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.
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.
One of the reasons that I enjoy Randy Seaver’s blog, Genea-Musings is that he regularly makes me realize the missing branches I have in my tree leaves have lots more to do on my tree. His recent “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun” asked folks to look at their tree and determine the age of death for their male ancestors. (He had done a similar thing for female ancestors the week before.)
Using Heredis, it is really simple to generate such a report. I clicked on myself, then clicked on Documents/Ancestor Report and the system generated the data. Then I went to Report Export, I selected Excel from several options. After the information exported, the Excel spreadsheet opened automatically.
Because the ahnentafel numbers for the individuals are exported, it is easy to select just the male ancestors by deleting all of the odd numbers. I immediately saw that my 3rd great-grandfather, Enoch Mannin, lived the longest – 88 years. The ancestor who died the earliest was my great-grandfather Hugh Ellis Roberts, who died at an extremely young 24 years of age.
Next, I began seeing my gaps. I have three people with a range of dates for their life. For example, my great-grandfather John F. Montran was born sometime between 1860 and 1875 and died sometime before 1911. So, he could have died at 35 or died at 51 years or anywhere in between; I don’t know.
Then, I realized I have six ancestors for whom I have no death dates. More work.
Finally, I realized I have nine ancestors in the past five generations that I know nothing about. No names, let alone birth or death dates. So, Randy’s challenge reminded me of how much more work I still have to do. But the good news is that I have 11 of my male ancestors identified as to their age at death. Even better, I have eight more this year than I would have had last year (all of my Roberts line.). I even have one more than I would have had last week, So things are definitely looking up.
By Don Taylor
There is one resource I know that I don’t use enough, WorldCat. Every time I do use it I am amazed at the wonderful information I can find out about my ancestors.
WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services. It itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries that participate in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) global cooperative.
Last Fall I was researching my maternal grandfather’s youth. His father, Arthur Durwood Brown, located with his parents and siblings from Saline Michigan to North Dakota in the early 1880s. From there Arthur and his siblings disburses through the area. Arthur settled near Robinson, ND. His brother, Clifford Gerome Brown, settled near Tappen, ND, about 25 miles away. My grandfather, Dick, was originally born Clifford, apparently named after his uncle Clifford. I also had been in contact with a third cousin, whose great grandfather was Clifford.
Delilah Brown c. 1924
Zona Brown c. 1924
Ellwyn Brown c. 1924
Photos cropped from: Tappen, 1878-1966: eighty-eight years of progress.
Pages 388, 390, and 389 respectively
North Dakota became a state in 1889, so folks that settled there before 1889 are often thought of as pioneers. With that in mind, I wondered if there were any books regarding Tappen, ND.
A Google search of: Tappen AND “North Dakota” AND History yield over 365,000 returns. Way too much to even think about. I searched just Google Books and received over 3000 returns. Still, too many things to look at. Then I thought of WorldCat. A quick search on WorldCat for the keywords, “North Dakota” and “Tappen” in the title –Twenty-seven results. Much more manageable. Several of the results were clearly not of interest to me, however, several other books clearly were potentially interesting.
One of the many nice things about using WorldCat is that it shows if the book you are looking for might be available locally. That is really good. Also, if not, it provides all of the information you will need to request the book through an interlibrary loan. Finally, WorldCat also provides citation information in 5 different formats. (I use Chicago but many people I know use APA or Harvard.)
Clifford Gerome and Louella Lillian (Bean) Brown
Source: Tappen, 1878-1966: eighty-eight years of progress.
1966. [Place of publication not identified]: [publisher not
identified]. Page 237
I decided to order Tappen, 1878-1966: eighty-eight years of progress through interlibrary load. Sure enough, a few weeks later it arrived. With the Christmas season my focus directed elsewhere, I pursued the book, saw quite a few things that were of interest. I didn’t have time to deal with it then, so I just jotted down the page number of pages that were of interest, then I photographed those pages with my iPad for further investigation.
