hirshheimer,
F. C. Copeland, and L. F. Eastman joined to create the
La Crosse Theatre Company. 27 A committee of the above group visited
Chicago and other places, and they hired an
architect, Oscar Cobb,
Construction started within twenty days. 28
The theatre building was sixty by one hundred five feet with a
wing eight feet by thirty feet to increase the stage room. It had a
grand entrance which opened from Fifth Street into a hall
by thirty-one feet. On the right was the ticket office equipped in
whet the Republican referred to as a "tasteful" manner. 29 On
sides of the hall, doors led to the foyer. At the right and left of
the foyer, stairways went to the balcony. The men's and women's toilets
were also in the foyer area. Four arched aisles led toward the stage.
The parquet contained eleven rows of chairs upholstered in the best
finish. Similarly, the parquet circle had nine rows of upholstered
chairs. On both sides of the stage there were four boxes--each supplied
with easy chairs and finished in elegant style. 30 Attendance at the
La Crosse Theatre was a social occasion. Those in the parquet and in
private boxes dressed formally. This custom may account for the
regression to the use of box seats. The balcony had folding chairs
and the gallery had "ordinary" theatre seats. The theatre
about one thousand two hundred people. 31
The stage was seventy-four by forty-five feet and had a proscenium
opening thirty-six feet wide. From the stage floor to the gridiron
was fifty feet. The stage had six traps, one extending its entire
width. There were fourteen dressing rooms, seven on each side of the
stage. Under the stage, separate dressing rooms for black minstrel
groups were available. 32 The drop curtain was thirty by thirty-six
feet, and had a scene of ancient Jerusalem
painted on it. The stage
was equipped with twenty sets of scenery. 33
Losey made a point of stressing the strong structure of the theatre,
for he said that the foundation walls were two feet thick, laid on a
footing of stone four to six feet wide, and well embedded in the sand.
The lower floor rested on fifty stone piers surrounded by concrete.
The upper floor rested on pillars supported by piers not connected to
the lower floor.
The house, for the period, was well protected from fire. Water
was stored on the roof, and there was a pipe and hose both right and
left back stage, as well as one in front of the stage. Since there
were doors eight feet wide on each side of the theatre, it could be
emptied in one minute. 35 It is understandable why
La Crosse citizens
would have been concerned about fire. Fires in theatres were fairly
common during the nineteenth century. Although
La Crosse did not have
any fires in theatre buildings during this period, there was a fire
scare in 1877. The Republican reported that someone caused wild terror
by suggesting fire in the Opera Hall. A few who realized that there
was no fire sat down and tried to get the others to follow their lead,
but most of the house was yelling with such force that "Sitting
troop would have disbanded had they heard it." 36 Had the panic not
subsided, no doubt casualties would have resulted.
The Chronicle described in considerable detail the electric lights
used to illuminate the theatre, because they were something to be proud
of. Theatres in New York
had been using electricity only a few years.
The La Crosse Theatre had a total of 435 sixteen candle power lamps,
and all but six of those were controlled at the switchboard at the left
of the stage. In the part of the ceiling that sloped down toward the
stage, there were 128 lamps; the footlights had twenty-eight lamps;
each of the four borders had thirty-two and there were thirty-two
beneath the balcony. Additionally, there were lights in the wings,
in the entrances, in the dressing rooms and basement, making a total
of 435. The border lights had reflectors behind them so that the
light could be directed to specific areas of the stage. A dimmer
controlled each of the four borders, and could regulate them from full
on to full out in twenty-five graduated steps. The ceiling and footlights
were similarly controlled. The method of control was resistance:
In the basement there is an iron frame four or five feet
high composed of two square plates with stout rods at the
corners. Between these plates are twenty-five coils of
iron wire made like an ordinary coil spring. Three
elements enter into the resistance: length, thickness,
and material of the wire. It is all iron and of several
sizes. By moving the lever on the switchboard one
notch, the current that goes to the ceiling, footlights,
or border is all passed through one of these coils which
diminishes the intensity one twenty-fifth; a second notch
passes it through coils reducing it to two twenty-fifths,
and so on until the carbons only faintly glow. 37
Not only the intensity but also the color could be controlled,
for the borders and footlights could be fitted with colored lights
The architect, Cobb, evidently had limited faith in the reliability
of electricity for three electrical wires came into the building and
each mire lighted a different portion of the house. Therefore, an
accident would have to happen to all three wires to leave the building
in darkness. Besides this, the stage and the bracket lights in the
auditorium were also fitted with gas in case something should go wrong
at the power plant. 38 Mr. Cobb suggested that there was not a better
electrical system in any theatre in America.
Royal L. Reynolds was the contractor; Thomas Barney did the plastering
and molding; David Sorrenson was in charge of woodwork; James Trane did
the plumbing; and John S. Smith did the carpeting and draperies. All
were residents of La Crosse
except for the architect. 39
As Edwards suggests, theatres in the Midwest fell basically into
two groups: adaptations of other buildings and theatre buildings
patterned after theatres in the larger cities such as
Boston. 40 The
first theatrical presentations in
Crosse were in
Singers Hall which was designed for meetings and dances. It, therefore,
would be classified as an adaptation of another building. Some smaller
cities never went beyond adaptations of other buildings; others such
as La Crosse
It is not particularly helpful to compare theatres in La
a city of twenty thousand, to theatres in larger cities such as New
York. One can get a much clearer picture of
La Crosse theatres by
comparing them to theatres in other small cities in the Midwest.
is not much information available on this subject, but there is enough
to indicate that La Crosse
theatre buildings were generally superior
to theatre buildings in other small cities. According to Brady, El
had a theatre building in 1883 that was described as
"spacious and well fitted for a ball room." 41 El Paso's second
theatre, Myar's Opera House, built in 1887, was more similar to Pomeroy's
Opera House than it was to the La Crosse Theatre. Myar's Opera House,
like Pomeroy's, had office space on the first floor, seated about 1,200,
and had similar dimensions.
Jones reports that the Greely Opera House,
in 1886, was also on the second floor similar to Pomeroy's Opera House.
It had a sloping floor, though, more similar to the La Crosse Theatre.
Besides this fact, it was also similar to the La Crosse Theatre in that
it Was lighted with electricity. Jones only mentions that the auditorium
was electrically lighted. The stage may have been, but Jones
did not say. 42
West described the opera house in
stories high with the first floor used for stores and offices, similar
to Pomeroy's Opera Hall. 43 The theatre in
St. Joseph had more scenery
though--seventeen scenes as compared to ten at the Opera Hall.
Fuller Opera House, 1890, was the first building in
Wisconsin, built for the specific
purpose of presenting plays. 44 It
was similar to the La Crosse Theatre--box seats, large stage, high
gridiron, traps, and sloping floor in the auditorium. The Fuller Opera
House was not lighted with electricity, though, as was the La Crosse
Theatre. The Fuller Opera House used electricity only to ignite the
gas jets. The theatre was not electrically lighted until 1902--thirteen
years behind La Crosse.
The finest theatre in La Crosse, the La
Crosse Theatre, was patterned
after theatres the building committee had seen in
Chicago. The theatres
generally resembled the theatres in eastern cities. The
La Crosse Theatre, then, was a typical theatre building of the period.
The above evidence indicates, however, that the La Crosse Theatre was
better equipped than theatres in comparable small cities.
1 La Crosse
Morning Liberal Democrat, June 15, 1878, p. 3, col. 1.
2 Benjamin F. Bryant, memoirs of
La Crosse County
Western Historical Association, 1907), p. 100.
3 La Crosse
Daily Democrat, July 3, 1869, p. 4, col. 1.
5 Ibid. Exactly what type light Pomeroy was referring to with
his term "celebrated sunlight reflectors" is not known.
6 Ibid., June 19, 1869, p. 4, col. 2.
7 Ibid., July 14, 1869, p. 4, col. 1.
15 Ibid., July 29, 1869, p. 1, col. 3.
16 La Crosse Morning Liberal Democrat, June 15, 1878, p. 3,
17 La Crosse
Chronicle, January 25, 1879, p. 3, col. 1.
18 Ibid., December 7, 1878, p. 3, col. 1.
22 Bryant, pp. 100-101.
23 Liberal Democrat. October 12, 1877, p. 3, col. 3.
25 La Crosse
Chronicle, January 11, 1889, p. 1, col. 3.
26 Albert H. Sanford and H. J.
Hirshheimer, A History of La Crosse,
Wisconsin, 1841-1900 (La Crosse: La Crosse
County Historical Society,
1951), p. 248. The theatre was lighted with both electricity and gas.
27 Bryant, pp. 100-101. For some reason Bryant did not mention
Losey who was president of the company.
28 La Crosse
Chronicle, January 11, 1889, p. 1, col. 1.
29 La Crosse
Republican and Leader, January 11, 1889, p. 4, col. 2.
34 La Crosse
Chronicle. January 11, 1889, p. 1, col. 1.
36 La Crosse
Republican, May 14, 1877, p. 4, col. 2.
37 La Crosse
Chronicle. January 11, 1889, p. 1, col. 1.
39 La Crosse
Republican. January 11, 1889, p. 4, col. 2.
40 John Cornwall Edwards, "A History of Nineteenth Century
Theatre Architecture in the United States"
41 Donald Vincent Brady, "History of El Paso Theatre 1881-1905"
(unpublished Doctor's dissertation,
1965), p. 15.
42 Kenneth Lee Jones, "The Theatrical History of Greely,
Colorado 1870-1908" (unpublished Doctor's
of Denver, 1967),
43 William Francis West, Jr., "The Legitimate Theatre in Rural
Missouri from the Beginning of the Civil War
Through 1872" (unpublished
Doctor's dissertation, University
of Missouri, 1964),
44 Henry C. Youngerman, "Theatrical Activities: Madison,
Wisconsin, 1836-1907" (unpublished
Doctor's dissertation, University
1940), p. 33.
ACTING STYLES OF ACTORS THAT TOURED LA CROSSE
AND INFLUENCED THEATRE IN THE AREA
The arrangement of the performers in this chapter into groups
by similarity of acting style is patterned partly after the grouping
used by Wilson, 1 partly after the grouping used by Woodbury, 2 and
partly a combination of the two. The resulting groupings will be
the Heroic or Democratic style, the Romantic style, the Neo Romantic
or Classic style, the Emotional style, the Personality style, the
Comic style, end the Realistic style.
There are many disadvantages in attempting to arrange actors into
groups. Some readers may disagree with the group headings themselves;
others may disagree with the actors assigned to the various groups.
The advantages, however, more than compensate for the disadvantages.
The arrangement of actors into groups makes it much easier and more
convenient to drew comparisons among actors within a single group
and between actors in different groups. It provides a more systematic
approach to the study of acting styles in
La Crosse during the nineteenth
The Heroic or Democratic Style
The democratic or heroic acting style generally showed strong
passion and was less spontaneous than was the romantic. It was a style
that was bold and powerful--not subtle. It was influenced by the
concepts of elocution. Those who practiced the democratic
style tended to have strong voices and gloried in their physical prowess.
Their movements were bold. It was a style attractive to a nation
conquering a wilderness. The first actor to popularize this style of
acting was Edwin Forrest. He was followed by John E. McCullough,
McKean Buchanan, and much later by the heroes in western movies.
McKean Buchanan was important to the
La Crosse area because he
was the first famous actor to appear there. He was successful both
critically and popularly. Had he not been successful, theatre history
in La Crosse
might have been considerably altered. He was also important
to La Crosse because at the conclusion of
his presentation of The
merchant of Venice, August 3, 1866, he
came before the curtain and
gave a speech thanking the citizens of
La Crosse for their patronage.
He suggested the wisdom of erecting a building more suitable for
theatrical entertainment than Singers' Hall. There is no way of knowing
how influential Buchanan's statement was, but Pomeroy's Opera Hall was
constructed two years later.
McKean Buchanan (1823-1872) is the only actor who toured La Crosse
who could be classified as a practitioner of the democratic style.
He made his theatrical debut in New
Orleans in 1849. 3 Shortly thereafter,
he built a theatre and managed in the same city. Later he
toured and performed in most of the principal theatres in America,
including New York
theatres where he appeared four times. 4 He played
chiefly Shakespearean roles. Paule and Gebbie referred to him as a
"painstaking and fair actor." 5 His style was a mixture of the
or democratic and the romantic. Wilson
said that his style followed
that of Edwin Forrest. 6 The Republican further substantiated this
point by saying that Buchanan and Forrest had similar styles, both
being representatives of the "old school of heavy tragedians."
However, his style also had elements of the romantic, for Pomeroy
commented that Buchanan's style reminded him of J. B. Booth and Edmund
Before Buchanan's appearance in La Crosse, M. M. Pomeroy prepared
the La Crosse citizens for his coming:
The company has been selected from the leading theatres of
New York and Philadelphia, the star performers being McKean
Buchanan and his daughter, Virginia, whose fame is only
limited by those sections of the world in which the English
language is spoken. La Crosse
has never before been visited
by such distinguished and talented theatrical artists, and
we hope our citizens will give the enterprise a liberal
encouragement, that other members of the Theatrical profession
may be induced to visit our city. 9
Although it was true that Buchanan was the most famous actor to visit
La Crosse up to 1866, it was not quite true that Buchanan came from the
leading theatres in New York. Pomeroy was known to exaggerate at times.
As was mentioned above, Buchanan had played New York,
but most of his
experience was outside the New
Buchanan's first performance was in Boucicault's London Assurance,
July 30, 1866. One of the largest audiences ever assembled in La Crosse
was in Singer's Hall at 7:00 (the hour the play was to begin), but it
was 8:30 before the bell rang for the first scene. Pomeroy said:
play was well performed, Mr. McKean Buchanan giving the part of Sir
Harcount, the antiquated beau and conceited coxcomb, all the finishing
touches of an artist." 10
Pomeroy was also basically pleased with Buchanan and his Star
Company in their presentation of Kotzebue's The Stranger. Buchanan
satisfactorily demonstrated a full appreciation and understanding of
the recluse whose heart had been turned against humanity because of a
terrible sorrow. All of the actors in the play must not have had the
same understanding of their characters for Pomeroy concluded his
The play was somewhat marred by lengthy, silly, and out of
place 'gags' perpetrated by two of the comical characters,
which should be cut out in the future. Hamlet's advice to
the players would be good reading for the perpetrators in
their leisure moments. 11
Obviously, the Buchanan Star Company had already read Hamlet's
advice to the players, for Hamlet was their next production. The
audience that came to see Hamlet was the most "refined
ever assembled in a public hall in La
Crosse. 12 As was mentioned
earlier, Pomeroy sometimes exaggerated. Pomeroy said that Buchanan
gave a splendid representation of Hamlet. He presented the soliloquies
and more emotional portions of the tragedy with a power and an
that commanded the audience's attention and promoted frequent
The above reference to Buchanan's power suggests a style similar
to Edwin Forrest and John McCullough, which Wilson classifies as
belonging to the heroic school of acting. La Crosse critics, however,
did not provide evidence that would indicate that Buchanan relied on
his physical power in the manner of Forrest. Buchanan's power apparently
The Buchanans concluded their engagement August 4, 1866, with The
Octoroon in the afternoon and with Richard III in the evening. The
Democrat did not comment on the above productions except to say that
they were well attended.
McKean Buchanan did not come to La
Crosse again until may of 1870.
For this visit, he played Richelieu,
Richard III, Hamlet, Uncle Tom's
Cabin, and The Merchant of Venice. The audience was large for the
opening performance of Richelieu, and
they applauded frequently to
demonstrate their appreciation of Buchanan and his group. 14 The
Republican said that Buchanan in Richelieu was without equal:
The sudden transition in the same breath--from the feebleness
of old age to the dignity and power of the French
minister, and from consuming rage to mirthfulness, require
not only perfect conception of the character, but perfect
command of voice, manner, and facial expression. 15
Pomeroy thought Buchanan's interpretation of Richard III stood
Better acting was never seen in the West. . . . In many
parts of the play it was sublimely grand. . . . Anything
we can say does not strengthen Mr. Buchanan's reputation
here, for all know he is one of the greatest of living
The Democrat did not comment on the production of Hamlet, Merchant
of Venice, or Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the Republican added little to
what has already been mentioned. McKean Buchanan did not come to
It is difficult to compare Buchanan's style as recorded by
critics to his style as perceived by the country in general. Apparently
little has been written about Buchanan. Hewitt does not mention him;
Brockett does not mention him; Hughes does not mention him;
only one line about him; even Odell has little to say concerning
Buchanan. Neither did the New York Times review Buchanan. Probably,
papers and papers in other smaller cities reviewed Buchanan,
but such criticism is scarce and not readily obtainable.
Based upon the absence of information about Buchanan in the usual
sources on theatre history, Buchanan was probably more important to
theatre than he was to the development of American theatre
in general. Buchanan was the first theatrical star to tour
There he received generally favorable reviews and attracted a wide
public following. And he probably hastened the building of Pomeroy's
Opera Hall by suggesting that La
Crosse needed a theatre more suitable
for theatrical entertainment than Singers' Hall.
The Romantic Style
The romantic style of acting placed emphasis on emotion. The
actors used rapid delivery, abrupt starts and pauses, and complex
changes in pitch. They paced the stage, made quick turns, and
emotion with facial contortions. Their intent was to show
unmodified nature represented by fundamental emotions expressed without
restraint. Typical actors of this style were Edmund Kean and J. B.
Booth. Woodbury says that the romantic style was basically over by
1840. 17 This study will show that the romantic style, at least in
continued long after that date.
The best example in La Crosse
of the romantic acting style was
Thomas W. Keene. Keene came to
La Crosse seven
times over a period
of fifteen years and rarely failed to attract a full or nearly full
theatre. Keene was particularly important
to La Crosse, because the
La Crosse papers wrote more about
Keene than about
any performer who
came to the city. He was an actor who had a style that stimulated
Thomas W. Keene was born in 1840 and lived past the turn of the
century. He made his New York
debut as Lucius in Julius Caesar in
1856. For his performance in Julius Caesar, he achieved public favor
and maintained that favor until the end of his career. He played a
wide range of characters, emphasizing Shakespearean roles. He toured
in 1870, and by 1880 had become what Paula and Gebbie called
a "full fledged star." 18
style was unusual for the late nineteenth century.
The trend for several years had been toward greater realism in writing,
staging, and acting. Keene
was not a part of this trend. Of the
April 7, 1882, performance of Richard III, the Chronicle said
chief fault and his chief merit was in his unsurpassed versatility in
facial expression. At times, one could read the thoughts of Richard III
in the lines and muscles of Keene's
face, but at other times his
facial gymnastics were similar to burlesque and distracted from the
performance. Likewise Keene's
line interpretation was, on the one hand,
deserving of praise, and on the other hand, deserving of criticism. The
Chronicle found no fault with the so-called "rant" which was
and helped show the boasting, self-praising, and threatening character
of Richard III. The Chronicle adversely criticized the modernization
both of Shakespeare's words and in the manner of saying them. At one
point the above production strayed far from the original text. In the
scene where the queen parts from her children, the Chronicle said:
"The action was borrowed from the agonizing emotional drama that the
last decade has had a surfeit of." 19 The Chronicle ended its
Mr. Keene is an actor who has won his way a good piece up the
ladder and though he may not reach the top, we believe he has
established a reputation in this city that will always secure
him a welcome and a full house. 20
The next time Keene came to
La Crosse was May
10, 1883, as Macbeth.
was distinctly different from his Richard III. On this
subject, the Chronicle said: "Attire, speech, manner, everything was
so different that the most careful attention could only have and than
detect only a shade of resemblance. 21 Those who did not have a specific
idea of how Macbeth should be played enjoyed Keene's performance more
than those who expected Macbeth to be played in the traditional manner.
interpretations were unique. He followed in no man's footsteps,
but through study built an individualized character strictly his own.
The Chronicle said that on the whole his recitations were better than
his acting, but on some occasions his acting was powerful:
In a few scenes, notably that preceding the murder of Duncan,
the acting was so powerful that the audience sat breathless
for a full minute while he, as silent as they, approached the
door to the chamber of the doomed king. 22
The Chronicle mentioned that two scenes--the dagger scene and the
appearance of Banquo's ghost--usually gave actors trouble.
handled these two scenes at least "satisfactorily." At times
might have seemed to have been too much groaning and staggering, but
taken on the whole that which seemed uneven at the moment was lost in
the "finished aggregate." 23
Keene came to La Crosse again about a year later in
The Chronicle reported that Keene's
style belonged to the old school
of Shakespearean actors who are strong in "wind and limb." 24
in more detail on Keene's
style, the Chronicle said:
His entertainments are always heard, if they are not felt,
and his Cassius was no exception to the rule. He was a
boisterous, blustering, envious, thick skinned knave rather
than a wily, cunning, deep, plotting conspirator. Keene's
idea of expressing emotions other than of the violent
howling kind, is to do so by ugly grimaces end contortions
that suggest the cramp, yet there is much less of this in
his Cassius than in Richard III, where he writhes like
a man who had been brought up on green applesauce. 25
The Chronicle added, however, that the entertainment gave satisfaction
to a considerable portion of the audience, which applauded frequently.
The Chronicle concluded with a generalization that was almost an
from its conclusions two years earlier:
On the whole the Chronicle can see nothing great in
Mr. Keene and feels that his efforts in the Shakespearean
drama are really not of the sort to lift it any above
the common level of the American stage of the day. 26
Keene came back to La Crosse in December of 1885, once
Richard III. The production was so similar to his previous production
that the Chronicle did not comment in detail. Keene drew only a fair
audience, even though his company was large and contained a number of
excellent people. 27
Almost two years passed before Keene
returned. This time he represented
Hamlet. Only a few seats at the Opera House were empty. The
Chronicle commented that those who stayed away were emphatically the
Of course the main idea was to hear Keene
in the character
of Hamlet, but he had most excellent support, and, in fact,
the production of the play as presented last night was
beyond criticism of the ordinary critic. Without attempting
any thing [sic] of the sort it simply remains to be said
that beyond dispute the company is the equal of any which
has visited this city. 28
The Republican's evaluation of Keene's
Hamlet was similarly lavish but
more detailed. The Republican reported that many who had seen
"muscular mannerisms" in Richard III hesitated before going to
Hamlet. Those who went, however, were surprised; for Keene's Hamlet
was unlike many roles he had created. His style was not aimed at
creating stage effects, but used common sense for controls
For instance, most actors deliver the great soliloquies at
the footlights and addressed to the audience; Mr. Keene on
the other hand gives utterance to them while pacing restlessly
the apartment or while setting [sic] abstractly at
a table or on a couch, with the significant, nervous
details of excited perplexity, thus depriving them of the
air of set speeches, and making them appear the utterances
Keene did not return to La Crosse for five years. When he did
return, he drew a larger audience at the Opera House than any performer
had drawn for three months. For this occasion, Keene and his company
presented Othello. The Chronicle commented that when one saw
as Othello, one needed to get accustomed to the unexpected. Again,
was not traditional. Unfortunately, the Chronicle did
not say exactly how Keene's
interpretation differed. The Chronicle
continued with some adverse criticism of the enunciation of
company: "There were times when those unfamiliar with the play did
not average a coherent sentence once in three." 30
Keene's last visit to La Crosse was in the play Louis XI,
1897. The Chronicle's review indicated that Keene's company had become
a little frayed. They did not have appropriate scenery or furniture,
and the costumes were inadequate. In spite of this general adverse
criticism, Keene, himself, was praised:
His delineation of the many-sided great monarch in the last
hours of his cruel life, strong and theatrical as it seemed,
was at no time an exaggeration of the exact chronicles of
the narration based thereon. 31
As was true of Buchanan, it is difficult to compare Keene's
style as perceived by La Crosse
critics to his style as perceived by
critics in other areas. Little to nothing has been written about
Keens in the usual sources. Odell, commenting on Booth's leaving the
stage and on the passing of tragedy and the grand style, said of Keene:
For a decade or more, lesser actors tried to keep the great
tragedies alive; at least they acted them, often overacted
them, to the best of their abilities. One of this group was
Thomas W. Keene. . ." 32
It is probable that the Chronicle had more information an
reputation in other parts of the country than is now available for
the Chronicle wrote: "People have debated a dozen years as to
place among dramatic artists, and are no nearer a conclusion than at
the outset." 33
Regardless of what Keene's reputation was
in the rest of the
country, he was one of the most popular actors to La Crosse audiences
and critics. He had a style that was unique. In the Chronicle's
words: "It is a masterful style too, that holds the attention and
leaves a strong impression on the mind." 34
Another actor who illustrated the romantic acting style was
Alexander Salvini. He was one of the most popular and one of the most
favorably received actors that ever toured La Crosse. Critics gave
him the highest possible acclaim: they said he became the character
he was portraying.
Alexander Salvini made his New
York debut in 1882. For the occasion
his father was in the audience. According to George Odell, his first
appearance won a "fine position." 36 In 1890, he appeared in
York productions, and was perhaps on his way in
becoming a national
star, but he died before achieving that status. Nevertheless, he was
a star of the first magnitude to La
Salvini's first appearance in La
Crosse was in October of 1894,
in Alexander Dumas' The Three Guardsmen. The two leading features of
the production mere the scenery and Salvini. There were a dozen scene
changes, most of them in full view of the audience. Salvini must have
had an emotional style that demanded involvement similar to that of
his famous father, for the Chronicle said of his role in The Three
Guardsmen: "He is not simply magnetic--he is electric in rapidity of
his movements, the keenness of his wit and the quick response of his
Alexander Salvini and his company came to La Crosse once more on
February 29, 1896. He played the part of Don Caesar in Don Caesar de
Bazan. The Chronicle praised his performance, saying that it was not
Salvini that the audience saw but Don Caesar, with his swagger, his
courage, his indifference, and his unique turn of the wrist which made
his sword slice the air whenever any character provoked him. As in
Salvini's last visit in La
Crosse, the costumes and scenery were
"brilliant" and on the whole, the production was one of the
best attractions. 37
Unfortunately, little information is readily available on Salvini
or his acting style. He is not mentioned in most of the major theatre
histories. Odell wrote only a few lines about him. Hornblow wrote
three lines saying that he acquired popularity in romantic roles. 38
And the New York Times did not review his performances. One can
speculate that, since he was Tommaso Salvini's son, he had probably
developed a style somewhat similar to that of his father. He was
an emotional actor--"electric in rapidity of his movements." 39
Neo Romantic or Classic Style
The neo romantic or classic style of acting was similar to the
romantic. Actors of both styles often used abrupt starts and pauses,
paced the stage, and sat or lounged with unsteady ease. There were
considerable differences, however, for the romantic actor attempted
to show unrestrained emotion. The neo romantic actor, on the other
hand, placed much greater emphasis on control and restraint. Their
technique was modified by what was tasteful and mannerly; it was a more
cultured and refined style. Acting to them was a noble calling. They
served long apprenticeships and trained their voices to be flexible and
varied. They played mainly Shakespearean roles. Typical actors and
actresses of this group were: Charlotte Cushman, Helena Modjeska,
Fanny Janauschek, Edwin Booth, James E. Murdoch, and Frederick Warde.
