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Full text of "The Starks ; the Bakers ; the Chapmans"

CALlFORNIANA 




_793,079 Un34 



463909 



NOT TO BE TAKCN FItOM TMI LIBRARY 

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MONOGPAPHS '. 
THE STARKS 
THE BAKERS 

THE chap:v.ans 



Vi'^QV^ 






v_ 



VQJuUIS: THREE 






Abstract from 
WPA Project 8386 
O.P. 465-03-286 

' \\\ SAW FRANCISCO, CALIFORKIAj 





MONOGRAPHS TO BE INCLUDED IN THIS SERIES ACCORDING TO PRESENT PL'.NS 



Those volumes have been prepared: 

VOLUlffi I. 

INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES 

San Francisco's Earliest Entertainers: 

STEPHEN C. liLiSSETT 

JOSEPH A, ROWE 

VOLUlffi II. 

Pioneer Impresarios: 

TOM EiGUIRE 

DOC ROBINSON 

H. B. LE.-.VITT 



VOLUlvE III. 

Famous Early Families: 

THE STARKS 

THE- BAKERS 

THE CHAPMANS 

VOLUME IV. 
The Booth Family: 
JUNIUS BRUTUS BOOTH SR. 
JUNIUS BRUTUS BOOTH SR. 
EDWIN BOOTH 

VOLUlffi V. 
LOLA MONTE Z 
LOTTA CRAB TREE 
IDAH ISAACS MEN:(EN 

VOLUME VI - No. 1 
Foreign Theatres 

ITALIAN 

FRENCH 

GERMAN 

VOLUME VII. 

THE HISTORY OF OPERA IN 

SAN FRANCISCO 



Other volumes in preparation 
will include, among other 
subjects: 

Pioneer Prima Donnas: 
ELIZA" BI3CACCIANTI 
ANNA BISHOP 
CATHERINE H/^YES 
LUISA TBTRAZZINI 






462900 



SYBIL SANDERSON 
EMMA NEVADA 
MAUDE FAY 

Other Actors and Actresses; 

SOPHIE EDWIN 

MRS. JUDAH 

ADEUIDE NEILSON 

CATHERINE SINCLAIR 

JAMES E, MURDOCH 

JOHN MCCULLOUGH 

FR.\NK IL\Y0 

GOUGENHEIM SISTERS 

LAURA KEENE 

MARY .\NDERSON 

EDWIN FORREST 

CHARLES WHEATLEIGH 

JVilffiS HENRY VINSON 

JOSEPH JEFFERSON 

EDWIN ADAMS 

SAMUEL PIERCEY 

J. H. MCCABE 

WALTER M. LEMAN 

ANNA QUINN 

SUE ROBINSON 

ALICE KINGSBURY 

WEBB & WORRELL SISTERS 

MAUDE ADAI^IS 

THE Bi'.TELiiVNS 

WJCINE ELLIOTT 

NANCE O'NEILL 

EIOLIE IffiLVILLE 

BLVNCHE BATES 

DAVID WARFIELD 

DE WOLF HOPPER 

HOLBROOK BLINN 

LAURA HOPE CREW'S 

DAVID BELASCO 

OLIVER I.;OROSCO 

ROLLO PETERS 

Vol\unes on period history: 
THEATRE BUILDINGS 

MINSTRELSY 

BURLESQUE 

PERIOD COSTUMES 



San Francisc o Theatr e_Rogearch_ 



Vol. 3 



MOKOGRAPHFi 

VI: THE STARKS 

VII: THE BAKERS 

VIII: THE CHAPMNS 



T,^,.,r>^...o ^.i-..v»r.. Editor. San Fr^moisco. July 1J58. 
Monographs V I, VII and Vlll Irom Theatre Research 
W.P.A. Prniect 8586. P.P. 465-05-0-286 



TA BLE OF CONTEKTS 

THE STj-RKS 
(Janes Stai-k 1B19-1875) (Mrs. Stark 1613-1898) 



PAGES 



Pioneer Tragedians • 1-34 

Mrs . Stark ' s Debut 2 

Real Life Tragedy '^ 

James Stark' s Early Career. 4 

Stark as Tragedian. 5 

Critical Estimate on Othello 6 

Revival of The ^ife • ■ • • '7 

Stark, as Hamlet,' Richelieu 8 

Critical Estimate of I'rs. Stark •• 8 

Stark's Success as lago ■••' ^ 

Shakespeare and the Miners • 10 

The St arks Manage the Jenny Lind. • H 

Burning of the Jenny Lind. . • H 

The Theatre Sinks ...... . ^"5 

Little Charlie ' s Blunder. 14 

The Third Jenny Lind > • 15 

Adverse Criticism 1° 

Favorable Criticism. • 1^ 

Australia Again. 21 

Back to San Fronci sco • • • • ■ • ~1 

At The Lyce^om =.-.... - 22 

At Maguire ' s ■ — ■ ■ • • • • • • • ^^ 

Beginning of Decline ^^ 

Reading from the Poets. 24 

Public Indifference ....... • 25 

Opening of The Lietropolitan. ■■ 26 

Stark Retires for Three Years . - - - - • = 27 

Attempts Comeback ~° 

Tries Australia Again. ..... > - • • ■ • • • 29 

Stricken by Paralysis 2^ 

Death of James Stark. . : 30 

Mrs. Stark Remarries. ■ "^ 

Mrs. Stark's Fifth Marriage • • ^1 

Critical Estimate of Stark. 51 

Representative Parts taken by Stark - 3o 

Bibliography . • • — 



TABLE OF CONT ENTS (Cent.) 



THE BAKERS 
John Lewis Baker, 1825-1873) (Mrs Baker, 1822-1887) 



PAGES 



Pioneer Actor-l'Ianagers . ....... 

Chaotic Theatrical Times.. ».•• 
Bakers Introduce a Reformation 
Mrs . Baker Triumphs . ........ 

First Venture a Failure. ...... 

Baker Scores with The Adelphi. 



Achieving Fame as a Manager 

Manager of The American. ........••-•••••••■• 

Temporarily Desert San ^^^^^J:^^^; ••;;,;: ° hA;;;' 
Return to San Francisco — At the Opera iiouse, 
Mrs . Baker Quells a Rival ..=.......••• 



At The American. 

Baker Humors a Fickle Public... 
A Pathetic Burlesque ....••.••• = 
Baker Succumbs to Popular Taste 
Farewell to San Francisco. . . . . . 



Representative Parts taken by The Bakers, 
Bibliography. ........•••• 



35-75b 

36 
37 

40 
43 
44 

46 
50 
52 
53 
54 

59 
61 
67 
70 
74 

75 
75b 



THE CHAPMANS 
(For dates, see Family Tree on Chapmans) 

Strolling Players On The San Francisco Stage...... 



The Clan. . ■ ^ • ........... 

Eastern Debuts . ......... 

The Mississippi ^howboat 
River Life. .......•••••• 

The Tribe Increases 



Caroline at Burton's...... 

Barnum Engagement ......... 

The George Chapman Family. 
Call of the Nomadic Life.. 
Mrs. Chapman's Popularity. 



PAGES 
76-131 



78 


79 


.... 80 


...... 83 


.... 83 


85 


..... 86 


... 87 


.... 89 



TABLE OF CONTENTS (cont.) 



PAGES 

Uncle 3illy Chapr<i£.n - . ..o .......... ^ .. . 93 

Advent of Caroline and l'"4n. B. Chapmsji 94 

Bill and Caroline at Th6 Jenny Lind. ................... 95 

Caroline, the Versatile . . . 96 

The Chapmans ivith The Booths 97 

Caroline and Billy in The Mines. ........ 99 

Favorites of the i.iining Camps 100 

"Our Caroline" at The San Francisco Theatre 101 

In Shakespearean Roles ......... 101 

Caroline and Lola Iviontoz 104 

The Chapman - Montez Feud. 105 

Lola Heaps Coals of F.-.rc , 108 

The Hamiltons - , 109 

Caroline at The American Ill 

■Vith Laura Keene and Catherine Sinclair. 113 

Caroline as Burlesque Queen. ........................... 115 

Caroline as I'opsy 116 

Back to the Mines 117 

Renewal of the Feud with Lola Montez 118 

The Critics ' Rebuke 119 

Waning Popularity 121 

The End of Uncle Billy 121 

The End of Caroline. ... 125 

Adversity For Caroline 126 

"The Caroline Chapman" 128 

The Chapman Sisters 128 

Representative Parts taken by Chapmans 132 

Bibliography 135 



JAMES STARK 
1819-1875 




REPRODUCED FROM ODBLL'S ''AMALS OF THE NEW YORK STAGE" 



J 



MRS, JAMS STARK 
(1823 - 1898) 




PHOTO COURTESY M. H. de YOUNG MUSEUM 



THE ST ARKS 
P i one e r Trasedian^ 



It would hardly be expected tliat the miners of 
.50, struggling fiercely with earth and rock all day, drink- 
ing and gambling wildly all nignt, v;ould take an especial de- 
light in the blank verse of Shakespeare declaimed across the 
footlichts, or in the brittle dialogue of English comedies of 
manners. But this was one of the strangest phenomena of life 
in San Francisco during the early days. Then drama was amaz- 
ingly popular, llot only did San Fraaicisco find in the theatre 
an escape from its rough, coarse , turbulent existence but per- 
haps also an articulate expression that was its daily life 
That untutored genius, Tom Maguire,- had an in- 
stinct for gauging public taste in the theatre. In building 
his Jenny Lind Theatre he decided on the proper atmosphere. 
He constructed the theatre lavishly, with elaborate and op.aent 
equipment aoi settings. He decided that the public was eager 
to sec Shakespeare and the English comedies performed skill- 
fully. Accordingly, on November 4, 1050 he opened the Jenny 
Lind under the management of James Stark, a young, a.-abitious 
tragedian, and Mrs. Xirby, a minor actress on-stago with a 



-;;-See Volume 2 of this series. 



facility for off-stage niolodrama, 

Jamos Stark was born at V/indsor, Canada, August 16, 
1819, The girl v/ho was to become Ills vi^ife and partner-actor- 
manager was born in 1813, but research so far has not reveal- 
ed the exact day and month of her birth nor her maiden name 
except that her first name was Sarali, Vi/hen Stark first met 
her she had been married tv/lcej first to J. Hudson Kirby, 
whose name she had retained on the stage, and second, to a 
man virhose name is variously recorded as Wlngard, Uingered or 
V/ingate .-"- 

The first husband, Kirby, v/as a young English actor 
vifho had had great popular success in New York, spccxalizing 
In deathbed agonies. He had abundant rehearsal for his own 
abrupt end, at the age of 29, in London. This was in 18-18. 
Shortly afterwards Mrs. Kirby returned to America and married 
Wingate, Together they came to San Francisco in January,1850o 

MRS. STARK'S DEBUT 

The next month Mrs. V/lngato made her debut in 
Rowe's Amphitheatre, playing Pauline in the Lady of Lyons , 
and ending her season on March 11, Vnhen she opened the 
Jenny Llnd with Jamos Stark on November 4, she still retained 
the name of Kirby for stage purposes. In fact she had very 
little time to got used to the other name, for less than two 
weeks later Mr, V/ingate fell from a horse and died. Regretfully 
the season was closed until November 25 to grant the widow 



-"-The Harvard University Theatre Library prefers Wingate. 



hor period of mourning. Six months later she married Stark. 

