Originally Published: Oct 29, 2015 UPDATED: May 20, 2021
The Boston Glove – July 22, 1915, Page 8
TO FLY OVER COMMON
Miss Donna Montran Expects to Drop Pennants and Tickets for Show From Biplane,
Miss Donna Montran, one of the pretty “belles of 1861” in “The Birth of a Nation,” at the Tremont Theatre, is anticipating the time of her life this afternoon, when she expects to make two round trips between Saugus and Boston Common with Capt J. Chauncey Redding in his biplane, incidentally showering “Birth of a Nation” pennants and free tickets for the Tremont Theatre on the heads of the crowd that will witness the flight from the Common. The two flights over the Common in the vicinity of the Tremont Theatre are scheduled, one for about 1:30, or not long after, the other a short time before the matinee performance is over, probably about 4:30. During the first flight the biplane will circle about above the State House dome.
Miss Montran will be attired similarly to the lobby girls at the Tremont Theatre, though without the hoopskirt. She will drop 100 pennants on the Common, 25 of which will have tickets for the theatre attached to them. The distribution will take place during both flights, and those who capture the tickets will be able to see “The Birth of a Nation” free of cost.
Sadly, she wasn’t able to make that flight. The theatre was unable to get approval for the flight over Boston Common and the State House. They did, however, get approval to drop the pennants over Revere Beach the following Day. This was a really big deal and the Boston Globe covered it with a photo article on July 23rd.
According to the article, rather than wearing a Tremont Theatre lobby girl’s outfit as reported she would the day before, she wore an aviator’s trim costume. Also, the article says, “On the descent of the machine Miss Montran expressed herself as delighted with her 50 minutes in the air.”
There were articles in other papers including The Boston Herald, 23 July 1915.
“Actress Make Two Flights in Biplane.” She flew in Capt. J. Chauncey Redding biplane on July 22nd.
A google search for J. Chauncey Redding yielded a photo of the plane. The photo was taken the week of 6 September, just six weeks after Donna’s flights. If you wonder how dangerous was it to fly in a biplane in 1915, the pilot, Capt. J. Chauncey Redding, died on October 21st when his biplane collapsed while in midair while over the Lynn, MA, marshes.
Another article appeared in the Washington Herald a few weeks later. That article indicates that the plane was a Burgess-Wright aeroplane as reported in Aerial Age Weekly. It also mentions that Miss Montran was, “delighted with her fifty minutes in the air.”
I was able to find Aerial Age Weekly online at Google Books. The Washington Herald article is a reprint of the same article and provides no additional information..
Finally, I was able to find a photo on Wikimedia photo of the Wright Model B which was licensed to Burgess to make the Burgess-Wright Model F. This was the exact type of aircraft J. Chauncey Redding used during Donna’s flight.
Update 20 May 2021
Donna’s stunt not only made the local newspapers, it was also reported in both Moving Picture World and in Pictures and the Picturegoer.
We do not like to realize that there is anyone in the Hub who has not seen “The Birth of a Nation,” which I have had the good fortune to see several times, always finding something new and wonderful to fill the eye. The last weeks are announced. A novelty in the way of advertising this picture was put forth the other day when one of the pretty girls of ’61, gowned as in the play, went up in an aeroplane and scattered pennants, some of them having free tickets. She was dainty Donna Montran.
Donna Montran. a player in The Birth of a Nation (a picture we all hope to see) has been making aeroplane-flights and dropping pennants bearing the sign, The Birth of a Nation, to which were attached free passes, and worth picking up.
It seems that the surname “Vinson” has two separate origins. First is that it comes from the “son of Vin or Vincent.” The second is that it is a corruption or variant of “Vincent.” It does not appear that my wife’s ancestors were from a patronymic society, so Vinson is more likely a corruption of “Vincent.”
When in doubt, I’ll now use Vincent as the preferred surname, unless there is some uncontroversial reason for using Vinson. That plan suggests I need to relook carefully at my wife’s great-grandmother, Susan R Vinson, whose parents were John and Lenora Vincent.
Worldwide there are approximately 283,936 people who bear the Vincent surname.
It is most prevalent in France, with the United States having the second-highest incidence, with over 67,000 Vincent’s in the US.
My Wife’s Earliest Vincent Ancestors
All of my wife’s Vincent ancestors lived in North Carolina. Her earliest known Vincent ancestor was Philip Vincent. It is not clear where he was born, but during the 1800 Census, he was over 45, suggesting he was born before 1755. He lived in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, in 1790. In 1840, Philip’s son, Burkett Vincent, was living in Halifax County with a household consisting of 5 people. His was one of only 22 Vincent families living in North Carolina during 1840. Burkett’s son, John Vincent was born about 1816 in Halifax County and died sometime before 1870. His daughter, Susan R. Vincent (aka Susan Vinson) was born on 22 August 1848. She married Peter Fletcher Howell shortly after the Civil War, on 10 December 1866.