Warde's main contribution to the La
Crosse area, aside from providing
entertainment on five different occasions between 1890 and 1900, was
helping make Shakespearean drama popular. The Chronicle commented on
this in 1891 when Warde acted in Henry VIII and then made a similar
comment again in 1897 when Warde acted in King Lear:
Whether because of better appreciation of Frederick Warde,
or because of a turning away from frivolity towards something
strong and serious, or because there is a Shakespearean
audience in the town to be depended on once a year, the
pleasant fact to be stated that there was a good house for
King Lear. 40
more than likely the first alternative above is more logical, for
La Crosse audiences usually went to the theatre to see a particular
actor rather than a particular play. Also other actors presenting
Shakespeare did well in the La
Frederick Warde was born in 1851 and lived past the turn of the
century. Originally from England,
he made his American debut at
Booth's Theatre in 1874 in Boucicault's Belle Lamor. 41 He was a hit
in the production and remained a prominent figure on the American
stage for many years. 42
He had a style, at least as perceived by La Crosse critics, that
was varied. It ranged from "old fashioned ranting" 43 to what
Chronicle called a "modern conception of naturalism." 44
though, his style conformed closely to the neo romantic or classic
style as previously described. For instance, the Chronicle described
his Shylock as "studied." He acted Shylock with a relish that
a tone of personal feeling behind his artistic study. 45 Evidently he
carefully prepared for each role he played. The Chronicle emphasized
his studied presentations, and Warde's writings indicate that he
thoroughly analyzed his roles. Warde wrote that his concept of Lear
was based on the Fool's reply to Lear's question, "Does any here
me?" The Fool's reply, "Lear's Shadow."
The words seem to carry corroboration with them; for instead
of the powerful monarch whose will was law, and word, a
command, we see before us a weak, indefinite remainder of
something which was a personality, and now is nothing;
nothing but a shadow; realizing but too late the fatal
error that robbed him of the power he is now impotent to
The Chronicle, commenting on Warde's presentation of Lear, said that
he was powerful in every scene, and went as far as the "modern
of naturalism would approve." 47 He did not go over the line.
His acting was controlled and carefully planned.
As with the case of Keene and Buchanan, little is written about
Warde in books on American theatre history. Glenn Hughes, Bernard
Hewitt, and Arthur Hornblow do not even mention him. Wilson writes
only a few lines about him. It is, therefore, difficult to compare
Warde's style as interpreted by La
Crosse critics with his style as
it is perceived historically.
Only one actress of the neo romantic or classic style significantly
influenced theatre in La Crosse--Fanny
Janauschek. She, like Wards,
helped prove that La Crosse
audiences would attend Shakespearean
productions if they were well presented. She was also the only actress
of the neo romantic style who generally received favorable reviews
in the La Crosse
Fanny Janauschek (1830-1904) was born in Prague. She made her
debut at sixteen and shortly thereafter became the leading woman at
the Stadt Theatre, Frankfort,
where she remained for ten years. Later
she toured the principal cities of Germany,
Austria, and Russia
triumphant success. She made her first New York
appearance as Medea
at the Academy
of Music in 1867.
At this time she could not speak
English, but she joined with Edwin Booth to play Lady Macbeth in a
bilingual performance. She later learned to speak English and toured
in the classics; she was admired as one of the last actresses of what
Hughes called the "grand style." 48
Janauschek came to La Crosse
either four or five times. The
La Crosse papers mention only four, but Clark
credits her with another
visit, commenting that when Janauschek appeared in Mary Stuart and
Double Life, a crowd of young people walked on the ice from
to north La Crosse
in forty-two degree below zero temperatures to see
Janauschek's private car. 49
Janauschek's first appearance as recorded in the La Crosse papers
was in Macbeth. October, 1879. Her performance was not completely
satisfactory. Although the Chronicle wrote that she had force and
dramatic strength, her physical appearance was incompatible with the
part of Lady Macbeth. 50 The paper did not explain exactly how she was
incompatible. According to Wilson,
she had a figure which was "majestic,"
"stately," or massive." 51 This should be appropriate for
Janauschek acted in Macbeth again in April, 1893. This time she was
successful, for the Chronicle said that Janauschek in the sleepwalking
scene had not been surpassed; also, her acting in the banquet scene was
"powerful and of high artistic standard." 52 Whether the
opinion was due to a change in Janauschek, a change in reviewers, or a
change in a single reviewer's opinion is not known. The Chronicle’s
"powerful" for Janauschek's acting conforms closely to the
Wilson uses to
describe her style. He said her acting was "intense,
powerful, heroic." 53
Apparently, the La Crosse
critics saw Janauschek much as did the
rest of American critics. There was one notable difference though.
that for some time her career prospered, but soon the public
tired of her style of acting and she sank in popularity. 54 The opposite
was true in La Crosse,
for Janauschek was more popular and received
higher critical acclaim in 1893 than she did in 1879.
While Fanny Janauschek and other actresses in the neo romantic or
classic acting style were demonstrating their abilities, another group
of actresses was becoming popular in tearful domestic melodramas.
These actresses specialized in playing the lady in distress and other
roles demanding emotional involvement. Wilson said that the emotional
acting style had three significant characteristics. First, the actresses
in this school actually experienced the feelings and passions that the
role she was playing required. Second, their performances contained
sobs, tears, tremblings, and other sentimentalized actions. Third, the
actresses of this school did not rely on technique; instead, they
surrendered to emotion. Their performances depended more upon inspiration
than upon study. 55 In this respect the emotional style was similar to
the romantic style. The major difference between the two styles was in
the type of emotions portrayed. The romantics stressed anger, worry,
frustration, and honor; the emotional style stressed sentiment, tears,
heartbreak, and feminine charm. Because of the nature of the roles and
the kind of emotions the roles demanded, the players of the emotional
style were women. Actresses typical of this group were: Anna Cora
Mowatt, Matilda Heron, Clara Morris, Fanny Davenport, and Laura Keene. 56
Laura Keene (1820-1873) was an English actress who made her American
debut in 1852 at Wallack's Theatre. Between 1855 and 1863 she managed
and was the leading actress in her own theatre in New York. Her
productions were lavishly mounted in the style of Mme. Vestris, with
whom she had worked in England.
After 1863, Laura Keens toured the
country and happened to be playing at Ford's Theatre in
the night Lincoln
was assassinated. 57
Laura Keene came to La Crosse
twice and completely charmed the
reviewers on both occasions. On June 15, 1870, Keene and her company
presented Hunted Down, and Our American Cousin followed the next evening.
Most of Laura Keene's company had accompanied her on tour for five
consecutive years. This circumstance, according to the Democrat, was
of itself sufficient guarantee that the productions of
would be presented with the same attention to detail that had marked
her engagements in other cities. Of the presentation of Hunted Down,
the Democrat said:
Last evening the Opera Hall was well filled with an appreciative
audience to greet the 'Queen of Comedy,' Miss Laura Keene, at
her first appearance in La
Crosse, her role being that of Mary
Leigh in the great emotional drama of Hunted Down. To say
that Miss Keene met with most perfect success would be an
acknowledgment that our people have theatrical taste and
appreciation. The character is difficult; but the rendering
was perfect, bringing out frequent and rapturous applause.
It is seldom that La Crosse
has been treated to such perfect
acting. Miss Keene proves to an audience
at once that she is
no novice; but fully at home on the stage, and we doubt if
any actress has ever been received in La Crosse with such general
The Republican was equally lavish in its praise of Laura Keene in
If her rendition of the beautiful, grand, touching and
extremely difficult part of May Leigh has been as perfect
as it was here last evening, it is no wonder that her name has
become a household word. 59
The next evening, Keene
appeared in Our American Cousin, the play
President Lincoln was watching her perform five years previously when
he was shot. 60 Of this production, the Republican said:
Laura Keene proved her right to the title 'Queen of Comedy'
in Our American Cousin. A lady in every sense of the word,
she exhibits in her every move and speech, the nimble
attributes of her sex in a manner truly perfect; and in
doing so, she never stamps, nor raves, nor throws herself
into unnatural or ungraceful attitudes; nor will she keep
in her services an artist whose acting is mage up by a
display of foot power instead of head power. 61
Laura Keene came to La Crosse
again in July of 1870 in She Stoops
to Conquer. The Democrat of that date is missing and the Republican's
review was brief. She brought out the 'full strength of her character
without excessive exertion.". 62
Keene was important to La Crosse because she was a nationally
prominent star who toured the city early, only a few years after the
first theatrical presentation. She was also important because she
was the first actress to introduce the popular emotional acting style.
Many actors and actresses of the nineteenth century, as well as
today, relied upon their individual personalities, their physical
appearance, their charm, or their sex appeal for their success.
Typical of this group in the twentieth century would be Clark Gable,
Greta Garbo, and Gary Cooper. Each had unique, magnetic personalities.
They did not rely exclusively upon their personalities, though, for
they were also technically competent as actors. Typical personality
actors who visited La Crosse
during the last century were Julia Marlowe,
Maggie Mitchell, Kate Claxton, Jane Coombs, Charlotte Thompson, Frank
Mayo, and Joseph Jefferson III.
Joseph Jefferson was probably the most popular American actor of
the nineteenth century throughout America. He was similarly
in La Crosse.
He received the longest review of any actor who toured
the city. It was all favorable. He attracted large crowds to see his
performances, and when he appeared in a production of The Rivals, the
company grossed $1,6000, more than any previous company. 63
Joseph Jefferson (1829-1905) made his formal debut at the age of
four when Thomas D. Rice blackened Jefferson's face, dressed him in a
Jim Crow costume, carried him on the stage in a bag, and dumped him
out to sing and dance to a delighted Washington audience. 64 Indeed,
Jefferson inherited a stage career, for he
said, "I belonged to the
stage from my birth. My son, Tom, is the fifth of the line of acting
Jeffersons from the first who played with Garrick." 65 Jefferson
received his first notable success in Laura Keene's production of
Our American Cousin in 1858. He then toured California,
In 1865, he returned to New
York and played Rip Van
Winkle. In this role he won the hearts of everyone, sophisticated and
unsophisticated. Rip became the mainstay of Jefferson's
after 1865. 66 Jefferson said Rip was
"a great part in an indifferent
play." 67 Generally, Jefferson
played Rip solely for forty years, and
never suffered in the slightest from the lack of public interest. 68
He played the role for the last time in 1904, a year before his death.
Jefferson did not confine himself exclusively
to Rip Van Winkle,
however, for he also toured with The Rivals, and made Bob Acres a
memorable characterization. 69 As Hewitt says, the intellectual
preferred Booth, the multitude loved Forrest, but Jefferson
groups. 70 Jefferson won La Crosse, too;
for of his first appearance
in La Crosse,
the Republican wrote:
To say that all were pleased with it [Rip Van Winkle]
would be a feeble way of speaking of the way in which the
audience were carried away, and the cheers and roars of
laughter were farily deafening at times. 71
Although some might argue that Jefferson
should have been discussed
later with the actors in the comic style group, he has been included
as a personality performer because he was more than a comic actor. He
had the ability to make audiences laugh, but he also was capable of
creating a believable character that commanded sincere emotional
involvement. The Chronicle wrote a lengthy critique (longer than for
any other actor) of Jefferson's Rip Van Winkle:
The picturesque drama which has been built upon the foundation
of Mr. Irving's simple legend of the Catskill
when inspired by Mr. Joseph Jefferson's genius, a fitting
interpretation of the author's thoughts. Of the original
story nothing remains but the foundation and the pathos; but
in the building thereto, which has been very largely done by
Mr. Jefferson himself, care has been exercised to do no
undue violence to the simple manner and words of the story,
and in its present acting form, we doubt if the writer could
find anything, except here and there, trifles which would not
meet his approval. We may remark in this connection that
the play, although essayed by others with some success, seems
the national property of the Jefferson
family. More than a
quarter of a century ago, it was frequently presented by
Mr. Bart, a half brother of Joseph Jefferson; and was only
ordinarily popular with audiences. In the hands of the latter,
it has been enlarged in details, but infinitely more in the
powerful personation of the character and physical peculiarities
ascribed to Rip Van Winkle, the chief actor of the scene. A
gentleman said recently, who, at one time, used to see Jefferson
once or twice a week and who has seen many of the world's
greatest actors, 'I never think of Jefferson as an actor; I
have no conception of him except as Rip Van Winkle.' A
little boy who was reading the story not long since dropped
the book when a veil of tears came between him and the page
and said with a rising inflection of grief in his voice: 'His
children didn't know him and his neighbors didn't know him and
even his dog didn't know him, and I think that's pretty hard,'
and so it was. In this lies the exceptional popularity of the
play. On the one hand, Mr. Jefferson effects a personation in
its most explicit sense; he becomes in every essential the
character represented, his own identity being nowhere seen or
suggested. On the other hand, the pathos of the story is not
founded upon love-sick distress, or upon scenes of pain because
of death and sin. The bewilderment and grief of the main
character, who is himself dead, while all the world is a
hundred-fold alive, is within the comprehension of the youngest
end simplest, and whether it moves the sympathy of auditors
much or little, is certainly a welcome relief from much of the
bloody realism we are in these times called upon to endure.
Mr. Jefferson personated Rip Van Winkle twice in this city.
His fine and appreciative audience last night numbered comparatively
few who did not see him before, and they gave him
the hearty welcome of an old friend to which he and his excellent
company responded with an entertainment of notable merit,
though not unmarred by such objectionable features as crude
appearances, absurd thunder and lightning, and the like.
There is something of monotony about the play; but it is the
evenness of the sustained and perfect art. Mr. Jefferson,
though, him and his play, hold the boards for another decade,
and we trust they may, has nothing to learn concerning Rip
Van Winkle as a dramatic character. There may be changes,
but perfection is a positive quality. 72
The above critique is similar-to a critique in the Atlantic monthly 73
concerning Jefferson as Rip. Both the Atlantic Monthly and the Chronicle
point out that Jefferson became the character Rip; likewise, both
comment on the genius and art of Jefferson. As Hornblow explained, not
all critics-considered Jefferson a genius to be ranked among the great
actors of history. 74 Many did, though. Certainly the Chronicle
him worthy of such ranking; had all the critics in the 1890's
voted on whether or not Jefferson was one of the world's great actors,
La Crosse critics would have voted on the winning side.
Julia Marlowe influenced La Crosse theatre more than any other
personality actress. She came to La Crosse four times, which was more
often than Maggie Mitchell, Kate Castleton, or Mile Rhea, who also
were personality style actresses. Marlowe brought productions to
La Crosse that were more lavish than usual, and received nothing but
favorable reviews. To La Crosse critics, Marlowe was
Marlowe (1866-1950) made her first appearance on any stage at
Ironton, Ohio, in 1882, as a sailor in a juvenile H. M. S. Pinafore
company. Afterwards, she spent several years in comic opera before
taking lessons in elocution in order to perform Shakespearean roles.
In 1887, she appeared at the Star Theatre as Juliet, and later the
same year as Viola. At first some of the critics as well as the public
did not take her seriously as a Shakespearean actress, but gradually
her performances commanded attention. 75 Although the consensus of
critical opinion did not credit Marlowe with being the best Juliet of
her age, the best Viola, or the best Ophelia, she did receive, at
times, lavish praise. 76 John Rankin Towse was
one of the first to
recognize her unique abilities. 77 Marlowe brought a magnetism and a
warmth to the roles she played. Marlowe's biographer, Charles Russell,
said that if one reads the critical comments about Marlowe, there
recurs the acknowledgment that the quality of her work was not easily
analyzed. Some critics said that her success was due to her youth and
beauty; others said that her success was in her rich and magical voice;
still others said that her naive, natural grace was the secret to her
charm. Russell concluded with:
On the whole, the most significant fact one gathers from
turning over these old reviews-is the paucity of comment
about the phase of the actor's skill that must always be
above all the others. . . a force above and beyond. . . a
something inevitable, potent, reasoned and sure, some
quality that shows in everything she does. 78
La Crosse critics commented upon her beauty, her voice, and her
charm. But they also mentioned the magnetic force and power which
Russell said had only received a "paucity of comment" in other
Marlowe's first appearance in La Crosse was as Viola in Twelfth
Night. The Chronicle said that she interpreted Viola with tenderness,
charm, and grace. It also stated that she had a physical appearance
and mobile face that was all the character required. 79 Since Marlowe's
first appearance was shortly after the opening of the new La Crosse
Theatre, the Chronicle used more space writing about the new theatre
than about Marlowe and Twelfth Night. From the comments that the
Chronicle made, however, the production was more lavish than most
productions that had come to La Crosse prior to 1889:
It is something to witness it [Twelfth Night] in a house where
such a presentation does not seem out of place and on a stage
supplied with scenery fit to set the pictures. It is
something again to see such a play costumed richly and
with some attention to verisimilitude, epoch,
and location. 80
Of the same production, the Republican said the company was large and
evenly balanced. Marlowe was charming and presented an easy, graceful
manner. The Republican wisely predicted that Marlowe "gives promise
of taking a position very near if not at the head of her profession. 81
The next time Marlowe came to La Crosse was October, 1892, in As
You Like It. The Chronicle commented on her expressive face, engaging
manner, and her style of acting that made one expect her to conclude
her conversation and then begin to act. The greatest strength of
Marlowe's company, apart from Marlowe herself, was the spirited and
forceful manner with which they spoke their lines. The paper concluded
by saying that the presentation was as good as one could reasonably
Marlowe presented Twelfth Night again in La Crosse on September 27,
1895. She played Viola and her husband, Robert Tabor, played Malvolio.
The Chronicle said that the audience enjoyed the production so much
that a curtain call followed each act; Marlowe, to them, was the most
captivating Viola of the stage. 83
Critical opinion from the leading critics of the country did not
significantly differ from the critical opinions of La Crosse critics.
Hornblow quoted John Ranken Towse's
statement that Marlowe "established
her claim to a high place among the leading Juliets
of her time."
Similarly, Wilson quoted William Winter, "She is a superb actress.
The sum of her influence has been distinctly and strongly helpful. . .
In La Crosse as throughout America, Marlowe made "Shakespeare at
once an artistic and a business success." 86 According to Russell,
1924, Marlowe had acted in more Shakespearean dramas than any other
actress, and she had attracted a larger total audience than any
Shakespearean player. 87 In La Crosse, Marlowe did not attract as large
a total audience to Shakespearean performances as did McKean Buchanan
or Thomas Keene, but neither did she tour the area so often. Had she
played La Crosse as often as Buchanan or Keene, she would probably
have held the same position in La Crosse that she held in America at
The actors that substantially influenced La Crosse theatre,
using a non-serious or comic approach, have been grouped into one
classification--comic style. No attempt has been made to further
subdivide this group, because no technique or acting style emerges
that is common to more than one actor. Each actor's style was
unique. The only element common to all within this group was a
basically comic approach.
Among those classified within the comic style, one person. Dion
Boucicault, stands apart from the others. He
was not only a talented
actor, but also one of the most popular playwrights of the last century.
Among his frequently produced plays both in England and the United States
were: Coleen Bawn,
London Assurance, The Octoroon, The Shaughraun,
The Streets of New York. During his career, he wrote or adapted four
hundred plays. 88 All of the above mentioned plays were presented more
than once in La Crosse except for Streets of New York, which had only
(1822-1890) was born in Dublin and educated as a
civil engineer. He began writing plays and had his first success in
1841. He made his American debut in 1854 in his own play, Used Up.
Hornblow said of Boucicault:
This was the beginning of the career in this country of a
remarkably brilliant man, an actor-playwright with an
extraordinary instinct for the stage, who from that time
up to the day of his death dominated the American theatre. 89
On October 6, 1884, La Crosse audiences had the opportunity to
see Boucicault act in his own play, The Shaughraun. The Chronicle
said that most of the people who went to the Opera House to see
Boucicault probably had in mind the author of
numerous plays, sixty-two
years old, and showing considerable age. Instead, they saw:
Con the Shaughraun, a wild Irish boy, keen,
brimming with wit, effervescing with animal spirits, big-hearted,
a faithful friend, a tender lover, the typical
Irish boy, in short. 90
His face showed the lines of age, but the lines seemed to be more like
lines that an actor puts on with make-up than permanent lines caused
by aging. The image that the Chronicle had of Boucicault
different from what it saw on the stage that, to the Chronicle,
Boucicault, the playwright, and Boucicault, the actor, would remain
two separate personalities. 91 The company was not well balanced, for
the support was not equal to the main character Con, played by
Boucicault. "Con rather takes the shine
out of the other twinklers,
so to speak." 92 To La Crosse audiences, then, Boucicault
credible, and energetic Irishman, Con.
Critical opinion of Boucicault in La Crosse was
similar to critical
opinion in America at large. Wilson quotes Arthur H. Quinn, who
commented on Boucicault's acting which "interpreted to the life the
generous, hearty, irresponsible,-and none too sober wonder, ever ready
to help others but with an eye to his concerns. 93 Wilson continued
by saying that Boucicault was a "clever
technician" who could
"simulate emotion" and “manipulate” the audience.
94 If this is
true, then in La Crosse his technique worked, for La Crosse critics
saw Boucicault as the character Con. They did
not see his technique
as "technique," rather they perceived his actions, movements,
speech as essential parts of the character Con.
Another popular comic actor in the La Crosse area, both in terms
of audience appeal and critical acclaim was Stuart Robson. Robson
came to La Crosse six times and amused audiences with his unique comic
style. Wilson described him as an actor "whose drolly innocent
appearance, squeaky, unpredictable voice, and eccentric movements
dominated every role he undertook and titillated audiences for over
fifty years." 95 Goodwin considered Robson to be "one of the
of modern comedians." 96 Goodwin reasoned that had Robson not been
"handicapped by a vocal organ that squeaked only fun, his pathos
have equalled John E. Owens' or Joe
La Crosse critics also commented upon Robson's ability to arouse
pathos. In 1879, Robson played La Crosse for three consecutive
The first, February 6, 1879, was a version of Uncle Tom's
Cabin. His good-humored additions were the delight of the audience. 98
The next night Robson acted in a play he had written, Asa
The play had little unity, only barely enough to make it hang together.
Because of Robson, though, the audience roared in laughter. The
presentation also had its pathetic moments, and at times the audience
hardly knew whether Robson deserved higher praise for the humorous or
the pathetic sections of the performance. 99 Apparently La Crosse critics
considered Robson as being more effective at creating pathos than did
The last performance of the tour was Black Diamonds. The Chronicle
commented only in general but highly complimentary terms. The company
had played one of the most successful three day engagements in La Crosse
in many seasons. 100
Twelve years later, Robson appeared in The Henrietta. Of this
performance, the Chronicle wrote:
It is a perfect comedy and that means that it had its sad
incidents, its tragedy even; but these serve only as the
background before which the brisk and merry action moves.
Mr. Robson is one of the three or four really great
comedians of America or of the world for that matter, and
any person who was in the audience last night would hesitate
some before selecting one to be preferred before him. 101
The evidence collected from the critical opinions of Robson in
La Crosse papers suggests that Robson was perceived about the same in
La Crosse as he was in the country in general. La Crosse critics,
however, thought him slightly more effective at pathos.
Sol Smith Russell (1848-1902) specialized in roles where he played
the awkward, eccentric character with the heart of gold. The 'awkward
absurdity" of his style as well as his "quaint pathos"
audiences. He, somewhat like Jefferson, was able to play a single
role in Edgewood Folks for five years before the public tired of it. 102
According to Goodwin, Russell admired Jefferson and wanted a similar
reputation. Although Goodwin thought Russell was a good entertainer and
sketch artist, he did not consider him to be a great actor. 103
La Crosse critics, however, did consider him to be a great actor.
He came to La Crosse six times and always received complimentary reviews.
For his performance in Bewitched, April, 1889, the Chronicle praised him
as highly as one could be praised:
There is but one Sol Smith Russell and when he passes from
the stage of action (may the time be far distant), we doubt
if anybody will arise to exactly fill his place. There are
comedians, and readers and pantomimists and men
intelligence the world over; but here-we have them all combined
in one and a thorough gentleman to boot. Everything
about him is funny--his countenance, his gestures, his voice,
but most of all that true humor which does not imitate but
Russell was again complimented when he came to La Crosse in A Poor
Relation, April, 1890. The presentation went in the records as one
of the notable successes in the new theatre. The play was a character
study of a poor but proud inventor. Russell acted the role with a
pathos underlying the humor. The pathos never quite came to the surface,
but neither was it ever obscured. 105 The Chronicle again complimented
Russell when he appeared in April Weather, September, 1894. This time
the paper used fewer words, but the praise was equally lavish:
Weather is pretty near perfect as a play, and Sol Smith Russell is a
little more than that as a player." 106 The paper concluded that
could probably rest on his laurels and play April Weather the rest of
his life if he wanted to. 107
There is no information readily available to determine John Dillon's
status as an actor, since Dillon is not mentioned by such major
historians as Hornblow, Hewitt, Hughes, or Wilson. One must conclude,
therefore, that Dillon's influence upon theatre in America, in general,
was not great. In La Crosse, however, the opposite was the case; for
Dillon was one of the most popular entertainers to tour La Crosse.
He came to La Crosse on seven different occasions between 1880 and
1894. His first presentation was Our Next President, February 15, 1880.
The Chronicle reported that Dillon would cause an outbreak of merriment
even if he never opened his mouth. Humor flowed spontaneously from
him; he found humor in lines that even the playwright had probably not
intended. 108 The Chronicle said that Dillon in Scott Marble's play,
State's Attorney, November 13, 1882, was an amusing "conglomeration
Dillonesque fun, high flown sentiment, and
Hazel Kirke agony." 109 Dillon
was the same character though, and he had done better work previously.
In November, 1885, Dillon again acted in New State's Attorney. On this
occasion, the Chronicle reported: "Dillon remains the same queer
and whatever he says or does meets the approval of the audience. 110
On Dillon's last appearance in La Crosse, he still had not changed. He
had the same old methods that he had been using for twenty-five years.
The methods worked though, for the Chronicle found no fault with Dillon
or any member of the company in their production of Model Husband,
December 14, 1893. 111
The final comic actor to greatly influence the theatre in La Crosse
was George H. Adams (stage name Grimaldi).
Adams is not mentioned in
the usual sources on theatre history; he is not listed in the index of
Odell. His impact upon theatre in America in general must not have been
significant. In La Crosse, though, Adams received critical acclaim
and attracted full houses each time he toured. He came to La Crosse four
times and acted in Humpty Dumpty each time. For
his first performance,
1878, the gallery was filled and only a few seats were vacant downstairs.