Mrs. Klrby V/ingate Stark was, accordin.j, to all re- 
ports, very much devoted to her husbands. Their early deaths 
v/ere a reflection of the violence of the times. It was quite 
common for theatres sxiddenly to go up In smoke, or actors' 
lives to be snuffed out abruptly by accidents, quarrels, 
suicides , 

A TRAGIC EPISODE 

During January 1851, the season at the Jenny Lind 
was again interrupted, this time by a suicide, Mrs. John 
Hambleton, a member of the company, poisoned herself one 
afternoon, and the whole story was blurted out to the nevifs- 
papors. It was a drama strikingly reminiscent of I Pagliaccl 
which involved almost the entire company and in which Mr. 
Hambleton, and Mrs, Kirby competed for the role of chief vil- 
lain. The unhappy heroine was of course the love-striken 
Mrs. Hableton, The ardent lover was a Mr, Coad; the jealous 
husband, Mr, Hambleton, There was the orthodox triangle, the 
standard denouement, the confrontation of the guilty pair by 
the husband, the tragedy. But into the relationship an in- 
truder had entered, complicating the plot. It was Mrs, I'lirby. 

In the un-private pages of The Picayune of January 
15, the epilogue was enacted, Mr, Hambleton publicly charged 
Mrs, Kirby with the guilt of the tragedy; It was Mrs. Kirby 
v;ho had alienated the affections of his wife, instilled the 
venom, the treachery in the mind of the helpless victim. Ho 
absolved Mr, Goad of guilt j to him it v/as Mrs, Kirby 's 



"officious counsel" that caused the disaster. The next day 
Mrs, Kirby indignantly replied, informing the world of Mr, 
Hambleton's cruelty, giving details of his brutality, and 
denying any connection with the affair, except as sympathetic 
confidante of the late Mrs. Hambleton. This charge was en- 
dorsed by statements published by Goad and by Mrs Hambleton's 
friends. The letter concluded with a lofty patriotic notej 
Mrs. Kirby complained of Hambleton's persecution of her be- 
cause she was an American actress. She called upon all good 
Americans to defend her honor as an actress against the at- 
tacks of foreigners. 

This was a clever move on her part. She had not 
forgotten the Astor Place riots in New York a few years pre- 
viously when during a dispute concerning the respective mer- 
its of an American actor, Forrest, and an English actor, 
Macready, several people were killed. The theatre was very 
close to life m those days, and Shakespeare, opera, the per- 
sonal lives of actors, the emotions of the audience were in- 
termingled. The highly colored, agitated life of a Mrs, 
Kirby-Stark was characteristic of those days, a dramatic tem- 
pest fusing together the theatre and life. 

JAMES STARK'S EARLY CAREER 
James Stark was a quieter personality. Most of his 
life was limited to the st^ge, but he too had reasons for re- 
membering the Astor Place riot. It was Macready who had t6en.his 
teacher; and for many years he remained the faithful disciple 



of the English star. 

Before he went on the stage Stark was a carpenter 
In Nova Scotia. He was strongly attracted to the theatre and 
for this reason emigrated to Boston where there were greater 
opportunities for study of acting. He discovered a patron in 
a fellow-member of a dramatic club, an Abbott Lav/rence, who 
had enthusiasm for Stark's talent and earnestness, persuading 
him to go to Europe, and financing him for three years of 
study in London and on the continent. 

STARK AS TRAGEDIAN 

When James Stark returned to America he was an 
actor — but not a finished one. He remained always a stti- 
dent, seeking constantly to perfect himself in his art, and 
during the years gradually improving in mastery of teclinlque. 
When he arrived in San Francisco he was preceded by a reputa- 
tion as a tragedian; he was the first important star to come 
to San Francisco, a pioneer, making the road easier for the 
long succsssion of great actors that were to follow him, cre- 
ating a taste in the public for the great tragedies of Shake- 
speare and for good acting. 

But he did not plunge directly into Shakespeare: he 
made his first appearance at the Jenny Lind as Damon in Damon 
and Pythias . The effect was disappointing; the play did not 
bring out his talents as a tragedian. It was only in high 
tragedy that Stark excelled; Damon and Pythias Itself was an 
Inferior play, full of rant and fustian. The critic of the 



Picayune , (Nov, 5, 1850) also found the makeup to be unex- 
pectedly ludicrous; there was obviously too much v/ig and too 
much beard so that poor Damon seemed to be always on the 
verge of toppling over. He found Mrs. Klrby as Hermione to 
be effective, despite her Illness; and also good points about 
the acting of the Hambletons. 

CRITICAL ESTIMATE ON OTHELLO 
The next night Othello was given. This was not the 
first time that Othello had been presented to San Francisco; 
a few months before In an unexpectedly serious mood Rowe had 
deserted circus and produced Othello in his amphitheatre. But 
this one was a finished production, and for the first time 
Stark showed San Francisco what he could do: he was in his 
element — and, in The Plca^z-une , Nov. 6, 1350 the critic ex- 
pressed his appreciation in rather Involved phraseology: 

"Mr. Stark's Othello was a masterly and finish- 
ed exhibition of the character. It appeared 
perfectly evident that he Is not a copyist or 
imitator of any model actor; but that he stud- 
ies v/ith close application of mind the charac- 
ter he undertakes to represent, and he seems to 
us in this Instance to have succeeded admirably 
well in placing his mind in the attitude and 
frame of the great author of the tragedy in 
taking his conception of the character and 
bearing of the Moor. He does not, therefore, 
show us Macready's Othello, or Forrest's but 
Shakespeare's, and we have never seen what in 
our judgment, was a truer or more forcible pre- 
sentation." 

Stark, in fact, had so deeply entered into the 

character and was so carried away by the spirit of the play 

that in the last act he stabbed himself very painfully. 



Now Mr. Stark was severely wounded; Mrs. Kirby was 
still sv-f faring from hor illness; the H&mbletons were simmer- 
ing with love and jealousy. But the show must go on. And 
the next night they loiayod in another trat^edy, the Roman 
tragedy of Sheridan ''Cnowles, V lrginl-gs , with Stark in the 
title role, and Mrs. Kirby as Virginia: "natural, graceful 
and eloquent • "-x- 

riI' :VIVAL OF TIIE YiflFE 

At times during this first season in San Francisco 
Stark considered that he wss aiming too higli and that he 
should make occasional concessions to popular taste. Trage- 
dies were interspersed with short light pieces, and even at 
this early date revivals were given. Standards of taste are 
based upon habit; the public has a fondness for the familiar: 
thus, (on Nov. 8, 1850) Stark, Mrs. Kirby and the Hambletons 
revived that old favorite. The Wife , the first play produced 
in San Francisco. With this off his mind. Stark the next day 
introduced Shylock to San Francisco. And for the next eve- 
ning he became Hamlet. The miners were getting some pretty 
stiff doses of Shakespeare and they were enjoying it. They 
crowded the Jenny Lind night after night listening intently 
to the speeches applauding the acting apparently undistracted 
by the irrelevant music from Maguire's saloon below. 

The afterpiece must occasionally have seemed an an- 
ticlimax. Thus the Alta California (Dec. 19, 1350) having 



-;;- Picayune, Nov. 7, 1850. 



exhausted all the superlatives in connection with " Hanilet , 
the greatest play of the greatest poet of all times, and de- 
cidedly J. Stark's best representation" -- lamely concludes: 
"the whole to conclude with State Secrets ." 

STARK AS HAMLET, RICHELIEU 
Hamlet was so far Stark's performance; his bringing 
Hamlet to San Francisco for the first time entitles him offi- 
cially to the designation of "pioneer tragedian." Hamlet was 
proficiently done, but because there have been so many very 
famous Hamlets in America his particular version is forgot- 
ten. However, there were certain characterizations that were 
particularly fine. Walter Leman (Memories of An Old Actor, 
p. 247) singles out two worthy of memory: Cardinal Richelieu 
in Richelieu , and Beverly in The Gamester . The Alta agreed 
with this verdict, on Dec. 23 it said: 

"The character of Richelieu is, we think, one 
of Stark's best impersonations, although he 
does not so consider it. His conception of the 
character is true and his delineation of the 
various and rapid changes which the wily 
strong-willed politician exhibits in his man- 
ner, as hope or danger or triiomph or patriotism 
by turns find expression and utterance, is art- 
istic, truthful and effective." 

