For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at five photos from the Donna Darling Collection
Donna Montran in a Canoe
This first photo is a photo of Donna. She is in a canoe and holding a canoe paddle. I’d guess she is in her mid to late 20s in the photo, making the photo about 1920 or so.
Donna Montran in a Cloche.
Again, obviously Donna. This photo was severely damaged and required considerable editing to get it this good. It appears she is wearing a scarf and a heavier coat. She looks in her 30s in this photo, so I’ll guess the image is from after 1925.
Unknown Woman in a Canoe – Possibly Donna.
Again, this photo was severely damaged and required editing. It appears to be a different canoe (the ribbing is different). The woman seems to be wearing a bathing cap, and her hair is wet. I think this is Donna, but I’m not 100% certain. Again, I’ll guess about 1920 or so.
Unknown Woman on Street– Probably Donna.
Again, I’m not 100% certain, but I think this is Donna again. Whoever it is, she’s looking fashionable standing next to a 20s vintage car.
Unknown couple in a Canoe.
Donna didn’t have many photos of other people in her collection, so I guess this couple was important to her. I don’t know the daredevils are, but I’ll keep a close lookout for potential candidates.
“Donna 100 years ago” reviews my grandmother’s vaudeville life. Madonna Montran, aka Donna Montran & Donna Darling, had an exciting career during the 1920s. A definite headliner, she crisscrossed the country with her many shows.
Since Donna’s show at the Chestnut Street Opera House in Sunbury, PA, she zig-zagged through three states. Her first stop was the Strand Theatre in Shamokin, PA, then the Place Theatre in Olean, NY. I don’t know where she played from February 16th to 18th. But then on to Wheeling, WV, and on again to New Castle, PA, and finally the Harris Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to play three days, February 27th to March 1st at the Harris Theater.
On Sunday, February 26th, 1922, the Pittsburgh Press reported the following:
At the Harris theater this week the nine acts of popular priced vaudeville will be headed by “Donna Darling and Boys.” This offering is a revue in which Miss Darling will repeat portions of her many musical comedy successes. Another laugh act will be that ofRose and Ashton in an offering called “The Holdup.” Mark Twain’s two famous characters, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, will be portrayed by two young men in a singing and comedy offering, who are playing a repeat engagement at the earnest solicitations of numerous patrons. The Jameson Trio are funmakers of the new school type. A surprise act will be that of The Little Big Girl, making an initial appearance in Pittsburgh. Lew Hoffman is known as “The Mad Hatter.”
Along with the “article” was modest advertising for the show.
On Tuesday, February 28th, 1922, the Pittsburgh Press ran a follow-up article.
Vaudeville at the Harris theater yesterday afternoon was headed by Miss Donna Darling and her dancing boys in an interesting offering of song and dance. The laugh hit of the bill was scored by Ross and Ashton in “The Surveyor.” Another comedy success was that of, The Big Little Girl.” Mark Twain’s famous characters Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were portrayed by two young men in a most wholesome manner. The Jameson Trio, Polli Dassi I Co., in a comedy act. Lew Hoffman, The juggling pestor, Levine and Walters sensational gymnastics and a comedy screen feature “Table Steaks” completed the bill.
One hundred years ago, Donna finished up the month of February at the Harris Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
About the Harris Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
I immediately thought Harris Theater, Pittsburgh Press Paper, the theater must be in Pittsburgh.
Harris Northside Theatre opened as the William Penn Theater in 1914. It reopened as the Harris Northside Theater in 1943.[i]
Harris Theatre opened in 1931, was renamed the Art Cinema in 1935, and reopened as the Harris Theatre in 1995.[ii]
Neither of them appeared to be correct, so I expanded my search. There were 25 Harris Theaters in the United States; 15 in Pennsylvania. Besides the two identified above, there were the following:
Beechview (Harris) Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA – Opened in 1930.
Family Theatre, Pittsburgh, opened in 1908 as the Liberty Theatre, renamed Harris-Family Theatre in 1932.
Gateway Theatre, Pittsburgh, opened in 1891 and was renamed the J. P. Harris Theatre in 1942.
Harris Memorial Theater, McKeesport – Opened in 1929.
Harris Musee Theatre, McKeesport, PA – Exclusively films after 1905.
Harris Theatre, Donora, PA – Opened as the Grand Theatre in 1911 and renamed the Harris Theatre in 1930.
Harris Theatre, Dormont, PA – Opened in 1927.
Harris Theatre, McKeesport, PA – Opened in 1908 and renamed Harris Theatre in 1920. – McKeesport is about 16 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and is possibly the correct theatre.
Harris Theatre, Pittsburgh, opened in 1911 renamed Casino Burlesk Theatre in 1936. Possible, but appears to have switched to burlesque.
Harris-Denis Theatre, Mount Lebanon, PA – Opened in 1938.
Harris-Dubois Theatre, DuBois, PA – Opened in 1937.
Harris-Perry Theatre opened in 1938.