The Chronicle's review of that performance helps one understand his
The title role by Grimaldi being so near
perfect as to render
it beyond criticism. The great forte of this celebrated clown
is in his facial expressions, which are graduated through all
the stages from a broad grin to that of wonder, afright,
despair, and back to the original grin, in a manner that is
wonderful to behold. 112
Adams came to La Crosse again in 1880 and once more attracted a
full house. The paper said that Adams gave the best performance of
Its class ever seen in the city. At the time of this performance,
according to the Chronicle, Adams was only twenty-six and had already
obtained a reputation as a clown second only to George Fox, of whom
he was in some respects an imitator and successor. The Chronicle
Not only is he unequalled in respect to his amazing facial
expression, but he possesses astonishing skill as an
acrobat, which as especially exhibited in the stilt
Adams played Humpty Dumpty again June 20, 1881.
For that performance,
the audience was so absorbed that they were leaning forward in their
seats in order not to miss anything. Adams was constantly perpetuating
something that seemed to be the climax of the ridiculous, and then just
as often he would surprise the audience with something amazingly more
absurd. 114 On Adams' last appearance in La Crosse, March 5, 1883, the
Chronicle complimented him saying:
Adams is the greatest clown in the country beyond all doubt. . .
New tricks and transformations by the score have been introduced,
calling into play a dozen accessories to the familiar clown,
columbine, pantaloon, and harlequin. 115
The Realistic Style
Those who acted in the realistic style attempted to create the
illusion of reality on the stage. They attempted to cause the audience
to suspend their disbelief and accept what was taking place on the stage
as reality. The stage was no longer a stage but a real place where real
people were interacting. The realistic actor discarded flamboyant
acting styles and used life as his model. According to Woodbury, the
realistic style was introduced as early as 1857, but did not become
popular until the last decade of the nineteenth century. ll6
Only one actor significantly influenced theatre in La Crosse using
a realistic acting style. He was James A. Herne
contributed to the development of American theatre in general both as
a playwright and an actor. He started his career as an actor in 1859.
He traveled from coast to coast and became the leading character actor
and stage manager at Baldwin's Theatre in San Francisco. Herne began
his playwriting with a successful adaptation of Hearts of Oak. which
he and Mrs. Herne played for about ten years.
His first original play
to attract favorable critical attention was Drifting Apart, 1888. Two
years later he wrote Margaret Fleming, a play that is considered to be
a hallmark in the development of American drama in the nineteenth century
Its subject matter, however, proved unacceptable to many theatre
and Herne lost several thousand dollars on the
play. He recovered his
loss with his highly successful Shore Acres, 1892. Herne's
influence both as an actor and a playwright was his emphasis on the
faithful portrayal of the common man. Both as an actor and as a
playwright, he helped promote the general trend toward realism in the
nineteenth century. Both Mr. and Mrs. Herne
acted in a simple realistic
style. They were in the vanguard of the realistic movement.
Wilson says that Herne is "perhaps better
remembered as a dramatist
than as an actor." 118 The same is true in La Crosse. Although Herne
came to La Crosse twice, neither paper wrote much about his acting.
Both papers were more interested in the play itself and its setting than
they were in Herne's acting. In fact, little
was written about Herne's
acting style. Since La Crosse audiences were more accustomed to actors
using a more emotional approach, the absence of lengthy comment may
suggest that the La Crosse critics considered Herne's
style as not
really acting. Acting to them may have been more than the suggestion
of real life. The only comment that either of the La Crosse papers
made about Herne or his wife's acting was
brief. The Chronicle said
of Mrs. Herne:
Her acting was not overwrought in any particular, and in the
most difficult passages she was exceptionally free from the
violence that tears passion to tatters. 119
The comments on James Herne's acting were even
more brief. He was
complimented for his "unusual naturalness and finish." 120
Although neither of the La Crosse papers wrote much about the
realistic acting style, they mere interested in the realistic approach.
The Chronicle wrote the following concerning the scenery and props in
Hearts of Oak:
The scenery is quite elaborate, while all through the play
realistic effects are wrought by means that many companies
seem not to think worth their while. For example, the scene
of Terry's home was really the interior of a humble dwelling;
the food placed upon the table was smoking from the oven and
looked so appetizing that the audience would have risen as
one man and woman, if the players had kindly extended an
invitation to supper. Those on the front row sniffed with
a sort of 'yum-yum' air as the odor of baked beans permeated
the atmosphere. 121
La Crosse audiences and critics tended to like the same actors
and the same acting styles as the country in general. Laura Keene,
Joseph Jefferson, Dion Boucicault,
and Julia Marlowe were as popular
in La Crosse as they were throughout America. Similarly the acting
styles that actors used in La Crosse were the same as those throughout
the rest of the nation. There ware some notable differences though.
La Crosse audiences and critics tended to like actors who used the
more emotional style. Although they even applauded McKean Buchanan
who acted in the outdated heroic style, La Crosse audiences and critics
especially thrilled at the emotional performances of Thomas Keene and
Alexander Salvini. Both actors were much more popular in La Crosse
than they were in America at large. Toward the end of Fanny Janauschek's
career, she was considered old fashioned by critics in parts of the
nation, but in La Crosse, she was more popular in 1893 than she was in
1879. James Herne, as an actor, apparently made
little effect upon
La Crosse. La Crosse was just a little behind the times in the kind
of acting styles it preferred.
1 Garff B. Wilson, A History of American Acting
Indiana University Press, 1966).
2 Lael Jay Woodbury, "Styles of Acting in
Serious Drama on the
Nineteenth Century American Stage" (unpublished Doctor's
University of Illinois, 1954).
3 Howard Paul and George Gebbie, The Stage and Its Stars, II
(Philadelphia: Gebbie and Company), p. 50.
4 T. Allston Brown, A History of the New York Staqe
First Performance in 1732 to 1901, II (New York: Benjamin Bloom, Inc.,
1903), pp, 381, 388, 408, 428.
5 Paul and Gebbie, p. 50.
6 Wilson, p. 39.
7 The La Crosse Republican and Leader, May 19, 1870, p. 1, col. 6.
8 La Crosse Evening Democrat, May 21, 1870, p. 4, col. 1.
9 La Crosse Weekly Democrat, July 27, 1866, p. 1, col. 3.
10 Ibid.. July 31, 1866, p. 1, col. 3.
11 Ibid., August 1, 1866, p. 1, col. 3.
12 Ibid., August 2, 1866, p. 1, col. 4.
14 Evening Democrat, May 21, 1870, p. 4, col. 1.
15 Republican and Leader, May 21, 1870, p. 1, col. 1.
16 Evening Democrat, May 22, 1863, p. 4, col. 1.
17 Woodbury, p, vii.
18 Paul and Gebbie, p. 109.
19 La Crosse Chronicle, April 7, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
21 Ibid., May 11, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
24 Ibid., June 3, 1884, p. 4, col. 2.
27 Ibid., December 17, 1885, p. 1, col. 2.
28 Ibid., September 18, 1887, p. 5, col. 1.
29 La Crosse Republican, September 19, 1887, p. 1, col. 4.
30 Chronicle, November 1, 1893, p. 1, col. 3.
31 Ibid., February 26, 1897, p. 1, col. 5.
32 George C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, XV (New
York: University Press, 1949), p. 325.
33 Chronicle November 3, 1893, p. 3, col. 1.
35 Odell, XII, p. 440.
36 Chronicle October 11, 1894, p. 1, col. 4.
(In La Crosse papers and in other area papers, the
audience was referred to as auditors rather than
37 Chronicle, March 1, 1896, p. 3, col. 1.
38 Arthur Hornblow, A History of the Theatre in America. II
(Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Company,
1919), pp. 229-230.
39 Chronicle, October 11, 1894, p. 1, col. 4.
40 Chronicle, January 22, 1897, p. 1, col. 2.
41 Brown, III, p. 104.
42 Odell, IX, p. 592.
43 Chronicle, February 4, 1897, - 3, col. 2.
44 Ibid., January 22, 1897, p. 3, col. 2.
45 Ibid., February 4, 1897, p. 3, col. 2.
46 Frederick Warde, The Fools of Shakespeare (Los Angeles:
Time-Mirror Press, 1923), p. 227.
47 Chronicle, January 22, 1872, p. 3, col. 2.
48 Glenn Hughes, A History of the American Theatre 1700-1950
(New York: Samuel French, 1951), pp. 248-249.
49 Mary A. Clark, "Social Life in Early La Crosse," La Crosse
County Historical Sketches, Series 6 (La Crosse, 1937), pp. 83-84.
50 Chronicle, October 19, 1879, p. 3, col. 1.
51 Wilson, p. 58.
52 Chronicle, April 22, 1893, p. 1, col. 4.
53 Wilson, p. 58.
55 Ibid., pp. 110-111.
57 Oscar G. Brockett, History of the American Theatre (Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1968), p. 497.
58 Evening Democrat, June 16, 1870, p. 4, col. 1.
59 Republican, June 16, 1870, p. 1, col. 3.
60 Evening Democrat, June 16, 1870, p. 1, col. 3.
61 Republican, June 17, 1870, p. 1, col. 3.
62 Ibid., June 28, 1870, p. 1, col. 3.
63 Chronicle, May 6, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
64 Bernard Hewitt, Theatre U. S. A. 1665-1957 (New York:
McGraw Hill Book Company, 1959), p. 198.
65 Eugenie Paul Jefferson, Intimate Recollections of Joseph
Jefferson (New York: Dodd, mead and Company, 1909), p. 189.
66 Hewitt, p. 198.
67 Joseph Jefferson, The Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson
(London: Reinhardt and Evans, Ltd., 1949),p. 232.
68 Eugenie Paul Jefferson, p. 129.
69 Hughes, p. 249.
70 Hewitt, p. 198.
71 Republican. May 28, 1872, p. 4, col. 3.
72 Chronicle. May 6, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
73 "Among the Comedians," Atlantic monthly, XVIV (January,
74 Hornblow, p. 113.
75 Ibid., p. 284.
76 Hughes, pp 222-278.
77 Hornblow, p. 284.
78 Charles Edward Russell, Julia Marlowe, Her Life and Art (New
York: D. Appleton and Company, 1926), pp. vii-viii.
79 Chronicle January 22, 1889, p. 1, col. 2.
81 Republican, January 22, 1889, p. 4, col. 3.
82 Chronicle, October 5, 1892, p. 3, col. 2.
83 Ibid., September 28, 1895, p. 1, col. 2.
84 Hornblow, p. 285.
85 Wilson, p. 149.
86 Russell, p. v.
88 Hornblow, p. 205.
89 Ibid., p. 204.
90 Chronicle, October 7, 1884, p. 3, col. 1.
93 Wilson, p. 165.
95 Wilson, p. 168.
96 Nat C. Goodwin, Nat Goodwin’s Book (Boston: The Gorham Press,
1914), p. 27.
97 Ibid, p. 30.
98 Chronicle. February 7, 1879, p. 3, col. 1.
101 Chronicle, April 10, 1891, p. 3, col. 2.
102 Wilson, p. 198.
103 Goodwin, p. 62.
104 Chronicle, April 28, 1889, p. 4, col. 1.
105 Ibid., April 11, 1890, p. 1, col. 4.
106 Ibid., September 29, 1894, p. 1, col. 6.
108 Chronicle, February 15, 1880, p. 3, col. 1.
109 Ibid., November 14, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
110 Ibid., September 26, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
111 Ibid., December 15, 1893, p. 3, col. 3.
112 Ibid., September 11, 1878, p. 3, col. 2.
113 Ibid., May 22, 1880, p. 3, col. 1.
114 Ibid., June 21, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
115 Ibid., march 6, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
116 Woodbury, p. viii.
117 Hughes, pp. 288-289.
118 Wilson, p. 128.
119 Chronicle, January 24, 1889, p. 1, col. 4.
120 Republican, January 24, 1889, p. 4, col. 3.
121 Chronicle, January 24, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
FREQUENTLY PRODUCED PLAYS
This chapter enumerates and describes the reactions to plays
frequently produced in the La Crosse area. By examining the number
of performances, audience attendance, and critical opinion, one can
get a good idea about the type of play that was most appreciated in
La Crosse. La Crosse critics, typical of many critics of the-nineteenth
century, were not literary minded. They wrote primarily about the play
as presented, rather than about the play script. Occasionally, though,
La Crosse critics commented succinctly [sic] upon the play script. One
example was the popular play, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was the most frequently produced play in La Crosse
during the last century, receiving no less than twenty-five performances
between 1868 and 1900. The play always attracted a large audience, and
the Chronicle did a commendable job of analyzing the reasons for the
It always surprises the public and must sometimes astonish
the players themselves to discover the unfailing popularity
of this time-worn and in no sense meritorious apology for a
drama. People who would go to no other theatrical performance
may be relied on to patronize Uncle Tom. the real object
probably being to see the theatre in some form, and the
apology therefore, the moral character of this particular
play. Thus, they quiet their conscience, and if the drama
is really harmful, may depend on not getting enough of the
genuine article to damage a seraph. 1
The first mention of a performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin was in
1858. Mr. and Mrs. Langrishe had completed a
series of performances
in the city and promised to perform Uncle Tom's Cabin when they returned
from up river. There is no record in the Democrat, however, of their
The first recorded performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin was July 28,
1869. The Democrat did not mention the name of the company that played
this engagement, for Pomeroy was primarily interested in promoting his
new Opera House and scenery. The first part of Pomeroy's critique
appears to be praising the company, but the basic intent of the article
is clearly revealed in the last sentence:
At Pomeroy Opera Hall last evening, the entire audience was
hushed for a moment as the scene was presented which showed
Eliza and her child crossing the Ohio on the floating blocks
of ice. It was as natural as life itself; the roaring water
and swaying ice presented a picture that a La Crosse
audience was little prepared for, and developed the magnificence
of the scenery and capacity of the stage. When the
curtain fell, the applause was unbounded. When the good
Quaker knocked the lawyer Marks overboard. . . the children
in the hall were fearful he would not be rescued, and for
a moment it struck us that he was in for it. Such is good
For another production of Uncle Tom's Cabin, December 26, 1875,
the Democrat reported that there was a crowded house and that the acting
was good. What most impressed the critic, though, was the emotion and
sentiment caused by the character of Eva.
But to our mind the crowning glory was the sweet little
fairy that took the part of "Eva." Her fair young face
at once bespoke a welcome, while her kind actions and
loving words given so naturally to those so far beneath
her socially, and her earnest conversation with her
father, "Uncle Tom," and "Topsy,"
made her seem almost
heavenly. And many fair listeners gave vent to their
feelings in tears, while she sang that beautiful little
song asking for the freedom of her dear "Uncle Tom,"
and it the bed scene even some of the sterner sex gave
Three years later, February 6, 1878, the Democrat, in a review
of another production of Uncle Tom's Cabin, predicted that the play
would probably draw good audiences long after contemporaneous American
plays were played out and forgotten. 4 The Democrat's prediction was
accurate for no other play in La Crosse received so many performances,
or lasted for more years than did Uncle Tom's Cabin. The first recorded
performance was in 1869 and the last recorded performance of the century
was in 1899.
In the 1880's, the style of production started changing. The emphasis
was no longer on the sentiment; instead, acting companies introduced
such gimmicks as trained bloodhounds to heighten interest. Smith's
Double Mammoth Company, May 30, 1883, played Uncle Tom's Cabin with a
double cast for everyone except Uncle Tom. The size of the audience
in the Opera House had never been equaled. There were people there who
used Uncle Tom's Cabin as an excuse to enjoy the "sinful
the theatre, people who came because they liked the play, and people
who came because of the novelty of a double company. The Chronicle
thought that the double cast detracted rather than added to the
but the doubling did add to the fun, which was the intent. 5
The same company came to La Crosse again two years later, May 2,
1885, with the same double cast gimmick. The audience for both the
matinee and evening performances was the largest that had been in the
Opera House for some time. Those in the audience who went for amusement
got it. They laughed, rested, and then laughed again from the beginning
until the curtain fell. 6
After a series of humorous productions of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a
cheap show, Marie Wellsley's Company, June 13,
1895, presented the play
with no dogs, mules, or other theatrical devices--more like it was
intended to be presented. The Chronicle, however, did not critique this
The Wellsley's revival in style of presentation
was not typical of
most traveling companies. most companies continued to use gimmicks
and specialty features. The Davis Company's production of Uncle Tom's
Cabin, April 23, 1898, had the usual trained bloodhounds, trick donkeys,
and a singing and dancing little Eva. The Chronicle reported that the
theatre was filled and tie audience got exactly what they spent their
money to see. 7
The last Uncle Tom's Cabin production of the century was November 8,
1899. The Chronicle did not review the production, except to say that
the play was staged well and the scenery and the company were above
average. Also, the theatre was packed.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was presented in La Crosse twenty-five times to
a total audience of about thirty thousand people. The opinions of
La Crosse critics were mixed. Some thought it was an apology for a
drama; others thought the crowning glory of the play was its ability
to arouse the emotions of the audience time and time again.
Although the purpose of this chapter, or of the entire study for
that matter, is not to make a comparison between La Crosse theatre and
theatre at large in the rest of the nation, some brief comparisons aid
in the understanding of theatre in La Crosse. In the nation at large,
few, if any, plays have been presented as often as Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Certainly no American play has been presented so frequently. The play
first received success in Troy, New York, where it ran for one hundred
nights. It was moved to the National Theatre, New York City, on July 18,
1853, and ran for more than a year. It received three hundred
(a record) and toward the close of the run the actors were presenting
eighteen performances a week. 9 After the original run, Uncle Tom was
generally taken over by traveling troupes and played for half a century.
The play had one hundred separate openings in New York alone. 10 Critical
opinion in the nation at large was mixed 11 as it was in La Crosse.
The second most frequently produced play in La Crosse was East Lynne,
written by Mrs. Henry Wood. While many of the plays during the nineteenth
century illustrate the progressive trend toward greater realism, East
Lynne is an exception to that trend. Many of the incidents in the play
are improbable, as are the actions of the characters. It is unlikely
that Lady Isabel would suspect her husband of having an affair with
Barbara as the result of seeing them walking together. It is also
improbable that she would then run away with Levison,
whom she had not
liked previously. The most improbable action is Lady Isabel's return
to her husband's house disguised as a governess. Shortly after she
arrives, her son dies and then she, in lachrymose sentimentality, dies
also. Furthermore, the story is structurally inconsistent for Act II
is several years later than Act I, yet Barbara talks to Archibald about
her brother as if their meeting had taken place only the previous day.
Secondly, Act III, Scene 2, indicates no time passage, yet Isabel has
had a child by Levison. It is not clear until
several pages later that
three years have elapsed.
Many of the critics of the period, such as William Winter, were
severe in their criticism of East Lynne. Winters said that a "flimsy
and stupid novel has been resuscitated into a flimsy, unnatural,
incongruous, and feverishly sentimental play." l2
La Crosse critics would not have agreed with Winter, for East Lynne
did not receive any adverse criticism in its thirteen presentations.
On the contrary, La Crosse critics praised the play. Pomeroy said it
was "indeed up to life--almost reality." 13 Pomeroy's favorite
The scene where the former wife, Cornelia, Lady Isabel
came back after years of abandonment, lost, and degraded. . .
was impressive, and Mr. Miller, as Carlyle, when he saw the
face bending over the boy that he had kissed so often, the
changing of revenge and hatred to forgiveness, at her death,
was so solemnly beautiful. All should have been there. 14
Pomeroy praised the play again when it was presented in 1870. Similarly,
the Democrat (1875) complimented the play, saying of the Clark Clifford
[Clifford] was all that the rascally, devil-may-care,
yet fascinating character demanded. Miss Clare as Lady
Isabel. . . proved to the audience that her conception
of these difficult characters was excellent. 15
After the Clifford production, East Lynne was generally taken over
by cheap shows and played until 1897, usually to good houses. To an
audience that was relatively unsophisticated and that was thirsty for
emotional involvement and escape, East Lynne was the play. With this
play the audience could pity; they could wallow with Isabel in grandiose
sentimentality. Much like the radio soap opera of a latter day, it
appealed to those who loved to weep over the anguish of others.
In La Crosse, during the nineteenth century, East Lynne was presented
thirteen times to a combined audience of about thirteen thousand people.
East Lynne was a fairly popular play in New York also. During the
period under study, East Lynne had forty-eight openings.
The third most frequently produced play in La Crosse was Rip Van
Winkle. It was presented eight times between 1869 and 1899, each time
to a full or nearly full theatre. The Dates Burlesque Opera Troupe was
the first to present Rip Van Winkle, September 1, 1869. Mr. Sheldon
acted the character Rip, and the Democrat reported that he sometimes
brought tears to the audience's eyes. Then again the house would be
overcome with laughter at the lines of the quaint Dutchman, especially
thn he had "sword off' and when he was
"better mit out it." 17 The Oates
Company was a well balanced and versatile group, for the Democrat said
that each member was capable of taking the boards as a star. 18
In 1872, Rip was presented by none other than Joseph Jefferson.
The Republican said that Jefferson had captured perfectly the trifling,
drunken, lazy, yet shrewd Rip. The Republican continued:
To say that all were pleased with it would be a feeble way
of speaking of the way in which the audience was carried
away, and the cheers and roars of laughter were fairly
deafening at times. 19
The next person to play Rip was Robert McWade.
The Democrat reported
that McWade fully sustained the high reputation
he had won in the
character Rip. The Democrat concluded its review by saying that Rip
Van Winkle always seems new when given by a Jefferson or a McWade. The
audience was generally pleased with the performance. 20
The next time Rip Van Winkle was presented in La Crosse, May 4, 1881,
Joseph Jefferson was again in the leading role. The Chronicle wrote one
of its longest and most favorable reviews for the production. 21
The Stuart Company, a ten- and twenty-cent show, presented Rip Van
Winkle in 1887. The Chronicle said that the Stuart Company was better
than most cheap shows, but made no specific comment in support of this
Another cheap show, the Otis Turner Company, treated Rip Van Winkle,
May 2, 1894, more as a farce than it had previously been treated.
A large audience attended. 23
The Punch Robertson Company, another cheap show, presented Rip Van
Winkle for their Saturday afternoon matinee, September 8, 1894. The
paper did not comment on this production.
The presentations of Rip Van Winkle illustrate the general pattern
that was frequently used for plays that were presented more than twice.
The play would be presented once or twice by prominent, well known
companies. Then, cheap shows would put the play into their repertory
and perhaps play it several more times at ten, twenty, or thirty cents.
The La Crosse papers did not comment in any detail about the script
of Rip Van Winkle. The overall critical opinion of the play as presented,
however, was good. After all, the script, both in La Crosse and in
America in general, was not so important to critics and audiences of
the nineteenth century as the presentation, particularly when the
presentation was by Joseph Jefferson. Jefferson, himself, was not
impressed with the play script for he stated:
I was quite sure that the character was what I had been seeking,
and I was equally satisfied that the play was not. The action
had neither the body nor the strength to carry the hero. 24
Nevertheless, the play, Rip Van Winkle, was important to La Crosse.
It had eight well attended presentations and served as a vehicle to
bring a great actor, Joseph Jefferson, to town. The play was similarly
popular in the New York area, having forty-six openings. 25
Tying with Rip Van Winkle for the third most frequently produced
play in La Crosse was Humpty Dumpty. Actually,
Humpty Dumpty was more
a pantomime than a play, and its success depended largely upon the actor
playing Humpty Dumpty.
The first presentation, September 4, 1869, was by the Oates Troupe.
They presented Humpty Dumpty not as a major
feature, but as an after-piece.
The Democrat did not comment on the production.
The second, third, and fifth productions of Humpty Dumpty
George Adams, and the description of these productions is covered in
the section on George Adams in Chapter III.
The fourth production of Humpty Dumpty featured
Jay Rial. The
Chronicle reported that the audience was satisfied, but it did not
comment specifically. By inference, the production must have been
inferior to that of Adams, because the Chronicle did not praise the
style of presentation. Instead, it wrote several lines about a dog
act incorporated into the show, saying that it was "worth double the
price of admission." 26
Will Grover acted Humpty Dumpty for the sixth
production. He had
worked with Jay Rial previously, but now billed
himself as the "survivor
of the fittest." However, the Chronicle did not think the company
improved under the new management, for the first part of the program
was "tiresome;" the entertainment was stale and flat.
George Adams, back for the seventh production, March 5, 1880, had
the largest audience of the season, and again received the highest
praise. "Adams is the greatest clown in the country beyond all
The eighth production, June 14, 1883, was by Tony Denier. This
time he did not have Adams to act Humpty Dumpty,
so he acted the role
himself. The Chronicle did not go into detail, but labeled the pantomime
As was typical of most plays, Humpty Dumpty was
finally taken over
by cheap shows. The last production, January 18, 1896, was by the Jolly
Delta Pringle Company. The Chronicle did not comment specifically on
their production of Humpty Dumpty, but did say
that the group was filling
the house each night. 30
Humpty Dumpty was a different play from those
discussed earlier in
this chapter. Uncle Tom's Cabin and East Lynne are both emotional
Rip Van Winkle. although a comedy, still has an emphasis on the
pathos. Humpty Dumpty, on the other hand, is a
farce, the only farce
that received more than five performances in La Crosse.
Humpty Dumpty was similarly popular in other
parts of the country.
George Fox played Humpty Dumpty 1,268 times in
New York alone. 31 The
success of the presentations in New York as well as La Crosse depended
primarily upon who was acting Humpty Dumpty.
Another popular play to La Crosse audiences was Divorce, an adaptation
of the Wilkie Collins novel by Augustin Daly. It had seven productions
in La Crosse, sometimes under a different title, such as Woman Against
Woman. For the first production of Divorce, the Democrat said little
about the play except that it was "excellent." The company was
Fifth Avenue Troupe and the gentlemen captured the ladies in the
just as the ladies captured the males. They attracted one of the largest
audiences to that date, 1873. 32
Divorce was not presented in La Crosse again until 1887. This time
it was presented under the title Woman Against Woman. The Chronicle,
like the Democrat, said little about the play, but did comment that
the house was filled, and that the A. R. Wilber Company made an honest
attempt, without rant, to portray human emotions. 33
The last time Divorce was presented, 1896, the audience was much
smaller. The Chronicle explained the small crowd by saying that people
liked more fun when they go to the theatre. 34
By the mid-nineties, La Crosse audiences had grown tired of the
typical "nineteenth century melodrama." In the Chronicle's
People don't pay their money to be harrowed up. They want to
laugh; and so it has come to pass that the emotional drama
has fallen into desuetude.°
Divorce was evidently more popular in La Crosse than it was in
larger metropolitan areas, for Divorce had fewer opening performances
in New York than any play discussed in this chapter except for Black
Diamonds. It had twelve openings under the title Divorce 36 and six
openings with the title Woman Against Woman. 37
Two Orphans was presented six times in La Crosse. The first
production was by Plunkett's troupe in 1875. The play, by M. M. d'Ennery,
was called a moralistic play where the evil appears to win, but virtue
in the end is triumphant. The Democrat did not say much about the
production techniques except that the lack of special properties and
scenery in the Opera Hall detracted from the fine stage effects that
the same company had in Chicago and New York. 38
Kate Claxton was the next to present Two Orphans. She had her own
scenery and the result was a much better production than that of the
Plunkett Troupe. The Democrat did not say anything in its review about
the play, but did praise Claxton's acting. 39
Germania Hall also presented Two Orphans. The
that some of the main characters were played with a skill that was not
surpassed by professional groups, but that some of the actors of minor
roles detracted from the overall effect by their poor acting. Mr.