I found an article in the Boston Globe (via Newspapers.com) about the contest. That article was on the front page of the 11 December 1916 issue of the Boston Globe, Page 1. The quality of the image is a little clearer than the image from the Boston Post (via Newspaper Archives). I updated the post with both images side by side.
Got to love the vocabulary used in old newspapers. “Pulchritude” is the kind of word that if you Google it, you can see how many on-line dictionaries there are. It is a big word for a common thing. Check it out for yourself.
Boston Post, 12 Dec 1916
Via Newspaper Archive
Boston Globe, 12 Dec 1916
In a previous article, I mentioned that Donna tried out to become the “Miss Boston” representative at the big preparedness bazaar to be held at the Grand Central Palace in New York. Well, I found another article about the contest Donna was involved in. According to the “Boston Post” of December 12, 1916, more than 50 girls had already tried out for Miss Boston and a “big rush” of over 100 more girls was expected. The Post’s article included photos of ten of the girls vying for Miss Boston. You never guess who the first girl shown in the article was? One of two girls on page one was grandma, Donna Montran. This newspaper photo is one of the earliest photos we have of Donna as a closeup. The article goes on to say that Donna is a blonde even though the photo doesn’t look that way.
The paper printed the names and addresses of the applicants. Imagine what would happen today if a newspaper published the home addresses of 49 pulchritude contestants. In December 1916, Donna was living at 64 Bennett in Brighton (Boston), MA.
By the way, “preparedness bazaar” referred to actions to prepare the United States for entry into World War I. The United States didn’t enter the war until four months later, on 6 April 1917. However, in December 1916, businessmen, intent on making money on the war, promoted military preparedness and the beauty contests were part of their strategy to create hype to encourage the US to enter the war.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection
The venue is the Allegheny Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.
The show is “Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties”
Also on bill
“The Idol Dancer”
Featuring in Lights
(The Prima Donna With the Million Dollar Personality)
And Her Bathing Beauties
Bringing herself into Everyone’s Heart
Watch for her Return to New York
It is not clear where this clipping came from, probably from a promotional item in something like Variety, as it doesn’t mention her playing in Philadelphia. Rather, it reminds readers to “Watch for Her Return to New York.” (Which she doesn’t appear to do for several months.)
Donna in Philadelphia, PA, at the Allegheny Theatre – Sep 27, 1920
Of particular interest is a program of the show the week of September 27th, 1920. For the Allegheny Theatre. It shows us that the Allegheny claimed to be “The largest Vaudeville Theatre in the World.” It also provided a list of the acts. A musical overture started the show followed by a “review of current events.” I’m sure that was really important as in 1920 America so many people didn’t read and write. Current Events was followed by four different Vaudeville acts before the main live act. Tom Rooney presents “The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in ‘A Beach Promenade’ in 6 gasps and 3 shocks. Conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.” The show was followed by “The Idle Dancer”[sic] directed by D. W. Griffith. It was a 1 hour, 44-minute silent film “The Idol Dancer.” Following the film was an “Exit March” performed by the orchestra.
A musical overture started the show followed by a “review of current events.” I’m sure that was really important as in 1920 America so many people didn’t read and write, so learning the Current Events of the Day was a great feature.
Current Events was followed by four Vaudeville acts before the main live act. They were:
Alexander and Mack
Una Clayton & Co.
Tappen and Armstrong
Then the main show:
Tom Rooney presents “The California Bathing Girls and Donna Montran in ‘A Beach Promenade’ in 6 gasps and 3 shocks. Conceived and staged under the personal direction of Earl Lindsay.”
The live show was followed by “The Idle Dancer”[sic] directed by D. W. Griffith. It was a 1 hour, 44-minute silent film “The Idol Dancer.” Following the film was an “Exit March” performed by the orchestra.
An advertising clipping relating to Donna’s Allegheny Theatre appearance. It let us know that her California Bathing Beauties show included a cast of 12. The ad also mentioned that “You were taken in the movies last week, see yourself in the picture this week.” According to an article in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” (Sep. 26, 1920) pictures taken at the theatre the previous week including many residents entire audience. Those photos were going to be shown on the screen this week. How fun. A great promotion for the theatre.
