Donna in New Philadelphia, OH, at the Union Theatre – 10 April, 1920

Vaudeville

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 Daily Times 3 April 1920
The Daily Times
3 April 1920 Source: Newspapers.com

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.

1920-04-08-TheDailyTimes-Page5
The Daily Times (New Philadelphia, OH) April 8, 1920, Page 5 Source: Newspapers.com

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.

Union Opera Theater – New Philadelphia, OH

(This article was updated.  See: Update – Union Opera Theater – New Philadelphia, OH.)

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]

Specifications for the Union Opera House[vi]

  • Proscenium opening: 32×22 ft
  • Front to back wall: 42 ft
  • Between side walls: 66 ft
  • Apron 5 ft
  • Between fly girders: 43 ft
  • To rigging loft: 40 ft
  • To fly gallery: 23 ft
  • 11 Dressing rooms

Further Research

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.

Endnotes

[i] I just learned of this performance this week
[ii] Ancestry.Com – U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 – New Philadelphia, Ohio, City Directory, 1921, pages 136 and 219.
[iv] Web: Cinema Treasurers, Quaker Cinema, Comments, Comment by Joe Vogel on January 5, 2010, See http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/6619
[v] Web: Times-Reporter Article posted March 16, 2014, “Local History: Night spots aplenty in the late 1930s” by Jon Baker, TimesReporter.com staff writer. http://www.timesreporter.com/article/20140316/News/140319340
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Newspaper Research Day – 12 new venues for Donna Montran and “Chin Chin”

Newspaper Research Day

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

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.

Newspapers.Com

newspapers.com
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.

Genealogy Bank

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:

1920-04-05 – Sandusky, OH
1920-04-06 – Lima, OH
1920-04-09 – Steubenville, OH
1920-04-10 – New Philadelphia, OH
1920-04-11 – Coshocton, OH
1920-04-20 – Cumberland, MD
1920-04-22 – Frederick, MD
1920-05-04 – Wilkes Barre, PA
1920-05-13 – Bennington, VT
1920-05-18 – Oneonta, NY
1920-05-19 – Mt. Carmel, PA
1920-05-31 – Bridgeport, CT

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.
– Don Taylor
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Albany Awakens to the Benefits of Exploitation

Donna in Albany, NY, at the Clinton Theater – Sep 20-26, 1920

Albany Awakens to the Benefits of Exploitation

I was watching the live stream from RootsTech Friday.  Lisa Louise Cooke gave an awesome presentation on “Proven Methodology for Using Google for Genealogy.” I use Google all the time and use many advanced techniques, but Lisa’s talk reminded me of some ways to use Google I haven’t used in ages, and should.
I went back to my current research topic, my grandmother’s vaudeville career. Based upon Lisa’s suggestions, I thought about Donna’s 1920 show,  “The California Bathing Girls in a Beach Promenade.” I searched using both phrases and the year of interest, 1920. Also, I eliminated my blog site from the results Googling this:
“California Bathing Girls” “beach promenade” 1920
-site:http://blog.dtaylorgenealogy.com
Amazingly, the search returned 5 results. Two of the results I had seen before. One was to a missing/parked domain. But two of them went to magazines that referenced Donna’s show. One of the articles was an absolute gem in the “Motion Picture News” about how Albany, NY was awakening to a multi-focused advertising campaign.[i] The movie “Up in Mary’s Attic” was the foundation of the advertising, which promoted the “California Bathing Girls.”  The ‘Girls were used to promote going to California. And a great way to get to California and see the girls was to enlist in the Army. They had large displays of the Attic with silhouettes of the girls in bathing suits, motor cycles cruising the streets advertising both the movie and joining the Army. Last, but not least, they used aeroplanes to drop advertisements of the show over the city. Say what?  Yes, the Army dropped flyers about the movie, the girls, and joining the Army. With Donna’s experience back in 1915 dropping flyers about “Birth of a Nation,” I wonder if she was involved with the idea of using air-drops as a means of advertising.  I would like to think she was.
Article: Albany Awakens to the Benefits of Exploitation - Not in Copyright.
Motion Picture News, October 2, 1920, Page 2601
Finally, I set up a Google Alert of that query to learn if anything new is added to the Internet in the future. Thanks again to Lisa Louise Cooke and RootsTech for reminding me of ways to better utilize Google and find genealogical gems. (pun intended).

