The Donna Darling Collection – Part 2

 

Donna Montran

Vaudeville
By Don Taylor

The first newspaper clipping in the collection is one that screams in big print, “DONNA MONTRAN.”

Newspaper ad promoting Donna Montran
Scanned image from the Donna Darling Collection. Originally: From August 20, 1920, edition of “Variety,” New York City, page 40 (back cover) via the Donna Darling Collection.

It then speaks of her as “BROADWAY’S NEWEST FIND – Under Personal Direction of Tom Rooney.” The advertising also acknowledges her vocal instructor, Louis Howard Croxson, and her dancing master Alexis Kosloff.  The clipping also shows that she is playing at B. S. Moss’ Broadway Theatre.  Knowing that made it easier to find the paper and issue that the item ran in. (Emphasis mine.)

The clipping is a paid advertisement she took out promoting herself. I was able to find it in “Variety” newspaper, dated August 20, 1920, it was a half-page ad on the back cover of the trade newspaper. The ad also includes a collection of quotes about Donna that we will see many more times.

The Quotes:

VARIETY, July 30

“Donna Montran ha an undeniable million dollar smile, oodles of personality and an elastic voice that hits the high registers smoothly and effectively—wood make ideal $4 musical comedy stuff.”

Abel

“MORNING TELEGRAPH”

“Donna Montran is here. Take leading part well in beach promenade.”

“EVE. WORLD”

“Donna Montran was the bathing girl prima donna and had as pleasing a voice as any girl should need.”

“N. Y. CLIPPER”

“The music was tuneful and the song, “India, My Own,’ with words and music written by Donna Montran, was sung by the author with good effect. Miss Montran is pretty, possessed of a fine figure and has a smile and personality that count.”

“EVE. MAIL” (July 26)

“There is the pretty, dainty Donna Montran, whose swimming hasn’t destroyed her voice.”

“EVE. SUN”

“Donna Montran. A blo/??
young lady who contributes /??
explanatory singing, manage /???
part well and exhibited some /????
pretty costumes.”[i]

The People

Thomas Rooney

Donna married Thomas Rooney on November 24, 1915, in Waltham, MA. So, it is clear that she and Tom were together for quite a few years. I am a little surprised that the very independent Donna would go for the phrase, “Under Personal Direction of Tom Rooney.”  (I definitely need to do more research about him.)

Lewis Howard Croxson

Louis Howard Croxson was a vocal teacher who had a studio in the Metropolitan Opera House building. Apparently, he was well known in New York stage circles. Among those he had instructed were Miss Tossa Kosta of “The Chocolate Soldier,” Miss Dorothy South of the “Wild Cat,” Miss Patricia Ryan, Carl Hayden, the Australian concert singer, Misses Irene Castle, Josie Colline and Bertha Shalek, his sister in law.[ii]  Through this ad we learn he also instructed vaudeville star, Donna Montran.[iii]

Alexis Kosloff

Photo of Alexis Kosloff 1917.
Alexis Kosloff c. 1917

Alexis Kosloff taught Russian Ballot and was very well known in New York. He danced in the imperial Russian Ballet before coming to America and was a writer, choreographer, and dance instructor. His book, Russian ballet technique, as taught by Alexis Kosloff: Method of practising foundation steps, potpourri of exercises, suite of dances, with descriptions and music, is a classic. He taught Donna how to dance. No wonder reviews of her shows often praised her dance ability. She was trained by the best and she gave him credit in this advertisement.

Conclusion

Clearly, it was important for Donna to promote herself. During a time when women were typically demure, she stood up and promoted herself. Showing herself as being personally managed by Tom Rooney, taught voice by Louis Howard Croxson, and taught Dance by Alexis Kosloff was her way of saying she was the “real deal.” Advertising in “Variety” was a way to gain prestige exposure with theater agents and others who could book her act.


Follow-up / Future Research

Thomas Valentine Rooney, Donna’s 2nd husband.