CRITICAL ESTIMATE OF MRS. STARK 

And Mrs. Kirby was likewise excellent :_ 

"As Julie de Mortimer Mrs. Kirby has heretofore 
won worthily the admiration of the admirers of 
this fine drama. The affectionate and confid- 
ing ward of the old Cardinal, a daughter by all 
the ties of gratitude and dependence, obedient 



yet persuasive and eloquent in her pleadings 
for the man she loves; in fine the exhibition 
of those peculiarly female characteristics of 
heart, manner, and expression, which the char- 
acter of Julie requires, find in Mrs. Kirby ' s 
impersonation a very correct expression." 

The year 1850 came to an end v/ith two other famous 
plays: Pizarr o and Venice Preserved . Then Mr. Stark and Mrs. 
Kirby paid a brief visit to Stockton, where they had great 
success. On Feb. 29, 1851 they were back again in San Fran- 
cisco and Mrs. Kirby deserted the now already established 
team of Stark and Kirby to give a solo performance; she ap- 
peared as Pauline in the Lady of Lyons , which had been her 
first role in San Francisco a year previously. 

STARK'S SUCCESS AS lA GO 

The season was concl\ided during March with a few 
performances of Othello . It had been given before but this 
was a special Othello , for this time Stark did not play the 
jealous Moor, but the villain, lago. It had been discovered 
that he displayed unexpected ability as lago, much more than 
he had previously exhibited as Othello. His performance as 
lago in Stockton had caused much comment, and the anticipa- 
tion was great, "V\fe are lead to the expectation," said the 
Alta of March 7, "of seeing the best piece of acting ever 
given on these shores." 

They were not disappointed, and his lago as one of 
his admittedly greatest interpretations ended the season at 
the Jenny Llnd. With Mrs. Kirby he went to Sacramento, and 



10 



when they returned in June the old Jenny Llnd was no longer; 
during their absence a month previously it had been destroyed 
by fire, 

SIIAKSSPE/^RE AND THE MINERS 

Thus with characteristic abruptness ended the first 
phase of the Starks career in San Francisco. It had been an 
uncertain and exciting period, full of unexpected catastro- 
phes. But they were pioneer actors and their function v/as to 
experience all the hardships, so as to make the way easier 
for their followers. They had successfully launched Shake- 
speare in San Francisco; they had succeeded in getting crowd- 
ed houses every night, not by playing down to the audience 
but by raising it to their level. Night after night they had 
hurled full versions of Shakespeare at the miners and the 
miners had clamored for more. For the first time San Fran- 
cisco heard Hamlet , Macbeth , King Lear , Much Ado about No- 
thing , The Merchant of Venice , The Taming of the Shrew. 
Important comedies, such as Sheridan's The Rivals , were also 
introduced to San Francisco, but it was in tragedy that Stark 
was most effective. 

That crowded season at the old Jenny Lind practi- 
cally exhausted the entire repertoires. The seasons that fol- 
lov/ed were built on the foundation already established during 
this first season, perfecting the interpretations of these 
roles. 



11 



THE ST ARKS IVLANAGE TB'E JEMY LIND 
In Sacramento Stark and Mrs. Kirby repeated their 
San Francisco success. Thoy were familiar to the Sacramento 
public; indeed borore coming to San Francisco they had played 
a long season at the Tehama Theatre, of which they were the 
lessees. Now while they were playing in Sacramento the San 
Francisco public was cl airoring for their return; its thirst 
for Shakespeare had evidently been unsated. Willingly they 
returned in June, only to be greeted by the ashes of their 
theatre. For Magulre this was a slight inconvenience; he im- 
mediately proceeded to rebuild the Jenny Lind for them. On 
June 13, 1351 Mr. Starl: and Mrs. Kirby took over the manage- 
ment of this new theatre. The next day they were married in 
Sacramento, 

Mrs, Kirby now became I'/Irs, Stark, on and off stage. 
For the rest of her husband's career she followed him from 
theatre to theatre, content to play any sunnorting role in 
his company. Together they formed an f.cting family, an in- 
stitution fairly common in those early days -- as it still is 
in continental Europe where the company is a close group com- 
posed of the patriarchal ca po comiche , the wife and children, 
sons and daughters-in-law. Mrs. Stark despite her overwhelm- 
ing personality was sensibly able to subordinate herself to 
her more brilliant husband. 

BURNING OF THE JENITY LIIJD 
This marriage, hov>rever successful from this point 



12 



of view, started out very Inausplciously. A v/eek after their 
wedding, Sacrjimento, doci] ely followlnti the trend of her 
sister city of San Francisco, had a mighty confla, -'ration and 
in it their thestre, the Tehama, was destroyed. And the next 
day San Francisco not to be outdone had her fire and the sec- 
ond Jenny Lind was burned to the ground. 

The Starks were now homeless -- a miserable begin- 
ning for their mari'ied lifej all sunime-^ they wandered about 
San Francisco looking around for some kind of stage. But the 
fire that consumed the Jenny Lind had also destroyed all the 
other available theptres: the Dramatic Museiom, the Adelphl, 
as well as lesser houses; and Magulre was becoming more waryo 
It was true that he had luck in gauging the public tendencies 
but he had no way of determining when a fire might suddenly 
occur and upset his plans. So he waited, . . , Meanwhile the 
Starks' funds were diminishing. Although they had had suc- 
cessful seasons in both cities, the Starks like most actors 
of history reckless, generous, and improvident could not 
cling to the money they earned. 

But the public of San Francisco, especially in 
those days, was always eager to lend a helping hand. To com- 
pensate for their loss of the Tehama Theatre a huge benefit 
was staged on August 22 at the Adelphi. And now their luck 
seemed to be changing. Two weeks later they were engaged at 
this new little theatre. From there tney went to Robinson's 
new theatre, the American, on October 20. 



13 



THE TilEATRE A IIM 
The American en^agenent went off to a Dad start. 
Here a^ain disaster seemed to be dogslng the steps of the 
Stark family. They had been pursued from theatre to the.tre 
by a trail of fire. For them nature was still msllgnant: on 
the opening night the customary salutation written by a local 
poet (possibly Robinson) was unexpectedly ironic. It was ut- 
tered by Mrs. Stark in her customary melodramatic manner; she 

began: 

"Could we tonight the eternal slvimbers break 
Of Avon's Bard, and bid the drear.ier wake, 
The astonished muse would bid the poet turn. 
And sleep again beneath the honored urr 

As she continued to boom out the verse the audience 
gradually became aware that som.ething was wrong with the the- 
atre. Their absorption in Mrs. Stark's passionate verse 
could not dispel from their mirds the strong feeling that the 
theatre was moving - and they with it. But audiences were 
pretty hardy in those days; they rem.alned philosophically in 
their seats as the building settled in the rich mud of a 
quagmire. Mud was a familiar aspect of the San Francisco scene 
and they were not afraid. It was quite co:.-mon during their 
promenades to step usually into mud un to their waists, and 
if the building decided to sink into the mud that too could 
not be helped. Some of the more meditative ones perhaps spec- 
ulated on the possibility that Will Shakespeare's turning in 
his grave with unexpected violence had set up vibrations in 
the ground that communicated themselves to the new temple of 



14 



the Bard. But whatever reactions had been set up in the 
minds of the audience they did not make for an unalloyed in- 
terest In the offering of the evening. 

And if It were not some perversity of nature that 
hajnpered the cause of drama in San Francisco there were al- 
ways the unpredictable Iniman factors. It was a small child, 
an enfant terribl e, tn?-t consummated the Stark disaster at 
the American and sent them scurx^ying back into the arms of 
Toiii Maguire. 

LITTLE C HAKLIE'S BLUNDE R 

The scene was sometime in December, 1851. a roar- 
ing melodrama, The Stranger , v\;as being tossed to a lively and 
appreciative audience. There was love and passion and mother 
love, all swelling up into a magnificent melodramatic climax: 
Mrs. Stark moved rapidly across the stage and faced the win^ 
She fell to her knees and flung out her arms, 

"My childl" cried the distraught heroine, and lit- 
tle Charlie Robinson, resplendent in a red plush suit was 
given a terrific shove onto the stage. Little Charlie was 
very unhappy: for this, his debut on tlie stage, he had been 
a-vakened out of a very comfortable and satisfying sl^uiiber, 
transported down Telegraph Hill through the fog and mud by 
his mother, and finally pushed upon the stage. He was 
sleepy, v.'et and miserable, 

"My child]" repeated Mrs. Stark in s more dramatic 
and insistent manner. Charlie was blinded by the lights; he 



15 



could see nothing but thi?- huge woman in black bearing down up- 
on him, making hideous noises. He did not know whether to be 
frightened or not* 

"MY CKEE-ILDi" she screamed. Finally Charlio made 
up his mind; he had forgotten his lines, but he knew what to 
say and this was also effective. 

"i-:;-(?I" said Charlie. This little bit of improv- 
isation brought dovm the house, sent Mrs. Stark sobbing hys- 
terically off the stage, ended the Starks' season at the 
American and sent Dr. Robinson out of the shov; business. It 
also provoked another of the public quarrels in which Mrs. 
Stark seemed to be constantly involved. She published a let- 
ter accusing Mrs. Robinsor. of having deliboral^yLy planned the 
catastrophe out of jealousy, in order to ruin her. but Mrs. 
Robinson had her defenders, and Dr. Robinson closed his the- 
atre with a rousing benefit performance given by the company 
for Mrs. Robinson, in which little Charlie in the historic 
red suit was the chief performer. 

THE THIRD JENrlY LIND 
Maguire had built his third most extravagant Jenny 
Lend in October and now was glad to have the Starks back with 
him. They joined the company managed by Junius Brutus Booth 
Jr., playing from Dec. 8 1851 to January 20, 1852. The old 
Shakespearean plays were revived, and even more ambitious 
ones; the difficult Henry TI was given successfully, with 
Stark in the role of Falstaff. Although Stark's Falstaff was 



15 



™u.ing enough and profxc.ently handled .t was not une of Ms 
best roles; Star., at no.e In tragedy, lao.ed the te.pera...ent 
for comedy. On December 26, however, he achieved the success 

- ■,?.. ,i-r-=kln" Interpretation of lago to Joshua 
of the season m nis str-Kinr, i.ni.oijJi 

Proctor's Otnello. 