Sources:

[i] Motion Picture News (Aug-Oct 1920)
Volume 22.2; October 2, 1920, Page 2601; Publisher Motion Picture News, Inc.; The Library of Congress has determined that this item is not in copyright.
https://archive.org/details/motionpicturenew222unse
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Donna in “Chin Chin” at the Empress Theatre, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada – January 5-6, 1920

Thanks to an article in the Calgary Daily Herald, I had known that “Chin Chin” played in Medicine Hat, Alberta sometime shortly before January 8, 1920[i].

I finally found an article regarding “Chin Chin” playing in Medicine Hat[ii]. We now know that “Chin Chin” played in Medicine Hat on January 5th and 6th. Page 8 of the Medicine Hat Daily News dated January 6, 1920 has a nice article regarding the show.

I know that “Chin Chin” played in at the Avenue Theater in Vancouver on Dec 25-27[iii], but still don’t know where the show played during the eight days before Medicine Hat.

According to the article, “There were some particularly pleasing vocal selections, Donna Montran’s ‘Violet’ and ‘The Grey Dove,’ two catchy songs excellently rendered by this sweet-voiced young lady….”

After the show, the company headed back west the 100 miles to Lethbridge, Aberta for one night there before heading to Calgary.

Empress Theater – Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

Photo Source: Esplanade Archives Page 22
Arts & Heritage Center

The Empress Theatre was built in 1913 at a cost of $25,000[iv]. It was located at 10 Sixth Ave, Medicine Hat and seated 625 people[v]. The theatre was said to be the best-equipped theatre between Vancouver and Winnipeg and hosted vaudeville and local theatre productions during the early years.[vi] In the 1930s, the theatre made the switch to movies with occasional live performances. The theatre was closed in the late 1940s and was demolished in 1953[vii].

Today the site is occupied by the Medicine Hat City Hall.

Endnotes

[i] See Donna & “Chin Chin” Play “The Grand Theatre,” Calgary, Jan 8-10, 1920.
[ii] Medicine Hat Daily News, January 6, 1920, Page 8, “CHIN CHIN” AN ATTRACTION DE | LUXE IN MUSICAL COMEDY LINE – Last Night’s Audience Was Delighted With This Breezy Footlight Attraction – A Show of Special Features (via Newspaper Archive).
[iii] See Donna in Vancouver, BC, Canada, at the Avenue Theater –December 25-27, 1919.
[iv] Archives Access – 2010 Edition – “In the Limelight” Issue – Esplanade Archives – Arts & Heritage Center. Page 22.
[v] Cinema Tour – Empress Theatre – http://www.cinematour.com/tour/ca/786.html
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Cinema Tour – Empress Theatre – http://www.cinematour.com/tour/ca/786.html

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She Kissed Politicians in 1915


The Massachusetts Republican leadership were all there. Several hundred had gathered at the Hotel Brenton near the shores of Bass Point. The year was 1915, and there were many issues to be discussed. Former Governor Foss was there, so was former Congressman Samuel McCall. Talking suddenly stopped as the lights turned down and a single spotlight showed a beautiful young woman who began to dance rhythmically to the sounds of the hidden orchestra. She paused to sing “A Little Bit of Heaven.” The politicians were entranced. The young woman danced up to Former Governor Foss, who had been Governor only a year before, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She was also going to kiss Congressman McCall, but he raised his hand to his cheek so she kissed his hand instead. She danced away and then sang in her crystal clear voice, “I Didn’t Think You’d Care.” Finally, she danced away. None of the Republicans attending had a clue who the cute young woman was — just a mystery girl.

Donna Montran


A Boston Sunday Post reporter hunted her down and found out the identity of the mystery woman. It was Donna Montran. According to the story in the Sunday Post, Donna had run away from home when she was 14 and set off to seek fame and fortune. After she left her home in Detroit, she played the juvenile lead in “The Girl and the Keiser” then took on Vaudeville and the Keith Circuit. Fame and fortune didn’t turn the blond beauty and she consciously decided to abstain from drink and avoid partying. She wrote music and made a small fortune with a vaudeville show titled, “Montran and Drew.” The article goes on to say that Donna will be on tour in the West in a few weeks with her own show, “Donna Montran Summer Girls.” Donna boasted having a home on “Riverside Drive” and two automobiles. She says knows how to fly and she hopes to be able to fly one of the machines in the future.

The ¾ page article highlights the “girl who kissed politicians” with five photographs, including the one above.

Endnotes:

[Adapted from an article in the Boston Sunday Post, September 15, 1915. “GIRL WHO KISSED POLITICIANS IS FOUND! — Donna Montran, Who Ran Away From Detroit, Creates Sensation at Peace Banquet of Republican Moguls Held on Bass Point Shores.”]

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