Endnotes & Sources

[i] The Donna Montran Collection news-clipping is torn and the last words on each line of this quote are missing.  Unfortunately, the Archives.Org image of that paper also is cut off on the right causing the words on the right to be missing.
[ii] The New York herald. (New York, N.Y.), 14 Dec. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045774/1921-12-14/ed-1/seq-11/>
[iii] Variety (New York, N. Y.), 20 Aug. 1920, Page 40 (Back page), Internet Archive: <https://archive.org/details/variety59-1920-08>

OMG – Another Half-Sibling

Half-Siblings provide the proof

Brown, DNA
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Thanks to autosomal DNA testing, I’ve learned who my biological father is. I have discovered and met some of my “new” half-siblings on my biological father’s side. I have also discovered that my wife has a previously unknown half-sister. Now, due to DNA testing, I’ve found that my mother has a previously unknown half-sister.

It began with an email from (I’ll call her) HC, who indicated that Ancestry DNA was saying that she and I were first or second cousins. The Ancestry match reported that she and I share 460cM of material.  A look at our trees showed no surnames in common. Ancestry allows you to view a match and see who also shares that match.  My half-sister, Glennis, was also a match and shares, even more, DNA (522 centimorgans) than I share with HC.  That proves that the match was on my maternal side as Glennis and I share a common mother.

Screen shot showing "HC" and author share 460 centimorgans of DNA.
HC & I share 460cM

Through an exchange of messages, I learned that HC’s mother was adopted, was born in May of 1938 in Texas, however, her mother was conceived in Minnesota. That narrowed things considerably.  My mom’s Montran/Barber line pretty much was from Michigan; my mom’s Brown/Manning line was from Minnesota. So, it was very likely that the match came from my mother’s father’s side of the family.  Luckily, my mother has a half-sister.  The bad news is that neither my mother or her half-sister, Barbara, tested with Ancestry.

No problem, GEDMatch to the rescue. Although both tested with another service, I had previously exported their data from the other system and imported the data into GEDMatch. If HC was a match with my mother and aunt Barbara, then the common ancestor had to be on their common father’s side. If the match was only with my mother and not my aunt Barbara, then the common ancestor had to be on her Montran side. I know very little about Montran line, so anything could be possible.

HC uploaded her data to GEDMatch and the results were amazing.  She shares over 1000 centimorgans of DNA with BOTH my mother and my aunt Barbara – Proof that the common line is on the Brown side. I like to use The DNA Geek’s chart to quickly see the potential relationships between individuals at a particular centimorgans level. The chart shows that 1000 cM is solidly in the range of Group C relatives. Relationships for Group C include First Cousin, Half Aunt-Uncle/Niece-Nephew, Great-Grand Parent/Child and Great Aunt-Uncle/Niece-Nephew.

Now that I know that the match is on the Brown line I can speculate.

Grandpa Dick
  • If Grandpa Dick is the father of HC’s mother, then HC would be the half-niece of my mother and Aunt Barbara.  That fits the amount of DNA Perfectly.
  • If one of Grandpa Dick’s brothers were the father of HC’s mother then, HC and my mother would be first cousins once removed and I would expect a DNA match of between 215 and 650.
  • Dick’s father died in 1928, so he can’t possibly be the father of HC’s mother, so that scenario isn’t possible.

Finally, I questioned was there is a locational opportunity for Grandpa Dick to be the father. HC’s mother was conceived while her mother was in Deerwood, MN about August of 1938. In 1937, my Grandpa Dick was living in Brainerd, Minnesota, about 18 miles from Deerwood.

I think that is enough to prove the relationship. However, I always like to go the extra mile if possible and prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt. HC’s mother is still alive and recently had her DNA tested. When the results come back, we can confirm this relationship. I expect that the autosomal DNA match with my mother and with Aunt Barbara will be in the 2000cM range – solidly in the half-sibling range.

