It had been a busy week. We now know “Chin Chin” played at the Park Theatre in Youngstown on Thursday[i] and the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville on Friday. It was back to the train and headed west about an hour to New Philadelphia for a one-night show at the Union Opera House on Saturday, April 10th.
The initial notice for the show appeared in The Daily Times (New Philadelphia) on April 3, 1920, which was the Saturday before the Saturday show. The Daily Times was the major newspaper of the area with a circulation of 2,575 per the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide of 1914. Advertising during the subsequent days let folks know many of the particulars of the show, including two car loads of scenery, seven sets, indoor circus, and, of course, the Clown Saxophone Band would be there. Besides the stars, Walter Wills and Roy Binder, Ethel Lawrence and George Usher are mentioned in articles.
On April 8th, the Daily Times did run a photo showing 16 of “Chin Chinners.” I don’t see Donna in this group, but with 65 women in the show that is understandable.
The show itself appears to have gone off without a hitch. According to the “Daily Times” of April 12th, the show had the “biggest crowd of the season.” However, across the street, three men robbed the Union Restaurant at gunpoint during the show. I’ll bet that disrupted theatregoers from having a bite after the show. Three gunmen — $19.00 taken. They apparently didn’t know what they were doing as they left $40 in silver in the cash register and just took the folding money.
The Hotel Reeves (New Philadelphia, OH)
Crop of card00072_fr.
Source: Card Cow
I have not been successful determining the exact location of the Union Opera House. Some articles indicate that it was “near the courthouse.” A review of the 1921 City Directory for New Philadelphia indicates that it was “at rear of Hotel Reeves Building.” That same directory indicates that the Hotel Reeves was at 133-135 North Broadway[ii], which seems to be where the county courthouse is.
The Union Opera House had a capacity of 1,057 – 502 on the main floor, 230 in the balcony, 300 in the gallery, and 24 in box seats. The US Census indicates that the population of New Philadelphia, OH was 10,718,[iii] so the venue could hold nearly 10% of the population of the city. However, the city of Dover is adjacent to New Philadelphia and contributed another 8,000 to the population.
The Union Opera House was probably built in 1863[iv].
The Union Opera House was destroyed by fire in November 1893. Rebuild date is not known.
The Union Opera House operated until at least 1940.[v]
I have contacted the Tuscarawas Historical Society regarding information about the Union Opera House (Theatre) regarding the history and the disposition of the theatre.
According to the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide, there were four newspapers associated New Philadelphia at the time; the “Times,” “Tribune,” the “Democrat,” and the “Reporter” (at Canal Dover). I have been unable to find copies of those papers. Find sources for the three papers and see if they have any articles regarding the show.
“Chin Chin” at the Victoria Theatre, Steubenville, Ohio
By Don Taylor
We know that Chin Chin played on April 5 at the Sandusky Theatre in Sandusky, OH on April 5th and played at the Faurot Opera House in Lima, OH on April 6th. We don’t know if the show was on holiday Wednesday and Thursday, or not, but they resumed playing Friday, April 9th at the Victoria Theatre.
The Steubenville Herald-Star began speaking about the coming attraction on April 3 in their “AT THE THEATRE” Column on Page 5. They wrote:
Melodious, artistic and diverting is “Chin Chin”, scheduled for the Victoria theatre Friday night, April 9th. To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are entrusted the principal parts, supported by a company of clever comedians and a beautiful chorus. In their songs, “The Chinese Honeymoon”, “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue” and “Temple Bells’, the two clever comedians Wills and Binder make a decided hit and are always recalled again and again. In this charming fantasy with a Chinese atmosphere there are also a score of other songs that are the fascinating, whistling kind, and several unique dances that carry the snappy comedy along delightfully.[i][ii]
On April 4th was one of the most interesting articles about the show “Chin Chin” I have come across. Sadly, parts of the article are not legible, but what is readable in my version is fascinating. It said:
AT THE THEATRE
The Importance of Women Choristers in “Chin Chin”
It was not the custom for women to appear publicly in the theatres of Europe either on stage or in the auditorium until many years after the death of William Shakespeare. The women who did venture to the theatre always were masked. Most of Shakespeare’s heroines were acted in his days by boys. There are no records of women acting on the English stage until after the Restoration, when the floodgates of licenses were let down ________________ of owmen choristers in opera is of comparative recent ________ tribute in such entertainments as those which managers like Mr. Charles Dillingham presents __ which “Chin Chin” to be offered at the Victoria Theatre Friday night, April 9 is a notable example.