The files languished for nearly six months, but I finally got back to them. Very interesting filler information for Clifford Gerome Brown and his family. A photo of Clifford and his wife, Louella. Photos of various classes during the 1924 school year showing most of Clifford and Louella’s children. All images that I never had before; there were photos of the schools and churches they attended.An amazing amount of background information.
The process I recommend is:
1. Search WorldCat.org using advanced Search
Under Keywords enter state and history, such as: “North Dakota” History
Under Title enter the city/town/county of interest.
2. Select a book that is of interest.
3. Check/search Google Books and/or Google for the book.
4a. If available for free through Google books, review the book there.
4b. If available from a local library, review the book there.
4c. If not available electronically or locally, order through Interlibrary loan via you library. Use the information from WorldCat to request the book.
Certainly WorldCat.org is a resource I don’t use often enough and it is one I should use more. I’ll bet you’re like me and should use it more, too.
When I was growing up, my Uncle Russ was always a mystery – almost a myth. He was a photo on the wall and a wonder, as in “wonder what happened with Russell. I knew my middle name came from him. I had heard a few stories, about how he took care of his sister, my mom, a lot when they were kids. He was five years older and quite protective. I knew that after his grandmother’s husband died, he lived with his grandmother during high school. He was just a tad too young for World War II, but he did serve in Korea during the Korean War. After his military service, he came back home to Detroit to help take care of his grandmother again. In 1953, after his grandmother Ida (Barber) Knight died he decided to “go out west” to find his natural father, who he hadn’t seen since he was five. Then, he vanished to us.
My mother married, changed her name, and moved to Minnesota, making it hard for anyone to find her. Her mother, Donna, lived with my mom and me throughout the 1950s into the 1960s and never had a phone in her name, so she was virtually impossible to find as well. Every once in a while my mom would see a telephone directory for another city and look to see if there was a Russell Kees listed. When she found one, she’d call, but none of them was her brother.
In 2002, I was involved with my genealogy, searching for my biological father, to no avail, and got to thinking, could I use some of my new-found skills to find Russell? I talked with my mom who indicated that Russell graduated from Southwestern High School in Detroit in 1945, but not with the other students, he graduated in January, an odd time of the year. I devised a plan. I went to Classmates.Com and contacted every person in the 1944 and the 1945 classes from Southwestern High School. I told them my story and asked if they knew Russell Kees and if they had any contact information for him. People were responsive, and many remembered Russell, but none had contact with him in years. Finally, a person responded, she had a reunion list that included Russ’s current contact information. She gave me his email address. I contacted Russ first by email, then by telephone, it was great.
I learned that he spent much of his adult life living on Kwajalein Island, in the Marshall Islands, which is about half-way between Hawaii and New Guinea. He had been married three times and had one daughter. He had just retired, was living in Arizona, and would love to reconnect with his sister again. Super! I helped coordinate where and when they would meet and booked my flight from Boston to Minneapolis, so I could be there when it happened. I then wrote an email to Classmates.Com and let them know of my success in finding my mother’s brother and told them they hadn’t seen each other for 50 years. I told them the date they would be meeting and thanked them so much for the service they provide. few days later, I received a telephone call from “60 Minutes II.” They had been informed by Classmates of the reunion and would love to send a crew to film it.days later, I received a telephone call from “60 Minutes II.” They had been informed by Classmates of the reunion and would love to send a crew to film it.
A few days later, I received a telephone call from “60 Minutes II.” They had been informed by Classmates of the reunion and would love to send a crew to film it.
(A quick aside: “The 60 Minutes II” call occurred while I was at work. In talking to them, I was late for a staff meeting. When I got to the staff meeting, my boss asked why I was late, I told him that “60 Minutes” had called and I couldn’t really hang up on them. He said “WHAT!” and I said, it really wasn’t “60 Minutes,” it was “60 Minutes II.” My boss’ eyes were like saucers, and he asked, “what did they want.” I said, “would you believe they wanted to know what it was like to work at DCMA.” The look on his face was priceless – he totally freaked out. Then, I told him, no, they actually wanted to know the particulars of my mother and her brother meeting for the first time in 50 years. My boss was so relieved. I don’t think he thought it was funny, but all of the other people at the staff meeting did.)