Additional proof will come through a comparison of the X chromosome. Females have two X-chromosomes (males have an X and a Y).  One of the X chromosomes is from the mother and is recombinant, that is to say, it is a mix of the mother’s X.  The other X chromosome is a replica of the father’s X and is passed on without change.  If HC’s mother and my mother are half-siblings, I would expect to see their X-Chromosome to have a solid match like my mother and her half-sister Barbara have.

Screen Shot - X Chromosome Match of 2 half sisters
X Chromosome match of my mom & Aunt Barbara.

 

My mother and my Aunt Barbara have a here-to-for completely unknown half-sister. Amazing. I always heard that Grandpa Dick “liked the ladies.”  I guess he did. I now know of four daughters that he fathered, my mom, Aunt Barbara, Aunt Mary Lou, and newly found Aunt Phyllis. I wonder if there are more….

Note:

  • I do not typically use the full name of living individuals.
  • Of course, if any DNA specialists see anything incorrect with my reasoning above, please let me know via the contact form below.

The Donna Darling Collection

Part 1 of possibly 37

When my Grandmother, Madonna Montran (AKA Donna), passed away in 1976 it was several days before my mother was informed of the death.  When she went to Donna’s apartment she found that everything had been removed, the apartment cleaned, and the apartment up for rent already. She was told by the building manager that everything was either trashed or given to the Salvation Army. Well…  Not everything.

Photo of Donna Montran, circa 1910
Donna Montran, c. 1910

Apparently, Donna’s friend, Virginia Hagen, saved some of the photos and other documents of Donna’s. Those items were put into a trunk and remained “lost” for over 40 years. Virginia’s daughter inherited the trunk and searched the internet for information on the “nearly famous” vaudeville star, Donna Darling. (Donna Darling was her stage name.) She quickly discovered this blog site and contacted me. She gave me a chance to digitize many of the items.  I was able to digitize 357 images. Some of the images are large photographs, others are scrapbook pages with several articles, and several are groupings of thumb-sized photos.  Newspaper clippings from the 1920s in contact with acid rich paper don’t do so well over time. Likewise, many of the photos were glued into the albums causing damage.  Additionally, because Donna knew who the individuals were, there was no reason to label most of the photos.

I decided to process the collection about 10 images at a time. As I process the images, I hope to identify the people, places, dates, and anything else I can figure out from the images. Some of the images aren’t appropriate for posting to the internet, such as my grandmother’s social security health card. (The word “Medicare” isn’t on it, yet.)

The First 10 Images

The first ten images are a miscellaneous group of loose items. They included:

  1. Business Card from Amsterdam Hosiery & Gift Shop. There are four sides to this business card, including one side showing birthstones for the various months. I believe this was her ex-husband’s parents shop.
  2. Blue Cross Blue Shield identification card for Donna Rossberg.  I have never understood her Rossberg connection. This card confirms she used the Rossberg name sometimes but I have never found a legal connection (marriage) between Donna and “Red.” Something to investigate sometime.
  3. A 1970 photo of me holding my son, Matthew. Sadly, the photo is badly damaged.
  4. A photo of me. I have the same photo in my personal photos and have always thought it was from about 1956. However, Donna’s copy has our Fridley address written on the bask, indicating it was more likely 1958.
  5. A 1910 photo of Madonna Montran. At the age of 17 Donna had her first professionally done photoshoot. One of those photos became the picture used on the sheet music of “In the Heart of a Fool.” Another photo from that photo shoot is in this first batch of photos. The original has many scrapes, nicks, and creases. I touched up the image slightly to remove the blemishes from the photo (not from her).  Without a doubt, you can see how incredibly beautiful she was. Amazing photo is it posted above.
  6. Photo of Donna on Ocean Liner, circa 1930.
    Donna on Ocean Liner, circa 1930.

