Beauties at City Hall, Boston, 1916, Included Donna Montran

Initially published on 2 March 2016

UPDATE – 19 June 2018

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
Via Newspapers.Com

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.

———- DISCLAIMER ———-

Donna Darling Collection – Part 13

Treasure Chest Thursday

By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection

News clipping of Donna Montran's name in lights at the Allegheny Theater - September 1920.
I have cropped, edited, and sized the newspaper clipping for the web. – From the Donna Darling Digital Collection

Key features:

The venue is the Allegheny Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.

The show is “Donna Montran and her Bathing Beauties”

Also on bill

“The Idol Dancer”

Photo Caption:

Featuring in Lights

Donna Montran 

(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

Allegheny Theater Program from 1927 showing the California Bathing Girls with Donna Montran
Program – Allegheny Theatre – September 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:

  • Rose Revue
  • 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.

Clipping Allegheny Theater - - Philadelphia, PA Sep 27 1920An 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

  • Allegheny Theatre by Anthony F. Dumas, 1920.
    Allegheny Theatre by Anthony F. Dumas, 1920.

    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.

Theater size

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.”

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at Newspapers.com
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.

Conclusion

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.

Actions

It will take some additional research to determine the actual seating of B. F. Keith’s Allegheny Theatre in 1920 while Donna was there.

Sources

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.

Cinema Treasures: Allegheny Theatre. 3139-3149 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19134. See: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/9065

Don Taylor: Donna Darling Digital Collection – Contact Author.

Genealogy Bank – Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) – September 26, 1920, (Volume 183, Issue 88) Section Feature, Page 1 – Changes in Vaudeville – Allegheny.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania: Digital Library, Frank McGlinn collection, Record Number 14401. Item: Anthony F. Dumas architectural drawing of Allegheny Theatre, 1921. http://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/13982

Hathi Trust Digital Library – The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide And Moving Picture Directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill, 1921. Page 61 – https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009794580

Newspapers.com – The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – Sunday, Feb 8, 1942, Page 60, Column 5, Bottom “Will Improve Theatre.” https://www.newspapers.com/image/172126197

 

Ancestor Bio – Elishaba Smith

52 Ancestors – Week 191
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.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.

Childhood

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.

Marriage

Elishaba married Timothy Munsell in Lyme on 11 Feb 1768.

They had seven children.

Children of Timothy and Elishaba (Smith) Munsell

Child Born Died
William Wescott Munsell 24 Jan 1770 20 Jan 1867
James Munsell 28 Jun 1773
Anna Munsell 07 Sep 1775 18 Jun 1777
Timothy Munsell 16 Apr 1778
Thomas Munsell Abt. 1784 1849
James Andross Munsell 09 Jul 1781 Abt. 1845
Sally Ann Munsell Abt. 1786 Unknown

Adult

Leaf1790 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.

Death

Elishaba Munsell died on 16 Sep 1803. Her burial location is unknown.



Sources

 

 

 

Ancestor Bio – Minnie Mable Bodge (1872-1948)

52 Ancestors – Week 191

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I consider successful ancestor research if I can learn and document the vital records (birth, marriage, and death), follow the individual through all the Census records during their life, and learn the names, births, and deaths of all of their children.  In the case of Minnie Mable Bodge, I was successful in all except I have not been able to find her in the 1880 Census. Hopefully, I will be able to find her when I do a more research into her parents, Albert S and Mary Elizabeth (Mayberry) Bodge.

Blanchard 2017 – Ancestor #9

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: Edward Everett Blanchard
  • 1st Great-grandmother: Minnie Mabel Bodge
  • 2nd Great-grandfather: Albert S Bodge

 

Minnie Mable Bodge (1872-1948)

Minnie Mable Bodge was born on 22 March 1872 in Lewiston, Androscoggin County, Maine to Albert S. and Mary Elizabeth (Mayberry) Bodge.

Marriage & Children

Minnie was living in Westbrook when she married Frederick W. Blanchard on 14 December 1886. She was only fourteen-years-old.  Frederick was twenty-years-old and living in Deering (today Portland) at the time.

Frederick and Minnie had eleven children, seven boys, and four girls, as follows:

Child Birth Death
Harriet May Blanchard 1888 1896
Gracie C Blanchard Jan 1890 1923
Harry Frederick Blanchard 03 Jan 1892 26 May 1969
Leon W Blanchard 1894 22 Feb 1894
Albert F Blanchard 1895 1895
Charles Albion Blanchard Oct 1897 Apr 1982
Edward Everett Blanchard 07 Jul 1900 24 Nov 1971
Lizzie M Blanchard 1902 07 Sep 1902
Sadie B Blanchard 21 Feb 1903 18 Apr 1920
Willard A Blanchard 1907 1977
Alanson S Blanchard 1911 27 Dec 2000

Sadly, Minnie saw the deaths of over half of her children; Harriet, Gracie, Leon, Albert, Lizzie, and Sadie all died before 1948.

Adulthood

1900 Census – Minnie and Frederick are renting a house on Front Street in South Portland. Gracie, Harry, and Charles are living with them. The census reports that Minnie had 6 children and that three were living which confirms that Harriet, Leon, and Albert had died as children. Frederick is a plasterer and Gracie and Harry are attending school.