Bender should have known his lines better also. 40
Two Orphans was produced again in 1887 by A. R. Wilber's Lyceum
Theatre Company. The Wilber Company was a low price company, playing
for ten and twenty cents. The Chronicle said that the Wilber Companies
had always ranked first among low priced companies, but unfortunately,
neither the Chronicle nor the Republican commented on its presentation
of Two Orphans. 41
The next production of Two Orphans was by the Wilson Company in
1888. The company was a cheap show charging ten, twenty, and thirty
cents. Again, the Chronicle did not comment in detail except that the
company was much above the average cheap show and was deserving of a
larger audience. 42
The last production of Two Orphans was by Kate Claxton, who had
acted in the same show fourteen years ago. This time neither she nor
the play received praise. The Chronicle said that although the acting
was acceptable, the group presented a play of which La Crosse had grown
weary. What was needed was less of "that tired feeling" on both
of the footlights. 43
The production record of Two Orphans illustrates, as did the production
record of Divorce, that La Crosse audiences and critics were
tiring of the emotional melodramas by the 1890's.
Two Orphans was also a popular play on the New York stage, having
fifty-six different openings. 44 Its original presentation was at the
Union Square Theatre, where it ran from December to June of the following
Another play which received a minimum of six performances in La Crosse
was George Bulwer-Lytton's Lady of Lyons. This
play was first performed
in 1866 and had its last presentation of the nineteenth century in 1898
(a span of thirty-two years). Pomeroy did not say anything about the
first performances of Lady of Lyons and little about the second except
that it was an attractive and familiar bill. 46
The Clark Clifford Company presented Lady of Lyons to a fair
audience in 1881. The play was not one of the main features of their
repertory as the absence of appropriate wardrobe clearly illustrated. 47
The Chronicle and the Republican did not make a significant comment
on any of the other productions. Interestingly though, the last
of Lady of Lyons was a reading by George Riddle. The house was
Since La Crosse critics did not comment on the script of Lady of
Lyons and since the La Crosse papers did not mention how often the play
attracted a full theatre, the popularity of Lady of Lyons must be
measured by the number of performances alone--six.
Lady of Lyons was also a frequently presented play in New York.
It had one hundred and sixty-six openings. 49 The only other play
discussed in this chapter to have more openings was Hamlet.
Another play that received at least six performances in La Crosse
was Black Diamonds. Neither the Democrat nor the Chronicle evaluated
the script of Black Diamonds, but the number of performances itself
illustrates its popularity in La Crosse.
Without exception, the groups that presented Black Diamonds were
cheap shows. The Forbes' Dramatic Company presented it three times.
Of their May, 1881 production, the Chronicle reported that a large
audience of both men and boys saw Black Diamonds, and based upon their
cheers and clapping, enjoyed it thoroughly. The performance was
to please the audience present and it was successful in doing so. 50
Black Diamonds may have been a play that was presented primarily
by cheap shows in smaller cities, for Brown did not mention any productions
of the play in New York.
Hazel Kirke, like Black Diamonds, also received
at least six performances
in La Crosse, but unlike Black Diamonds, the Chronicle reviewed
Hazel Kirke in considerable detail. The advance
advertising for the
Madison Square Theatre's presentation of Hazel Kirks labeled it "the
great drama of human life which it so truly represents. . . composed
in equal degree of joy and sorrow." 51 The La Crosse audiences were
somewhat disappointed, however, for as a result of the advance advertising
they expected something new or fresh in either the presentation or in the
script. But the Chronicle said:
The fact is that the performance throughout its four lengthy
acts was as familiar as a hundred time told tale in all its
varied scenes and in the manner in which they were woven
The Chronicle continued by saying that if there was anything novel in
the play it was the absence of the usual heavy or villain. Nevertheless,
numerous character types were still present--the saintly Redling, the
loving "pigheaded" parent, and the weak but well meaning
Chronicle added to its adverse criticism of the script and said:
The final scenes were not only antiquated but clumsy and ill
contrived; happiness was restored by somebody bringing in a
letter showing that oceans of harrowing trouble had been
caused by an Irish valet's lie about a matter of which the
whole party ought to have been perfectly well informed. . .
Furthermore, the play is more then ordinarily artificial,
unreal and absurd; if there was a touch--even a faint hint--
of real life, it escaped general notice.
The general appraisal of Hazel Kirke by the
Chronicle parallels the
general conclusions that Hewitt draws. Hewitt says that Hazel Kirke
was unique in that it had no villain; so does the Chronicle. Hewitt
also says that critics of the period considered it old fashioned; 54
so did the Chronicle. The Chronicle concluded that the success of
Hazel Kirke in New York was probably due to the
marvels of the well
equipped Madison Square Theatre. Also, a New York success was not
necessarily an effective gauge for measuring the success with a western
The next time Hazel Kirke was presented in La
Crosse was April,
1882. The producing company was again the Madison Square Theatre, but
the actors were different from the actors in the Madison Square Theatre
Company of the previous year; and they were not so good the second time
as the first. They were considered to be not more than a "good
The above production had good audience attendance.
The Madison Square Theatre Company presented Hazel Kirks for the
third time in May, 1883. The production was evenly balanced and carefully
presented, but the audience was small. 57
After these three productions, the play was taken over by cheap
companies and put into their repertory. For Noell's
Theatre Company's production of Hazel Kirke,
the audience applauded
everything, and all classes attended. 58
Hazel Kirke continued to draw a good audience
when it was last
produced in La Crosse in 1895 by the Frank Lincoln Company. 59
Hazel Kirke was popular in other parts of the
nation, too, for it
had twenty openings in New York. 60 The original production achieved
a long run record of 486 performances--a record which was not broken
until 1921. It was also the first play to be presented simultaneously
in various parts of the country. It continued to be popular for many
years. Hughes said that Hazel Kirks has had more performances than
any play ever written with the exception of Uncle Tom's Cabin. 61
Three plays had five presentations each in La Crosse--Hamlet,
Ticket-of-Leave Man, and Chimes of Normandy. Hamlet was first presented
in La Crosse in 1866 by the McKean Buchanan Company. Of this production
The sublime tragedy of "Hamlet," the masterpiece of
wondrous intellect, was performed last evening by
the Buchanan Star Company to one of the most refined
audiences ever assembled in a public hall in La Crosse.
Mr. Buchanan gave a splendid representation of Hamlet,
the soliloquies and more impassioned portions of the
tragedy were rendered with a power and true conception
of the text which enchained the attention of the
listeners and drew forth frequent and well merited
After that review one would think that nothing could be better,
but Pomeroy was good at blowing his own horn. A good review would help
fill his theatre in the future. One can only guess whether his reviews
were honest or motivated by profit. However, since Buchanan was highly
praised in the above production and since Pomeroy three years later
referred to Buchanan's performance as having had too much
should suspect that the profit motive was at least a contributing factor.
Of the next production of Hamlet, 1869, by the Miller Atheneum
The very best entertainment ever given in La Crosse was the
rendering of the great tragedy Hamlet. . . . We were pleased
to see so many in attendance too. Mr. Miller is certainly
better in such parts than McKean Buchanan, for he does not
rant so much--but is more life-like. The rendering of the
soliloquies were particularly fine, and he was greeted with
applause on every hand. 63
The Democrat said little about the next presentation of Hamlet, 1870,
by McKean Buchanan, except that it had the largest audience of the
It was seventeen years before Hamlet was presented again. This
time Edmond Keene was acting the role. The Chronicle said that there
were few empty seats in the Opera House, and those who stayed away were
the losers, particularly if they liked Keene's unique interpretation of
Shakespeare. The Chronicle said: "The play as presented last night
as beyond the criticism of the ordinary critic." 65 The Republican
commented in more detail about Keene's presentation. Keene's Hamlet
was not traditional. His Hamlet, unlike some roles he had created,
was not aimed merely for effect. His presentation was logical and
sensible. The Republican explained:
For instance, most actors deliver the great soliloquies at
the footlights and addressed to the audience; Mr. Keene
gives utterance to them while pacing restlessly the apartment
or while setting [sic] abstractly at a table or on a
couch, with the significant, nervous details of excited
perplexity, thus depriving them of the air of set speeches,
and making them appear the utterances of thought. 66
The last production of Hamlet was January 5, 1898, by the William
Owen Company. The Chronicle did not comment on the production, except
to say that it was a matter of regret that the Owen Company should
receive such a small share of La Crosse patronage. 67
The main attraction of the play Hamlet was not the play itself but
rather the actor playing the leading role. When Buchanan or Keene was
acting Hamlet, the theatres were full or nearly full; when less prominent
stars acted Hamlet, fewer La Crosse citizens attended the presentation.
In the world at large, Hamlet has been a popular play for centuries and
will probably continue to be. The primary appeal of the play now as
was the case in La Crosse during the nineteenth century is the unique
approach that a particular actor may use in his characterization.
La Crosse papers had little to say about the presentations of
Ticket-of-Leave Man. The first presentation was called an "old and
popular play" and played to a large house. 68
The Clark Company also played the play to a large house in 1886.
About all that the paper said was that the presentation of Ticket-of-
Leave Man had an even strength throughout. 69
La Crosse papers also had little significant to say concerning the
five productions of Chimes of Normandy. Only one production was reviewed
in any detail and that was the Hess English Opera Company, January 1,
1878. The Democrat said that the opera was much more pleasing, because
the singing was in English rather than Italian. It was also pleasing
because it was almost vaudeville in style. 70
The style of presentation continued to be generally vaudeville and
specialty entertainment for the other four productions.
In addition to the plays discussed previously, several plays received
more than one or two performances in La Crosse: Ten Nights in a Barroom
Jane Eyre (4), Bunch of Keys (4), Pygmalion and Galatea (4), Othello (4),
Richelieu (4), Lucretia Broqia
(3), Streets of New York (3), Richard III (3)
Coleene Bawn (3),
Twelfth Night (3), The Octoroon.(3), and Franchion
As one glances back over the list of the twelve most frequently
produced plays in La Crosse, it is obvious that the most frequently
presented play type was the emotional melodrama. In this group of twelve
plays, there are eight melodramas, one tragedy, one musical, and two
comedies; one of the comedies, Rip Van Winkle, contains many melodramatic
elements. The same pattern emerges in the group of plays that had three
and four presentations each: seven were melodramas, three were comedies,
two were tragedies, and one was a musical.
As one looks over the total list of plays presented in La Crosse,
however, another pattern emerges. Although it is true that the most
frequently presented play type in the 1860's, 1870's, and first part
of the 1880's was the melodrama, by the latter part of the-1880's and
the 1893's, the trend had changed. Comedies were the most frequently
presented type of play. Even some of the older melodramas were given
comic presentations, such as the production of Uncle Tom's Cabin with
a double cast.
1 La Crosse Chronicle, February 20, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
2 La Crosse Daily Democrat, July 29, 1869, p. 1, col. 3.
3 Ibid. December 22, 1875, p. 4, col. 3.
4 La Crosse Morning Liberal Democrat, February 6, 1878, p. 3,
5 La Crosse Chronicle, May 31, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
6 Ibid., May 3, 1885, p. 3, col. 2.
7 Ibid., April 24, 1898, p. 3, col. 2.
8 Ibid., November 9, 1899, p. 3, col. 3.
9 Glenn Hughes, A History of American Theatre 1700-1550 (New
York: Samuel French, 1951), p. 177.
10 T. Allston Brown, A History of the New York Stage, III (New
York: Benjamin Bloom, Inc., 1964), p. 654.
11 Bernard Hewitt, Theatre U. S. A. 1665-1957 (New York: McGraw-
Hill, 1959), pp. 171-179.
12 Ibid., p. 187
13 Daily Democrat, July 24, 1869, p. 4, col. 1.
15 Liberal Democrat, November 9, 1875, p. 4, col. 3.
16 Brown, III, p. 630.
17 Daily Democrat, September 2, 1869, p. 1, col. 3.
19 La Crosse Republican Leader, May 28, 1872, p. 3, col. 2.
20 Liberal Democrat. July 11, 1877, p. 3, col. 2.
21 Chronicle, ay 6, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
22 Ibid., ay 17, 1887, p. 3, col. 2.
23 Ibid., May 3, 1894, p. 3, col. 2.
24 Joseph Jefferson, "Rip Van Winkle," The Autobiography of
Joseph Jefferson (London;: Reinhardt and Evans, Ltd., 1949), p. 175.
25 Brown, III, p. 649.
26 Chronicle November 19, 1880, p. 3, col. 2.
27 Ibid., October 28, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
28 Ibid., March 6, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
29 Ibid., June 15, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
30 Ibid., January 17, 1896, p. 3, col. 2.
31 Hewitt, p. 208
32 Liberal Democrat, October 6, 1873, p. 4, col. 2.
33 Chronicle, January 4, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
34 Ibid., April 3, 1896, p. 3, col. 2.
35 Ibid.. February 20, 1892, p. 1, col. 3.
36 Brown, III, p. 629.
37 Ibid., p. 629.
38 Liberal Democrat, August 4, 1875, p. 4, col. 3.
39 Ibid., may 13, 1877, p. 3, col. 3.
40 Chronicle, may 15, 1883, p. 3, col. 2.
41 Ibid., January 4, 1887, p. 3, col. 2.
42 Ibid., June 1, 1888, p. 3, col. 1.
43 Ibid., October 22, 1891, p. 3, col. 2.
44 Brown, III, p. 654.
45 Ibid., p. 152.
46 Daily Democrat, November 5, 1867, p. 4, col. 1.
47 Chronicle, November 26, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
48 Ibid., April 11, 1898, p. 3, col. 3.
49 Brown, III, p. 638.
50 Chronicle, May 8, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
51 Ibid., August 31, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
52 Ibid., September 1, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
54 Hewitt, p. 237.
55 Chronicle, September 1, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
56 Ibid., April 18, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
57 Ibid., may 3, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
58 Ibid., June 25, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
59 Ibid., March 12, 1895, p. 3, col. 2.
60 Brown, III, pp. 634-635.
61 Hughes, p. 236.
62 Daily Democrat, August 2, 1866, p. 1, col. 4.
63 Ibid., July 27, 1869, p. 4, col. 2.
64 Ibid., may 24, 1870, p. 4, col. 2.
65 Chronicle, September 18, 1887, p. 4, col. 1.
66 Republican, September 19, 1887, p. 1, col. 4.
67 Chronicle, January 8, 1898, p. 3, col. 3.
68 Liberal Democrat, march 23, 1876, p. 4, col. 3.
69 Chronicle, July 25, 1886, p. 3, col. 1.
70 Liberal Democrat. January 2, 1878, p. 3, col. 4.
Some traveling troupes that came to La Crosse during the nineteenth
century were able to attract as much as five to ten per cent of the
entire La Crosse population to the theatre nightly for as long as two
weeks. If a traveling troupe were to come to La Crosse in 1972 and
attract the same percentage of the La Crosse population, La Crosse
would need to have a theatre seating three to six thousand people. It
probably could not be done. Certainly no group could fill such a
theatre nightly for two weeks as some of the "cheap shows" did
the nineteenth century. The "cheap show" was the term that the
papers used to refer to popular traveling troupes that played at reduced
admission prices, usually ten, twenty, and thirty cents.
Most of the theatre groups that came to La Crosse charged seventy-five
cents to one dollar for admission; some charged as high as one
dollar and fifty cents, but this admission was not typical. To understand
what a dollar admission price meant in terms of buying power,
here are a few comparisons. One dollar would buy about four dozen eggs,
or four chickens, or ten pounds of bacon, or four pounds of butter, or
add another dollar and get a hotel room. Naturally, when a few companies
reduced the admission price, La Crosse audiences showed their
by going to the productions. Most of the cheap-show companies played
for ten, twenty, and thirty cents--ten cents for seats in the gallery,
thirty cents for seats close to-the stage, and twenty cents for the
seats in between. Later cheap shows charged ten and twenty cents. The
ten-cent seats were in the gallery, and any seat in the remainder of
the house sold for twenty cents. A few companies even played for ten
cents admission to any seat in the house. More often this low admission
price would follow a week played at ten and twenty cents, and then either
because the company did not have another booking or because La Crosse
audiences had crowded the theatre, they would reduce their rates to ten
cents for any seat in the house and play another week. The cheap shows
sometimes advertised a lady's night. Any woman could get in free if she
were accompanied by a person with a paid ticket. As an added attraction
some companies occasionally gave away merchandise to a lucky ticket
The cheap shows did not come to La Crosse until the mid-eighties.
One of the first groups to play a long engagement at cheap prices was
Nowell's Madison Square Theatre Company. Like
most of the cheap-show
companies, there were no well known stars, the companies specialized in
touring small cities and towns, and the players' names were never
in La Crosse papers. For their first production, Hazel Kirke, June 22,
1885, there were eight hundred people in the Opera House. The Chronicle
commented that it was more agreeable for a company to play to eight
hundred people at ten and twenty cents per person than to charge fifty
cents to a dollar and get the same amount of cash, but play to fewer
people. The Chronicle cautioned that the people must remember that the
same standards of criticism that one uses for regular priced shows could
not be fairly applied to cheap shows. 1
Another cheap show, the Clark Comedy Company, came a year later,
July, 1886. Their repertory was typical of most similar companies
and included Galley Slave, Hidden Hand, Shaughraun,
Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Ticket-of-Leave man. Of the performance of
Ticket-of-Leave Man, the Chronicle suggested a reason besides low
admission prices for the group's popularity:
The play was presented throughout with the even strength
which has characterized the work of the company through
the week. No low priced company that has visited the
city presents better entertainment and many companies
playing at 'regular' prices do not give as much for the
The Nowell Comic Opera Company immediately
followed the Clark
Company with another cheap show, giving La Crosse two weeks of continuous
theatrical entertainment. The Nowell Company's
presentation of Girofle-Girofla
played to standing room only. The following evening they
presented the Mikado. The Nowell Company was
the first cheap-show
group to specialize in musical presentations. The Chronicle said that
it did not have a word of complaint about the production of the Mikado.
It was not just a good show for the money, but a good show at any price.
Three cheap shows came to La Crosse in 1887. The first, the Wilber
Theatre Company, was guilty of overacting. For their presentation of
Two Orphans, the Chronicle reported that a few specific flaws marred the
production. When the character, Devaudray, tore
the page from the
police records implicating his friend, there was no reason for him to
draw his sword upon his unarmed old uncle--except as a theatrical device
to end the act with a sensational tableau. Also, as Henrietta fell
unconscious when she was arrested, what reason was there for the soldiers
to level their guns at her? Even more noticeably out of place, one of
the actors made a pitiable burlesque of the character Pickard. Their
next production, Streets of New York, was better, but still showed an
absence of high artistic standards, for the last act was obscured by
smoke left from the scenic effects in the preceding act.
Even though the presentations of the Wilber Company would probably
be labeled 'amateurish" now, they attracted fairly large audiences,
hundred for Streets of New York. Since they were not filling the theatre,
during their matinee they had a drawing for a ten dollar prize; one
had to be present to win.
The Wilber Company returned in April with a repertory including
Franchion the Cricket, Galley Slave, The
Virginian. Shadows of a House,
A Celebrated Case, and East Lynne. The Chronicle did not comment on any
of the productions in detail. One can infer that the tour was successful,
for the opening night presentation of Franchion
the Cricket attracted a
full house plus one hundred standing. 7 Probably the main difference in
the audience size for this tour as compared to their previous tour
in the year was the weather. Their first tour was in January, and the
second was in April.
Three cheap shows came to La Crosse in 1888. The first was the
Basye and Davis Ideal Company with a repertory
that included Hidden Hand.
Woman Against Woman (another name for Divorce), Called Black. Prisoners
of Russia, and Gypsy Jack. The theatre was filled for each performance. 8
They were followed by the Wilson Company, which did not attract as large
an audience as the Basye and Davis Company,
possibly because they had
some of the same repertory. 9
The last cheap show during 1888 was the Pathfinder Company, whose
audiences were considerably larger than those of the Wilson Company.
Neither the Chronicle nor the Republican mentioned their repertory and
neither reviewed the presentations, except to say that they were
better than most. 10
For the next three years, fewer cheap shows came to La Crosse than
previously. No reason was mentioned in the La Crosse papers for the
decline. Certainly it was not because of poor audience attendance.
There were no cheap shows in 1889, only one in 1890, and only one in
1891. Activity picked up in 1892, however, when four cheap shows came
to La Crosse. The number of shows increased to six in 1894 and eight
in both 1895 and 1896. The number declined after 1896, for only six
cheap shows came in 1897, two in 1898, and three in 1899.
In 1897, the cheap shows became even cheaper. The price was reduced
to ten cents for any seat. The Marie Wellsley
Company opened May 27
for one week, but stayed over for another week because of the response
of La Crosse theatre-goers. On June 12, the company presented the
Octoroon to an audience of fifteen hundred. They closed with a
of Uncle Tom's Cabin without such usual trimmings as trained
bloodhounds and mules. The Chronicle said of the Marie Wellsley Company:
"It gives the best entertainment for the money this town ever
The Villars-Owen Stock Company opened for a
week July 29, (all seats
ten cents). The Chronicle praised their presentation of Bleak House as
better than that of the regular priced Jane Coombs Company. 12 The
company stayed for a second week and played to a full theatre each night.
On June 4, 1896, the Columbia Opera Company opened for one week,
and the Chronicle, in considerable detail, explained why cheap-show
companies of its type were so popular:
Any man, woman or child who cannot get 'good value,' as the
merchant says, at the theatre any night this week is beyond
pleasing at any price. The Columbia Opera Company is an
organization of ladies and gentlemen who have been a long
time associated in the pleasant task of entertaining the
people; they work well together and are ambitious and
earnest in their profession. Such a company not subject
to frequent changes, is able to give an even, well balanced
rendition of such operas as are within Its scope, often
more pleasing than the work of companies led by one or two
people of greater fame. 13
The above comments by the Chronicle indicate that a more "even"
production with greater ensemble playing satisfied the La Crosse
audiences more than did companies that had less ensemble but were led
by stars. The large crowds the above company and similar companies drew
also gives credence to that conclusion. The cheap shows were popular,
not only because they were inexpensive, but because they were often
as good as the regular priced shows.
In 1897, some of the cheap shows added another attraction, either
as an afterpiece or as between act entertainment--a type of moving
picture referred to as the cinematograph. The Sutherland Company which
opened for four nights February 10 at ten cents with Jack of Diamonds
received only a short paragraph comment about the play, but received a
three paragraph comment about the cinematograph shown between acts. One
scene showed babies quarreling, another was the march of a French
and another was the demolition of an old building. The added
attraction helped draw a full house each night. 14
By 1897 La Crosse audiences were beginning to tire of the usual
repertory presented by the cheap shows. After all, for ten years
La Crosse audiences had been receiving an almost steady diet of emotional
dramas such as Hidden Hand, Two Orphans, and East Lynne. The Ferris
Comedians which opened September 9 presented a different type of
musical farces. The Chronicle wrote that the musical farce comedies
satisfied the audience better than the dramas which the repertory
companies usually presented. 15
For a period of more than ten years, La Crosse audiences had generally
crowded the theatre to see the cheap shows with their usual repertory
of emotional dramas. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, however,
La Crosse audiences desired a change from emotional dramas, such as
Galley Slave, Banker's Daughter, and Divorce. In this respect La Crosse
was typical of the nation. The only difference was that La Crosse
tired of the emotional dramas more slowly than did audiences in
larger metropolitan areas. Toward the end of the nineteenth century,
even La Crosse audiences were generally weary of the emotional dramas.
Nevertheless, one emotional drama, Uncle Tom's Cabin, was still popular.
The play was the usual mixture of comedy and pathos with all the
accessories--bloodhounds and trick donkeys. The Chronicle said that the
performance furnished the audience with exactly what they had spent their
money to see. 16
During the nineteenth century, the cheap show was La Crosse's most
popular type of entertainment. Few touring stars had the drawing power
of a reduced admission price, particularly when the touring stars and
their companies were often little better than some of the more successful
cheap repertory shows.
1 La Crosse Chronicle, June 23, 1885, p. 3, col. 2.
2 Ibid., July 25, 1886, p. 3, col. 1.
3 Ibid., July 28, 1886, p. 3, col. 1.
4 Ibid., January 5, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
5 Ibid., January 6, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
6 Ibid., January 8, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
7 Ibid., April 26, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
8 Ibid., April 13, 1888, p. 3, col. 1.
9 Ibid., June 1, 1888, p. 3, col. 2.
10 Ibid., June 5, 1888, p. 3, col. 2.
11 Ibid., June 16, 1895, p. 1, col. 1.
12 Ibid., July 31, 1895, p. 3, col. 2.
13 Ibid., June 2, 1896, p. 1, col. 4.
14 Ibid., February 11, 1897, p. 3, col. 2.
15 Ibid., September 10, 1897, p. 3, col. 4.
16 Ibid., April 24, 1898, p. 3, col. 2.
During the 1880's, about a third of the La Crosse population was
German, resulting in a community greatly influenced by German culture.
The plays that were presented at Germania Hall
were a specific example
of the German cultured influence. These presentations provided a
contrast as well as a supplement to the professional companies that
appeared at Pomeroy's Opera House and later at the La Crosse Theatre.
The plays presented at Germania Hall contrasted
with the professional
companies appearing at the Opera House or at the La Crosse Theatre
because they were presented in the German language. Additionally, the
plays at Germania Hall were different from the
because they were basically amateur productions. Usually, however,
a resident professional director, who also acted the leading role,
directed the amateurs. Since the amateurs frequently acted in several
different plays working under professional directors, Germania
functioned both as a community theatre and similar to a resident stock
company. Professional groups provided practically all of the other
productions in the city, except for a few amateur church presentations.
Germania Hall, therefore, added an interesting
supplement to the city's
general diet of professional touring companies.