    Next is a photo of “Donna on Ocean Liner – Carabean [sic] Sea.”  I believe this to be about 1930. Donna and Sammy went to Panama in 1930. While in Panama, Donna met my grandfather. Also, while in Panama Donna and Sammy became estranged. Although they returned on the same ship, they appear on different pages of the manifest and reported living at different addresses. He, his mother’s address in New York and Donna her mother’s address in Detroit.

  7. Next is a photo of Freddie Braddock that appears to have been taken in San Antonio, Texas in June 1952.  I have no idea who this person is nor what his relationship to Donna was.  Another thing to investigate.
  8. A 1954 “Honorable Withdrawal Card” from the Laundry Workers’ International Union.  I knew that Donna worked in laundries.  I also recall her being very pro-union. She said that the rich get rich by exploiting the poor and that unions curb that exploitation. This card really triggers memories for me. I think I should research the LWIU and learn more about this important aspect of Donna’s later life.
  9. There were three letters from me. One made me feel bad. It was a letter from me to Donna apologizing for not visiting her when I was in Minneapolis on military leave. I promised her that I’d visit her on my next return home on leave. Sadly, she died before I returned to Minnesota.
  10. There is a wedding photo of myself and my first wife. I think it is in better condition than the copy that I have.
  11. My son, Matthew, is the subject of a March 1976 photo. He is on the side of a hill.
  12. Donna’s Medicare card from 1966.
  13. A photo of my mother, Sylvia, from Christmas 1970.
  14. And last, but not least, there is a photo of an unknown man in a vintage automobile. The car has “suicide doors” and odd fold out windows. I don’t know what type of car it is. (But, I’ll bet a car buff could tell me.) I’m thinking it might be Russell Kees (the significant other of Donna, not Donna’s son). I definitely need to do more research in this photo.

So, the first ten images yielded 16 items. Only 247 more images to go.  This is going to be fun.

Many thanks to Norma White and to Valerie Lumley for taking care of the collection all these years. Once again, thank you, Norma White, for allowing me to digitize the Donna Darling Collection.

Follow-up Research.

  • Search again for Donna’s connection to Red Rossberg. Were they ever married?
  • Who was Freddie Braddock and what was his relationship to the family?
  • Investigate and research the Laundry Workers’ International Union.
  • Determine the kind of car it is (below)?  Who is the driver?  When might the photo be from?

    Photo of a man in a vintage auto.
    Unknown man in a vintage automobile. How is he related?

 

Ancestor Biography – Stephen Blackhurst (1801-1869)

 [Brown]/Montran/Barber/Blackhurst Line
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.As I have begun to get to know my Blackhurst heritage, I am amazed. It is an incredible group of people descended from 19th century English immigrants, Stephen and Fannie (Taylor) Blackhurst. Fifty years after Stephen’s death family reunions began. Their descendants include many community leaders including a superintendent of schools for St. Charles, Missouri. It is more amazing because until I began investigating this family line I had not hear of any Blackhurst ancestors.  It was a name neither my mother nor her brother recalled ever hearing. They both remembered hearing about their great-grandmother Sarah Barber, who died when my uncle was only one year old, but neither recalled hearing Sarah’s maiden name.

Of course, I wonder what caused my line to appear to have become estranged from the remainder of Blackhursts.  I have my suspicions, but need to do a lot more research to prove them. In any event, in introduce you to my third great-grandfather, Stephen Blackhurst.

Roberts-Brown-2017 – Ancestor #62

List of Grandparents

  1. Grand Parent: Madonna Montran
  2. 1st Great: Ida Barber
  3. 2nd Great: Sarah H Blackhurst
  4. 3rd Great: Stephen Blackhurst
  5. 4th Great: Stephen Blackhurst

Stephen Blackhurst (1801-1869)

Birth

Birth years are often contentious and Stephen’s birth year is no exception. He was certainly born sometime between 1799 and 1804.