The bare thought of only a male chorus of twenty-four voices in “Chin Chin”, no matter how attractive these voices might be, would be likely to have a very disastrous effect upon the box office receipts. Undoubtedly audiences of today would not be so easily satisfied as were the ancient Greek audiences, truthfully speaking it is the great number of really youthful and vivacious girls that prove the biggest drawing card for the most interesting of Musical Comedies “Chin Chin” Order seats now.[iii]
I agree that having fifty plus attractive women added to the success of “Chin Chin” at the box office and have seen advertising articles highlighting that fact before, but I had never seen anyone tie it to Shakespeare and Greek plays before.
Again, on April 7th, the Steubenville Herald-Star newspaper had another article on page three. I can’t tell if it is fact or show business fiction nor if it gives insight into the life of Walter Wills or only insight into the culture of the time, but it is an interesting story.
AT THE THEATRE “Chin Chin” at the Victoria Theatre….
Walter Wills and Roy Binder in this fantasy have become a couple of Chinamen who have more or less thrilling adventures in the pursit of the Lam which brought to its possessor all manner of happiness.
Both of the comedians have studied closely in the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of Chines personality, and one of them had least has a more than casual acquaintance with the Chinese Language.
Wills once had a Chinese Servant from whom he picked up a great deal of useful knowledge. Wills is very fond of fruit, of which he was in the habit of eating a quantity every evening. One day he happened to say to his servant that he was not feeling very well. The Chinaman grumbled and then said, “You eat too much fruit—makes belly ache!” Wills took the tip and cut down on his fruit allowance….[iv]
For those of you who follow my Blog, I normally have a short history of the theater. I have about a half a dozen sources I typically go to find information including Julius Cahn Theatrical Reports and several “go to” websites such as Cinema Treasures. But, in the case of the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville I found virtually nothing. I even messaged the Jefferson County Historical Society asking about the theatre but received no response from them.
I know the theater existed in 1919, 1920, and 1921, but I know nothing more. Not when it was built, not its size, not is current status. If I learn more, I will post it. If you know more about the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville, please add it to the comments below. Thank you.
Keep researching to determine if “Chin Chin” played on April 7th or 8th 1920.
Learn more about the Victoria Theatre of Steubenville, Ohio.
[i] Note: This newspaper has an unusually high number of errors. For the sake of readability, I have corrected most of the spelling and typesetter errors rather than creating a verbatim transcript. [ii] Steubenville Herald-Star – Steubenville, Ohio – Apr 3 1920 – Chin Chin – via NewspaperArchive.com [iii] Steubenville Herald-Star April 5, 1920, Page 3 via Find-my-Past. [iv] Steubenville Herald-Star – Steubenville, Ohio – Apr 7 1920 – Page 3 – NewspaperArchive.com
The “Chin Chin” Crew packed up from the show Monday night in Sandusky, Ohio, traveled overnight the 100 miles to Lima, Ohio, to set up for another one night performance.
Advertising for the “Chin Chin” performance began in the Lima Daily News on 1 April 1920 with both an ad and a short article in the Theater and Movies section of the paper.
The article reads:
And the Ad shows:
FAUROT–”Chin Chin” is scheduled for appearance at the Faurot on Tuesday night with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the leading roles, assisted by the biggest musical comedy aggregation on the road today.
The Plot of “Chin Chin” is so arranged that there is ample opportunity for many vaudeville interpolations of a nature that assures one hundred and fifty minutes of entrancing hilarity.
To relate the tricks of the pair of Chinese as they go thru their Arabian Night’s take would require much space.