During the period of 1878 to 1888, Germania
Hall was the home of
about fifty plays, or an average of five plays per year. Since the
general community theatre movement in America did not start until
around 1900, 1 Germania Hall was an early
community theatre. Apparently
though, German community theatres prior to 1960 were fairly ordinary
in German areas. Madison, Wisconsin, had a German community theatre
as early as 1860. 2 Dubuque, Iowa, had a German theatre, for one of the
Germania Hall directors left La Crosse to
manage in Dubuque. Larger
cities such as Milwaukee, rather than having a German community theatre,
had a German resident stock company. In fact, according to an article
in Theatre Arts, German theatre flourished wherever there was a large
German settlement. 3
The professionals who came to La Crosse were native German actors
and directors. The first of these directors were Mr. and Mrs. Bender.
Frequently the directors were husband and wife teams. They left La Crosse
supposedly for a month, but they did not return until four years later.
The amateurs attempted a production by themselves, but according to the
Liberal Democrat, the production was not so successful as those under
the direction of the Benders. 4
The German actor, Carl Franzmueller, and his
wife, were the next
directors of Germania Hall. 5 Their first
production was successful,
for the Chronicle commented favorably on the acting of the Franzmuellers
and the amateurs. The Chronicle concluded by saying:
Everyone rent home very well satisfied as to the ability of
the new management, and the promise of excellent amusement
during the next season. 6
The Chronicle continued to be satisfied with the Franzmuellers,
their performances with great favor.
The Chronicle did not mention any productions by the German theatre
from March 2, 1879, to November, 1879. Since the Chronicle reported
German productions prior to March, 1879, and then again after November
of that year, one may infer that there were no productions during this
period. For the November 9 production, A Glass of Water, the amateurs
did not have a professional director. The result was less than
for the Chronicle ended its comments on the production with:
The only feature which marred the playing of the evening was
the fact that most of the actors knew their parts, but indifferently;
the consequence being that the man in the prompter's
box did more of the speaking than ought reasonably to have
fallen to his share. 7
A Glass of Water, like most productions at Germania
Hall, was in German.
The La Crosse papers did not mention where the German theatre obtained
their scripts or who translated them. Presumably by 1879, most of
Scribe's plays had been translated into German.
Perhaps the unfavorable criticism of A Glass of Water discouraged
the amateurs, for their next production, He Must Go into the Country,
had professional directors, Mr. and Mrs. Franzmueller.
two plays in the spring of 1880 and one play in the fall of 1880. In
this production, the Franzmuellers' last
presentation, the daughter of
the directing team received applause each time she appeared on the
Mr. and Mrs. Nietmann conducted the remainder
of the 1880 season. 9
Neither the Chronicle nor the Republican mentioned productions of the
Nietmanns. In fact, there was no mention of any
production at Germania
Hall until October 8, 1882. At this time, the managers were once again
Mr. and Mrs. Bender, who chose as their first production, Honest Labor.
The Chronicle praised the acting in the production and concluded by
saying: "If Mr. Bender continues in this direction, the dramatic
will be a good one compared with some former ones. 10 The above statement
implies that there were productions in 1881, but neither the
Chronicle nor the Republican reported them. The Chronicle continued
to laud the Benders, for in their production of From Step to Step,
November 7, 1882, the Chronicle said that the Benders
their roles admirably. Additionally, the Chronicle said:
Mr. Bender deserves praise for his untiring zeal to
produce something worthy and educate the amateurs to
become good actors.
The Benders directed three more plays, for which they received
highly favorable notices. Next, they produced Franchion
in German as usual, a play usually associated with Maggie Mitchell who
toured with it for several years. Concerning this production, the
Chronicle said that the amateur, Mrs. Guenther, played the old witch
Fadet with an understanding that would have
received applause on the
best stages of the land. As usual the paper complimented the Benders. 12
For Mrs. Bender's benefit, Germania Hall
presented the Banker's
Daughter on April 17, 1883. The Chronicle did not mention whether or
not the managers received a salary in addition to the beneficiary.
Mrs. Bender had a good house for the above production; and as an added
attraction, first. Bender's sister had come from Prussia to act in the
show. The Chronicle said that she was young but showed considerable
experience. Again, the paper generally praised the acting, but it
found fault with the script, because it too closely followed the exact
wording of the English. 13 The Chronicle did not mention who translated
Banker's Daughter, but since the paper made a point of the translation,
it is logical to conclude that either the Senders or another member of
the La Crosse German theatre was the translator.
The last presentation of the season was Two Orphans. This production
must have been uneven, for the Chronicle said:
Some of the main characters were given with a skill that is not
surpassed by professional troupes, some of the minor characters
detracted from the effect by their indifferent or insufficient
acting. . . Mr. Bender should have known his lines better, but
since he played two roles and managed the production, this
speaks greatly in his excuse. 14
The Benders presented one more play in La Crosse on October 25, 1883;
the name of the play was not given. They then moved to Dubuque, Iowa,
and became directors of a German theatre there. The paper mentioned
that the amateurs were going to attempt productions alone for the rest
of the 1883-1884 season. The Chronicle cautioned, however, that the
amateur season of two years ago was not completely successful. 15
The amateurs did not attempt productions alone though, for Lutricia
Franzmueller returned to play the leading role
in Jane Eyre. The
Chronicle commented favorably on the amateurs Guenther, Kurtenocker,
and Linker, but it pointed out where some could improve:
Some of the amateurs should take an example of Mrs. Franzmueller
in proper and distinct pronunciation, and the
prompter should never be as loud as the actors. 16
Based upon the evidence above, the productions at Germania
were no doubt uneven--sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes
a mixture of both. The La Crosse papers did not mention the scenery
that Germania Hall used. Since the papers wrote
exclusively about the
scenery at the Opera Hall and at the La Crosse Theatre, the scenery
surely played a relatively unimportant role at Germania
practice may have been typical of the German theatres of the period,
for the German theatre in Milwaukee often had sub-standard costumes
and scenery. 17
For the remainder of the season, Germania Hall
hired Mr. and Mrs.
Oeser as directors. They presented four plays
and closed the season
in April. The Chronicle did not comment in detail on the artistic
merits of the Oeser's direction, but it did say
that the Oesers were
growing in popularity with the amateurs as well as with the general
For the 1884-1885 season, Germania Hall did not
have a professional
director. Their first production was Love in the Corner. According
to the Chronicle, the ladies acted their roles well, but the men's roles
were beyond the male actors' capacity; consequently, the presentation
of their characters was imperfect. The paper advised that amateur actors
need a professional teacher just as any aspiring artist needs
The amateurs were still in need of a professional director when they
presented Stiftunqfest. The Chronicle said:
It was tolerably well presented.... If the amateurs will
work with a good will for the art's sake, and not for individual
exaltation, which easily leads to over-estimation, they will 20
steadily improve and be able to give some good representations.
The amateurs may have heeded the advice of the Chronicle, because the
production of Anna Liece, January, 1885, was
called the best of the
season. 21 Unfortunately, the Chronicle did not comment in detail.
If the amateurs had heeded the advice of the Chronicle for Anna
Liece, they forgot it for The Banished Students
a month later. Some
scenes suffered from poor memorization; others suffered because of loud
talking below the stage. 22
The March 15, 1885, production of Marianne was typically uneven.
Some of the roles, according to the Chronicle "were in good hands,
some mediocre, and some poorly represented." 23
The April 5, 1885, production of Preciosa was
but the next production was not. According to the Chronicle, the
amateurs "reached too high." 24 Both actors and audience grew
toward the end; the nuisance of slamming doors had not been abolished.
For the last production of the 1884-1885 season only two hundred
fifty people attended, even though Mr. Oeser
returned to act in the
play One Hundred Thousand Dollars. The usual audience size was about
four hundred. The decline in the size of the audience indicates the
comparatively poor season. Additionally, of the above production, the
Chronicle said that the cast resorted to clowning to get the desired
comical effect. Even worse, actors were not always in their correct
Germania Hall opened the 1885 fall season with
English and From
Love of Art. Camello Lundt
was the director. The Chronicle, although
not commenting in detail, did say that both plays went smoothly. 26
The next production, One of Our People, drew a full audience.
The Chronicle generally complimented the production, but it added:
It is not amiss to draw the attention of the manager to a
little bad habit on the stage: that is the showing of
faces and hands of some not in action behind the curtains
and scenery during the play and intermission. 27
The Chronicle also praised the next production, Rief
but reserved the highest praise for the production of The Caris Scholars
by H. Laube. The play, showing the life of
Schiller, was evidently one
of the best performances for several years:
Mr. Carl Lundt, for whose benefit the
performance was given,
represented Schiller in a manner which is not easy to excel.
Form, bearing and language were captivating and a facsimile
of the celebrated poet. 28
Likewise, the amateurs did their best and deserved praise for their
For the March 14, 1886, production of Kactchen
of Heilbonn, the
Lundts rented costumes and armor from
Milwaukee. The Chronicle generalized
that the production was well done. The paper finished the
article by saying:
The Lundt family tries hard to please the
deserves credit for their exertions. 29
Neither the Chronicle nor the Republican mentioned other performances
at Germania Hall until The Knights of Labor,
March 13, 1887. The papers
gave no reason for the long absence of Germania
Hall theatrical presentations.
The Knights of Labor. written by E. Wichert,
shows how labor
organizations are easily misled by selfish leaders to make unreasonable
demands, thus destroying their source of employment. The Chronicle
congratulated the directors; it said that Mr. and Mrs. Langkanner-Kolberh
combined merit with courtesy and patience, the result being: "The
performance was in every way a great success." 30
On March 20, 1887, Germania Hall presented two
short plays, a tragedy
and a farce. The tragedy was so filled with horrors and misery without
a trace of human goodness that the director decided to change the ending
where the father murders his unrecognized son to that of a dream. The
Chronicle praised the production and the season in general: "The
season of the German boards was without a doubt that of the past winter
under the Langkanner-Kolberg combination."
Germania Hall was filled for the March 27,
1887, production of Three
Pair of Shoes, a benefit for Mrs. Langkanner-Kolberg.
had reviewed the play before and thought it poor. On this occasion,
however, the paper found it amusing, praising all performers. 32
The following fall Germania Hall had a new
Varena. His first production was A Lark Not a
Quail. For this production,
Varena and his wife interspersed songs between
the acts, which the
Chronicle called a treat. The La Crosse actors, Linker, Scheid, Longstadd,
and Kroner assisted the Varenas
in the presentation. 33
The Varenas were successful as directors
because the next two
productions were generally complimented. The last production of the
year was The People as They Weep and Laugh, December 4, 1887. It was a
benefit for the La Crosse actor, William Linker; the house was full. 34
The Chronicle did not mention that The People as They Weep and
Laugh was to be the final locally produced play at Germania
But since the Chronicle and Republican did not mention any other
performances, La Crosse probably had no German language theatre after
For a period of ten years Germania Hall had
provided an opportunity
for local actors, entertained La Crosse audiences with about fifty plays,
and perhaps more importantly helped retain the customs, culture, and
language of the La Crosse residents that were German immigrants; for
in 1880, La Crosse had 5,380 foreign born residents. most of them were
from Germany. Since the total population in 1880 was only 9,125, the
percentage of residents with German background and ancestry was high. 35
From an artistic point of view, based upon the reviews in the
La Crosse papers, productions at Germania Hall
were generally inferior
to the traveling professional companies. Germania
tended to be uneven. In a given production, there might be a few
effective actors. In that same production, there probably
would be a few equally outstandingly ineffective actors. This mixture
of good and bad was the main drawback at Germania
Hall productions, and
it is probably the principle disadvantage in community theatres across
the country now, a century later. The newspapers wrote little about
the scenery or costumes used during the productions. Occasionally,
the journalists criticized the amateurs for peeking out through the
scenery or the curtains, much as amateurs are inclined to do in any age.
Although Germania Hall hired professional
directors to help improve the
artistic quality of their presentations, apparently the primary purpose
of the theatre was to preserve the German language and culture. German
language plays presented at Germania Hall
accomplished the primary purpose
and provided entertainment as well.
1 Oscar Brockett, History of the Theatre (Boston: Allyn
and Bacon), p. 631.
2 Henry C. Youngerman, "Theatrical
Activities: Madison, Wisconsin,
1839-1906" (unpublished Doctor's dissertation, University of
1940), pp. 119-123.
3 German Theatre in Milwaukee," Theatre Arts, XXVIII, April,
1944, p. 466.
4 Morning Liberal Democrat, September 24, 1878, p. 3, col. 3.
(Throughout this chapter, the main source of information
on Germania Hall is from either the Democrat
or the Chronicle. No other information or records
are available in the English language. It is
possible, however, that one could find additional
information in the German language newspaper, Nord
Stern, published from 1856 through 1910.)
5 La Crosse Chronicle, September 25, 1878, p. 3, col. 4.
6 Ibid., October 22, 1878, p. 3, col. 4.
7 Ibid., November 11, 1879, p. 3, col. 2.
8 Ibid., September 17, 1880, p. 3, col. 1.
9 Ibid., October 6, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
10 Ibid., October 10, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
11 Ibid., November 7, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
12 Ibid., February 27, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
13 Ibid., April 19, 1883, p. 3, col. 2.
14 Ibid., may 15, 1883, p. 3, col. 2.
15 Ibid., August 24, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
16 Ibid., October 9, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
17 "German Theatre in Milwaukee," Theatre Arts, XXVIII, April,
1944, p. 471.
18 Chronicle, January 15, 1884, p. 3, col. 2.
19 Ibid., October 28, 1884, p. 3, col. 1.
20 Ibid., December 16, 1884, p. 3, col. 1.
21 Ibid., January 27, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
22 Ibid., February 16, 1685, p. 3, col. 1.
23 Ibid., march 17, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
24 Ibid., April 21, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
25 Ibid., may 12, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
26 Ibid., November 10, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
27 Ibid., November 24, 1885, p. 3, col. 1.
28 Ibid., January 19, 1886, p. 3, col. 1.
29 Ibid., March 16, 1886, p. 3, col. 1.
30 Ibid., March 15, 1886, p. 3, col. 1.
31 Ibid., March 22, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
32 Ibid., March 29, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
33 Ibid., October 18, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
34 Ibid., December 6, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
35 Albert H. Sanford and H. J. Hirshheimer, A History of La Crosse,
Wisconsin 1841-1900 (La Crosse: La Crosse County Historical Society,
1951), pp. 206-208.
OTHER PHASES OF LA CROSSE THEATRE
Some facets of the theatre in La Crosse do not fit neatly into
the previous discussion. Nonetheless, they were important in their own
way. Some of these aspects, such as spectaculars and transvestism,
similar to what one would expect to find in a theatrical history of a
small city. Other aspects, such as showboats and prominent
however, are the opposite of what one might expect. Since
La Crosse is on the river, one would expect that many showboats would
have played here. Also, since the producer-director became the dominant
force in the theatre during the latter part of the nineteenth century,
one would expect the same thing might happen in La Crosse. Neither
expectation would be fulfilled.
Finally, there were aspects of the theatre in La Crosse that were
unique: treatment of black entertainers, mayors acting in wild west
shows, Indian drama in the area, and shows that bombed.
The last years of the eighties and the nineties showed an increase
in the interest and in the number of spectaculars that came to La Crosse.
One spectacular, called Sinbad, April 21, 1892, was reported to be
most brilliant, lavish and complete presentation of its class ever
attempted here." 1 The show had seven scenes: a Winter Ballet,
of Nations, Realistic Shipwreck, Island of Palms, Frozen Palace, and
an Idylic Transformation. Additionally, the
costumes were brilliant,
the music was pleasing, and one of the chief fun makers was Eddie Foy. 2
Later the same year, on June 28, Lincoln J. Carter produced The
Fast Mail. Of one scene in this production, the Chronicle wrote:
It was realism carried to its extremity. The heavy train
climbing grade missed none of the motions or noises, even
for the slipping wheels on a wet track. . . . Some will
say what is the point of this since one can see the real
thing on the street. Let the applause answer those. 3
The Fast mail returned September 7 with a different cast; the scenery
was the same. Since the scenery and settings provided the principal
attractions, they were applauded more than the actors. 4
Apparently The Fast Mail was efficiently and artistically presented,
which was not true of some other spectaculars. The Bottom of the Sea
spectacle, January 17, 1893, may have amounted to something, the
Chronicle reported, if the machinery had worked properly. Apparently,
however, more than just the machinery needed improvement in the
The octopus looking like a string of bloated link sausages
was foolish enough, but the crowning triumph of sillyism
was when one of the divers came in dragging the Atlantic
cable over his shoulders. 5
Another bad production was A. Y. Pearson's The White Squadron. April 1,
1893. The show had one hundred fifty people, four carloads of scenery,
and was advertised as being a $30,000 production. The Chronicle's
criticism was brief, writing that except for the stage settings, the
show was bad, the last act being nothing but "howling
The spectacular that should have ended all spectaculars was the Last
Days of Pompeii. July 20, 21, and 22, 1896. The show was so large, it
used fifteen cars of scenery, that it had to be given outside on the
corner of Twelfth and Green Bay Streets. The Chronicle had the following
to say about the show:
It may be that Pompeii never saw a dance with a quaze
a petticoat; or a frog man that could swallow himself up to the
knees; or acts on the parallel bars or a clown. ... or wire
walking, juggling or any of that sort of thing. If not so
much the worse for poor old Pompa. 7 [Pompa is what the boys
selling the programs called it]
The Last Days of Pompeii was the last lavish spectacular of the
Although a few of the spectaculars in La Crosse were artistically
presented, most were not. Nevertheless, the spectaculars offered
La Crosse audiences variety and a taste of the visual aspect of the
theatre, for most of the traveling troupes that toured La Crosse brought
little scenery with them.
Women playing men's roles was a particular phenomenon of the
nineteenth century. Since 1900, women playing men's roles have been
rare; however, Judith Anderson came to La Crosse in 1970 to play
Hamlet. The general opinion of critics now toward women acting male
roles does not differ significantly from those of the Chronicle a
century earlier, for in a review of Anna Dickinson as Hamlet the
The dramatic representation of male characters by females
is almost a field of exploration and adventure. With here
and there an exception, this is exclusively the dominion
of the burlesquer who assumes some extravagant imitation
of male attire and characteristics, not for the purpose of
disguising her own sex, but of emphasizing it. Whatever
women of character, therefore, enters with gravity this
field, cannot fear and need not desire comparison with
other women; neither can she hope to be judged entirely
upon her own merits. She must stand or fall by comparison
with men who have undertaken the same personation.
will be seen, therefore, that she enters upon her task
against heavy odds. First of all, to put herself upon the
plan of her compeers, she must successfully simulate the
opposite sex. . . . That being done, she is prepared to
enter upon a study of the particular male character to be
reproduced upon the stage. Some say the first task includes
the second; that it is as easy to personate one man as
another. Male actors have not found it so. There have
hardly been two successful Hamlets in the same generation
from the time of Shakespeare to the present hour. . . .
Just criticism of Anna Dickinson's personation
character should take into account these various conditions;
that is to say, she should be judged as a woman acting a
man's part. . . . Unfortunately this is not possible. The
sex is not to be forgotten. Miss Dickinson is a remarkable
woman but it is not certain that she would have been an
equally remarkable man. . . from the first speech to her
last, the speaker is a woman in voice, manner, gesture, and
emphasis. What is more, she is a woman imitating a man and
not getting beyond imitation. . . . 8
Women acting men's roles was not common in the La Crosse area.
Anna Dickinson was the only actress that came to La Crosse during the
nineteenth century who seriously attempted a male role. Several
women acted men's roles in burlesque style, but in that case the
intent was different.
Since La Crosse sits on the bank of the Mississippi River, one
would expect that the showboat would have played an important role
in the development of theatre in La Crosse. This conclusion seems
logical and probable, but it is wrong. There are only three recorded
occasions when showboats played in La Crosse. Several other troupes
traveled by boat but presented their shows in the Opera Hall or
La Crosse Theatre.
The first showboat to come to La Crosse, August 3 and 4, 1857, was
Spalding and Roger's steamer Banjo. The entertainment they presented
was Davis' Olio Minstrels. The Democrat did not comment on the quality
of the presentation. 9
The second showboat, June, 1858, was again Spalding and Rogers,
but there were no minstrels. Instead, it was an exhibition of trained
monkeys, dogs, and goats, the bearded woman and giantess, the Italian
bird warbler, the steam caliope, and ladies
saxophone band. The National
Democrat predicted that this would be the greatest show ever seen in
The next showboat on record (thirty-one years later) that came to
La Crosse was Eugene Robinson's Three Mammoth Floating Palaces, July 11,
1889. One "palace" was a museum, one an exposition of wonders,
a grand opera house. The showboat docked at the foot of Main Street
and charged fifty cents admission for adults and twenty-five cents for
children. The Chronicle described the boat and the entertainment:
The Robinson show outfit was quite an interesting thing to
look at from the outside. It consisted of a good-sized
stern wheeler of the raft boat pattern to tow the two
showboats which were painted in quite an attractive way.
The museum occupied one boat and contained many if not
quite all the curiosities advertised, some dead and
stuffed and some living. In the theatre boat, a show
is given that is rather too long if anything and like
everything of that sort has some good points and some not
so good. The trained birds were about the best features
and the most interesting thing about that was the inimitable
Spanish accent of the exhibitor. . . . But there was such a
variety of features that everybody could find something to
suit--rifle shooting, slight of hand, . . . . The audience
was fair in the afternoon and large in the evening. 11
There is no further evidence of showboats docking in La Crosse
during the nineteenth century.
The dominant force in the American theatre in 1860, 1870, and
1880 was the actor. By the early 1880's, the producer-director was
challenging the actor's authority, and by 1900 the control had changed
hands. During the nineteenth century, the producer-director was not
so influential in La Crosse as he was in the rest of the country, but
two nationally prominent directors, Augustin
Daly and Steele MacKaye,
sent notably successful road shows to La Crosse.
MacKaye's Madison Square Theatre Company came
to La Crosse five
times. Their first appearance with Hazel Kirke,
August 31, 1881, was
advertised as the original New York cast. Because of the advance
publicity, La Crosse audiences expected something new and fresh, but
according to the Chronicle's review: "The performance throughout its
four lengthy acts was as familiar as a hundred time told tale." 12
Most of the review criticized the script rather than the presentation;
however, once the Chronicle finished with its evaluation of the script,
it praised the actors, saying that they brought out whatever was best
in the play. 13
The Madison Square Theatre Company came again with Hazel Kirke,
April 17, 1882. A good audience attended, although the acting was
generally not so good as that of the previous presentation. 14
The Madison Square Theatre Company came to La Crosse with Hazel
Kirke again May 2, 1883. Since this was the
third presentation of
Hazel Kirks in less than three years, the audience was small. The
Chronicle briefly praised the production saying that it was a
cast and a carefully presented show. 15
The Madison Square Theatre Company returned to La Crosse later the
same year, December 15, with a different play, Esmeralda. The Chronicle's
review was again brief: "Esmeralda is a dramatic love poem, well
beautifully dressed, and put on the stage as prettily as we have
ever seen anything in La Crosse." 16
The Chronicle was more brief in its evaluation of the Madison Square
Theatre Company's last appearance in La Crosse, May 14, 1884, in Young
Mrs. Winthrop: "No company under the above management has ever
this city that did not give a meritorious performance." l7
Augustin Daly's production of An Arabian Night
with Roland Reed and
Alice Hastings, January 8, 1881, received a laudatory review:
Everyone of the ten people in the company played well.
Mr. Reed was an unusually natural performer in a difficult
role. Miss Alice Hastings as Rosa maybloom, the
girl, played her part to perfection and Mr. Beers as
Lafayette Noodle, the brainless fop, was inimitable in
his line of foolery. . . the fest of the company was as
good as their roles demanded. 18
Hastings and Reed returned in An Arabian Night a few months later,
March 17, 1881. Since the same company and the same play had been
reviewed only two-and-a-half months previously, the Chronicle failed
to comment on the presentation.
Daly's company did not come to La Crosse again until October 18,
1888, with A Night Off. Unfortunately, the Chronicle missed reporting
Managers of cheap shows such as Nowell, Clark,
Turner, Robertson, and Villars-Owen influenced
the theatre in La Crosse
more than such directors as MacKaye and Daly.
The reason is simple.
MacKaye's group came to La Crosse five times
and Daly's group two times.
The cheap shows played more frequently in one week than did MacKaye and
Daly's productions between 1858 and 1900.
The Hyers sisters rate special consideration
because they were
black. Except for occasional black minstrels, few black entertainers
came to La Crosse. The Hyers sisters presented
Out of Bondage, a
semi-musical drama, in three acts. The first act showed life under
slavery, the second act the coming of Union troops, and the third
act life in the North after the war. The Democrat said little about
the entertainment except that it was excellent and gave universal
Unfortunately, the treatment that the Hyers
sisters received at
the International Hotel was less than satisfactory. The servants at
the hotel refused to wait upon them. They had to make their own beds.
And they did not get the usual reduced rates accorded to most traveling
La Crosse citizens should not be judged too harshly for the above
incident, for it reflected the prejudices of a few--not necessarily
the opinion of the entire town. The Hyers
sisters returned about four
months later with the same production, and played to a crowded house
of about seven hundred people. The Democrat explained: "It was a
rebuke to those who had endeavored to shamefully abuse the Hyers
sisters." 21 The Hyers sisters returned in
November in Urilina (a type
of burlesque called opera bouffe). The audience
in the Opera Hall was
one of the largest ever--a tribute to the Hyers
The Democrat said that their production ranked high among similar
productions, and the richness of costume and scenic effects made the
time-worn old relics of the Opera House stage look like "cull
in comparison. 22
The Democrat explained that the play amounted to nothing--opera
bouffe never did. Moreover, the Democrat
continued, to enjoy opera
bouffe requires a taste and a familiarity for
the class of entertainment
that is being burlesqued. Finally, the paper concluded that those who
are slow to see the point of a joke or expect music with perfect harmony
would not appreciate opera bouffe. 23
Wild West Shows
William Cody came to La Crosse twice. Of his first appearance,
September, 1880, the Chronicle wrote that the entertainment was a
trifle gory, and there was the smell of burned powder scattered
the production. This type of entertainment, however, was exactly
what the audience wanted. The Chronicle continued:
The accessories of pretty scenery, fine costumes, and a
trio of Indians whose genuineness is beyond question,
completes an entertainment which the public will make
no mistake in patronizing liberally. 24
The second time Cody came to La Crosse, September, 1881, he acted
in the play, Prairie Waif, written especially as a vehicle for him.
The audience was large and attracted "all sorts." The Chronicle
that the show might be similarly described; there was plenty of variety.