Zillow photograph of 131 Stanford, South Portland as it is today.
131 Stanford, South Portland, ME – Today – Source Zillow

1910 Census – Minnie and Frederick own the home at 131 Stanford in South Portland. The house was built in 1900, so it is likely that Frederick and Minnie were the first owners.  Living with them are Harry, who is working as an inside plasterer, Charles, Edward, and Sadie are attending school, and little Willis, age three is home. The census reports that Minnie had 10 children, six of whom were living. The sixth living child was Grace who would have been 20 years old. Their fourth child to die as an infant was Lizzie who was born and died in 1902.

1917 – Tragedy struck the family on 15 July 1917 as Frederick died as the result of an automobile accident leaving Minnie a widow. The 44-year-old Minnie would have had four children at home, Edward, 17; Sadie, 14; Willard, 10; and Alanson, 6.

1920 Census – It appears that after Frederick’s death Minnie and the family could no longer afford the house at 131 Stanford. During the 1920 Census, Minnie and family were living at 69 Chestnut Street in Portland, ME. (Today it is the site of the Chestnut and Lancaster Parking Garage.) Minnie wasn’t working; however, son Charles was a laborer at a stove foundry and her son Edward was a salesman at an auto supplier.  Her 16-year-old daughter, Sadie, was not attending school nor working. She died a month later at the age of 17 of acute peritonitis due to acute appendicitis. Sons Willis and Alanson were living with their mother and were attending school.

Search Military Records - Fold31930 Census – The Widow Blanchard was a housekeeper of a boarding house at 3 Elmwood Place. There doesn’t appear to be and Elmwood in today’s Portland, but the other street on the census page is Cumberland Avenue, which would place Elmwood Place near Elm Street today where there are several new buildings today. Living with Minnie are her two youngest sons, Willard (Willis) and Alanson. Willard is a laborer at a bakery and Alanson is a clerk at a retail grocery store.  Living with them is a nephew Walter G. Blanchard.  Walter is 30 years old and divorced. This is confusing because Frederick Blanchard only had one known brother, Charles A. F. Blanchard who died in 1887 in Deering making it impossible for him to be the father of Walter G. Blanchard. I clearly have something incorrect. Either Charles didn’t die in 1887 or Albion and Mary S (Washburn) Blanchard had another child I don’t know about.

1940 Census – The 68-year-old Widow Blanchard was living alone at 335 Congress Street, Portland, ME. It must have been small apartments as there were 9 heads of households with people living alone or with one other person at 335 Congress Street. Today 335 Congress Street is a parking lot. Minnie was not working but the Census indicates that she did have additional sources of income.

Death

Minnie Mable (Bodge) Blanchard died on 10 February 1948, presumably in Portland, Maine. She is buried with her husband, Frederick W. Blanchard, at Forest City Cemetery, South Portland, Maine.

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Research the parentage of Walter G. Blanchard and learn how he was a nephew to Minnie Blanchard.


Sources:

1900 Census (A), Ancestry, Frederick Blanchard – South Portland, Cumberland, Maine – District 79, Line 43.

1910 Census (A), Ancestry, Frederick W. Blanchard – South Portland, Cumberland, Maine – Ward 2, District 103, Sheet 2B, Line 80, Family 42.

1920 Census (NARA), Family Search, Maine, Cumberland, Portland Ward 4, District 39, Page 11B, Line 80, (Family 321).

1930 Census (NARA), Family Search, 1930 Census – Minnie M Blanchard – Portland, Cumberland, Maine. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XM8L-PDQ.

1940 Census (NARA ), Family Search, 1940 – Minnie Blanchard – Portland, Cumberland, Maine. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KMM4-QNP.

Find a Grave, Find A Grave, Minnie M [Bodge] Blanchard (1872 – 1948) – Find A Grave Memorial #142749169. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=142749169.

Maine Vital Records, 1670-­1921, Family Search, Birth – Minnie M Bodge – 24 Mar 1972. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2HVQ-8PJ.

Maine Vital Records, 1670-­1921, Family Search, Marriage – Fred W Blanchard & Minnie M Bodge – INTENTION: 14 Dec 1886. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2HKC-5PR.

 

Donna at Owyhee Hotel – Dec 4-8, 1919

Donna Montran stayed at the Owyhee Hotel in Boise, Idaho December 4-8, 1919.

 Don Taylor

Sometimes I just come across cool things.  Recently I found an article on Chronicling America that spoke of “Hotel Arrivals” in Boise, ID, Dec 5, 1919. I have long known that Donna and the cast of “Chin Chin” were in Boise for four days, from the 4th to the 7th performing at the Pinney Theatre. This article might be the first time I’ve known exactly where Donna stayed during her many nights on the road – the Owyhee Hotel.  The Owyhee is still standing; no longer a hotel, it was completely renovated and made into luxury apartments with office space – Hwyhee Place.

The other thing the article does, which is really cool, is that it tells where many of the cast are from. Of course, I knew that Donna hailed from New York at that time, but not Ethel Lawrence. If I decide to follow some of Donna’s fellow performers, a listing of names and their hometowns, or 1919 residences could be invaluable.  Also, if I can find another such list I might be able to determine much of the cast’s names.  A great find; I will definitely look for Hotel Arrivals in other newspapers in the future.

Photo of the Owyhee Hotel circa 1914.
Owyhee Hotel c. 1914.


Sources

Library of Congress – Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, 1836-1922 – Evening Capital News – (Boise, ID) December 5, 1919, Page 6.