Donna in Fort Wayne, IN, at the Majestic Theatre – February 15, 1920

This week I did more background research regarding Donna’s career with the “Chin Chin” production. I still haven’t determined dates or venue for their Minneapolis showing (other than late January to early February, 1920). I did, however, find where the production played at the Lyceum Theater in Rochester, NY sometime during the week of March 5th.[i] More about that in a future article.

Chin Chin in Fort Wayne, IN

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
(Fort Wayne, Indiana)
Feb. 12, 1920, Page 11
Source: Newspapers.Com

Other than some basic advertising in “The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette” (Fort Wayne, Indiana), I was unable to find any articles heralding the show. Although it had to be a busy Sunday. They played in Madison, Wisconsin on the 14th, both a matinee and an evening show then made it to Fort Wayne for an show the next evening. It is about 300 miles between Madison and Fort Wayne so it had to have been a late night packing, loading, sleeping on the train, then setting up for the show the next day.

Majestic Theatre, Fort Wayne, IN

It is not really clear if the
Majestic Theatre in Fort Wayne was a new construction or if it had been rebuilt[ii] when it opened at 216 E. Berry St., on October 24, 1904. [iii]  The 1894
Donaldson Guide
, (page 105) regarding Fort Wayne theaters only indicates
the Masonic Temple and the Broadway Theatre as venues, which suggests that it
was probably a new construction.  The
theatre was noted
for its great acoustics.[iv]
The 1913-1914 Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, Page 188 indicates that
the theatre was quite large, seating 1372 people and that the stage was large
as well, 44×38 feet, with six stage pockets. The theatre was managed by Milton
E. Rice.[v]  The 1922 Supplement indicated that the
manager was Orrin Stair,[vi] so management changed
sometime between those dates.
The 1918 Fort Wayne City Directory, indicates that Philip E Thompson
was the Stage Manager, Herman Selman was the advertising agent. Neither M Rice
nor Orrin Stair show up in that directory.[vii] 
Sometime between 1910
and the 1920s the Majestic underwent a facelift which replaced a plain front with
an classy arched entrance as photos of the earlier theater and later were quite

The production “Chin Chin” played at the Majestic on February 15th, 1920.

The Department of the Indiana Grand Army of the Republic held their business sessions for its forty-seventh Annual Encampment at the Majestic on May 17, 18, 19, and 20, 1926.[viii]

In 1928, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic reorganized with Emil Bouillet as conductor and began to play at several venues including the Majestic Theatre. Interestingly enough, the musicians were required to sell tickets for the concerts and banners were streatched across Calhoun street to advertise those concerts.[ix]

About 1941 the Majestic Theatre was renamed the Civic Theater, and it continued as a movie theater until at least 1950.[x]

In 1954, the Majestic Theatre was deemed unsafe for children by the fire department and so the Children’s Theatre spent the next 10 years at various locations in the city. [xi]

The Majestic was torn down in 1957, and the location is now the site of the Citizen Square parking lot. (Courtesy of Gene Branning) [xii]

Further Research

The Cahn-Leighton
Theatrical Guide indicates there are several other newspapers in Fort Wayne at
the time. Although the “Journal Gazette” was the largest of the papers in town,
the “News” and the “Sentinel” were also substantial and should be investigated
for possible news items regarding the show.

[i] Variety Vol
58, No. 2 – 1920-03-05, Page 116 – Rochester New York – Archive.Org –
[ii] Allen
County-Fort Wayne Historical Society at 90 Years – Some Reflections Posted by John Beatty. See:
[iii] The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, Indiana: A Review of
Two …,

Volume 1
 By Bert Joseph Griswold, Mrs. Samuel
R. Taylor – Page 543
[iv] News-Sentinel.Com:
“Vaudeville was popular in Fort Wayne’s many
theaters” By Sheryl Krieg of
The News-Sentinel
[v] The
1913-1914 Julius Cahn – Gus Hill
Theatrical Guide
, Page 188.
[vi] The Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide,
1922 Supplement, Page 40
[vii] Fort Wayne, Indiana,
city directory
Published by R.L. Polk
& Co.
 in Taylor,
[viii] Proceedings of
Forty-third Annual Encampment of the Department of Indiana, Grand Army of the
Republic. Dept. of Indiana. Volume XLIII – Page 84 – See:
[ix] Web: The Phil –
Fort Wayne Philharmonic | The History of the Phil. See:
[x] Web: Cinima
Treasures | Civic Theater 216 East Berry Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802. See:
[xi] Web:  Fort Wayne Youth Theatre | About Us. See:

(Postcard History)
 By Randolph L. Harter. Arcadia Publishing (2013) – ISBN-10: 1467110663 – Preview at:

“Chin Chin” at the Majestic Theatre – Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada – Jan 7, 1920

Donna & “Chin Chin” Play the Majestic Theatre,” Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada – Jan 7, 1920

Lethbridge Daily Herald
January 3, 1920, Page 5
Courtesy: Our Future Our Past

Once again, thanks to “Our Future Our Past” and their newspaper archive, we learn that “Chin Chin” played in Lethbridge, Alberta on January 7th, 1920.

The pre-show advertising hype was certainly in place by January 3rd when an article about “Chin Chin” appeared in the Lethbridge Daily Herald on the “Drame – Vaudeville – Photoplays” page.[1] The article mentions Ethey Lawrence as Violet Band but not our Donna. Ther is, of course, an ad for the show as well.

In the paper the day before the show we see an article that explains how the girls for the show were selected and how some of the girls who couldn’t make the auditions had their “voices recorded on disk records” at various agencies and had the recordings sent to Charles Dillingham for consideration.

The Majestic Theatre

Majestic Theater Stage abt 1912
Courtesy Glenbow Museum Archives.

Although fairly small the Majestic Theatre was large considering the size of Lethbridge. With a population of 8,050 the theatre’s capacity was 1,150, That means that the theatre could held over 14% of the population of the town. As I mentioned, the stage was small, only 26×26 with footlights to backwall only 29 feet. [2] The stage certainly looks small from the photo from high in the nose-bleed seats.

The building was built in 1908 as the Griffiths Theatre. It became the Majestic in 1910 and Palm Dairy in 1938. It remained Palm Dairy until 1978 when it was destroyed by fire.[3] Today a strip mall containing the “5th Avenue Dental Centre is at the location in a new building.[4]

Next stop for the “Chin Chin” cast: Calgary, 141 miles north by train.

[1] Our Future
Our Past
– Lethbridge Daily Herald, 3 January, 1920, Page 5.
[2] Julius
Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-14 – Lethbridge, Alberta
[3] The Galt Museum –
Archives re Majestic Theatre at 512 5 Avenue South in Lethbridge
[4] Google Maps for 516 5 Ave S, Lethbridge, Alberta