  • 1799 – His death in 1869 at the age of 70 suggests that he was born in 1799.
  • 1800 – The 1860 Census indicates his age as 60, suggesting a birth year of 1800.
  • 1801 – His marker displays 1801. Because there is no definitive source for his birth year, 1801 is the year I prefer to use.
  • 1802 – The 1841 England Census indicates his age of 39, suggesting a birth year of 1802.
  • 1804 – The 1850 US Census indicates his age as 46, suggesting a birth year of 1804.

Other records indicate he was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.

Childhood

I believe Stephen was the child of Stephen Blackhurst and Lydia Ellen Cochran. I know nothing of Stephen’s childhood nor of his siblings.

Marriage

Relationship of Sheffield and Rotherham in South Yorkshire

Stephen and Fanny Taylor married on 26 Dec 1825 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England. Rotherham is the district immediately east of Sheffield.

Adulthood

It appears that the couple may have moved between Sheffield and Kingston upon Hull. Records indicate that their first child, Ellen, was born in Kingston upon Hull and five of the other children were born in Sheffield. There are two children that I don’t have any details on their birth locations and, of course, Ellen’s birth location is single sourced and may be incorrect.

In any event, by 1841 the Blackhursts had located to Kingston upon Hull (known as Hull today), Yorkshire, England.

Coming to America

The 1855 New York Census indicates that Stephen had come to America seven years earlier (1848) while his wife and three of his children had come to America five years earlier (1850). The family, Stephen and Fannie, with six of the children (Elizabeth, Mary, William, Eleazer, Ann, and Sarah) were settled in Auburn, Cayuga County, New York during the 1850 Census. Their oldest daughter, Ellen, married on 4 July 1850 and the census enumeration occurred on the 8th of August. The 1855 New York Census still shows the family in Auburn.

Move to Michigan

It appears that the Blackhursts came to Michigan in 1859. The 1860 Census shows Stephen and  Fanny along with the three youngest children, William, Louise, and Sarah living in Sheridan Township, Calhoun County, Michigan. The Blackhurst farm appears to be about four miles north of Albion. So, over the ensuing years various documents indicate they live in Albion and Sheridan (Township).  There were some apparent conflicts in the 1860 Census that I addressed here.

Death

Marker = Stephen Blackhurst
1801-1869

Stephen Blackhurst died on 24 December 1869 of “Dropsy of the Bowels” (Ascites) in Albion, Calhoun County, Michigan. He is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Albion.

Story

54 years after Stephen Blackhurst’s death, his descendants got together for a family reunion at a park in nearby Jackson, Michigan. See: Blackhurst Family Reunion – 1923 for details.

Children:

Stephen Blackhurst and Fanny Taylor had the following children:

  1. Ellen Blackhurst was born on 19 Oct 1829 in Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, England. She died on 17 Feb 1905 in Sheridan Township, Calhoun County, Michigan. She married Henry Clough on 04 Jul 1850 in Auburn, Cayuga, New York.
  2. Elizabeth Blackhurst was born on 21 Oct 1831 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. She died on 14 Feb 1915 in Calhoun, Michigan.
  3. Mary Blackhurst was born on 20 Dec 1833 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. She died on 14 Feb 1900 in Springport, Jackson, Michigan. She married Royal Baldwin on 11 Jan 1857 in Calhoun County, Michigan.
  4. William Stephen Blackhurst was born on 13 May 1835 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. He died on 10 Mar 1914 in Avalon, Livingston, Missouri. He married Emily M Vase on 05 Sep 186417 in Calhoun County, Michigan,Usa. He married Sarah Elizabeth Hinkley sometime between 1875-1886.
  5. Louise Blackhurst (aka “Eleazer” and possibly “Louisa”) was born on 14 Aug 1840 in England. She died on 17 Mar 1927 in Albion, Calhoun, Michigan at the age of 88 Years, 7 Months, 3 Days.
    1. She married Samuel Sanders about 1862.
    2. She married Champion Eslow on 03 Sep 1872 in Albion, Calhoun, Michigan.
    3. She married Francis Magennis on 15 Aug 1882 in Albion, Calhoun, Michigan.
    4. She married Charles Henry Peck19 on 21 Dec 1898 in Albion, Calhoun, Michigan. It was the 4th marriage for Louise and the 2nd marriage for Charles.
  6. Phoebe Anna Blackhurst was born on 15 May 1842 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. She died on 17 Aug 1929 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois.
  7. Sarah H Blackhurst was born on 29 Dec 1847 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. She died on 08 Aug 1928 at home at 1456 Lawndale, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Stephen White, Justice of the Peace, performed the marriage ceremony for Sarah and Franklin E Barber on 08 Nov 1869 in Sheridan Township, Calhoun County, Michigan.