The performance was anything but slow, for all action proceeded with a
rush; knives flashed and guns fired at any moment. Interestingly, this
forerunner of the "shoot-em-up"
western filled a need that had been
heretofore unexplored. Special features in the program included
Cody's trick shooting, Indians' dancing, and the smart donkey, Jerry.
Consistent with his last appearance, the costumes and stage accessories
were bright, clean, and appropriate. The Chronicle's conclusion: "A
guaranteed money maker." 25 Appearing with Cody in this production
David Frank Powell, who preferred to be called by his Indian name
"White Beaver." He was a medical doctor who sold a patent
and he was also Medicine Chief of the Winnebagoes.
After running a
skillfully managed program of self-advertisement, he became the mayor
of La Crosse for 1885 and 1886. He was later elected for a second
two-year term in 1893 and for a third in 1895. 26
What kind of theatre, if any, existed in the La Crosse area prior
to settlement by the white man? Probably, the Indians had some form
of primitive theatre. At any rate, a group of Indians performed their
native dances in 1868. These performances may illustrate the theatre
of the region before its settlement by white men. In addition, the
reactions of the La Crosse citizens, and particularly, the reactions
of the editor of the Democrat may be revealing.
In July of 1868, several hundred Indians returned from a reservation
near Omaha where they had been sent seventeen years before.
Their return called for a celebration, and local Winnebagoes
the returning group on an island south of the city, swelling their
number to several thousand. They performed the Green Corn Dance, the
War Dance, the Scalp Dance, the New Moon Dance, and the Wild Goose
Dance. Many La Crosse residents were spectators at the festivities.
The performance was free, but there was one catch. The Indians,
pre-empting a trick made famous by P. T. Barnum, charged ten cents for
rowing passengers across to the island.
The approximately two thousand La Crosse citizens who attended the
Indian dances prompted the Editor of the Democrat, M. M. Pomeroy, to
Last night about two thousand of our citizens, both male
and female, went down. . . to see the Indian dance . . .
We noticed a great many church members there, who are
so conscientious they never attend a theatre here, but who
seemed perfectly delighted to look at these almost naked
savages. . . . We confess never having seen a sight as
immoral as these Indian dances. Many of the Indians are
minus "breech clouts" this hot weather, while in turn the
squaws are almost shirtless. Why, if a white man or a
nigger attempted to go about in that way they would be at
once arrested for "indecent exposure of person," and lodged
in jail. Yet this is permitted and winked at by church
members and our people in general. Lots of persons who
would not think of attending a circus, even were they greatly
pleased, and many young ladies so modest that they would
faint at the sight of a "gentleman cow" were the last to
leave this worse than vulgar sight. The idea of a lot of
"buck and she" Indians, nearly naked, furnishing amusement
for the respectability of this city is truly surprising. . .
don't let us hear you berate any one [sic] for attending a
circus or theatre. 27
Pomeroy criticized the monotony of their dances: "Its the same
hopping and yelling, Big Injun, bigger humbug." 28 The editor found
"humbug" in the crowning of the medicine woman:
The beautiful daughter of the chief will be crowned "The
Great Medicine Woman." The ceremony will be noted for its
great superstition. She is first "mock killed," and then
by two Indians taking the character of an otter and a
bird, and upon the otter's whining and the bird's chirrup,
she is restored to life, and the spirits guide her in
administering medicines all her life. A sham battle will
also be fought and the finale will be a great Medicine
Dance. Heap fun. Ugh! 29
Although the above ceremony was probably not an artistic form of
theatre, it is certainly theatrical and it illustrates the type of
indigenous performance that may have existed in the La Crosse area for
decades, perhaps centuries before being settled by the white man. The
Indian theatre may even illustrate a ritualistic and imitative theatre
similar to what our ancestors practiced thousands of years ago. Perhaps
Pomeroy was actually seeing a glimpse of history rather than mere
Shows That Bombed
Often one can learn as much about people by looking at what they
do not like as by looking at what they do like. This is true of religion,
politics, sports, movies, and theatre in La Crosse during the last
Most of the plays presented in La Crosse received favorable reviews;
others received reviews that were moderately favorable; some were panned.
None were panned, though, for the first twenty years of the period under
study. The first theatrical presentation in La Crosse was in 1858 by
Mr. and Mrs. Langrishe and Company. The next
was McKean Buchanan and
Company, 1866. After 1866, producing groups came with regularity, and
by the mid-seventies La Crosse was averaging almost four productions a
month. Yet, the first unfavorable review was not printed until 1877.
Understandably, there were no unfavorable reviews when Pomeroy was
editor of the Democrat and owner of the Opera House. But it is unusual
that there were no adverse criticisms between 1871, the year Pomeroy
sold the paper and the Opera House, and 1877.
Generally, La Crosse audiences of the last century disliked the
same things audiences dislike now--boring presentations, acting that
shows little control and is unbelievable, plays with overly familiar
or poorly unified plots, and shabby sets.
A boring production was William Grover's Humpty Dumpty.
and Company with Grover in a supporting role had played Humpty Dumpty
in 1880. A year later, Grover had his own company and was billing himself
as the survivor of the fittest. The Chronicle said that the company was
"tiresome." The necessary elements-which keep an entertainment
being stale and flat were absent. No details were given. 30
Several actors were guilty of acting without the proper restraint and
control. The Chronicle illustrated that point and at the same time gave
some good advice concerning acting in a production of Othello featuring
the ex-lawyer, J. L. Burleigh, as Othello and the ex-reverend, George
Miln, as Iago.
Burleigh was adequate in his role as Othello even though
his movements were often amateurish and he needlessly expended energy. In
spite of these shortcomings, his performance sometimes had great power.
Miln, however, was less effective. He made the
character Iago sufficiently
wicked, but it lacked the dignity which even wickedness requires of a
tragedy like Othello. The Chronicle advised that, as any experienced
The personation of villainy is a more exacting
rolling forth pious melodramatic sentiment, no matter from
what rostrum. 32
The group that apparently won first prize for overacting was the
Lewis Morrison Company in a presentation of Faust. Even though the
company had fine scenery, handsome costumes, and adequate special
the Chronicle said of the acting: "There never was a more
outfit of ranters on the stage." Only one
actress was satisfactory in
some scenes. But when it came time for her to show agony, she ranted
as much as the rest. 33
Some actors were criticized for introducing improperly motivated
business. One of these was Ada Gray in a
production of East Lynne.
The Chronicle said that Miss Gray held her own as well as most stars of
twenty years ago; however, the funny business that she and other actors
introduced could well have been omitted. 34 Gray and Company returned
the following year still playing East Lynne. They had not improved, for
the Chronicle said that the weather was bad, and so was the production.
There was no orchestra between acts; the acting was "wooden";
the performance was infinitely below that given by the same company a
year ago. 35
The worst panning that La Crosse papers gave to an individual performer
was given to Frank Mayo on his first performance in the city.
Mayo acted in Van the Virginian, a role similar to Davy Crockett which
he usually played. The Chronicle did not like Mayo's performance:
Frank Mayo has never played anything but some such as Davy
Crockett or Van the Virginian, both of which are merely
dramatic absurdities. They serve to assist Mr. Mayo in
his purpose of traveling 'on his shape.' The plots are
nil; the acting is necessarily extravagant and unnatural. 36
The Chronicle continued by saying that Mayo represented a class of
actors who depended too much on his trappings. He would have been far
better off to have depended more on himself and less on his dressmaker.
Mayo was a handsome man, one who affected young women and made them
"wildly ecstatic"; however, he was one of those men who knew
The Chronicle commented on Mayo and upon acting in general:
The little artifices to show to best advantage points of
physical excellence are as provoking to one who loves a
genuine, unaffected representation of nature, as the
finicky follies of Mr. Siddons, and are
please only such people as would prefer her undaunted
manner of putting a necessary pin in her gown after she
has gone on stage, to the sterling merit of a Cushman
or the commanding talent of a Davenport. 38
The Chronicle concluded the review by again referring to Mayo and
that he choose a new field for his "undoubted brain and
In addition to not liking acting that was out of control, La Crosse
critics did not like plays that had plots with little unity; for of
Jay W. Carner and Company in Uncle Reuben Lowder, the Chronicle said:
The play is mere stuff--a lot of incidents, some of them
good, flung together at long range, incongruous, disconnected,
absurd It is without the smallest pretention to
Critics did not like plays that were old fashioned either, for when
Lewis James brought a production of Bird's Spartacus to La Crosse, the
Chronicle censured it for being fully fifty years behind the times. The
Chronicle said that it was no wonder that an audience accustomed to
realism had difficulty in accepting a scene in which one sword thrust
represented a whole battle. 41
Sometimes now, people go to the theatre to see spectacle and scantly
clad actors. The same was true of La Crosse audiences during the
century. They usually liked spectacles and variety entertainment
such as the Black Crook, but those who went to the September, 1887,
performance of that entertainment expecting fine settings, fast changes
of scenery, and excellent ballet were disappointed. The Chronicle
Even the bald heads who went to see a leg show were not
charmed with the exhibition of beefy extremities and bedaubed
dames who posed before the footlights. 42
Two productions that came to La Crosse apparently were boring, had
bad acting, inadequate scenery, and poor scripts. One was Pearson's
spectacular production of Midnight Alarm. The Chronicle reported that
the play was not worth talking about; the scenery was in no respect
remarkable; there were only three competent people in the cast; and
the rest of the actors were dull and amateurish. 43
Charles H. Gardner received an equally bad review. Gardner was
known for his portrayal of German accent characters. He acted in
Faderland four times and Carl once. Tired of
the same character over
and over again, the Chronicle wrote of Gardner in Karl the Peddler:
Whether Mr. Charles A. Gardner comes as Karl the mountain
guide, Karl the immigrant, or Karl the peddler, it is pretty
much the same old story, and not a first rate story either.
His plays are all of the same piece and really it is hardly
worthwhile to change them in case any expense is involved.
Mr. Gardner is not much of an actor and takes care not to
have anyone among his company that outshines him. 44
1 La Crosse Chronicle, April 22, 1892, p. 1, col. 3.
3 Ibid., June 28, 1892, p. 1, col. 2.
4 Ibid., September 8, 1892, p. 3, col. 2.
5 Ibid., January 18, 1893, p. 3, col. 2.
6 Ibid., April 2, 1893, p. 5, col. 3.
7 Ibid., July 21, 1896, p. 1, col. 2.
8 Ibid., February 10, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
9 National Democrat, August 4, 1857.
10 Ibid., June 8, 1858, p. 3.
11 La Crosse Chronicle. July 12, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
12 Ibid., September 1, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
14 Ibid., April 18, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
15 Ibid., May 3, 1883, p. 3, col. 1.
16 Ibid., December 11, 1883, p. 3, col. 2.
17 Ibid., may 14, 1884, p. 3, col. 1.
18 Ibid., January 9, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
19 Liberal Democrat, October 14, 1877, p. 3, col. 2.
20 Ibid., October 19, 1877, p. 3, col. 3.
21 Ibid., January 30, 1878, p. 3, col. 3.
22 Ibid., November 2, 1878, p. 3, col. 1.
24 La Crosse Chronicle, September 9, 1880, p. 3, col. 1.
25 Ibid., September 23, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
26 Albert H. Sanford and H. J. Hirshheimer, A History of La Crosse,
Wisconsin 1841-1900 (La Crosse: La Crosse Historical Society, 1951),
27 La Crosse Democrat, July 17, 1868, p. 4, col. 1.
29 Ibid., July 20, 1868, p. 4, col. 1.
30 La Crosse Chronicle, October 28, 1881, p. 3, col. 1.
31 Ibid., November 15, 1882, p. 1, col. 4.
33 Ibid., January 30, 1895, p. 3, col. 2.
34 Ibid., January 20, 1882, p. 3, col. 1.
35 Ibid., February 4, 1883, p. 3, col. I.
36 Ibid., January 4, 1881, p. 3, col. 2.
40 Ibid., April 19, 1884, p. 3, col. 1.
41 Ibid., September 2, 1897, p. 3, co. 4.
42 Ibid., September 13, 1887, p. 3, col. 1.
43 Ibid., August 4, 1892, p. 3, col. 2.
44 Ibid., October 11, 1897, p. 3, col. 3.
A person living in La Crosse during the nineteenth century, and
who enjoyed attending theatrical presentations, would have indeed been
fortunate. Since La Crosse was on a railroad line between Chicago and
the Twin Cities, it was a convenient stop for prominent stars and touring
companies. Prominent stars and companies played La Crosse, not only
because it was convenient, but also because La Crosse was a theatre-going
town. It was fashionable to go to the theatre. 1 Those who were important
citizens of the town, or those who wanted to be, purchased seats close to
the stage and wore their finest after-five attire. La Crosse
attended in large numbers, too, often filling the theatre. In fact, upon
occasions, the theatre would be filled, two hundred would be standing,
and two to four hundred more would have been turned away.
La Crosse theatre-goers of about one hundred years ago, saw, without
having to leave the city, many of the prominent actors of the nation and
of the world. They saw America's favorite actor, Joseph Jefferson,
acting in Rip Van Winkle. They saw Fanny Janauschek, who traveled in her
own private railroad car. They also appreciated her, even toward the
turn of the century when some other parts of the nation were tiring of
La Crosse liked emotional presentations later in the century than did
people in the larger metropolitan areas. A very favorite serious actor
to La Crosse was Thomas Keene, who was indeed more popular in La Crosse
than he was in the nation at large. La Crosse thrilled to his emotionally
charged presentations; Keene had a style that was unique and he often
applied it to such great roles as Hamlet or Richard III.
La Crosse audiences liked comic presentations, too, particularly
toward the end of the century when comedy became more popular than
melodrama. They laughed at the world famous Dion
Boucicault acting Con
in his own play, The Shaughraun, amazed at the
apparent youth of the
sixty-two year old veteran. Other favorite comic actors of theirs were
Stuart Robson, Sol Smith Russell, John Dillon, and George Adams. Adams,
especially, caused audience members to sit on the edge of their seats so
as to not miss any of the fun, for no sooner would he do something that
was a peak of humor than he would immediately do something else that was
even more incongruous.
During the nineteenth century, La Crosse was fortunate to have a
well equipped, comfortable, and safe theatre building. There was little
fear of fire in the La Crosse Theatre, because it could be emptied in a
matter of seconds and because it had large holding tanks of water on the
roof connected to hoses in various parts of the theatre. Besides that,
it was lighted with electricity, which was not only safer than gas, but
also better illuminated the stage. The electrically lighted stage was
a matter of pride for the local citizens, for many other smaller cities
did not have electrically lighted theatres until much later. The
city of Madison, for instance, did not have electricity in its
theatre until the twentieth century. 2
The plays seen in La Crosse during the period under study were
generally the same plays that the rest of the nation were seeing. Uncle
Tom's Cabin was presented in La Crosse more often than any other play,
and it was also presented in other parts of the nation more frequently
than any other play. Other popular plays were Divorce, Two Orphans,
Lady of Lyons, Black Diamonds, Hazel Kirke. and
East Lynne. Emotional
melodramas topped the lists of favorites, but toward the end of the
century, La Crosse audiences tired of the melodrama and became more
interested in comedy. In this respect, they may have been somewhat
slower than other areas of the nation, but not much. Nevertheless,
even as late as 1899, they enjoyed an emotional presentation of Uncle
Since La Crosse was a German community, it, like many other German
communities, had amateur theatricals presented in the German language.
In one respect it was different from many German communities though, for
the amateurs had professional directors. The German theatre, therefore,
functioned much as many community theatres do now, a century later.
They gave the community an opportunity to see amateurs perform and to
hear plays in the German language rather than English. Of course, it
also gave a few the chance to act in the presentations; even more
it helped retain the language and culture of the La Crosse residents
of German ancestry.
Sometimes, toward the end of the month, some who wanted to attend
the theatre but who were short of funds and could not afford the regular
prices that companies offering prominent stars received, could go to a
cheap show. If one is to believe the reviewers, these traveling repertory
companies were often as good as more famous companies, especially those
who featured a star but had rather inferior actors in supporting roles.
The cheap shoes tended to display better ensemble than many of the more
prominent stars and their companies. And, they were cheap--only ten to
thirty cents at most. The show would often stay a second week and play
for only ten cents for any seat in the house.
Looking back on the theatre in La Crosse during the nineteenth
century from a vantage point of 1972, one is led to an unmistakable
and sad conclusion: The La Crosse citizen of the nineteenth century,
like his counterpart nearly everywhere in America, could see more live
theatre in five years than a current resident can see in a lifetime.
1 Statement by Mrs. Gysbert Van Steenwyk, personal interview,
March 10, 1972. Mrs. Van Steenwyk is ninety-two
years old. She is
sharp, alert, and has personal knowledge of part of the nineteenth
century, something that few persons have.
2 Henry C. Youngerman, "Theatrical
Wisconsin, 1836-1907" (unpublished Doctor's dissertation, University
of Wisconsin-Madison, 1940), p. 33.
The bulk of the reference material for this study came from the
La Crosse newspapers.
La Crosse Chronicle, January 25, 1879-December 31, 1899.
La Crosse Daily Democrat, November 5, 1867-May 24, 1870.
La Crosse Morning Liberal Democrat, October 6, 1873-November 2, 1878.
La Crosse Republican and Leader, May 28, 1872-December 31, 1899.
Brown, T. Allston. A History of the New York Stage From the First
Performance in 1732 to 1901. 3 vols. New York: Benjamin Bloom,
Brockett, Oscar G. History of the American Theatre. Boston: Allyn
and Bacon, Inc., 1968.
Bryant, Benjamin F. memoirs of La Crosse County. Madison: Western
Historical Association, 1907.
Clark, Mary A. La Crosse County Historical Sketches, Series 6.
La Crosse County Historical Society, 1937.
Cusberg, Selma S. The Lumbering Industry of La
1841-1905. Madison: State Historical Society, 1953.
Goodwin, Nat C. Nat Goodwin's Book. Boston: The Borham
Hewitt, Bernard. Theatre U. S. A. 1665-1957. New York: McGraw Hill
Book Company, 1959.
Hirshheimer, H. J. La Crosse Historical Sketches, Series 3. La Crosse:
La Crosse County Historical Society, 1937.
Hornblow, Arthur. A History of the Theatre in America, II. Philadelphia:
J. B. Lippincott and Company, 1919.
Hughes, Glenn A. A History of the American Theatre 1700-1950. New York:
Samuel French, 1951.
Jefferson, Eugene Paul. Intimate Recollections of Joseph Jefferson.
New York: Dodd, mead and Company, 1909.
Jefferson, Joseph. The Autobioqraphy of Joseph
Reinhardt and Evans, Ltd., 1949.
Odell, George C. C. Annals of the New York Stage. 15 vols. New York:
University Press, 1927-1949.
Paul, Howard and George Gebbie. The Stage and Its Stars. 2 vols.
New York: Benjamin Bloom, Inc., 1903.
Sanford, Albert H. and H. J. Hirshheimer. A History of La Crosse.
Wisconsin 1841-1900. La Crosse: La Crosse County Historical
Wards, Frederick. The Fools of Shakespeare. Los Angeles: Time-Mirror
Wilson, Garff 8. A History of American Acting.
University Press, 1966.
3. Unpublished Studies
Brady, Donald Vincent. "History of El Paso Theatre 1881-1908."
Unpublished Doctor's dissertation, Tulane University, 1965.
Edwards, John Cornwall. "A History of Nineteenth Century Theatre
Architecture in the United States." Unpublished Doctor's
dissertation, Northwestern University, 1963.
Jones, Kenneth Lee. "The Theatrical History of Greely, Colorado
1870-1908." Unpublished Doctor's dissertation, University of
West, Francis William, Jr. "The Legitimate Theatre in Rural Missouri
from the Beginning of the Civil War Through 1872." Unpublished
Doctor's dissertation, University of Missouri, 1964.
Woodbury, Lael Jay. "Styles of Acting in
Serious Drama of the Nineteenth
Century American Stage." Unpublished Doctor's dissertation,
University of Illinois, 1954.
Youngerman, Henry C. "Theatrical
Activities: Madison, Wisconsin
1836-1907." Unpublished Doctor's dissertation, University of
"Among the Comedians," Atlantic Monthly, XVIV, January, 1867,
"German Theatre in Milwaukee," Theatre Arts, XXVII, April,
Van Steenwyk, Mrs. Gysbert.
Personal interview. March 10, 1972.
The following is a chronological listing of theatrical activities
in the La Crosse area as reported by the La Crosse newspapers.
July 14 and 15 Major Brown's Monster Coliseum and Great
August 3 and 4 Spalding and Rogers and the Ned Davis Olio
June 13 Spalding and Rogers exhibition of bearded
woman, Italian bird warbler, steam caliope,
and saxophone band of women.
June 15 Messrs. Langrishe and Company closed a
of performances. The names of the performances
were not given. On their way down river, they
have promised to perform Uncle Tom's Cabin.
July 15 Castello and Van Leck's
Mammoth Show, featuring
Monitor, the trained horse, and Don Juan, the
May 21 Above Co., featuring the Prussian horse, Czar,
and the double trapeze.
August 6 Old Carey's Great World Circus.
October 10 Yankee Robinson's Big Show, featuring trained
animals and the Danish Giant.
May 17 George W. Dehaven and Company's United
July 9 Dan Castello and the Great Show.
July 19 Mike Lipman's Circus.
July 30 McKean Buchanan and his daughter, Virginia
Buchanan, in Boucicault's London Assurance.
It was performed at Singers' Hall.
July 31 The Buchanan Star Company in Katzebue's
August 1 Above Co. in Hamlet.
August 2 Above Co. in Marble Heart, or The Disappointed
August 3 Above Co. in Merchant of Venice.
August 4 Above Co. in The Octoroon (matinee) and Richard III.
August 13-24 Plunkett's Star Dramatic Troupe with Susan Denin,
Mr. Plunkett, and Carroll Hecks. Their
1. Lucretia Brogia,
the Prisoner, and the
afterpiece, Sketches in India.
2. The Woman in Red, and the afterpiece,
In and Out of Place.
3. Camille, or The Fate of a Coquetta and
Youth Who Never Saw a Woman.
4. East Lynne, played for Susan Denin's
benefit, and Objects of Interest.
5. Honey moon, or How to Rule a Wife, and
6. Lost in London and Contentment vs. Riches.
7. The Dead Heart, afterpiece was not clear
enough to read.
9. Lady of Lyons, or Love and Pride.
10. Romeo and Juliet, benefit for Susan Denin,
and The Spectre Bridegroom.
11. Uncle Tom's Cabin.
September 27 Ellenger and Toots Grand
the three smallest humans.
October 20 Above Co.
January 14 The McFairland Consolidation in
The Fate of a Coquette, and the farce, The
May 6 Minstrel and Burlesque Opera Troupe.
May 18 Great Consolidation Circus.
May 30 George W. Dehaven's Imperial Circus.
June 5 Great Consolidation Circus.
August 2 Emile Melville and C. F. DeVere in an
name of the opera was not given.
August 9 Haight and Chambers Grand Colossal
September 8 Prof. A. Metz magic performance.
October 29 Miss Tyson and Company in maid of Craussey,
the afterpiece, Four Sisters.
October 30 Above Co. in The Stranger.
November 11 Plunkett's troupe in the Lady of Lyons.
March 10, 11, and 12 The Black Crook. Name of acting troupe not given.
March 19 The Black Crook. Same troupe as above.
April 30 Dupry and Benedict's Minstrels.
June 3 Dehaven's Imperial Circus.
June 17 and 18 New Orleans Minstrels.
July 3 John Robinson's Circus.
July 16 Two thousand persons attended the Indian dance
on Goose Island.
August 29 Harty's magic act.
September 1 Cotton and Sharpley's Minstrels.
September 22 The opera, Martha, was presented in German.
The name of the group was not mentioned.
October 26 Plunkett's Star Troupe in Franchion
October 27 Above Co. in The Chimney Corner and the afterpiece,
November 1 Estelle Potter and Co. in Lucretia Borqia.
November 2 Above Co. in Hunchback.
November 3 Above Co. in Ingomar.
November 5 Above Co. in Ten Nights in a Barroom.
November 6 Above Co. in Fajio.
November 7 Above Co. in Black Eyed Susan.
November 8 Above Co. in The Stranger.
November 10 Above Co. in Streets of New York.
November 13 Above Co. in Leah the Forsaken.
November 14 Above Co., name of play not given.
January 4 Marble's Theatrical Troupe in Under the Gas
January 5 Above Co. in Lost Will and Jumble Jum.
March 11 Sharpley's Minstrels.
July 22 The Miller Atheneum in Don Caesar de
July 23 Above Co. in East Lynne.
July 24 Above Co. in The Hidden Hand.
July 26 Above Co. in Hamlet.
July 27 Above Co. in The Hidden Hand.
July 28 Uncle Tom's Cabin. Name of troupe not given.
August 31 Oates Burlesque Opera Troupe in Poor Tim O'Brien
September 1 Above Co. in Rip Van Winkle.
September 2 Above Co. in Daughter of the Regiment.
September 3 Above Co. Name of play not given.
September 4 Above Co. in The Field of the Cloth of Cold and
November 22 Female Minstrels and Occidental Burlesque Opera
Company, title not given.
April 18 The Kingsley Theatrical Troupe, starring Miss
Jean Hosmer, opened for a week with Lucretia Borgia.
April 19 Above Co. in Queen Elizabeth.
April 20 Above Co. in The Wife's Secret.
April 21 Above Co. in Ingomar.
April 22 Above Co. in Jealous Wife.
May 20 McKean Buchanan and Company in Richelieu.
May 21 Above Co. in Richard III.
May 23 Above Co. in Hamlet.
May 24 Above Co. in Merchant of Venice, and a matinee,
Uncle Tom's Cabin.
June 15 Laura Keene and Company in Hunted Down.
June 16 Above Co. in Our American Cousin.
June 17 Bradey's Theatrical Troupe with Josie
William Marble in The French Spy.
June 18 Above Co. in Flowers of the Forest.
June 20 Above Co. in Kathleen Mavourneen, or
June 21 Above Co. in Under Gaslight.
June 22 Above Co. in East Lynne.
June 23 Above Co. in Coleene Bawn.
July 19 McKean Buchanan in London Assurance.
July 27 and 28 Laura Keene in She Stoops to Conquer.
November 10 Josee Booth and Company with
William Marble, son
of Dan Marble, in The Marble Heart.
November 12 Above Co. in Frou Frou.
November 13 Above Co. in Nick of the Wood and Handy Andy.
December 16 and 17 Elwood's Female Ministrels.
April 27 Simmonds and Buck's Theatrical Troupe
members of Josee Booth's Company) in La Tour
April 24-27 Lisa Weber's Burlesque Troupe of British Blonds
in short farces and variety entertainment.
May 29 and 30 Above Co. in Laughing Hyena and Black Eyed Susan.