After their season at the Jenny Llnd the Starks 
.ave a few perforMances at the Adelphl on Dupont Street, 
playing with Kr. and Mrs. Baker, Prank Chanfrau and Kiss 
Alhertme early In March. Durlns April they acquired the 
lease of the A.,,erican, and now with no Jealous Krs. Rohlnson, 
or precocious little Charlie around to thwart them, they en- 
thusiastically pl':u-..ed into a new season. This lasted until 
June 17 at which time the dramatic profession fcot together at 
the AMerlcan and staged a farewell demonstration benefit for 
James Stark, presenting him with a magnificent gold watch. He 
left for the East alone. Ers. Star-k continued to play on for 
the next few months and at the end of September received her 

benefit . 

stark aid not remain very long In New York; he 

found Forrest, the relgn.ng star, too strongly entrenched to 

be budged. After a few unsuccessful months he returned to 

1 -o -hnifnt^ v;er3 uore appreciated. Perhaps 
California wliere his talents v.cr- lauxo ^j- 

^ ^ +-r. ^-v^P =^1-111 unfading momory of the Astor 
his failure v;as duo to the stixi- uiu ciu.^ ^ 

Place riots, and to the fact that his style of acting was 
still patterned after the English actor Macready who had been 

his master. 



17 



James Stark was not yet a finished actor; he was an 
assiduous student, striving constantl/ to perfect his style. 
At first his acting was stilted and artificial, like so many 
of the Shakespearean actors of his day, especially those v/ho 
were of the Macready school. Even in this pattern the critics 
found constant and rapid improvement: his face hecaine more 
expressive, his voice more flexible end nuance''. He was 
achieving perfection in this particular style, and there were 
even some who found him better than Forrest. 

In December StPrk was back in San Francisco, The 

critical and demonstrative public enthusiastically following 

his career were aixxious to find evidences of Improvement. 

They were not disappointed; the conscientious student had 

still further improved. 

"Yet," says the critic of the Pioneer, (Jan. 
1855) "the tone and action of Macready were 
about him. He had carried the style to a pitch 
of perfection, justly entitling him to rank as 
at least the second American tragedian." 

For two full months the Starks played to an admir- 
ing audience, presenting the old favorites: The Gamester , 
Richelieu , Hamlet , and others. Night after night they per- 
formed at the AmerlcrJi. On March 7, hsving delayed many times 
the contemplated visit, they left for Australia, vrhich had 
begun suddenly to compete with San Francisco as an ^.ttraction 
for actors. There v.'as a gold boom; miners were throv/ing nug- 
gets on the stage, and there was very little competition for 
the Starke. They found In Australia a rich harvest. Possibly 



18 



bGcausG of the British style of their a.c'clxig they were re- 
ceived with tremenc'.ous popularity sweeping all before them 
and piling up the nu^^^ets. They extended their visit to fif- 
teen months. 'ii/hen they returned to San Francisco on July, 
1854 they brought bade a fortune of more than $100,000. 

Sut this was not the only result of the Australian 
trip, Stark's faithful admirers thronged the Metropolitan on 
his return, eager to see what new marvels of technique their 
idol had prepared for them. And for the first time they were 
disappointed, bitterly disappointed. He had certainly chang- 
ed — but it was a change for tho worse, they thoughts in- 
stead of improving he had retrogressed. V/as it the climate 
of Australia that had affected his acting, or was it finan- 
cial success? Had riches debased his talents? 

AmZllSE CRITICISM 

These were the qi^estions they asked considering 

themselves shamelessly be brayed by their old favorite. For 

the first time the newspapers turned on him. For a week in 

August the Starks played at the Ketropolitan in the familiar 

Richelieu , The Lad:y of Lyoxis , Damon and Pythias , Henry IV and 

Othello , and the critics attacked them mercilessly after each 

performance . The Wide Wust (Aug. 6, 1854) was especially 

severe ; 

"Of Richelieu ; "Mr, Stark has not improved by 
his visit to Austrr.lla, and the mannerisms 
which formerly disfigured his style, are still 
painfully apparent. His rendition of Bulwor's 
splendid creation v/as by no moans what it 



19 



should have been. The measured rising and fal- 
ling of his voice, renders his elocution monot- 
onous. Mrs. Stark as Julia de Martemar, did 
not add to her previous reputation as an act- 
tress." 

Of The Ladv o f Lyons : "On Wednesday evening 
the Lady of Lyons was inflicted on an audience 
more remarkable for endurance than m\mbern... 

Of Othello: "Mr. Stark's Othello was marred by 
the'"indi3tinctness of his utterance in many of 
the finest passages— the words blending togetii- 
er as it were, in their passage from his throat. 
Booth's lago would have pleased, but that com- 
parison between him and his father obtruded... 

And yet these had before been considered their best 
interpretations. Vtoat hp.d happened? 

FAVORABLE CRITICIS M 
At lest the r^erspicacious critic of the Pioneer un- 
covered the mystery. It was very simple: the other critics, 
he decided were misinterpreting the change. It was not that 
Stark had degenerated into the old style; he had changed over 
to an altogether new one. Having exhausted the possibilities 
of the Macread^ style, Stark the constant student, had nimbi- 
deserted it for a fresh one. And naturally he was not so ad- 
vanced in the new style as he had been in the old. The 
Pioneer , Jan. 1855, welcomes this change, finding in the new 
interpretations spontaneity and freshness, comparing him now 
to the elder Booth, ranking him now (next to Booth) as the 
greatest actor in California: 

"From the stilted manner of the olden times, 
rendered dear, it is true by the genius of many 
of the brightest ornaments of the stage, he has 
passed at one leap into the preferable style of 



20 



nature JL^dging by his lago and rlamlet he no 

longer f all r into categoin-.eF, intr.. - particular 
school of actlnc He is rising in a peculiar 

style of his o\m....We hail the change, nay, 
the reel, altnough, perhaps to some, not visible 

im^r^^^..Ient, ^.vith gladness Witn the excep- 

tTH'rrbT "the elder 3ooth his supe-ior has not 
been Ir. California. ... In his feculty for im- 
provement, in his youth, in hie love for his 
profession, in his unremitting laoor, m his 
eenius, in his conscientiousnesr— v;natever otri- 
ers may say to him— there are high rounds m 
his ladder, which he can yet reach. . . . ' 

In this engagement Stark and another actor called 
Neafie were alternating in the principal roles of the trage- 
dies and dramas. The Pioneer considered Neafle as a foil for 
the nev; richness of Stark's acting. According to the critic 
it was the antitnesis between the physical and the intellect- 
ual actor, between the trite stylization, the cold stock man- 
nerisms and the "v:arm and fresh impersonations, coming from 
within and appealing to the mind, the heart and the soul." 

In concluding this long sympathetic critique the 
Pioneer made a few gentle suggestions to Stark, suggestions 
for improvement that the student would erjnreciate. It nrged 
him to improve his vocal delivery; it found the reading of 
Hamlet to be pure and accurate, but reminded him that some- 
times the tones of his voice were too faint for the audience 
to appreciate the beauties of the language. 

On December 25, 1854 the St arks concluded their en- 
gagement at the American. They played at Sacramento dtiring 
January and February and returned a few months later for a 
season at the Metropolitan. On May 6 Stark olayed at his 



21 



wife's benefit and later appeared as Richelieu. Durinc the 
month Edwin Booth, who had just returned from Australia, 
played Richard III, and the Pioneer of June, 1855 pointing 
approvingly at James Stc.rk, chided Booth for devoting too 
little time to studj , 

AUSTRALIA AGAI H 
In August the Starks, who had by thJs time regained 
their lost prestige, took over the Union Theatre. They play- 
ed there until the end of December and then moved their com- 
pany to the American. Mrs. Stark had her fai-ewell benefit on 
February 1, 1855, and on the 4th, Stark received a grand com- 
pany farewell benefit, for they were leoving the country to 
try their luck again in Australia. 

But the carlior bons.nza could not be repeated. Be- 
tween 1853 and 1356 there had been many other stars in Sidney 
and the novelty of the theatre hpd TDerha^os worn off. The 
Starks remained in Australia over a year, almost as long as 
their previous vlr.it; these were long weary months that drag- 
ged before a small arjathetic public and finally, with very 
little to show for the time, they returned to San Francisco in 
May, 1357, 

BACK TO SAN FRANCISCO 
Their long separation from San Francisco, however^ 
was this time almost disastrous. The theatrical scene was 
constantly changing in San Francisco and it was hard to 



22 



re-establish themselves. They succeeded within a few monthsin 
securing a short engagement at the /jnerican, in August, when 
stark played Fal staff in Henry "gl and The Merry Wives of 
Winds or — and then after a few months idleness and discour- 
agement decided to go back across the plains and see what the 
East could offer them. 

In November, 1857 they left for the East, In his 
last visit, six years previously. Stark had little success 
and during this trip his success was only indifferent. In 
April, 1858 the Starks made their debut at Wallack's Theatre 
in New York in The Gamester and played a season of their oth- 
er favorite pieces. In July they returned to San Francisco 
and in two months were engaged at the Lycexim, 

AT THE LYCEUM 
From September to November the Starks played at the 
Lyceum; the supporting company v/as mediocre and the dramatic 
fare was inferior; the state of the drama was pretty low at 
this time in San Francisco, They occasionally revived their 
old successes: Damon and Pythias , Hamlet , The Games ter ^ 
Pizarro , Macbeth , Julius Caesar and introduced The Taming of 
The Shrew , But with each of these they had to lighten the 
evening with farces, and they had to produce such paltry ma- 
terial as Clouds and Sunshine ; The Apostate, or The Moors of 
Spain ; Napoleon I, or The Fortunes of St, Anlyn ? A Struggle 
of the Heart ; The Honeymoon , 



23 



A T MaGIj IRE'S 

The next engagement of the Starks was at Maguire's 
Opera Hoiise during the first week of February 1859, playing 
with Mr. and Mrs. Baker and Junius Booth Jr., beginning with 
the very popular Hunchback and ending with Stsrk's personal 
favorite Othello . In the last piece Stark played Othello; 
Booth, lago; Baker, Cassio; Mrs. Baker, Desdemona; and Mrs. 
Stark, Emilia. In April the Mag\:i.ire Opera House was reooened, 
again with The Hunchback and the popular actress Mrs. Judah 
now a member of the new company. Again some of the old fa- 
vorites such as Richelieu, wei'e given but there were the usual 
farces and mediocre spectacles, like the tedious military dra- 
ma, the Veteran and the drrana of There se, or The Ornhan of 
Geneva . 