Nixon Theater, Pittsburgh, opened in 1913 as the Victoria Theatre, became the Sam Shubert Theater about 1920, and became the Harris Senator Theatre sometime in the 1940s.
Finally, several comments indicate that the Mount Oliver Theatre was once known as the Harris Theatre because of the owner.
The 1921 Julius Cahn—Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory lists the Harris Theatre, managed by C. H. Preston, in Pittsburgh, but there is no information about the theatre. Finally, several of the Julius Cahn guides indicate there was a Harris Theatre in Pittsburgh, but either no info is given about the theatre, or there is mention that the theatre failed to respond to queries regarding their statistics or specifications.
So, I’m not confident regarding which Harris Theatre Donna played at 100 years ago today.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at another clipping from the Donna Darling Collection. This photo is of Donna in her stage cloak. I’ve seen the image in several newspaper articles as it was a signature costume for her. The print itself is in terrible condition, torn, faded, just generally in awful, unusable condition.
I’ve known about MyHeritage’s photo repair capability for some time, but I hadn’t used it. As such, I figured I’d give it a try and see if it could help this image.
I uploaded the image to MyHeritage then ran it through both the photo repair and photo enhancement. Zooming in on Donna’s face, I thought I’d see some improvement. Surprisingly, I did not see any difference. The repair smoothed the tear and some minor marks and tears, but nothing more than many other tools can do. That said, the process was straightforward. I’ve used Photoshop Elements and several other simple programs to clean up tears and marks. They typically do a similar job, but they take some experience to use and take more effort. It was the enhancement that I didn’t think the MyHeritage tool did much for my photo. I’ll try it again on something else and see if my opinion can be changed.
The label on the back of this photo said, “Hokum ala Carte,” “Donna Darling,” and had a stamp that read “Darling and Clark Revue.”
Donna and Sammy were married in 1926, so this photo was taken after they got together, but probably towards the beginning of the Darling and Clark Revue in May 1926.
This photo is of Donna Darling in her cloak, circa May 1926.
“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting items relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.
This week, I rely upon a previous Darling Darling Collection posting from 2018 (Part 25). In it, I learned that Donna played at the Chestnut Street Opera House in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, for three days, February 6th, 7th, & 8th, 1922.
“Donna Darling & Boys” played at the Strand Theater in Ithaca, NY, the week before, had Sunday off and then traveled the 140 miles south to Sunbury, PA. Travel to Sunbury was probably difficult. There were no direct trains between the two cities. Only the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad[i] and Pennsylvania Railroad[ii] (later part of Penn Central) serviced Sunbury, and neither went to Ithaca in the 1920s. She, and the troupe, probably changed trains at Pittston or Wilkes Berre.
Sunbury was growing in the 1920s. Settled in 1772 and made a borough in 1797, Sunbury was incorporated as a city in 1920. Its population had grown from 14,000 in 1910 to nearly 16,000 in 1920.[iii] Since then, its population has slowly declined to just over 9,000 today (2019 est.).
The Chestnut Street Opera House was a small theatre with a seating capacity of only 971.[iv] There were two newspapers in Sunbury at the time, “The Sunbury” and the “Sunbury Daily Item.” Newspapers.com has a limited number of the “Sunbury Daily Item,” however, it is missing papers from 4 February until 18 February 1922. Likewise, Chronicling America, Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archives, and the Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive have no newspapers from February 1922.
So, if it weren’t for Donna’s Scrapbook collection, I wouldn’t know she was ever in Sunbury.
After three days in Sunbury, the cast and props headed the 19 miles along the Pennsylvania Railroad to Shamokin, PA, and the Strand Theater, for another three-night show (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday).
One hundred years ago, February 6th through 8th, 1922, my grandmother was the headliner in her vaudeville act, “Miss Donna Darling.” She played at the Chestnut Street Opera House in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
[i] The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad went into bankruptcy in the 1970s and its operations merged into Conrail in 1976. (Source: Wikipedia-Reading Company)
[“Donna 100 Years Ago” is my reporting of items relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.]
I first learned about Donna being at the Binghamton Theater from a clipping from the Donna Darling Collection that showed in the theater’s magazine. It told that the program for January 26, 27, and 28 included:
Dale & Young
Peel & Corovan
Farrell Taylor & Co.
Donna Darling & Boys
Billy Bouncers Circus
A Cosmopolitan Production “Just Around the Corner”
Another clipping indicated the year was 1922 and included,
“Donna Darling and Boys, as might be gathered from the title, is a musical number or rather a collection of musical numbers, all of them good.”
Finally, there was a small ad clipping that showed the same acts as the theater program. I don’t know which paper the clippings were taken from, but the same ad appeared twice in the 27 Jan 1922 issue of the Binghamton Press.
One hundred years ago, Donna played in her vaudeville act, “Donna Darling & Boys,” at the Binghamton Theater, Binghamton, New York.