“Chin Chin” is a clean and wholesome play, in seven scenes, requiring two sixty-foot baggage cars; the company comprises 65 people, mostly girls who appear in rich oriental costumes of many designs and variegated colors.
The following Sunday another an article ran in the Sunday News which included a rare photo of Donna with fellow “prima donna” Ethel Lawrence.
Photo quality is not great, however, Donna is clearly on the right. The Lima News, April 4, 1920, Via Newspaperarchive.com
Also, that issue of the paper included a much more thorough advertisement about the show including the Clown Saxophone Band and the Funny Laughing Horse. Further advertising on the day before the show and the day of the showing was similar.
The show appears to have gone on without problems. We don’t know if the company played on the 7th or 8th or if they had a couple days off, but they were in Steubenville on April 9th.
Faurot Opera House
Faurot Opera House Block
Source: Card Cow
Benjamin C. Faurot was a successful businessman in 1881 when he began construction on the Faurot Block. Facing Main and High streets, the building would be five stories high and include offices, stores, a music hall, the Lima National Bank, and the Faurot Opera House. The block design was in an “Americanized composition of the French Renaissance and Queen Anne.” It was a strikingly beautiful design and structure, so much so, that it is said to have so impressed New Yorkers that they used it as a model for theaters there.
The opera house opened in 1882 and was used for plays, vaudeville, and movies until June 1934.
Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914 reported that the Faurot Opera House seated 1,183 people; 467 on the main floor, 266 in the balcony, 400 in the gallery, and 50 in boxes. It had a 30’ by 30’ stage with a five-foot apron.
The auditorium was used for storage for a time in the 1940s, then the Opera House was demolished in 1953 to make way for a Kresge Drug Store.
The newspaper articles I found regarding this show were from The Lima News. However, other newspapers of the time included the Republican-Gazette, Times-Democrat, the Advertiser, and the German language Courier. These papers should also be searched for potential photos and articles.
Newspapers.Com; The Lima News (Lima, Ohio) · Thu, Apr 1, 1920 · Page 11
Newspaperarchives.com; The Lima News – Lima, Ohio – Apr 4 1920 – 15970948
Today was a Newspaper research day. I utilized three of my favorite newspaper sites looking for places that the show “Chin Chin” was playing during April and May of 1920. “Chin Chin” has funny search results depending on how and where you search. I have found that instead of searching for Donna Montran and “Chin Chin,” it is better to search for Chin “Roy Binder” or Chin “Walter Wills.” Binder and Wills were the stars of the roadshow and are named in almost every article regarding the show.
Elephind is a free site. It searches the Chronicling America (US Library of Congress) as well as several other newspaper sources including the California Digital Newspaper Collection, and Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. The advanced search doesn’t give many additional search options, just years, countries, and sources. In my case, I sought only records in the United States and during the year, 1920.
Elephind makes downloading a searchable PDF very easy. First, click on the article page. Then I highlight the page information, for example, I highlighted the following: The Bennington evening banner., May 13, 1920, Page PAGE TWO, Image 2. Then click on PDF and then the download icon. When it presents the file name, I replace it with my copied title. The metadata for the downloaded file indicates where the it came from. So between the filename and the metadata I have all of my source information.
Next, I went to Newspapers..com. Their search methodology is straightforward. It is easy to narrow the date to a particular month, in my case I searched from Apr 1 to May 30, 1920. Once Newspapers.Com identifies your matches, it is very easy to review the option then print/save the article as either a clipping or as a full page. The good news is that if you select “Save as PDF” it auto-documents the source information for the page. The bad news is that the article is an image within the PDF and is not searchable. It is like a JPG embedded in the PDF.
Newspaper Archives via MyHeritage
Next, I searched Newspaper Archives. I had a subscription to Newspaper Archives a few year ago and liked it. Now my subscription is through MyHeritage where my Data Subscription allows access to Newspaper Archives. The good news is that searching Newspaper Archives within MyHeritage resulted in many more matches than either Elephind or Newspapers.com produced. The bad news is that the date filters, even when set to “Match Exactly” don’t work. So, my search for “Chin AND Binder AND Wills” during April 1920, yielded 787,764 results. Admittedly, the first six matches were all articles I was looking for, however, after that the matches began to be from other months within 1920.