BEGINNING OF DECLIN E 

On April 29 the Starks returned to the Lyceum, in 
support of the star, Jajiies Anderson. '.Vhen the Lyceitm company 
transferred to the American for Anderson's farewell engage- 
ment Stark assumed the stage management. But Stark was no 
longer the star and that fact is significant: he was begin- 
ning his decline. Illness and fatigue were having their ef- 
fect; the fire viras burning out. Tragedians do not last very 
long; they are consumed quickly in the fl&jne of passion. 

On May 23, 1859 at a benefit to tlie Hebrew Benevo- 
lent Society "the grand old woman," Mrs. Judah, who was to go 
for thirty years more, was giving another of her famous 
performances as the Nurse to Mrs, Baker's Juliet, Anderson's 



24 



Romeo and Stark's Merciitio. 

In November and Decernuer of 1859 the Starks v/ere 
back at Ma.fTuire's Opera House. Stark had an opport-unlt^/ to 
rise to his fomer level in Macbeth , Richelieu , and Plzarro. 

In 1860 the Starks left San Francisco for a tour of 
the interior, ti-aveling as far as Portland, Ore^^^on, In May 
1361 they returned to Maguire's Opera House for a fev/ nights. 
The tour hed been unsatisfactory — San Francisco on their 
return was dismally unwelcoming; variety v;as on the upswing 
and the legitiraate drama was in an anaemic state. Even the 
Starks could not transfuse any blood into the wreched pa- 
tient. They started the season ambitiously virjth a perform- 
ance of Othello . The Bulletin, May 29, 1861, nleasantly 
startled, remarked: "It appears that we sre now to have a 
ro'ond of the legitiiapte" and announced that Julius Caesar and 
King John were in rehearsal. But they never got around to 
them. On June 8, 1051 The Bulletin reports a benefit for 
Stark, Typical of the state of the drama in those days vifas 
the programme which announced incongruously; 

"A portion of the second act of Henry VI , in- 
cluding the death scene 5 the farce of Jumbo 
Jim. " 

"The drama of the Irisii E mi;:^r£.n t. or Temptation 
vs Riches. " 

"The beneficiary," concludes the prograinme, 

"will appear as King Henry in the first piece 
and O'Brien In the last." 

READIliGS FROM THE POETS 
Drama was being submerged imder the flood of 



25 



variety and minstrelsy and tnose actors v;ho were able to do 
so were deserting the sinking ship. In those days it was 
very useful to be a competent tight-rope walker or juggler as 
well as a tragedian. But Mr. Stark could neither sing or 
dance nor crack jokes; he was a tragedian. He v^rss also not a 
very good carpenter but they didn't need any incompetent car- 
penters in San Francisco just then. So Mr. Stark without a 
stage and a company to plsy with did the next best thing; he 
became the whole play himself, 

PUBLIC INDIFFERENCE 
On June 13, 1851 Stark began a series of readings 
from the poets and dramatists at Tucker's Academy of Music. 
He had during his acting career studiously cultivated his 
voice and was an admirable elocutionist. Whatever Illusions 
Mr, Stark had about the poets and dramatists, however, were 
quickly shattered: variety had set a new fashion in the the- 
atre and the public wanted lively entertainment. So for his 
second series of readings, on June 17 — the anniversary of 
the Battle of Bunker Hill — he recited a new national ode, 
"written by a gentleman of this city"; also. The Battle of 
Bunker Hill and O'Flannigan and the Fairies , During this 
evening of "choice readings from the poets and dramatists" a 
band played occasional pieces. The Bulletin of J-une 22, 1861 
said seriously: 

"Without the sensation and nervous excitement 
of theatrical performance, the present style of 



26 



entertainment will naturally please and abiin- 

dantly satisfy the many persons who never dream 

of entering a play house, and who yet have 

poetic feeling, taste and Imagination to be 
gratified." 

But what Mr. Stark was really doing v/as producing 
his ov;n form of vaudeville, reduced to the taste of vaude- 
ville patrons. 

Again on J\me 27 he delivered some patriotic reci- 
tations at a grand national concert at Platts Hall: the oc- 
casion was an impressive one, many national notables were 
present. Mr. Stark did his part for his country and probably 
acquitted himself nobly, but he was not in his element: he 
would have been much more at home in Shakespeare. 

OPENING OF THE METROPOLITAN 

Just when Stark was about to consider the plight of 
the drama as hopeless and v;as about to abandon San Francisco 
in his despair, John Torrence opened the new Metropolitan The- 
atre. A new company had been formed consisting of all the 
available dramatic talent in the city: Mrs. Judah, Miss Mow- 
bray, John Wood, H, Courtsine, Frank Mayo, D. C. Anderson, 
and others — and James Stark was called to head the company 
as star. On July 1, Stark opened at the Metropolitan; tempo- 
rarily the decline was arrested. 

The opening of the new theatre was a spectacular 
one. An immense enthusiastic audience crowded the house. 
They received the opening salutation written by Mrs. Hossmer 



ii^.:;jr? • 



'Ar.i^ 



27 



with interest; they received with cheers the patriotic pas- 
sage declaimed by the practiced Mr. Stark: 

"We see again Col-umbla's honored land. 

Wrenched by our fathers from the oppressor's hand. 

And all Inspired by what has passed away, 

Feel that self-same spirit glows today 

And the land their sacred blood set free 

Shall be a Union until Eternityi 

Untorn, our Stars and Stripes shall float on high 

Long as their kindred orbs illTiine the skyi" 

With their spirit exalted by this patriotic lyri- 
cism it was to be expected, that the feeble comedy. The Love 
Chase which followed, rather dragged.,,." 

Stark remained at the Metropolitan for the next few 
months, but it was obvious that he was not har^py there. He 
was compelled to act in a series of tawdry dramas and farces, 
he, Jaraes Stark, who had once been the Melancholy Dane, and 
the Jealous Moor. Frustration, the strain of acting, ill- 
ness financial difficulties, were contributing to his down- 
fall. And like the traditional actor that he was, he succ\xmb- 
ed easily to liquor. But he was the foremost elocutionist in 
San Francisco and at a benefit for the cause of Temperance 
held at Piatt s Hall on July 23 he was called upon to declaim 
a tribute to the American Flag, which he did in a stirring 
and patriotic manner despite a slight intoxication. 

STARK RETIRES FOR THREE YEARS 
In November James Stark gave his last performance 
at the Metropolitan and then sudaenly disappeared from San 
Francisco. For three years he retired from the stage while 



28 



Mrs. Stark carried on for him, performing at the Aletropolitan 
and the Eureka, She was very active during these years and 
on December 25, 1863 she took over the lease of the Metro- 
politan with Mrs. Emily Jordan and ran it until March, 1864. 
She had been all her life too closely associated with the 
stage (through marriage and otherwise) not to maintain some 
connection with the theatre, 

ATTEMPTS COm-^BACK 

She greeted her husband v;hen he returned in Janxkary 
1864 after three years absence to play at her theatre. But 
Stark had by now lost much of the popularity he once had with 
the San Francisco public. On January 27 he made his reap- 
pearance at Mrs, Stark's benefit, playing in his favorite 
role, as Cardinal Richelieu, and as Petruchio in The Taming 
of the Shrew ; his wife played opposite him as Julia de 
Mortimer and Katherine. However the public was apathetic and 
on February 2 he played his farewell benefit. The next day 
he left for the East, 

Two months later Stark was back, but a nervous 
restlessness seems to have possessed him. He stayed for only 
a little while in San Francisco and then was off again. Dur- 
ing the next few years we hear of occasional appearances in 
the interior, at Salt Lake City, Portland. Bad luck seemed 
constantly to be pursuing him; at one tim.e a v;ealthj nan his 
fortune had been almost entirely dissipated by unwise spec— 
ulation. Again like the traditional actor he was goneroun 



29 



and improvident and with aosolutely no practical business 
sense. In February, 1868 he returned to California to find 
still another misfoi'tune confronting him: by a reversal of 
a decision of the Supreme Court he lost the title to a large 
and valuable property. And then came the final blow — his 
wife divorced him. Now without her good sense and firm sup- 
port he tumbled recklessly to disastero 

TRIES AUSTRALIA AGAIN 



He tried desperately to forestall tne inevitable by 
a return trip to Australia. He remembered the first trip 
there in 1855 with Mrs, Starlc v;hen they had amassed a for- 
tune; perhaps there was still another chance. In June 1868 
we hear of him running a theatre in ivlelbourne; but this ven- 
ture did not prosper, and in January, 1839 he was back in San 
Francisco, His health and. morale shattered, he hunted around 
wildl;/ for still another possible public; then he hit upon 
it — the mining camps. Other actors v>-ho had failed elsewhere 
had been able to exploit the liberality of the miners; his 
mind turned back to his first glorious season in San Fran- 
cisco in 1850 at the old Jenny Lind, where he had played 
Shakespeare for the miners and they had loved it. There was 
still a chance: he would retui''n to the miners and he would 
return to Shakespeare. 