Sources

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Trace Stephen Blackhurst’s life in England before his coming to the United States.

My First Grade – Emerson Elementary

My Life
Those Places Thursday

By Don Taylor

Westminster Presbyterian Church – I lived in the apartment building to the right of the church.

We must have moved back to Minneapolis during the summer of 1956 because I don’t remember changing schools during the school year that year.  We lived at 1221-½ Nicollet. It was an old hotel, right next door to Westminster Presbyterian Church, that had been converted to apartments. It had fire escapes on the front of the building that was really cool at the time. Once we popped popcorn and went out on the fire escape to watch the Aquatennial Parade go by. It turned about a half a block away (on 12th Street) but we could see it just fine from our perch on the 3rd floor.  My mother told me that we lived in the same building a couple years earlier, but I don’t remember that.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary, Minneapolis, MN – Photo from “Minneapolis Public Schools History”

I attended Emerson School, named after Frank Waldo Emerson, about four blocks away. I remember walking to school with a girl. I think we were the same age and just watched out for each other. On the walk to school, we crossed Nicollet Ave, one of the busiest streets in the city in those days. We only lived there for a couple months, as I recall. Then we moved to a place on Spruce Place, only about a block from the school.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School was originally erected in 1886. It was demolished and a new building was erected in 1925. An addition was added in 1926.[i]

A 1963 study indicated that the school attendance had 663 students in 1952 and only 223 students in 1963. The decline was mostly due to infrastructure changes in the neighborhood, particularly the building of Interstate 94 through the city. (I-94 runs 4 blocks to the west and 2 blocks to the south of the school.) Additionally, the report cites change of land use in the area.[ii]  I had seen the shift over the years too.  The apartment I lived in on Nicollet Avenue was demolished and made into a parking lot in the late 1950s. Likewise, the building we lived in on Spruce Place was torn down and a wing to Eitel Hospital was built.

The school was smaller than I remember.  That same 1963 study indicates the school had 7 classrooms plus a Kindergarten as well as four special education rooms and one special use room for use by K-6.  I guess things just seem so much larger when you are only six-years-old.

My Soup Disaster

One of my most traumatic school events ever happened at lunch at Emerson.  I, like most kids in those days, brought my lunch. I had a new thermos and it was filled with my favorite soup – Chicken Noodle. I poured out about half of it and it was all broth, and that was okay. Then I poured out the second half of it and it too was all broth.  I couldn’t get the noodles to come out of the thermos. I was frustrated and cried a bit. Why wouldn’t the thermos release the best part of my “Chicken Snoodle Snoop.” Finally, a teacher came over to me and was successful in getting the thermos to release the noodles. I only brought tomato soup after that.

What happened to School

I am surprised to learn that the school building is still there, 91 years later. Today it is “The Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center.” It provides a language immersion program for native English and native Spanish speaking students serving students Pre-K – 5th grade. Students learn to read and write in both languages.[iii]

 


Endnotes

[i] Minneapolis Public School History – Schools & Facilities – K-8 – Emerson http://mpshistory.mpls.k12.mn.us/emerson 

[ii] Minneapolis Public School History – Emerson – Planning for the Future – http://mpshistory.mpls.k12.mn.us/uploads/pff-1963-emerson.pdf

[iii] Internet:  Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center Bienvenidos/Welcome page. http://emerson.mpls.k12.mn.us/