I did run into a problem using Newspaper Archives via MyHeritage. I often would find a match and then click on the article to see the detail, then not be presented with an option to display the actual page. I could not view the page nor download it. I sent their customer support an inquiry and provided them a screen shot of what I was seeing.
Upon drilling in and verifying the information was what I was looking for, sometimes the files downloaded fine, sometimes the file download errored. I was, however, able to download all the files I could zoom into and review. Like the technique I used on Elephind, I’d copy the newspaper title, examine the article, confirming it was an article I am interested in; then I’d download the file using the Document information I copied moments before. The files downloaded are PDF files and are fully searchable.
I used to have a subscription with Genealogy Bank. I liked them, but I found I just couldn’t afford three premium newspaper services. Once one of my other premium newspaper services expires, I won’t renew with them and will go back to Genealogy Bank. My plan is to continue with two premium newspaper subscriptions at a time.
12 New Venues for “Chin Chin”
Between the three sources, I found articles indicating that “Chin Chin” played on the following dates at the following cities:
The research didn’t fill out April and May 1920, in its entirety, but adding a dozen new places for Donna Montran’s career is a good day of research. Now I just need more time to research the particular venues.
Donna’s next stop with the company of Chin Chin was in Boise, Idaho on December 4th to the 7th. The Idaho Statesman ran many agent supplied articles and advertising for the show. Articles began in the “What Boise Theatre Managers Say About Coming Attractions” on November 23rd. It begins with a photo of the Famous Clown Band and continues with a short article.
“To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are are entrusted the principal parts, supported by a company of clever comedians and a beautiful chorus, In their songs. “The Chinese Honeymoon,” “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue” and “Temple Bells,” the two clever comedians, Wills and Binder, make a decided hit and are always recalled again and again. In this charming fantasy with a Chinese atmosphere there are also a score of other songs that are the fascinating, whistling kind, and several unique dances that carry the snappy comedy along delightfully.
In the November 27th paper we learn that Ethel Lawrence plays, “Violet Bond,” the rich American girl.
mn ad. The ad reminds us of just how big the show was, particularly for a road show. At the Pinney Theater, Boise, this was “the biggest show in years.” The show had “two car loads of scenery.” We need to remember in 1919 they were referring to railroad cars. The company was huge, 65, including 40 girls. Repeat 40 girls and 35 men back of the scenes. I don’t know if they just couldn’t count or what, because 40 plus 35 is 75 in my world. We knew there was a circus in the show with a horse that Mademoiselle Fallofski tried to ride. We also learn of a ventriloquist show. A list of some of the songs in the production is also included.
Good-bye Girls I’m Through
The Pekin Patrol
The Chinese Honeymoon
We are reminded that ticket prices were low, from $.50 to $2.00, there was a whopping 10% war tax added to the ticket sales.
War Tax (aside)
World War I economics were staggering. Federal Expenditures increased from 1.3 billion in 1916 to almost 16 billion, over 1000%, in two years. (1) To pay for the war the government enacted many new taxes. I think that calling it a “war tax” was really good. I wish taxes today were as clear. Certainly, we know how much our social security and medicare taxes are, but everything else is sort lost in the general economy. I wonder if we had a “war tax” today, would we have quite so many wars.
Back to the Show
On page 10 there was an interesting picture of Marie Cavanaugh and Margie Taylor, whom we haven’t see mentioned in advertising before.
Because of the grainy nature of the image I could find, I just can’t tell exactly what they are doing. I have been unable to find a higher quality photo of it elsewhere. It would be interesting to find a better photograph of them in this role.