3TRICXEII BY PARALYSIS 
On February 25, 1869 he left for Carson City and a 



30 



tour of the nines. On May 11 the end came: while playing at 
Virginia City, Nevada he was stricken with paralysis--never 
to recover. This was the end of James Stark, the tragedian. 
His actual death 7/as dragged out over a period of six years. 
But the acting profession remembering his former greatness 
and generosity would not let him starve. They staged benefits 
for him; gave him small parts to play. But the end for this 
ruin of a greet actor could not much longer be delayed. 

DEATH OF JAMES STARK 
On October 12, 1875 the celebrated Edwin Booth v/as 
exciting applause in New York playing Hamlet. Playing a very 
negligible role in the tr-^tgedy was an obscure actor named 
James Stark: James Stark was now forgotten but at one time, 
twenty five years ago, v/hen Booth had been a boy in San 
Francisco struggling for recognition, James Stark had been 
hailed as one of the greatest internreters not only of Hamlet 
but also of Othello , Richelieu , Macbeth, Richard III and King 
Lear. Possibly James Stark now reflected on the transience 
of human glory, possibly he made some tragic gesture — and 
when the curtain fell on Shakespeare's tragedy, his own trag- 
edy came to a bitter end. James Stark made his exit from the 
stage of life. . , . 

MRS. STARK PJ]M-ARRIES 
But the career of the indefatigable Mrs. Stark was 
still flourishing. After her divorce from her third husband. 



31 



Janes Stark, she inarrled a Dr. Gray of New York. She was no 
longer taking any more chances with unstable and impermanent 
actors; this Dr. Gray had. no connection with the stage and 
had a very large fortune. But even this did not help; and 
after his death she returned with resignation to her destiny. 

MRS. ST/'RK'S FIFTH MARRIi^GE 
Her fifth husband was Charles R, Thorne, the veter- 
an actor and manager. Mrs. Sarah Klrby Wingered Stark Gray 
Thorne now becajnie the stepmother of two important actors of 
San Francisco, Charles R. Thorne Jr., for many years leading 
man at Maguire ' s Opera House, and Edwin Thorne, star for many 
seasons of The Black Flap; . By the time of Thome's death she 
must have been talking on the proportions of a legend. In 
1897 she was reported as still in San Francisco, still defy- 
ing decay, in her own peculiar way becoming a substantial in- 
stitution in San Francisco, a whole theatrical tradition in 
herself, a symbol of the city v/hich survives catastrophe aft- 
er catastrophe and yet continues its confident indomitable 
course. . • • 

CRITICAL ESTIMTE OF STARK 
And as for James Stark, who was but one incident 
in her very eventful life -- where does he fit into the vari- 
egated pattern of the San Francisco theritre? He v/as peiliapfa 
not one of the very great American actors; for he v^as r^ot 
born on the stage. He tried very hard, but he lived a dis- 
solute life. Even the most persevering study cannot compen- 



sate for lack of genius. Thus an article in the Overland- 
Monthly of July 1923 reviewing the careers of the Hamlets of 
San Francisco says of James Stark: 

"His Hamlet was a very clever exhibition of 
mimetic art, but it lacked the soul, the effec- 
tive realism given to it later by both Edvifin ■ 
Booth and Edwin L, Davenport." 

But even if James Stark was not a great actor his 
effect on the tradition of the San B'rancisco atage was not a 
trivial one. In the crude and coarse San Francisco of 1850 
he helped to introduce a taste for good acting, for fine 
drama, for exalted tragedy. As much as any other single in- 
dividual he contributed generously to the brilliance of the 
early theatre of San Francisco. 



33 



JAMES STARK 



RenresentPtlve Parts Tal'fin By Stark. 



Date 



Role 



1850 


Damon 




Othello 




Vlrginiixs 




Hamlet 




Cardinal Richelieu 




Norval 




Rollo 




Jaffe 




lago 




Macbeth 




Shylocl-c 




King Lear 




Petriicchlo 




Ruy Gomez 




Dazzle 




The Stranger 


1852 


Falstaff 


1853 


Richard III 




Beverly 


1854 


Master Walter 




Brutus 




Coriolanus 




Alfred Evelyn 


1857 


Falstaff 


1858 


Brutus 



Flay 

Damon and Pythias 

Othello 

Ylrginius 

Haitilet 

Richelieu 

Douglas 

Pizarro 

Venice Preserved 

Othello 

Macbeth 

The Merchant of Venice 

King Lear 

Taming of the Shrew 

Ruy Gomez 

London Assurance 

The Stranger 



Henry IV 



Richard III 
The Gamester 



The Hunchback 
Julius Caesar 
Coriolanus 
Ivioney 



Merry Vv'ives of Windsor 



Julius Caesar 



34 



T HE STARKS 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



Leman, Walter M. M.r...^ ... of an Old Actor. (San Francisco, 

A. Roman Company, 1886; p. 247) 
McCabo, Jcunc. H. Journal (Mss. -oowd, Sutro Library, (San 

Francisco) 

Rourkc, Constance Trouj^orsof tho r.n1 . ""gf,,^^ J.f ""'^^ 
Lotti Crabtrce. TN^w York. Karcourt, Brace and oo p ;/ 
1928; pp. 35-37) 

NEWSPAPERS AND PERIODICALS 

Evening Picayune (San Francisco) Feb. 23, 28, 28, Nov.4,12-18, 
26^29, Dec. 2- 5, 12-16, 1850; Jan. 28, Feb. 5-8, 1851. 

Alta C alifornia (San Francisco) Dec. 19, 21, 23, 25, 29, 
— 1850; Feb. 29, March 7, 11, 14, 15, 1851. 

Golden Era (San Francisco) Jan. 2, 3, Feb. 20, March 6, 1853; 
August 13, 1854. 

Wide West (San Francisco) April 23, Aug. 6, 1854; June 7, 
Aug. 23, 30, Sept. 13, Nov. 1857. 

The Pioneer (San Francisco) Jan., April, May, June 1855. 

Da ily Evening Bulletin (San Francisco) Nov. 2, 1857; Oct. 6- 
9,11-22, 29, Nov. 1, 15, 15, 20, 1858; Jan. 13, teb. 1, 8, 
April 6, 20, 26, 29, May 7, 9, 23, Nov. 17, 19, 28, Dec. .-, 
12, 13, 1859; Nov. 2-11, I860; May 29, June 8, 10, 13, 17, 
9n 99 91 July 1. 2, 23, 27, Sept. 13, Nov. 13, 1861j Jan. 
2?; Feb. I: 2^1864; 'May; Sejt. 1869; March 13, 1897. 

T he Spirit of the Times (New York) Feb. 5, 8, 29, June 12, 
— 1868; May 12, 19, Sept, 13, 14, 1869. 

Overland Monthly (San Francisco) July 1923. 



TABLE__OF^COWTENTS 

THE BAKERS 
(John Lewis Baker, 1825-1873) (Mrs Baker, 1822-1887)^^^^ 

....... 35-75b 

Pioneer Actor-Managers ..........•"••••• ...•••• 

. . . 35 

Chaotic Theatrical Times ••;••• • "• _ 37 

Bakers Introduce a Reformation. . .,,..... ■■"'.*... 40 

Mrs . Baker Triumphs . - ° '''''''' ° ' ° ^ "''''''/'.'/. . 43 

First Venture a Failure - - - - ^^ 

Baker Score s with The Adelphi . . .....•• ........... 

.... 46 

Achieving Fame as a Manager ^ ^^ 

Manager of The American ..,........••••••••• - ^ ^ ^ ^2 

Temporarily Desert San F^^^^^^J^; ' o;era" h;;;;*, ". '. ! 53 

Return to San Francisco - At the Opera ouse,. ^^^^^^ ^^ 

Mrs . Baker Quells a Rival .. = .......-• 

59 

...... 61 

...... 57 

.... 70 

..... 74 



At The American. 

Baker Humors a Fickle Public. 

A Pathetic Burlesque ■•■ y 

Baker Succumbs to Popular Taste 
Farewell to San Francisco. . . . • . 



Represe 
Bibliography 



ntative Parts taken by The Bakers. . • • • • ;^5^ 



JOHN LEWIS BAKER 
(1825 - 1873) 




PHOTO FROM ODELL'S ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK STAGE 



ALEXINA FISHER BAKER 
(1822 - 1887) 




PHOTO PROM THE ANNALS OF SAN FRANCISCO 



35 



THE BAKERS 
Pi oneep Actor-Man aj,ers 

The very first season of tlie San "rancisco theatre 
was interrupted by a somevhat inef x'icient manager. That ge:'"'.- 
tleman calmly ga:r.bled. av/ay the proceeds of the first week, and 
thus tbe season abruptly came to an end. 

This Incident created a bad precedent for the San- 
Francisco theatre. For some time after that its career was 
marvelously punctuated by all sorts of accidents, hilarious 
and catastrophic. The audiences welcomed. In addition to 
the scheduled performance, the unexpected treat. They were 
not sure whether the walls would burn down around them, the 
floor sink beneath them, whether the leading lady would shoot 
the first walking gentleman, or whether everybody v/ould for- 
get their lines altogether. But they knev; tnat something 
would hanpen and som.e of the things that did happen have by 
now become legendary. 

The audiences v/ere enthusiastic and they welcomed 
these diversions. The actors likewise we-^e enthusiastic and 
they were anxious to please and to make money. Various com- 
panies arrived in San Francinco; competition arrived. A wild 



3G 



race set in. Everything V'/as impermanent, unsetfi ed, agitated. 
The important thing v/as to make money quickly. 

CHAOTIC THEATRICAL TIMES 

Enthusiasm led to excess. Colors bccamo gaudier, 
noises louder. The public had to be sti^mlatod, a-nu'iied, ex- 
alted. Companies offered quantity and diversity: a different 
performance every night, special novelties, featured attrac- 
tions. Night after lught they hurlea their tragedies, spec- 
tacles, farces at their audiences | and the tragedies becam.e 
heavier; the spectacles, more spectacular; the farces, more 
farcical. Night after night the dramas became more grandi- 
ose, more esoteric, more dizzy. And the audiences were pro- 
portionately awed and dazzled. 