My mom and Russell met in the hospitality area at a local hotel and the crew was there to film it. Their reunion went wonderfully. A few weeks later, “60 Minutes II” said they needed more and flew my mother from Minneapolis and uncle Russ from Phoenix to Albuquerque, put them up in a five-star hotel and filmed an interview with Vicki Mabrey. Unfortunately, another Classmates.Com story took precedence over mom & Russ’s meeting so most of their interview ended up on the cutting room floor.
Mom’s husband, Edgar Jerome Matson, died later in 2003, and Russell and my mom became great friends. The took a cruise to Alaska together and a riverboat cruise on a paddleboat on the Ohio River. They loved sharing their time together. It was great to see their relationship grow and them to become great friends.
Although I only saw Uncle Russ six or eight times, I miss him dearly and miss the way he made my mom so happy.
Russell Erwin Kees (1927-2016)
Russell was born in Detroit, Michigan on 29 August 1927 to Samson (Sammy) Clark Amsterdam and Donna Knight  as Russell Erwin Clark Amsterdam. As a young child, he traveled with his mother and father, who were in show business, around the country. He was with them on the ship to Panama in 1930. Sammy and Donna divorced in 1932; Sammy lived in New York, Donna lived in Chicago, and Russell lived with Donna in Chicago.
About 1937, Donna became involved with a man named Russell Kees and lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan with him. Both my mom and Russell adopted the surname Kees, although I don’t believe that Donna ever married Russell Kees and both my mom and uncle Russ are sure Russell Kees never adopted them.
The husband of Russell’s maternal grandmother, Ida (Barber) Knight, Harvey Knight died in 1942 and Russell went to live with Ida shortly after that to help out there. He graduated from Southwestern High School. In high school, he was noted as an excellent roller skater.
He enlisted and service during the Korean War. Russell told me the story that while in Korea, a plane strafed the jeep he was driving. He said he got out and into a ditch real fast.
His name change to Kees not being legal gave him some problems in the 1950s when he applied for a Top Secret Crypto clearance for his job. (A problem I too shared with my Taylor/Larson/Matson name changes and my inability to identify my father’s name.)
In 1954, Russell married Delphine Ann Sieradski. That marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce quickly.
In 1958, Russell married Jacqueline R Wigfield; they divorced as well, probably in 1964.
In 1965, Russell married June Elsie Callaway. They soon had a daughter. Russell and June divorced in 1968.
Russell spent many years on Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands. While on “Kwaj,” community theater dominated his activities. Theater was his passion, and he starred in many roles while there. He is known to be an excellent piano player, able to play the “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” In the 2000s he recorded playing “Beautiful Mother of Mine” a song written by his mother, Donna in 1923.
He was an avid golfer, winning tournaments for his age group when he was in his 70s.
Russell Erwin Kees died on 16 March 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.
He is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona in Section H3, Row B, Site 39.
If you knew Russell and have a story or two you can share, I would love to add your story about Russell to my family history. Also, I’d like any photos you may have of Russell. I will add them to a family album and possibly use them in a coliague remembering Russell. Please use the comments below to share with me. Comments will be considered as public unless you specifically state you would like the story kept private within the family.
 This is the only record I have seen that indicates that Madonna Montran used the name of her stepfather, Harvey Knight.
1940 Census – Michigan, Kent County, Grand Rapids, ED 86-156, Sheet 10B, Line 61, Age 12, attending school. Ancestry.Com
Birth Certificate – State of Michigan – State File #: 121-582-0201178.
Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 – Ancestry.Com
Donna Montran Collection – Digital Scans held by Don Taylor
Email – Various between Don Taylor and Russell Kees & Don Taylor and Russell’s sister (Living).
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 – Ancestry.Com
Find A Grave Memorial# 161134930 – Russell Erwin Kees