The text elsewhere on the same page let us know:
“Not for years has there been such a riot of artistically harmonized, faultlessly blended color upon any stage as Charles Dillingham’s production of ‘Chin Chin,” coming to the Pinney four days, December 4, 5, 6 and 7, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“A flash of burnt orange trailing off into crimson, and we have a tea shop in Pekin. A splendor of apple-green, bronze-green, dull blues and bright blues, and a Chinese Bazaar filled with quaint toys and curious idol images, swings into view. A shimmer of moonlight on porcelain walls and among cherry branches at bloom-time and a place terrace rises slowly into sight. Presto! and we are on the outside of the dressing-tent of a great circus. All flapping canvases and posters of gaudy hue. Presto! and we smell the sawdust. A beam from Aladdin’s ‘lamp’ and all is romance again, the romances of trees and flowers and vistas of a park.
“Nor does the shifting scene contain all there is of color. There are costumes of every primary tint and every pastel shade, flaunting vermillions, lurid yellows, vitreous greens, great splashes of purple, subtle lengths and ripples of pink and azure and violet — an iridescence, a play of pigments that astonishes the eye.
“The vibrations of sound, too, are no less vivid. The tinkle of bells, the blare of horns, the fanfare of trumpets, the bravura of the orchestra, the melody of the singing voice. Sounds musical and sound unmusical, rhythmic sounds and sounds that confuse the ear, sounds sweet, dulcet, silver-toned symphonies, and sounds harsh, croaking, discordant — the who marching, waltzing, syncopating as such sound will, a musical babel of humor and delight — such is ‘Chin Chin.’”
“Chin Chin” dancers at the American Legion
The Idaho Statesman has an interesting article on page 8 of the December 2nd paper. We knew from other papers that the Chin Chin group played in Twin Falls, Idaho on December 1st. We don’t know where the company was on December 2nd. But, on December 3rd, part of the show was 20 miles west of Boise in Nampa, ID. The Joseph Murray Post of the American Legion, which was 70 members strong, put on a smoker (boxing match) that also included, “vaudeville from the Orpheum circuit, and dancing by the girls playing in Chin Chin.” We don’t know if Donna was with that group, but I would like to think she supported the Legion and their promotional activities. Another article, this time published on December 5th, indicated that the program was a success with approximately 200 returned soldiers, sailors and marines attending.
The newspaper had a very interesting release on December 4th.
“In the chorus of “Chin Chin,” to be seen at the Pinney on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there are 30 girls. More than two-thirds of these girls have never been seen either here or in New York.
“By an arrangement that was made with a talking machine Company, out of town applicants for positions in the chorus who were unable to go to New York, where the engagements were made, had their voices recorded on disk records at the various agencies, and the same were sent to Manager Charles Dillingham for consideration. All of the applicants wrote that they were anxious to begin their stage career under his direction.
“The competition lasted for two months, and those selected were given contracts and were notified to be ready for rehearsal.
“By this means Charles Dillingham believes that he has secured a unique chorus, well chosen for voice and beauty, the engagements being unprejudiced by any personal reasons.
Review mentions Donna
A very positive review published on December 5th regarding of “Chin Chin” says that,
“The conventional leads of the show were eclipsed by the specialities. Donna Montran, the good fairy who appears when Aladdin’s lamp is rubbed, has the best voice in the company.”
Way to go Donna!
There is an interesting note in the Society pages on December 14th. Under “Burley” it mentions that:
“Mrs. C. A. Sunderlin has been much entertained during the last two weeks. Mr. and Mrs. S. Grover Rich have a dinner, followed by a box party for ‘Chin Chin,’ Tuesday [which would be 12/9/1919], in honor of the Sunderlins.”
From that note, it appears that “Chin Chin” may have played in Burley on the 9th. I was able to find the Burley newspapers from that period are available via interlibrary loan. I’ve ordered it and will see what it show. This is important because I am not finding the Chin Chin show anywhere until into February 1920.
The Pinney Theater
In 1892, James A. Pinney build the Columbia Theatre. In 1908 the Pinney theater was built on the same site. It was an ornate theatre designed for stage. In the 1920s it began the shift to primarily movies. On February 20th, 1940 they hosted the world premiere of “Northwest Passage” which was filmed at McCall, Idaho, which is about 100 miles north of Boise.
The Pinney was demolished in 1969 and is a parking lot today.