Such trivial details as learning their lines prop- 
erly or remaining semi-sober while on the stage did not over- 
ly concern the actors. As they bombarded the suffering au- 
diences v\rith their uneven rhetoric they considered that the 
pretentiousness of tlieir offerings and the exuberance of the.ir 
acting would atone for rnlnoi' faults. 

If there was rivalry betv/een troupes there was 
greater rivalry within each company. Professional and per- 
sonal jealousies constantly flared up into violent outbreaks; 
casts were broken up daily; shootings, suicides cut uglj?" gaps 
in the seasons. The most brilliant actors were the most un- 
dependrble. Such excellent performers as the Starks, for 
example, were very flighty -- constantly involved in violent 



37 



quarrels and scandalous scrapes. 

By the middle of 1353 the San Francisco theatre 
seemed to be in a hopelessly confused state. This undisci- 
plined exuberance began to pall on the audiences; they de- 
manded more solid substance, more adequate preparation. Au- 
diences were already becoming hyper-critlcal. They v;ere get- 
ting a little tired of Shakespeare, especially a Shakespeare 
excruciatingly performed. In fact Shakespeare by this time 
was falling into disrepute in San Francisco. Said the Alta 
California of November 28; 

"Circumstances will hardly justify the intro- 
duction of Shakespeare's tragedies on the Cali- 
fornia stage. To those who do not understand 
the usual merits of the play, it is a dull and 
uninteresting spectacle; vi^hile those who can 
appreciate its beauty, lose its effect in the 
manner in which it is delineated." 

Inefficient and tactless managers, undisciplined and 

incompetent actors, shoddy plays and mutilated texts, lack of 

suitable equipment -- all these elements vv-ere conspiring to 

drive the public av/ay from the theatre altogether. 

BAKERS INTRODUCE A REFORMATION 
Into this muddled picture stepped the Bakers, John 
Levi/is and his wife, Alexina Fisher, On March 2, 1853 the 
Bakers announced the opening, under their management, of the 
little French theatre on Dupont Street called the Adelpbi. 
They had arrived in San Francisco a year previously and had 
already acquired considerable reputation as actors • Alexina 
Fisher Baker had already conquered the affections of the 



38 



puollc loy hor charm and lady-like qualities" John Lewis 
Baker was esteemed as a strong minor performer, an actor of 
the romantic school in spite of an unimpressive appearance. He 
was very short and had a "remarkably prominent, ulta-aquiline 
nose." But nov^r he had an opportunity to demonstrate his fine 
ability as a manager. 

There was abundant talent in San Francisco at this 
time; what was needed was organizational ability, discipline. 
It was no small task to bring order out of the chaotic confu- 
sion of the theatre in San Francisco; but Lewis Baker suc- 
ceeded in steering it out of the wretched by-paths onto a 
broad triumphant highv\ray. Ho started the glorious nev/ tra- 
dition and thus his importance to the San Francisco theatre 
is inestimable. 

There were other managers in San Francisco before 
Lewis Baker; Charles R, Thorne, James Stark and James Evrard; 
but Baker surpassed them all. He introduced the idea of dis- 
cipline , the necessary basis for all aritstic enterpriseso 
He created a nevif level for the San Francisco theatre, and 
what is most important, he brought audiences back to the the^- 
atre. "If Mrs, Baker inaugurated a nevif era for the Califor- 
nia stage" (says Catherine Coffin Phillips in Portsmou th 
Plaza ) "Lewis Baker set a new standard in management. He was 
the dean of San Francisco theatre managers." 

Lewis Baker had considerable preparation for his 
career as actor-manager on the San Francisco stage. Although 
still a young man -- only 27 -- when he arrived v/ith his 



39 



newly-married vn.fe in February 1852 to play a brief engage- 
ment at the Jenny Lind, he had successfully been an actor and 
manager in various theatres of the east and the west. He was 
born in Philadelphia in 1825 -- but during his boyhood his 
family moved to Texas. Texas was virgin territory and here 
he had his first opportunity to gratify his interest in the 
theatre. He made his debut, significantly enough, as a man- 
ager; he founded a new theatre in the city of Galveston. When 
the Mexican V\far broke out in 1848 he was at Corpus Christi 
where General Taylor's division was stationed, abundantly per- 
forming his patriotic duty: running two theatres simultane- 
ously. The war over he traveled back to the east, played in 
New York, Boston and Philadelphia. In the latter city he met 
the lovely Alexina Fisher, then Philadelphia's reigning favor- 
ite, and married her in May 1851. A few months later thqy 
set sail for the El Dorado. 

In San Francisco they found immediate favor. A 
week after their arrival — on February 14, 1852 — they made 
their debut at Maguire ' s Jenny Lind Theatre — the third and 
most permanent of that name. They played in The Hunchback, 
even at that early date an old favorite in San Francisco and 
through the years to come destined to be played ad nauseam. 
Their "Master Walter" and "Julia" at once aroused enthusiasm, 
no small feat considering that the very popular and capable 
Starks had previously starred in these roles in the same the- 
atre. For twenty-one nights they played to crowded houses. 
This was both a record and a precedent. They demonstrated 



40 



that it was not, noccssarj to chango the bill every night if 
you hud. a good play ard good actors and good management. And 
the moribund theatre of San Francisco v/as being quickened in- 
to life. San Frrncisco'c passionate interest in the drama 
was being revived. Scon after tlie Bakers' o.rrival three the- 
atres were runiiini; sii:ir_ltaneously . 

But this successful first season of the Bakers did 
not entirely solv? the theatrical problem of the day. It was 
almost entirely a ner^onal triumph for Mrs, Baker. According 
to the Ann als of S an Francisco Mrs. Baker was "the chief and 
only attraction, cho company generally being poor, and insuf- 
ficiently conducted." In short, a good manag-^r was still 
needed: Lewis Baker had not yet stepned in to assume his 
rightful role, 

MRS, BAKER TRIUMPHS 
Alexins Fisher Baker created an immediate impres- 
sion. The newspapers were full of admiring comments. From 
the Alta California after her first performance (Feb. 15, 1852) i 

"There is a freshness and simplicity and at the 
same time a finish in the acting of Mrs. Baker 
that will make her as pomilar as they have 
elsewhere. " 

At their benefit on February 20 when she played 
Juliet in Romeo and Juliet there was an echo of her former 
triumphs. At the close of her performance she was called be- 
fore the curtain to be showered with bouquets. To one of 
these was attached a diamond ring, a ring described by the 
Alta as being "of most exquisite worlonanship, containing nine 



41 



stones, and valiied at $350." And on the Inside was engraved; 
"Auld lang syne." It was the gift of an expatriate Phila- 
delphian v:ho had admired Alexlna Fisher in Philadelphia and 
was overjoyed at renewing an "auld acquaintance." 

Alexina Fisher Baker possessed that certain person- 
al charm and magnetism which immediately captivate audiences 
and transcend mere acting ability. In Lights and Shades in 
San Francisco she is called "the most adored of the theatre- 
going public," She vvas among the first of the San Francisco 
stream of favorite actresses, for this was a time vi/hen v/omen 
dominated the tlieatrical scene, not only as actresses but as 
managers. In t:.:is almost completely man's tovm it was the 
women v/ho ruled in the gaming-houses and the theatre; ruled 
by virtue of glamor and fascination and sentiment. Those 
rough miners had the traditional susceptible hearts and they 
succumbed readily and regularly to those charming and lovely 
and gifted ladies who paraded in and out of the San Francisco 
theatrical scejie such as Mrs. Baker, Caroline Chapman, Mrs, 
Judah, Matilda Heron, Laura Keene, Catherine Sinclair, Madams 
Biscaccianti, Kate Hayes, Anna Bishop, Lola Montez,Ada Isaacs 

Menken, 

But in the case of Mrs. Baker it was not only the 
woman who was admired but the accomplished actress. Whereas 
the interest of Lewis Baker in the theatre was an acquired 
one, Mrs. Baker's attachment was hereditary: she was born on 
the stage — an evident requirement for those who aspire to 
be great actors — a member of the fn.irly well-known Fisher 



42 



family. In fact, one of her sisters, Oceana Fisher, had 
.ioined her on her ezpedition to San Francisco and later be- 
came a member of the famous Adelphi company* 

Alexina Fisher was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, in 
1822 and made her debut in New York. After several seasons 
in New York she went to Philadelphia: she was at once adopt- 
ed into the hearts of the Philadelphians. In San Francisco 
v\rhero every exaggeration was carried to excess Mrs. Baker was 
even more violently adored. Perhaps the refinement of her 
manners exercised some Influence. With the usual array of 
superlatives which constituted the journalistic jargon of the 
day the Golden Fra (Dec. 19, 1852) explains: 

",,, there is no better actress, or more worthy 
lady in this country ...Mrs. Baker was for 
several years the acknowledged favorite in 
Philadelphia, and no actress of the day was 
more honored for her ladylike attributes in 
public and private life. In California she 
has acquired a reputation no less enviable." 

In contrast to their rough lives and crude manners 
the miners could appreciate gentle gestures and ladylike ways. 
And becaiise their world was coarse and harsh they could enter 
a theatre and be moved hj poetry. 

Her contemporaries found in Alexina Baker a gift for 
poetic Interpretation, Murdoch described her as "... by na- 
ture ardent and impulsive... As an actress she embodied the 
poetical ideal of the characters she personated." Mrs. Baker 
was now the shining star on the San Francisco horizon. 

But Lewis Baker, whose small acting talents had been 



43 



eclipsed during the Jenny Lind season by the brilliance of 
his v\:ife, was quietly planning for himself an Independent 
career. When the Adelphi fell idle for a short time he used 
this as his opportunity to make his managerial debut in San 
Francisco. With his wife he engaged the services of the 
Starks, Frank Chsnfrau, and Miss Albertine in forming. the new 
company. Each one of these was a star and had already es- 
tablished a reputation: the Starks as pioneer tragedians; 
Chanfrau (who was Baker's brother-in-law) for his solid act- 
ing in his specialized role of a tough city boy; Albertine 
as an accomplished dancer. 