June 26 Forrester Troupe in Don Caesar de Bazan.
June 27 Above Co. in Coleene Bawn.
June 28 Above Co. in Rosedale.
June 29 Above Co. in Under Gas Light.
June 30 Above Co. in Satin in Paris.
July 4 Above Co. in the Lady of Lyons and a farce,
Trouble in La Crosse.
July 5 Above Co. in All Is Not Gold That Glitters.
August 11 Carl Wagner's Minstrels.
September 5 A magic act.
October 9 Mortino, the magician.
April 22 Carl Wagner's Minstrels.
May 1 Miss Virginia Richmond in Mazeppa.
May 9 Carl Wagner's Minstrels.
May 15 Callender's Famous Georgia Minstrels.
May 27 Joseph Jefferson in Rip Van Winkle.
June 20 Sydney Cowell combination in Checkmate.
September 3 Hooley's Minstrels.
October 24 Bidwell and Macdonough's
November 5 Harry Robinson's Minstrels.
July 26 Carl Wagner's Minstrels.
September 5 Newcome's New Orleans Minstrels.
October 5 Fifth Avenue Troupe in Divorce.
October 17 Above Co. in Article 47.
October 22 The Lingard Cast in New Madlen.
December 4 Jane Coombs and Company in London Assurance.
December 5 Above Co. in Romeo and Juliet.
December 15 Haverly's Minstrels.
April 19 Lawrence Barett Combination in
May 3 McVicker Troupe in Guy Mannering.
July 16 and 17 Redpaty Opera Company in Martha.
second opera not given.
August 3 Plunkett's Troupe in Two Orphans.
August 10 Frank E. Aiken and Company in Van the Virginian.
November 7 Clark Clifford and Company in Griffin Gaunt (a
dramatization of a contemporary novel).
November 8 Above Co. in East Lynne.
November 13 Wallace Sisters Company in Rinnie's
December 26 Lottie Theatrical Company in Uncle
January 28 Richengs-Bernard Company in Rose of
March 22 Frank Aiken and Company in Ticket-of-Leave man.
April 16 Maggie Mitchell and Company in Franchion
May 12 Kate Claxton and Company in Two Orphans.
May 25 The Wellack Theatre Combination in
July 10 Robert McWade and Company in Rip Van
October 8 Sardanapalus, company name not given.
October 12 Hyers Sisters in Out of Bondage.
November 21 Stevens Shaughraun Company in
December 16 Leonard Grover Comedy Combination in Our Boarding
January 1 and 2 Hess Opera Company in Chimes of Normandy.
January 5 Our Cousin German Fritz, name of company
January 18 Charlotte Thompson and the Wallace Combination
in Jane Eyre.
January 19 Above Co. in Miss Mullon.
January 29 Hyers Sisters in Out of Bondage.
February 5 Lottee and Uncle Tom Company in
Uncle Tom's Cabin.
March 13 McVicker Company with John Dillon in
All the Rage.
April 14 The Pearl of Savoy at Germania Hall.
May 25 Marian at Germania Hall, under the
Mr. and Mrs. Bender.
September 11 Tony Denier Pantomime Troupe with Grimaldi
September 22 Amateur performance of two plays at Germania
October 6 Der Goldbauer
at Germania Hall under the direction
of Mr. and Mrs. Franzmueller.
October 20 Deines Nachsten
Hausfrae (Thy Neighbor's Housewife)
at Germania Hall under the direction of
November 1 Hyers Sisters in Urilina,
a burlesque called
November 10 The Poor and Rich of New York at Germania
November 17 Ein Schlechter
Mensch (A Bad Man) at Germania
December 1 Die Valeantine at Germania Hall.
December 14 The Clifford Dramatic Company in Lucretia
December 16 Above Co. in Ingomar, the
December 17 Above Co. in The Sea of Ice.
January 5 Farma Opera Company in Il Trouvatore.
February 6 Charles Forbes Dramatic Company with Yankee
Robinson in a version of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
February 7 Above Co. in Asa Whitcomb.
February 8 Above Co. in Black Diamonds.
February 16 At Germania Hall, Mathilde of a German Woman's Heart.
March 2 At Germania Hall, The Mansions of
March 14 H. M. S. Pinafore, name of company not given.
April 21 Kate Claxton's Company in The Double Marriage.
October 5 A Woman Who Had Done Paris at Germania
the direction of the Franzmuellers.
October 17 Janauschek Company in Mary Stuart at Germania
October 18 Above Co. in Macbeth.
November 9 A Glass of Water, all amateur performance at
November 23 Three Lengthy Johns at Germania
Hall under the
direction of the Franzmuellers.
December 30 Naiad Queen at opening of New Opera House, company
name not given.
February 2 The Graves Combination in Queen's Evidence.
February 3 Above Co. in Soldier's Trust.
February 15 John Dillon and Company in Our Next President.
February 18 Maggie Mitchell and Company in The Pearl of Savoy.
February 28 He Must Go Into the Country at Germania
direction of the Franzmuellers.
March 12 Forbes Dramatic Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
March 13 Above Co. in Black Diamonds.
April 6 Haverly Church Choir Pinafore Company
in H. M. S.
April 25 Sodom and Gcmorrah at Germania Hall. Benefit
for Carl Kartemacker.
May 5 Nellie Harris and Company of female minstrels.
May 13 Haverly's Juveniles in H. M. S.
May 21 Tony Denier's Humoty Dumpty
George H. Adams.
June 4 Goreck's Love starring Lawrence Barrett.
June 15 Murrey's Company in Around the World in
June 27 Doyle Carte's Pirates of Penzance Company.
July 4 P. T. Barnum show.
September 5 Miss Franzmueller's final
appearance at Germania
Hall, play title not given.
September 8 Buffalo Bill Company.
September 21 The Nat Goodwin Froligue in
October 4 Mr. and Mrs. Nietmann, new directors
Hall; name of play not given.
October 5 Leadville Minstrels.
October 30 Denman Thompson in Joshua Whitcomb.
November 8 Nip and Tuck with George A. Fair.
November 16 Hop Scotch, a musical oddity.
November 17 John T. Raymond in Colonel Sellers, a dramatization
of The Golden Age.
November 18 Jay Rial's Humpty Dumpty.
November 23 Litt Coneut
Company, name of play not given.
November 24 Uncle Tom's Cabin, company name not given.
December 6 Shannon Edison Company in Golden Game.
January 3 Frank Mayo as Van The Virginian.
January 8 Augustin Daly's Company in An Arabian
with Roland Reed and Alice Hastings.
February 19 Boston Ideal Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
February 28 Miss Annie Pixley in M'Less Child of the Seerras.
March 17 Augustin Daly's Company in An Arabian
March 29 Charlotte Thompson in The Planter's Wife.
April 7 Above Co. in Jane Eyre.
April 9 Mr. Bishop in Widow Bedott.
April 16 Haverly's Colored Minstrels.
April 19 Strokosch Hess Grand Opera in Faust.
April 30 The Galley Slave, company name not given.
May 4 Joseph Jefferson in Rip Van Winkle.
May 6 Forbes Dramatic Company in Our Boarding House.
May 7 Above Co. in Uncle Tom's Cabin (matinee) and
May 16 The Tennesseans, a colored troupe presenting
June 3 Rose Wood and Company in Camille.
June 20 Tony Denier Company with George H. Adams in
July 4 Haverly's Minstrels.
August 31 Madison Square Company in Hazel Kirke.
September 13 Mitchell Company in Our Goblins.
September 22 Buffalo Bill in Prairie Waif.
October 18 Billy Arlington's Minstrels.
October 20 Charles L. Davin Company in Alvin Joslin.
October 27 Will Grover in Humpty Dumpty.
November 5 Anthony and Ellis Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
November 12 Templeton Opera Company in The Mascotte.
November 15 Denman Thompson in Uncle Joshua Whitcomb.
November 18 Forbes Company in True Devotion.
November 19 Ben Cotton in Black Diamond.
November 23 Clifford Company in Banker's Daughter.
November 24 Above Co. in Ingomar; the
November 25 Above Co. in Lady of Lyons.
November 26 Above Co. in Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl.
December 7 Leavitti's Minstrels.
December 24 Emma Abbott Company in Chimes of Normandy.
January 19 Ada Gray in East Lynne.
February 9 Anna Dickinson in Hamlet.
February 23 Rose Eytinge in Felicia, Or a
March 5 Hess Opera Company in Fra Diavolo.
March 25 Louis Aldrich and Charles Parsloe in
March 28 Fanny Davenport and Company in Sheridan's
School for Scandal.
April 5 B. McAuley in A Messenger from Jarvis
April 8 Thomas I. Keene in Richard III.
April 17 Madison Square Theatre Company in Hazel Kirke.
May 5 McFarland and Gilbert Company in The Octoroon.
May 8 Madame Rentz's minstrels.
May 11 Marie Litta and Company. Play title not
May 13 Frank Mayo in Davy Crockett.
August 16 Jo Emmet in Fritz in Ireland.
September 17 Charles Gordon and Patti Rosa in Karl.
September 18 Variety entertainment, Mirror of Ireland.
September 19 Rice and Hooley's Minstrels.
October 4 Haswin-Stephany Company, starring Clotilde
Stephany in Oudarde.
October 8 Mr. and Mrs. Bender, directors at Germania
Hall in Honest Labor.
October 12 Jessie James Show, burlesque.
October 22 An Angel at Germania Hall.
October 28 Briggs Boston Operatic Minstrels.
November 1 Denman Thompson in Joshua Whitcomb.
November 5 From Step to Step at Germania Hall.
November 7 Margaret Mather in Romeo and Juliet.
November 12 The Village Barger at Germania
November 13 John Dillon in Scott Marble's State's Attorney,
with Mr. Marble.
November 14 George C. Miln and John L. Burleigh
November 24 Chamois King at Germania Hall.
November 25 Rose Eytinge in The Princess of
November 30 Charles Fostelle in Charles Hoyt's
December 6 Thatecher, Premose,
and West's Mammoth Minstrels.
December 10 The Parson of Kirchberg at Germania Hall.
December 31 You Kiss in the Dark at Germania
January 5 Only a Farmer's Daughter, name of group not given.
January 23 James A. Herne's Hearts of Oak,
January 25 Leavitt's Minstrels.
January 28 The Three Vagabond Journeys at Germania
February 2 Maggie Mitchell in The Little Savage.
February 3 Ada Gray in East Lynne.
February 8 Madison Square Theatre Company in Esmeralda.
February 7 A moral play, title not given, at Germania
February 25 Franchion the Cricket at Germania Hall.
February 27 M. W. Hanley's Company in Ed Harrigan's
March 5 George H. Adams in Humpty Dumpty.
March 12 Mestayer's Company in Tourists in a
March 18 The Gypsy at Germania Hall.
March 21 Newell and Scott's Company in Muldoon's Picnic.
April 3 Frederick Warde in Damon and Pythias.
April 4 Jolly Pathfinders Company in Scraps.
April 17 The Banker's Daughter at Germania
April 17 Ida Lewis Company in Jane Eyre.
April 18 Above Co. in Sea of Ice.
April 23 Kiralfy Brothers in Black Crook.
May 2 Madison Square Theatre Company in Hazel Kirke.
May 10 Thomas Keene in Macbeth.
May 13 Two Orphans at Germania Hall.
May 25 Haverly's Minstrels.
May 30 Smith's Double Mammoth Company in Uncle Tom's
June 14 Tony Denier in Humpty Dumpty.
June 16 Borlow and Welson's
Company of minstrels.
August 13 Ideal Opera Company in Iolanthe.
August 14 Above Co. in The Sorcerer
August 25 Last performance of Benders at Germania
name of play not given.
September 6 Louis Aldrich and Charles Parsloe
in My Partner.
September 22 Scott Marble's State's Attorney, starring John
September 28 Margaret Mather and Salvini in
Leah the Forsaken.
October 2 Charles A. Gardner in Karl.
October 7 Jane Eyre at Germania Hall.
October 12 and 13 Union Square Theatre in Lights of London.
October 15 The Sam Lucas colored variety entertainers.
October 20 The Girl of the Village.
October 21 Josephine Reily in The Hunchback.
October 22 Above Co. in Twelfth Night.
October 28 A comic opera, name not given, at Germania
October 29 The Hanlaus in Le Voyage En Euisse, variety
November 1 W. J. Ferguson in A Friendly Tip.
November 5 Ida Siddons Minstrels.
November 25 Gold-Uncle at Germania Hall.
December 10 Madison Square Theatre Company in Esmeralda,
written by W. Gillette and F. Hodgson.
December 11 Cold Uncle at Germania Hall.
December 30 Rice's Fun on the Bristol, name of company not
January 8 Silver King, name of company not given.
January 13 Robert and Bertram at Germania Hall,
Mrs. Oeser, directors.
January 16 A Mountain Pink, name of company not given.
February 17 Dr. Faust's Magic Cup at Germania
February 18 The New York Opera Company in The Green Lace
February 25 M. B. Curtis and Company in Sam'l
February 26 Ed Harrigan's McSorley's
Inflation, name of
company not given.
March 9 Hopfenrath's Heni
at Germania Hall.
March 24 Roland Reed and Company in Cheek.
April 3 A Kingdom for a Child at Germania Hall.
April 14 Gus Williams in One of the Finest.
April 18 Jay W. Carner in Uncle Reuben Lowder.
April 19 Above Co. in French Spy.
April 20 Farewell performance of Mr. Oeser in
Tell at Germania Hall.
April 30 Andrews Opera Company in Girofle Girofla.
May 1 Above Co. in Chimes of Normandy.
May 14 Madison Square Theatre Company in Young Mrs.
May 31 Little and Morris Company in The World.
June 2 Thomas Reene in Julius Caesar.
June 18 John L. Raymond in For Congress.
August 5 Sol Smith Russell in J. E. Brown's Edgewood
September 23 Carl Wagner's New Minstrels.
October 6 Dion Boucicault
and Company in his play,
October 18 Hattie Anderson in Bunch of Keys.
October 24 and 25 Mattie Vickers in Jacquine.
October 26 Love in the Corner House at Germania
October 31 Newton Gotthold in Micaliz.
November 4 Margaret Mather in The Honey moon.
November 23 Lenore at Germania Hall.
December 14 Stiftunofest at Germania
January 1 A Rag Baby by Charles Hoyt, author of a Bunch
of Keys. Name of company not given.
January 15 J. C. Stewart Company in The Two Johns.
January 25 Anna Liece at Germania
January 29 Fanny Janauschek in My Life.
February 5 Alice Oates in a burlesque entertainment.
February 14 The Banished Students at Germania
February 20 and 21 The Wilber Opera Company in Girofle-Girofla.
March 3 Zelda Seguin in The Little Duke.
March 15 Marianne at Germania Hall.
March 28 Jo Emmet in The Strange Marriaqe of Fritz.
March 29 Benefit for Mr. and Mrs. Wallburg in
of Hell at Germania Hall.
April 5 Preciosa at Germania
April 16 Kate Claxton in Sea of Ice.
April 19 Night and morning at Germania Hall.
May 2 Abbey's Double Mammoth Company in Uncle Tom's
May 10 One Hundred Thousand Dollars at Germania
May 19 Mile Rhea in Sardou's Dangerous Ground.
June 22 Nowell's Madison Square Theatre Company
June 23 Above Co. in Esmeralda.
June 24 Above Co. in Silver King.
June 25 Above Co. in The Hidden Hand and East Lynne.
June 26 Above Co. in Queen's Evidence.
July 20 A. R. Weber's Lyceum Theatre Company in Galley
July 21 Above Co. in My Partner.
July 22 Above Co. in Coleene Bawn.
July 23 Above Co. in Two Orphans.
August 24 People's Theatre in Divorce.
August 25 Above Co. in Black Diamonds.
August 26 and 27 Above Co., play title not given.
August 28 Above Co. in Ten Nights in a Barroom.
August 29 Above Co. in Ticket-of-Leave Man.
August 31 Harry Miner's Original New York Company in
September 11 Patti Rosa in Zip.
October 22 Couldoc Company in Boucicault's
October 23 Almo Opera Comedy Company in Box and
November 5 A Messenger, name of company not given.
November 8 English and From Love of Art at Germania
November 10 Peaks Opera Company in Mikado.
November 22 One of Our People at Germania Hall.
November 25 John Dillon in New State's Attorney.
November 26 Above Co. in Toby the Conjurer.
December 2 Haverly's Minstrels.
December 16 Thomas W. Keene in Richard III.
January 10 Reif von Reiflinger
at Germania Hall.
January 17 The Caris Scholars at Germania Hall.
January 20 Ida Siddons Burlesque Company.
January 26 Alice Oates Burlesque Company.
February 5 The Juvenile Mikado.
March 14 Kactchen of Heilbronn
at Cermania Hall.
May 15 Chicago Home Opera Company in Mikado.
May 19 Mammoth Minstrels.
May 24 Fielding Comedy Ideals in Confusion.
May 25 Above Co. in Joshua Whitcomb.
May 26 Above Co. in The Private Secretary.
May 28 Above Co. in Muldoon's Picnic.
June 15 Haverly's Minstrels.
July 19 Clark Comedy Company in Queen's Opportunity.
July 20 Above Co. in Galley Slave.
July 21 Above Co. in The Hidden Hand.
July 22 Above Co. in Shaughraun.
July 23 Above Co. in The Banker's Daughter.
July 24 Above Co. in Uncle Tom's Cabin (matinee) and
July 26 Newell Comic Opera Company in Girofle-Girofla.
July 27 Above Co. in the Mikado.
July 28 Above Co. in Pirates of Penzance.
July 29 Above Co. in La Mascotte.
July 30 Above Co. in H. M. S. Pinafore.
July 31 Above Co. in Chimes of Normandy.
August 10 Sol Smith Russell in P. A.
September 27 Wages of Sin, name of company not given.
October 6 Joshua Whitcomb in Here We Go Fresh.
October 9 Fielding Comeday Ideals' bill
Picnic, Capitola, and 2:15; date of each play
was not given.
October 16 Sparks Company in a Bunch of Keys.
October 23 Nights of London, name of company not given.
October 24 Nate Salsbury
in The Brook.
October 27 Adelaide Moore in Romeo and Juliet.
November 11 Charles H. Hoyt's A Tin Soldier.
November 19 Grismer Davis Dramatic Company in
December 3 Bartley Campbell's White Slave.
December 4 Lily Clay's Eden Without an Adam.
December 9 Kate Bensburg and English Opera
The Sleeping Queen.
December 31 James Niell in Ranch 10.
January 3 Wilber's Lyceum Company in Divorce.
January 4 Above Co. in Two Orphans.
January 5 Above Co. in Streets of New York.
January 6 Above Co. in Pearls of Savoy.
January 7 Above Co. in Danites.
January 8 Above Co. in The Hidden Hand (matinee) and
January 10 Original New York Company in Prince Karl.
January 12 Kate Castleton in Crazy Patch.
January 19 Ten Nights in a Barroom, name of company not
January 22 Clio, name of company not given.
February 1 and 2 Uncle Tom's Cabin, name of company not given.
February 12 John Dillon in The Lightning Agent.
February 14 Lillian Lewis and Company in Cora.
February 15 and 16 Above Co., names of plays not given.
February 17 Above Co. in Lady of Lyons.
February 18 Above Co. in Article 47.
February 19 Above Co. in Camille (matinee) and Lady of Lyons.
March 8 Rice's Evangeline. name of company not given.
March 13 The Knights of Labor at Germania Hall.
March 16 Michael Stroyoff. name of company not
March 20 A tragedy and a farce, names not given, at
March 21 Clark Comedy Company in The Planter's Wife.
March 22 Above Co. in Galley Slave.
March 23 Above Co. in The Hired Hand.
March 24 Above Co. in The Shaughraun.
March 25 Above Co. in Danites.
March 26 Above Co. in Ten Nights in a Barroom (matinee)
and Queen's Evidence.
March 27 Three Pair of Shoes at Germania Hall.
April 11 George C. Miln and Company in Othello.
April 12 Above Co. in Richelieu.
April 25 Wilber's Madison Square Company in Franchion
April 26 Above Co. in Galley Slave.
April 27 Above Co. in The Virginian.
April 28 Above Co. in Shadows of a Home.
April 29 Above Co. in a Celebrated Case.
April 30 Above Co. in East Lynne.
May 4 Louise Rial in Fortune's Fool, by William
May 16 Stuart Company in Rosedale.
May 17 Above Co. in Our Bachelors.
May 18 Above Co. in Queens.
May 29 Above Co. in Rip Van Winkle.
May 21 Above Co. in Black Diamonds.
May 27 Charleton Opera Company in Nanon.
May 28 Above Co. in Ermine.
May 29 Above Co. in The Merry Way.
May 30 Refined Minstrels.
August 5 French actress Rhea in Pygmalion and Calatea.
August 30 Haverly's Minstrels.
September 15 Kate Castleton in Crazy Patch.
September 17 Thomas Keene in Hamlet.
September 22 The Black Crook, name of company not given.
October 16 A Lark Not a Quail at Germania Hall.
October 28 Minnie Maddern in Caprice.
November 5 Gus Williams in Keppler's Fortunes.
November 7 Cora Tanner in Alone in London.
November 13 Rosa and Roeschen at Germania Hall.
November 14 W. J. Scanlan in Shane-na-Lawn.
November 17 Robert Downing in Spartacus.
November 30 and
December 1 Lillian Olcott in Sardou's Theodora.
December 4 The People As They Weep and Laugh at Germania
January 2 Eagan and Wall's Model Comedy Company in The
January 3 Above Co. in Kathleen Mavourneen. The
does not mention the rest of the week's performances.
January 16 Gorman's Spectacular Minstrel Company.
January 24 Minnie Iaddern in In Spite of All.
March 21 Effie Ellsler in A Daughter of Egypt.
March 22 Evans and Hoey in Parlor Match.
April 9 Bassye and Devis
Ideal Company in The Hidden
April 10 Above Co. in Woman Against Woman.
April 11 Above Co. in White Dies.
April 12 Above Co. in Called Back or Prisoners of Russia.
April 13 Above Co. in Gypsy Jack.
April 17 Frederick Warde in Vircinius.
April 19 John Dillon in Wanted The Earth.
April 23 Beach and Bowers Famous Minstrels.
April 24 Charles Hoyt in Bunch of Keys.
May 4 Nellie Walters in Silver Spur.
May 5 Above Co. in Nerve.
May 12 Haverly's Minstrels.
May 26 Colored Minstrels.
May 28 Wilson Company, name of play not given.
May 29 Above Co., name of play not given.
May 30 Above Co., name of play not given.
May 31 Above Co. in Two Orphans.
June 1 Above Co. in Woman Against Woman.
June 2 Above Co. in A Great Wrong Righted.
June 4 Pathfinder Company opened for a week; the name
of the plays was not given.
July 26 Deshon Opera Company, name of play not
July 27 Above Co. in Chimes of Normandy.
July 28 Above Co. in Mikado (matinee) and Black Cloaks.
July 29 Above Co. in Ermine.
August 16 Haverly's Minstrels.
August 28 Daniel Sully in Daddy Nolan.
Septenber 6 Mattie Vickers in Jacquine.
September 18 and 19 Sisson and Brady's Company in Little Nugget.
September 27 and 28 A Chip O' the Old Block, name of company not
October 12 George Adams in a Speaking Pantomime.
October 18 Augustin Daly's Comedy Company in A
October 24 Murrey and Turphy
in Our Irish Visitors.
October 30 Aiden Benedict's Company in Monte Christo.
November 29 Grismer-Davis Company in Called
December 27 Lilly Clay Minstrel and Burlesque Company.
January 4 Thomas J. Farron in Help.
January 10 Boston English Opera in Dorothy.
January 11 Charles Erin Verner in Shamus O'Breen.
January 18 Helen Barry and Frank Mardount in
January 21 Julia Marlowe in Twelfth Night.
January 23 Katherine C. Herne and James A. Herne in
January 25 and 26 David the Shepherd Boy, name of company not given.
February 5 Davis Company, name of play not given.
February 12 Margaret Mather in The Honeymoon.
February 19 and 20 Archibald C. Gunter's Mr. Barnes of New York.
February 22 She, name of company not given.
March 2 Robert Buchanan's Alone in London.
March 4 Kate Castleton in Paper Doll.
March 8 J. S. Murphy in The Kerry Cow.
March 12 John Dillon's Company in Skyscraper.
March 18 Cora Tanner in R. Buchanan's Fascination.
March 19 Horse show and series of pictures thrown on
March 28 Levy's Operatic Concert Company in Martha.
April 2 Palmer's Company in Jim the Penman.
April 9 A Postage Stamp, name of company not given.
April 27 Sol Smith Russell in Bewitched.
May 9 Dan'l Sully in Corner Grocery.
May 14 J. B. Polk in Mixed Pickles.
June 3 Karl Gardner in Fatherland.
July 11 Eugene Robinson's Mammoth Floating Palaces,
Museum, Exposition of Wonders, and Grand Opera
July 15 Newton Beers in Lost in London.
August 12 Cleveland-Haverly Minstrel Company.
September 21 Jane Coombs and Frederick Clark in Bleak House.
October 7 Edward Harrigan's New York Company in
October 11 Scott and Mills in Chip O' the Old Block.
October 17 Helen Blythe in Mother's Love.
October 21 Hattie Harvey and E. D. Lyons in A Little Tramp.
November 14 The Stowaway, name of company not given.
November 30 Dan McCarthy's Dear Irish Boy.
December 11 FrankDaniels in Little Puck.
December 17 Patti Rosa in Margery Daw.
January 3 Seid Paska,
name of comic opera company not
January 8 Minnie Maddern and Company in
January 10 A. M. Palmer in Jim the Penman.
January 16 Frederick Warde in The Mountebank.
February 4 Henry Lee in The Suspect.
February 17 Surrey and Murphy in Our Irish Visitors.
February 19 Bostonian English Opera Company in Pygmalion
February 28 Frank Mayo in Davy Crockett.
March 12 Evans and Hoey in a Parlor Match.
March 20 Pat and Katie Rooney in Asana Banad.
April 1 Cleveland's minstrels.
April 10 Sol Smith Russell in A Poor Relation.
April 15 John S. Murphy in Shaun Rhue.
April 21 A Social Session, name of company not given.
April 25 Aiden Benedict in Fabio Romani.
May 7 Ezra Kendall in a Pair of Kids.
May 16 Rilton Nobles in From Sire to Son.
May 24 Nellie Henry in Lady Peggy.
June 24 Rice's Evangeline.
July 8 Rhea in A. R. Haven's Josephine.
August 5 Stoddard's Modern Minstrels.
August 13 C. D. Hess Grand Opera Company in La Traviata.
September 6 Barnum and Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth.
September 11 Cleveland's Minstrels.
