Donna Montran – 1919 – Charles Smith & Able Green



Variety – April 1919

By April of 1919 Donna had relocated from Boston, MA to New York. She and Trixie Bressler took out an ad in Variety. Trixie had, in 1918, led Max Roger’s Review at Perry’s in Brooklyn and was one of the “Four Chicks” in a 1917 that traveled through the east.

Variety – Aug 1919

In August, 1919, Donna found work in a vaudeville show “Bonnets” by Charles Smith and Abel Green. Abel Green also worked as a cub reporter for Variety in 1919. Abel continued with Variety for many years and became the editor in 1935. He was editor of Variety until his death in 1973.  Able was one of the great driving forces of Variety for nearly 40 years.

According to Sime’s Site, there are a myriad stories about Abel Green, about how he knew everybody who was anyone in show business.  It is certain that he knew Donna from his early days when he was only 19 years old.

Charles Smith and Donna were probably “very close.”  They show up living in the same household in the 1920 census.  The 1920 census shows Sarah (Blackhurst) Barber as head of household living with granddaughter Madonna Montram [sic] and Charles Smith as a “Boarder.” You may notice that Madonna is reported to be only 23 years old, when she is actually 27. This is the first of many times we see her age progression slow down.

US Census 1920 – Manhattan District
Variety – 15 Sep 1919

From Variety we know that she is playing at the Colonial Theater in Lancaster on September 15th.  However, Variety doesn’t tell us what show she was in.  Presumably it was still “Bonnets” but her next show will be a huge break for her.

The Colonial Theater was quite new at the time Donna played there.

The Boyd Theater (formerly the Colonial)
circa 1962 prior to closure in mid-1960s

According to Cinema Treasures, The Colonial Theatre, which seated 1,250 people, was open in 1914. It was later acquired by Boyd Theatres and was renamed the Boyd Theatre.

Of interest, Abel Green shows up on a 1943 film reel regarding “Show Business at War.” Abel is the businessman clearly leading a group of people in an office setting.  Thanks to nicoley132 for posting the video to YouTube

For further Research:
Lancaster newspaper for 15 Sep 1919 – See what is playing at the Colonial Theater.

Abel Green wrote several books including Inside Stuff on Popular Songs (1927), Show Biz, From Vaude to Video (1951), and The Spice of Variety (1952).  It will be interesting to research them and see if any of them have material on Donna, Charles Smith, or “Bonnets”.

Clifford and Luella (Bean) Brown

My mother and I received the results of our 23 & Me autosomal testing.  My mother’s closest match, according to 23 & Me, is a second-third cousin with whom she shares 2.30%, 11 segments.  I contacted the individual. We quickly determined that our common ancestors were Henry & Marion (Sanford) Brown and that our great-grandfathers were brothers.  Arthur and Clifford Brown.  It was very interesting to learn that my grandfather’s birth name was the same first name as her great-grandfather. Also, one of her g-grandfather’s children was named William Sanford Brown, clearly honoring Marion Sanford Brown’s family. It was also interesting to note that both brothers homesteaded land in Kidder County, North Dakota about the same time.  My g-grandfather left North Dakota and returned to Minnesota about 1917.  It appears that her g-grand father left North Dakota and returned to Minnesota between 1935 and 1940.  He then moved out to Eugene Oregon, about 1949, and remained there until his death in 1958.  She also sent a wonderful newspaper clipping from 1954 where her great-grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Clifford and Luella Brown with their 8 children
Date unknown (before 1954)

She also sent a wonderful photo of the family. I’ve extracted their faces and will be applying them to my Brown/Montran family tree on Ancestry.

It was great to add additional information regarding this line of Browns.

McAllister Murder – Who Owns This Hatchet – Jan 16, 1925

The Savannah Press – January 16, 1925

Who Owns This Hatchet With Which McAllister was Killed?

This is a picture of the hatchet with which Edward L. McAllister, who was discovered murdered in his home on Tuesday, was killed. The weapon, stained with blood, was found on a table within a few feet of the body In McAllister’s kitchen. It is one of the most interesting pieces of evidence in the case, the question of its ownership being important. Whether It belonged to the dead man is not definitely known, but the county police believe it was used by McAllister for cutting kindling wood in his kitchen.

The instrument is a sharp, narrow, thln-bladed hatchet. It was sunk into McAllister’s skull up to the hilt of the weapon three times. This type of hatchet is commonly known as a lather’s ax.

The blade of the weapon is about four inches long. It is narrow, thin and is composed of steel tempered for intensive sharpening. The hatchet of this kind is used by carpenters for the breaking of laths.

It has a cleverly made handle, but unmistakably hand-made and not machine-made. The machine-made handle is smoothly beveled, whereas there are imperfections in the handle of the hatchet found blood-spattered on the McAllister table. It was evidently made by a mechanic, carpenter or someone well versed in woodcraft.

The following was found on page 28 of the paper.

Work on M’Allister Murder Progressing

The county police today continued their investigation into the death of Edward L. McAllister, who was found on Tuesday murdered. It is understood the police are well satisfied with the progress of the case and an arrest is not improbable.

Georgia Property Tax Digests

For those of you who use Ancestry.Com.  They recently updated their Georgia Property Tax Digests. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1729  You can narrow your search by location, i.e. Robert Jones in Cobb County.  You can also browse the records. For Cobb County they have the following years:
1848
1849
1851
1873-1877
1878-1880
1890

Madonna’s Birth – 20 Feb 1893

Madonna’s Birth

There is an adage about always considering sources closest to an event as more accurate than others.  The age of my grandmother, Madonna/Donna is a perfect case of that policy.  
Donna was born 20 Feb 1893 in Albion, Calhoun County, Michigan, to John F and Ida Montran [Montrau]. The 1900 (Madonna used a step father’s name) and 1910 censuses are consistent with that birth year. 
Donna went into show business. In the 1920 census her occupation was “actress” and her age was 23, although she would have been 26. During the next seven years Donna only aged three years being only 26 years old when her son was born in 1927.
Donna doesn’t show up in the 1930 census, due to travel during the census. However, she does show up in an April 1930 Passenger List, returning from Panama, as only 25 years old.  She kept that 1905 birthdate through her daughter’s birth in 1932. Sadly she kept to the 1905 birth year when she applied for a Social Security Number in 1937, a mistake which cost her in later life (twelve years of benefits).
In the 1940 Census she reported that she was only 36, although she was 47, aging 11 years in the ten years between censuses.  I’ll be very interested in seeing what she reported when the 1950 census comes out.
Year    Birth 
1893    1893
1900    1893
1910    1893
1920    1897
1927    1901
1930    1905
1932    1905
1937    1905
1940    1904
1976    1893

I should note that in all records the date, February 20th, was always the same, only the age or year changed. As Donna’s life shows, records closest to the event are typically the most accurate.