B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre
F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was located at 3139-3149 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was designed by the firm of Magaziner & Potter; it opened in 1912.
In 1926, it was remodeled by the firm of Hoffman-Henon Co.
By 1941, the theater became part of Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.
In 1942, the theater underwent renovation by Golder Construction, Co.
The theatre lasted until 1956 and has since been torn down.
B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre size is confusing. Certainly, in 1920 it billed itself as “the largest vaudeville theater in the world.” Also in 1920, Anthony F. Dumas did an architectural drawing of B.F. Keith’s Allegheny theater and his drawing indicated it was the “World Largest Vaudeville Theater seating 4000.” However, people on Cinema Treasures indicate the theater seated 2,858 in 1936. Likewise, Joel Frykholm, in his essay, “Framing the Feature Film,” found B. F. Keith’s Allegheny theater to seat 2,855 individuals in 1914.
Sadly, the theatre is not listed in the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914, (the edition I have and use) as it must have been too new for inclusion. Also, the 1921 Guide doesn’t list the Allegheny Theatre either, but it does list the B. F. Keith Theatre which had a seating capacity of 2,300.
How the theater could have gone from 2,855 in 1914 to 4,000 in 1920 and back to 2,858 in 1936 is beyond. I suspect the 4,000 number to be in error.
Today the site is the location of “Friendly Plaza” the home of a Family Dollar Store and Friendly Wholesalers Inc. Furniture store. See Google Map.
It is clear that B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre was new in 1920, being about eight years old. It was also one of the largest theaters of its time. Donna played there for a week, but she and the California Bathing Beauties played several other Philadelphia theaters during the fall of 1920. I’ll write more about them later.
It will take some additional research to determine the actual seating of B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre in 1920 while Donna was there.
ACTA UNIVERSITATIS STOCKHOLMIENSIS – Stockholm Cinema Studies 9 – “Framing the Feature Film: Multi-Reel Feature Film and American Film Culture in the 1910s” by Joel Frykholm citing: Advertisement for B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre, Inquirer, March 1, 1914:17; and “Allegheny,” In Vaudeville’s Realm, Inquirer, March 1, 1914:16. http://manualzz.com/doc/17494960/stockholm-cinema-studies-9.
Elishaba Smith was born, lived her entire life, and died in New London County, Connecticut. What makes that statement so odd and what provided such a source for learning for me was that I learned that there is no county government nor county seat for New London County. There isn’t a county government in any of Connecticut’s eight counties. In Connecticut, the towns are responsible for all local government. Although some neighboring towns might share resources, water, gas, the county is a mapping convention and has no government.
Darling-Huber 2017 – Ancestor #99
List of Grandparents
Grandfather: Robert Harry Darling
1st Great-grandfather: Rufus Harry Darling
2nd Great-grandfather: Rufus Holton Darling
3rd Great-grandmother: Sally Ann Munsell
4th Great-grandmother: Elishaba Smith
5th Great-grandfather: Hezekiah Smith
Elishaba Smith (1748-1803)
Elishaba Smith was born on either 15 or 16 February 1747 in Lyme, New London. She was the child of Hezekiah and Sarah (Chadwick) Smith.
Connecticut was an up-and-coming place in the mid 1700s. In 1758 the New London Summary was founded by Timothy Green. The newspaper was discontinued when Timothy Green died in 1763. However, the paper was immediately replaced by Timothy Green’s nephew, also named Timothy Green, with the New London Gazette.
Elishaba married Timothy Munsell in Lyme on 11 Feb 1768.
They had seven children.
Children of Timothy and Elishaba (Smith) Munsell
William Wescott Munsell
24 Jan 1770
20 Jan 1867
28 Jun 1773
07 Sep 1775
18 Jun 1777
16 Apr 1778
James Andross Munsell
09 Jul 1781
Sally Ann Munsell
1790 Census shows the Timothy Munsell family living in New London. It indicates three males living there under the age of 16. Timothy (Age 12), James Andross (Age 9), and Thomas (Age 6) would have been the correct ages to fit the family. William Wescott was born in 1770 and would have been 20 at the time so he must have lived elsewhere.
The census record also shows two females in the household. Elishaba (age 43) and Sally Ann (age 10)
1798 – Timothy Munsell died leaving Elishaba a widow.
1800 Census show Elishaba Munsell as the head of household. Living with her is one female between 10 and 16 years of age who is presumed to be Sally Ann who was born between 1784 and 1786.
Elishaba Munsell died on 16 Sep 1803. Her burial location is unknown.
1790 Census (A) (NARA), Ancestry.com, 1790 Census – Timothy Munsill – New London, Connecticut.