September 16 Mattie Vickers in Edelweiss.
September 20 The Hustler, name of company not given.
September 27 McCarthy and Reynolds in Dear Irish Boy.
September 29 Baker Comic Opera in Olivette.
September 30 Above Co. in Boccaccio.
October 1 Above Co. in Chimes of Normandy.
October 2 Above Co. in La Mascotte.
October 3 Above Co. in The Beggar Student.
October 4 Above Co. in Boccaccio (matinee) and
October 8 Barry and Fay in Edgar Seldon's
October 10 Hoyt's A Bunch of Keys, name of company not
October 14 Frank Daniels in Little Puck.
October 15 Farce Comedy Company in The Faker.
October 17 Nat Goodwin in Brander Mathew's The Gold Mine.
October 23 Jane Coombs in The Dressmaker.
November 6 George Adams in He, She, Him, Her.
November 11 W. J. Scanlan in Myles Aroon.
November 13 The Boy Tramp, name of company not given.
December 2 Boston Ideal Opera Company in Fauvette.
December 3 Peck and Fursman's Dan'l Boone.
December 5 William J. Gilmore's 12 Temptations.
December 6 Frank Mayo in Davy Crockett.
December 11 J. C. Stewart's Company in The Two Johns.
December 12 Roland Reed in Lend Me Your Wife.
January 7 Charles Gayler's Lights and Shadows.
January 13 The Great Metropolis, name of company not
January 21 Maggie Mitchell in Ray.
January 24 Joseph Jefferson and W. J. Florence Comedy
Company in The Rivals, with Mrs. John Drew.
January 27 Duncan Harrison and J. L. Sullivan in
Honest Hearts and Willing Hands.
January 28 Frank I. Frayne's Kentucky Bill.
February 4 Held by the Enemy, name of company not given.
February 14 M. B. Leavett's spectacular Spider
March 2 Margaret Mather and Otis Skinner in As
March 11 Vernona Jurbeau
March 14 Donnelly and Girard in Natural Gas.
April 2 Evans and Hoey in A Parlor Match.
April 9 Stuart Robinson in The Henrietta.
April 16 The American Extravaganza Company's The Crystal
April 18 Dan'l Sully in The Millionaire.
April 21 Marie Wainwright in Twelfth Night.
May 1 Charles Gardner in Fatherland.
May 4 and 5 A Dark Secret, name of company not given.
May 8 Frederick Warde in Henry VIII.
May 14 Hallen and Hart in Later On.
May 16 Uncle Tom Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
June 1 Eunice Goodrich and James McCann Company in
Pearl of Savoy.
June 2 Above Co. in Wages of Sin.
June 3 Above Co., name of play not given.
June 4 Above Co. in Little Em'ly.
June 5 Above Co. in Three Wives to One Husband.
August 7 Robinson's Three Floating Palaces.
August 18 Sol Smith Russell in Peaceful Valley.
August 31 Baldwin-Melville Combination in Linwood.
September 1 Above Co. in A Messenger from Jarvis.
September 2 Above Co. in Wells Fargo Messenger. Play
titles for remainder of week were not given.
September 8 Frederick Warde in Carleston's The
September 10 Howard's Shenandoah, company name not given.
September 17 Charles Frohman in Men and Women.
September 22 Gus Huge in Yon Yonson.
September 29 Emerson-Haverly Minstrels.
October 9 Katie Emmell in Waifs of New York.
October 16 Miss Gale in Romeo and Juliet.
October 21 Kate Claxton in Two Orphans.
November 2 Frank Deshon and Company in Mikado.
November 3 Above Co. in Ermine. Names of other four performances
November 7 Dan McCarthy in Cruisleen Lawn.
November 13 John C. Rice in Knotty Affair.
November 19 Russel's Comedians in City
November 21 Charles Dickson and Company in Incog.
December 7 Madison Square Theatre Company in The Burglar.
January 4 Jesse Crocker Comedy Company opened for one
week at Park Theatre with A Mother's Crime.
January 11 The Bostonians in Robin Hood.
January 13 Charles Frohman and Company in
All the Comforts of Home.
January 20 Cleveland's Consolidated Minstrels.
January 28 Brady's production of Boucicault's After Dark.
February 15 Wilson Company in The Diamond Mystery.
February 16 Above Co. in Only a Farmer's Daughter.
February 17 Above Co. in Ranch King.
February 18 Above Co. in The White Slave.
February 19 Clara Morris in Odette.
February 20 Bill Nye and A. P. Burbank, name of play not
February 23 Frederic Bayton and Ralph Denmore in Forgiven.
February 25 A. M. Palmer's Company in Alabama.
February 29 Dan Sully in The Millionaire.
March 1 Above Co. in The Story Teller.
March 3 Maggie Mitchell in The Little Maverick.
March 4 Above Co. in Two Old Cronies.
March 5 and 6 Above Co., play titles not given.
March 7 Above Co. in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
March 9 Above Co. in Pocahontas.
March 14 Weston's Comedians in Strategy at Park Theatre.
March 15 Above Co. in Jesse.
March 16 Above Co. in Uncle Dan'l.
March 17 Above Co. in American Girl.
March 18 Above Co. in East Lynne.
March 24 Bobby Gaylord in Sport McAllester.
April 5 Stuart Robson in The Henrietta.
April 9 Sol Smith Russell in The Country Fair.
April 16 Spracues Comedians in A Social
April 21 Eddie Foy in Sinbad, a spectacular.
April 29 O'Dowd Combination, name of play not given.
May 10 Felix and Eva Vincent Combination in Foggs
May 11 Above Co. in Queen's Evidence.
May 12 Above Co. in Inshavogree.
May 13 Above Co. in Our Boys.
May 14 Above Co. in Fanchon (matinee) and
Girl and The Happy Pair.
May 20 Effie Ellsler and C. W. Couldock in Hazel
June 13 Eunice Goodrich Company, Myrtle; for one week.
June 14 Above Co. in Hoop of Gold. Other play titles
June 27 Lincoln J. Carter's production of The Fast
July 11 Baldwin-Melville Combination for one week,
playing Galley Slave, Michael Strogoff, East
Lynne, and others.
July 18 Above Co. (stayed for an extra week) in Michael
July 19 Above Co. in The Danites.
July 20 Above Co. in Pique.
July 21 Above Co. in Streets of New York.
July 22 Above Co. in Esmeralda.
July 23 Above Co. in Uncle Tom's Cabin (matinee) and
August 3 A. Y. Pearson s production of Midnight Alarm.
August 12 Donnelly and Girard novelty entertainers.
August 17 Annie Lewis in A Nutney Match.
August 24 Kate Emmett in Waif of New York.
August 29 The Dazzler, name of company not given.
September 6 Haverly's Minstrels.
September 7 Fast Mail, Carter production.
September 12 Frank M. Willis in Wait Till the Clouds Roll
September 15 John Rice and Sally Cohen in A Knotty Affair.
September 20 Fowler and Warnington Company in
Skipped by the
Light of the Moon.
October 4 Julia Marlowe as Rosalind in As You Like It.
October 7 Charles Frohman's Company in Gloriana, and a
one act, The Major's Appointment.
October 13 Our Boarders, name of company not given.
October 22 Charles Frohman's Jane.
October 28 Charles Frohman's production of Lost
November 12 T. C. Lewis in Si Plunkard.
November 29 Barney Ferguson in McCarthy's Mishaps.
December 20 Yon Yonson, name of company not
December 26 Washburn's Company of Comedians in Uncle Josh
December 30 Modjeska and Otis Skinner in Mary Stuart.
January 2 and 3 Sam Jack's Female Minstrels at Park Theatre.
January 11 Friends, directed by Harry Lee.
January 17 Bottom of the Sea, spectacle.
January 26 Rosina Vokes
in three one-act plays.
February 2 Tuxedo, name of company not given.
February 11 and 12 Show Company of Dumb Hero at Park Theatre.
February 21 Hanlan Brothers Spectacular Pantomine, Fantasma.
February 24 Louise Leslie in Miss Helvell.
March 8 I. Fleron's Clemenceau Case and French
March 18 Charles Schelling's Modern Minstrels.
March 23 Oliver Byron in The Plunger.
April 1 The White Squadron, company name not given.
April 3 George Hamler Company in Marie Duboise.
April 6 Charles A. Gardner in Fatherland.
April 8 Hamler Company in Little Lord Fantleroy (matinee)
and That Precious Baby.
April 11 Niobe, name of company not given.
April 12 Hattie B. Chase in an Alaskan play.
April 13 Boston Ideal Company in Pygmalion and Galatea.
April 21 Madame Janauschek in Macbeth.
April 22 Leavette's production of Spider and
April 25 Robert Gaylor in Sport McAllister.
April 26 Nat Goodwin in A Gilded Fool.
May 1 Hamler's Players return for one week.
May 2 Above Co. in Lord Fauntory.
May 3 Above Co. in Zip the Child of the Mountain.
May 9 Ezra Kendall in A Pair of Kids.
May 30 A Fair Rebel, name of company not given.
September 2 E. S. Willard in The Middleman.
September 4 Friends, directed by Henry Lee.
September 7 Kate Emmett in Waifs of New York.
September 15 Mr. Kernell in Hustler.
September 26 Mr. and Mrs. Oliver in The Dark Continent.
October 9 Wilber Opera Company in Ermine.
October 10 Above Co. in Black Hussar.
October 11 Above Co. in Diavolo (matinee) and
October 12 Above Co. in Bohemian Girl.
October 13 Above Co. in Boccaccio.
October 14 Above Co. in Falka (matinee) and
October 17 By Wits Outwitted, name of company not given.
October 18 Willie Collier presented Hoss and Hoss.
October 24 Mile Rhea in The Queen of Sheba.
October 27 Soudan, name of company not given.
October 31 Charles Gardner in The Prize Winner.
November 2 Thomas Keene in Othello.
November 6 Modjeska and Otis Skinner in Merchant of Venice.
November 10 J. K. Emmett in Fritz in Poverty.
November 14 Barney Ferguson in McCarthy's Mishaps.
December 1 Katie Emmett in Kellarney.
December 4 Primrose and West's Opera Company in Monte Carlo.
December 14 John Dillon in Model Husband.
December 18 Julia Marlowe in The Love Chase.
December 30 Blue Jeans, name of company not given.
January 11 Charles Yales in New Devils Auction.
January 15 George Marion in A Brass Monkey.
January 23 M. B. Leavitt's production of Spider and Fly.
February 2 Promise and West's Minstrels.
February 23 Robert Gaylor in Sport McAllister.
February 28 Augustine Thomas in The Burglar.
March 8 Emily Bancker in Gloriana.
March 13 Fanny Rice in a Jolly Surprise.
March 23 Agnes Herndon in The Country Girl and Woman
of the World.
March 28 Richard Mansfield and Company in Beau Brummel.
March 30 Edward Abrams scenic production, The Danger
April 9-12 Naid Queen, amateur spectacular.
April 13 Brothers Byne in Eight Bells.
April 18 Henshaw and Brocket in New Nabobs.
April 24 White Squadron, name of company not give.
April 30 Otis Turner and Company in Brother Against
May 1 Above Co. in Little Blossom.
May 2 Above Co. in Rip Van Winkle.
May 3 Above Co. in Happy Pair.
May 4 Above Co. in Heroine in Rags.
May 5 Above Co. in Old Homestead.
May 14 Corse Payton Company in Paresa Princess.
May 15 Above Co. in The Plunger.
May 16 Above Co. in My Old Kentucky Home.
May 17 Above Co. in Rose Cottage.
May 18 Clemencean Case.
May 19 Above Co. in Ten Nights in a Barrom.
May 20 Above Co. in Paresa Princess.
May 25 Lady Wandemare's Fan, name of company
May 28 Harrison's New York Company in Wanted a Husband.
May 29 Above Co. in Monte Christo.
May 30 Above Co. in Caprice.
May 31 Above Co. in Golden Giant.
June 1 Above Co. in Fabio Romani.
June 2 Above Co. in Wanted a Husband (matinee) and
June 8 Frederick Warde and Louis James in Julius Caesar.
July 2 Pearl Melville Company in Black Flag.
July 3 Above Co. in Davy Crockett.
July 4 Above Co. in Michael Strogoff.
July 5 Above Co. in Inside Track.
July 23 Sharpley's Lyceum Theatre Company in
July 24 Above Co. in Royal Slave.
July 26 Above Co. in Forget-Me-Not.
July 27 Above Co. in Ole Olson.
September 3 Punch Robertson and Company in Man of the World.
September 4 Above Co. in Olga Van Braase.
September 5 Above Co. in A Woman's Revenge.
September 6 Above Co. in Polly and I.
September 7 Above Co. in Master and Man.
September 8 Above Co. in Rip Van Winkle.
September 18 Ezra Kendall in The Substitute.
September 24 Rush City, name of company not given.
September 29 Sol Smith Russell in April Weather.
September 29 Rose Coghlan in Diplomacy.
October 10 Alexander Selvini in Duma's The Three Guardsmen.
October 20 Hoyt's A Trip to Chinatown.
October 22 Wilber Company for one week. Repertory not
November 10 Cleveland's Minstrels.
November 17 Davis Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
November 22 Cosgrove and Grant's Comedians in The New
November 24 Nat Goodwin in Augustus Thomas' In Missouri.
January 10 Alice Carlile in Railroad Ticket.
January 11 Charles Frohman's Company in
January 17 Carrie Turner in The Crust of Society.
January 25 Neil Burgess production of County Fair.
January 29 Lewis Morrison Company in Faust.
February 5 Wang, comic opera; name of company not given.
February 13 James Corbett in Gentleman Jack.
February 21 Frohman's The Girl I Left Behind
February 25 New Boy, name of company not given.
February 28 Rice's extravaganza 1492.
March 2 John A. Coleman in Old Glory.
March 11 Frank Libdon in Hazel Kirke.
March 12 Above Co. in Count of Monte Christo.
March 16 Above Co. in Lady of Lyons. Play titles for
March 13, 14, and 15 not given.
March 18 Barney Ferguson in Duffy's Blunders.
March 22 Otis Skinner in His Grace De Grammont.
March 23 Above Co. in The King's Jester.
March 25 Alabama, name of company not given.
April 3 Eight Bells, a variety show.
April 4 Eddie Foy in Off the Earth.
April 15 Ferris Comedians in Greased Lightning.
April 16 Above Co. in Over the Garden Wall.
April 19 Shore Acres, name of company not given.
April 29 Marie Jansen in Delmonicos at Six.
May 9 Nat Goodwin in David Garrick and Lend me Five
May 24 Stelson Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
May 27 Marie Wellsley and Company for two
Repertory for first week not given.
June 4 Above Co. in Jo the Waif.
June 5 Above Co. in Sparkles.
June 6 Above Co. in Lady Audley's Secret.
June 7 Above Co. in Kathleen Mavourneen.
June 8 Above Co. in The Black Flag.
June 9 Above Co. in On the Swanee River.
June 12 Above Co. in The Octoroon.
June 13 Above Co. in Uncle Tom's Cabin (matinee and
June 17 George Paige's Company in Carmenata.
June 18 Above Co. in the Private Secretary.
June 22 Above Co. in East Lynne (matinee) and
June 9 Alabama Vaudeville for two weeks.
July 29 Villars-Owen Company for two weeks.
in their repertory was: Bleak House, A Husband
in the City, Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde, Ticket-of-Leave Man, Kathleen
Mavourneen, Lady of Lyons, Bonnie Fishwife,
and Pygmalion and Galatea.
August 12 Orole Comic Company for one week.
repertory was Said Pasha, Pinafore, and Olivette.
August 20 Louise Hamilton Company for one week. Their
repertory included Arabian Nights, Cinderella,
and Little Treasure.
September 2 Punch Robertson and Company for six performances.
Repertory included Gold King. Ben Bolt, Midnight
Ball, and Man in the Iron Mask.
September 10 Charles H. Hopper in A Vale of a Voice.
September 23 Leslie Davis Stock Company in Is Marriage a
September 24 Above Co. in Hearts of Oak.
September 25 Above Co. in Editha's Burglar.
September 27 Julia Marlowe and Robert Tabor in Twelfth
October 9 Down on the Swanee River, black
October 11 For Fair Virginia, name of company not given.
October 17 Cook Twin Sisters in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
October 28 Tompson's Comedians in Golden Giant
October 29 Above Co. in Dad's Girl.
October 30 Above Co. in Pawn Ticket 210.
October 31 Above Co. in Maude Muller.
November 1 Above Co. in Lancashere Lass.
November 2 Above Co. in Cast Upon the World.
November 6 Tim Murphy and Company in Hoyt's A Texas
November 11 Pearson's Stock Company for one week; names
of plays not given.
November 18 Eddie Foy in Little Robinson Crusoe.
November 21 Donnelly and Girard in The Rain Makers.
November 28 A. G. Fields White Minstrels.
December 2 Oriole Opera Company in The Oalah.
December 20 Charles Yale's Devil's Auction.
December 25 Conary and Lederer's
The Passing Show.
December 28 Bostonians Comic Opera in Prince of Ananeas.
January 2 Wang, name of company not given.
January 11 Salter and Marten's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
January 13 Jolly Delta Pringle in Jane.
January 14 Above Co. in Down on the Farm.
January 15 Above Co. in Pawn Ticket 210.
January 16 Above Co. in Eccles Girls.
January 17 Above Co. in Shadows of a Great City.
January 18 Above Co. in Humpty Dumpty.
January 20 Tomkin's Black Crook.
January 23 Wilson Theatre Co. in Mabel Heathe.
January 24 Above Co. in The Hidden Hand. Last title unkown.
January 28 A Railroad Ticket, name of company not given.
February 3 Charley's Aunt, name of company not given.
February 11 Shore Acres, name of company not given.
February 13 Leroy and Lyon Company in Solomon Issacs.
February 14 Above Co. in Irish Congressman.
February 19 Canary and Leder's Burlesque The
February 26 Murray and Mack in Finnegan's Ball.
February 29 Alexander Salvini in Don Caesar de Bazan.
March 11 Fanny Rice in At the French Ball.
March 14 Palmer's Company in Trilby.
March 20 Old Kentucky, name of company not given.
March 30 A. T. Gordon's Comedy Company in Alone in London.
March 31 Above Co. in Sea of Ice.
April 2 Above Co. in Divorce.
April 6 Corinne and the Kimball Opera Company, name of
production not given.
April 14 Charles Frohman's Company in Sowing
April 21 Charles A. Gardner in Faderland.
April 28 Dan Sully in The Corner Grocery.
April 30 Eugene O'Rourke in The Wicklow
May 2 Stuart Robinson in Mrs. Ponderbury's
May 5 More and Livingston Company played one week.
Repertory included Lost Paradise, White Slave,
Stowaway, and Cotton King.
May 18 Hubert Labadies Company in Faust.
May 22 and 23 J. C. Lewis in Sy Plunkard.
June 1 Columbian Opera Company in Black Hussar.
Repertory for remainder of week not given.
July 20, 21, and 22 The Last Days of Pompeii.
August 20 A Bowery Girl, name of company not given.
September 14 Wilkes Company for two weeks. Among their
repertory was The Sheriff, Caprice, Silver
Spur, Devil's Auction, and Midnight Bell.
October 23 Chauncey Olcott in Irish Artist.
October 27 Eddie Foy in Off the Earth.
November 18 Dazzler, name of company not given.
November 27 Mattie Vickera in Jacquine.
November 31 J. N. Todd Company for one week. Name of
plays not given.
December 7 Eunice Goodrich in Captain January.
December 8 Above Co. in My Wife.
December 14 Southerland Theatre Company for one week.
Name of plays not given.
December 25 Ferguson and Emerick in McSorley's Twins.
December 31 Bankson and Lambert Players.
December 31 Above Co. in Ranch King.
January 1 Above Co. in Jane (matinee) and Streets of
January 2 Above Co. in East Lynne (matinee) and The
January 13 Frohman's Lyceum Theatre Company in
January 21 Frederick Warde in King Lear.
February 3 Above Co. in Merchant of Venice.
February 9 Frohman Company in The Fatal Cord.
February 10 Sutherland Company in Jack of Diamonds.
February 11 Above Co. in The Phoenix.
February 12 Above Co. in Noble Outcast.
February 13 Above Co. in Davy Crockett.
February 15 Columbian Comedy Company in The Cashier.
February 16 Above Co. in The Celebrated Case.
February 17 Above Co. in O'Rafferty's Luck.
February 25 Edmond Keene in Louis XI.
March 1 Repertory Company, name not given, for one
week. Cinematograph after Act One. Names
of plays not given.
March 22 Stuart Robinson in The Jucklins.
April 12 Mary Wellsley Company for two weeks.
plays not given.
May 3 The Crow Sisters for one week. Repertory
included Euchered, Golden Plough, His
Two Orphans, The Pious Fraud, The
Golden Cliff, and Celebrated Case.
May 5 Gilbert Opera Company for one week. Repertory
included Mascot, Said Pasha, Olivette, Chimes
May 21 and 22 Beach and Bowers Minstrels.
June 3 Giffen and Neil Company in A Social
June 4 Above Co. in The Amazons.
June 23 Salter and Marten's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
June 28 The Gibney Company in Angie the Country
June 29 Above Co. in The Gypsy Dancing Girl.
June 30 Above Co. in Plum Tree Farm.
July 1 Above Co. in Camille.
August 2 Lloyd and Lorraine Company in The Octoroon.
August 3 Above Co. in Marble Heart. Stayed two weeks.
August 13 Above Co. in East Lynne.
August 14 Above Co. in A Celebrated Case.
August 17 William Roberts in Faust.
August 20 Heart of Chicago, name of company not given.
August 30 Frank Lane in A Trip to Chinatown.
September 1 Louis James in Bird's Spartacus.
September 8 Clay Clement in Southern Gentleman.
September 13 Ferris Comedians for one week.
September 30 Charles H. Gardner in Karl the Peddler.
October 5 and 6 Sherman and Morrissey vaudeville.
October 15 Otis Skinner in Prince Rudolph.
October 19 A Hired Girl, name of company not given.
October 20 Capt. Impudence by above company.
October 27 Charles Frohman's Never Again.
November 1 A. C. Field's Minstrels.
November 4 Joseph Holland and Cretchen Lyons in
November 8 Pulse of New York, name of company not given.
November 17 The Magic Kiss, name of company not given.
November 27 Stuart Robinson in The Henrietta.
December 2 and 3 Railroad Jack, name of company not given.
December 10 David Higgins in At Piney Ridge.
December 13 Prisoner of Zenda, name of company
December 18 Frederick Warde in Iskander.
December 24 Lincoln Carter in Under the Dome.
December 29 Smith and Rice production of Man From Mexico.
January 1 William Lackaye production of Royal
January 3 William Owen and Company in Richelieu.
January 4 Above Co. in Othello.
January 5 Above Co. in Hamlet.
January 6 Above Co. in Merchant of Venice.
January 7 Above Co. in Romeo and Juliet.
January 8 Above Co. in David Garrick.
January 12 Charles Hoyt's A Black Sheep.
January 18 Donnelly and Girard in The Gazer.
February 10 Charles Loder in Row of Flats.
February 15 The Cherry Pickers, name of company not given.
March 1 The Gusha, name of company not given.
March 5 Cissy Fitzgerald in The Foundling.
March 8 Clay Clements in New Dominion.
March 19 Royal Opera Company from Italy. Name of opera
March 31 George Riddle, dramatic reading of Lady of
April 23 Davis Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
May 15 Glibney's Vaudeville Show.
August 11 Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
September 5 Olga Lorraine and Company in That Girl.
September 17 Mattie Vickers in The Gay Matinee Girl.
September 26 The Commodore, a spectacular.
September 29 The Span of Life, name of company not given.
October 4 Allen Benedict in Fabio Romani.
October 8 Stowe's Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
January 24 Stranger in New York, name of company not given.
February 8 Rip Van Winkle, name of company not given.
March 11 Howard Could in Prisoner of Zenda.
Newspaper is making only short statements
about companies--one or two lines under local
affairs. No advertisements.
May 7 Hi Henry's All Atar minstrels.
May 9 Mattie Vincent Company for one week. Repertory
June 28 Maud Muller, name of company not given.
July 24 Morgan and Nellie, Gibney and Company
week. Repertory included Forgiven, Her Husband
Si, The Woman in Black, A Celebrated Case.
August 1 Above Co. opened second week with Ten Nights
in a Barroom. Remaining plays not listed.
August 9 Bell Opera Company for one week. Repertory
included Boccaccio, Girafle-Giraflo,
Jones, and Cavelleria Rusticanna.
August 14 National Theatre Company in Chick.
August 15 Above Co. in Inside Track.
August 16 Above Co. in Henpecked.
August 17 Above Co. in The Police Alarm.
August 18 Above Co. in Comrades.
August 23 Hoyt's spectacular, A Milk White Way.
August 28 Jeanette Lewis and Company for one week.
Repertory not given.
September 8 Edison Vitascope Pictures of
September 13 and 14 Mathews and Bulger in the
Sad Sea Wives.
September 18 Scott's Minstrel Company.
September 25 Pay Train Company for one week. Repertory
October 2 Warren Noble's Company for one week. Repertory
included Cold King, Monte Christo, Gay Mr.
Tompkins. Uncle Daniel, and Dad's Angel.
October 9 Will Nollitor, manager, Just Before
October 26 Robert Montell in The Daqger and the Cross.
October 28 The Black Patte Vaudeville.
November 2 Jefferson De Angelis in The Jolly Musketeer.
November 8 Martin Company in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
November 13 Ferris Comedians for one week, played My Jim.
November 14 Above Co. in An Innocent Sinner.
November 15 Above Co. in Three Musketeers. Title of play
for following date not given.
November 17 Above Co. in Cyrano de Bergerac.
November 21 Kelly's Kids, name of play not given.
December 14 A Trip to Chinatown, name of company not given.
December 15 Tim Murphy in The Carpetbagger.
December 25 A Day and a Night, name of company not given.
James M. Siefkas
James M. Siefkas was born in Marshall, Missouri, in 1935. He
graduated from Marshall High School in 1953, and then enrolled at
Missouri Valley College, 1953-1955. In 1955, he transferred to the
University of missouri and received the A. B.
degree in 1957. A
brief tour in the United States Army followed, 1957-1958, and he
then returned and became a graduate student at the University of
Missouri and a part-time instructor at Christian College, Columbia,
Missouri. He received the M. A. in 1960, and then taught for one
year at Northwest Missouri State Teachers College, Maryville,
Missouri. Another tour in the United States Army followed, and then
he became an Assistant Professor at Central Methodist College,
Fayette, Missouri, 1962-1967. From 1967-1972, he was Assistant
Professor at Wisconsin State University-La Crosse, and part-time
graduate student at the University of Missouri.