FIRST VENTURE A FAILURE 

On M;,rch 2, 1852 this "most power fal combination of 
talent ever presented to the San Francisco public" according 
to the Golden Er a, opened at the Adelphi. This was the first 
and last night of the season. Baker was defeated in his 
first venture as a manager. 

The cause of this disaster was the usual one that 
blighted the growth of the San Francisco theatre at this time: 
lack of discipline, the fllghtiness of actors. Miss Goad, 
one of the members of the company, suddenly took it into her 
head to join Booth's troupe, and the very temperamental Starks, 
their esthetic feelings injured by a casual remark m.ade by 
another member, had withdrawn in a huff on the opening night. 
The Bakers had no opportunity to brood over this initial 
defeat, for a few days later they began a two-weeks engage- 



44 



ment at the American, and from there they left on a trip to 
Sacramento. 

On April 12,1852 they were back in San Francisco to 
play another engagement at the Jenny Lind for tv;o months, and 
then they left on a tour of the mining towns. On August 21 
with Mr. Thoman and Mrs. Judah they reopened the Adelphi, and 
a new era in the history of the San Francisco theatre began. 

BAKER SCORES WITH THE ADELPHI 

The failure of the first managerial venture at the 
Adelphi had taught the Bakers the necessity of tact and disci- 
pline in dealing with temperamental actors and during the 
months that followed as they played in San Francisco, Sacra- 
mento, Nevada, Grass Valley and Placerville, they had ample 
opportunity to study audiences and their tastes: they fo\md 
that audiences were becoming very critical about acting and 
settings; that they were getting sated with heavy tragedy and 
blood and thunder drama; they wanted their plays more finished- 
closer to life. 

Lewis Baker had observed this refinement of the pub- 
lic taste and during the six months that followed the first 
trial at the Adelphi he was carefully preparing a program. On 
August 21, 1852 the Adelphi opened with Fazio , a melodrama in 
the public taste. The presence of Mrs. Judah, already achiev- 
ing a reputation as "the grand old woman of the western stag;" 
and Thoman, a popular interpreter of light comedy roles, as 
supporting actors, helped to insure their success. Gradually 



45 



the Bakers built up a strong supporting company, composed of 
actors who could be disciplined, v/ho could subordinate petty 
jealousies and animosities to the welfare of the troupe. Be- 
cause Lewis Baker was a tactful and industrious leader he 
could keep the company intact at the Adelphi as they played 
nighf. after night for the incredible season of nine months and 
could take the same company to the American where they played 
for another long period. The company formed a loyal family 
presided over genially and firmly by their Juvenile pa triardi; 
they ?;ere a phenomenon in San Francisco; the first really sta- 
ble company to play there. 

While the contemporary of the Adelphi, the competing 
American was a victim of all the faults that had up to this 
time characterized the theatre of San Francisco — changing 
management rapidly from Joseph Proctor to D.C. Anderson, to 
Mrs. Stark, to a joint stock company, to Proctor again;play- 
ing season after season of dull, repetitious stock pieces -- 
Baker inaugurated a new policy which was enthusiastically ac- 
claimed: he introduced an entirely new trend in the San 
Francisco theatre toward humbler drama. The public was sur- 
feited with the exotic, the rhetorical, and the spectacular; 
they were clamoring for the more familiar, the more homely. 
And the Bakers gave it to them; they gave them Dickens 
Diokens beautifully dramatized. While at the same time audi- 
ences at the American were groaning through Macbeth, they gave 
them carefully finished productions, plays taken from familiar 
stories and histories. Bringing dov/n the level of the drama 



46 



in one respect, they raised it in another. The Bakers were 
a stabilizing influence. That is their importance in the 
San Francisco theatre, 

ACHIEVING FAIvIE AS A MNAGER 
Levvfis Baker v;as a conscientious and industrious man- 
ager; he insisted meticulously on details, on abundant re- 
hearsals. Settings and costumes were accurate and complete. 
He spared no expense to insure the artistic success of their 
productionsjnevertheless on May 9, 1853 when the Adelphi sea- 
son closed, after playing nine months every day except Sun- 
days, there was an estimated profit of $50,000. Phillips, in 
Portsmouth Plaza calculates: 

"With the rent of $30,000 a year, a salary of 
$3,000 a week, and musicians, painters and car- 
penters paid the high prevailing wages, and 
with two other theatres carrying superior casts, 
the distinguished success of the Bakers is proof 
of their sxiperiority in their respective ca- 
pacities as manager and leading lady," 

These expenses do not include the frequently high 
salaries paid to stars v;hich often exceed $6,000 for six suc- 
cessive performances; nor the additional expenses for such 
incidentals cs lighting, printing, advertising, costumes, 
supern\imeraries, etc. And when one considers that the Adel- 
phi was a tiny theatre, scarcely seating a few hundred, the 
courage of the Bakers in making this venture seems much like 
rashnesso 

Yet though he insisted on artistic finish and was 
assiduous about details, Baker was scarcely an idealist; he 



47 



v;as, in fact, shrewd and perspicacious. He had merely real- 
ized a fact to which the other managers were blind; namely, 
that the San Francisco public was growing up, and that if the 
theatre expected to survive in San Francisco it could not re- 
main crude and puerile. His judgment was backed by crowded 
houses every night, the praise of the critics, the distinction 
that he had done more than any other single individual to in- 
fluence the course of the drama in San Francisco. He had 
created the first "temple of legitimate drama" in San Fran- 
cisco. The critics could now boast that their city possessed 
a theatre "fully equal to... the best... in New York and Phila- 
delphia," ( Annals of San Francisco ) 

Fazio of the first night was followed by other semi- 
popular melodramas like The Duke ' s Wager and Agnes de Vere, 
the audiences liked it. There v/ere many performances of the 
ever-popular Hunchback with Mrs. Baker playing "Julia", the 
role that had made her instantly popular at her debut in San 
Francisco. It was at one of these performances, the occasion 
of Mrs. Baker's benefit December 19, 1852 that her sister, 
Oceana Fisher, made her California debut ^.s "Helen", The 
addition of Miss Fisher completed a very proficient company, 
consisting of the original founders: the Baker s, Mrs, Judah 
and J. Thoman; and Miss E. Goad, Miss Montague, H. F. Daly, 
J, H. Vinson, H. H. Goad, J. B. Walton, L, F. Rand, Milne, 
Morton, Beatty, Dumfries and others. 

The year 1853 found the troupe at the Adelphi still 



48 



going strong. On January 16, 1853 they had been playing over 
130 nights and neither the public nor the critics showed signs 
of being tired of them. On this date the "sterling comedy" 
Wild Oats v/as being performed at the Adelphi;at the same time 
the Starks,with J, Proctor and D. C, Anderson were playing in 
Venice Preserved at the American; at the San Francisco Theatre 
Dr. Robinson, the Junius Brutus Booths and the George Chapmans 
were in All is not Gold that Glitters . These were three ex- 
cellent companies playing in three excellent plays, and au- 
diences were flocking to all three theatres. The new princi- 
ple established by the Bakers had triumphed; new life had been 
infused into the San Francisco theatre; audiences had returned 
to acclaim the change. 

The critics now began to take a new pride in the San 
Francisco theatre and were becoming sensitive to any insult. 
The Golden Era , of January 16, 1853 in giving the casts of the 
above plays thus prefixed the notice; 

"A San Francisco correspondent of one of the 
Boston papers, in speaking of theatricals in 
California, said in a recent letter that the 
performances at our theatres v/ere not worth pa- 
tronizing, and that our best actors v;e re hardly 
fourth rate. Our intention is to reply that 
its author is a poor critic or else has thus 
sought to disparage our players through revenga 
for being struck from the 'deadheads. ' In 
order that Boston friends may see we are not 
behind the age we v/ill give the casts of sev- 
eral pieces produced at our theatres during 
the past week," 

The Bakers seemed during this period to be stressing 

comedy. Besides Wild Oats , which the Golden Era of January 

9, 1853 found to be "the most entertaining and pleasing yet 



49 



produced" they were presenting such well knovm comedies as 

Sheridan's racy Critic . There was a noticeable dearth of 

bombastic tragedy; those produced v;ere of a more substantial 

nature. 

On March 13, 1853 Mrs. Baker played for the first 

time the part of yo\ang Norval in the tragedy of Douglas . And 

next week when she played the title role of Evadne the same 

critic of the Golden Era (March 20, 1853) raved: 

"The tragedy of Evadne, as produced at the Adel- 
phi last evening, was the most perfect perform- 
ance, in all its departments, we have ever wit- 
nessed in this country. Mrs. Baker as Evadne, a 
character requiring the most careful and labored 
discrimination, proved herself, in our opinion, 
to be without a rival on the American Stage." 

In summing up the season the same Golden Era (March 

6, 1853) remarked: 

"In the production of legitimate plays and stand- 
ard pieces, the management have been eminently 
successful, and have raised the drama to a point 
never before reached in California, and in the 
crowded and intelligent audiences v/hich nightly 
witness their performances, they have the most 
crowning proof that their exertions are fully 
appreciated. " 

On May 7, 1853 the triumphant season of the Bakers 
at the Adelphi came to an end. They had left their mark on 
the San Francisco scene; they had created a new tradition for 
the San Francisco theatre; their v/ork was achieved. But hav- 
ing elevated the standard of the drama they were reluctant to 
let it drop to a less exalted rank. So they remained longer 
in San Francisco. Five days after the close of the Adelphi 
season they transferred their company to the American, 



50 



JMMAGER OF THE A^IERICAN 
The American had been renovated for the occasion; 
it had been "tastefully arranged," and was now "the most mag- 
nificent and elegant theatre In California." ( Golden Era 
March 10, 1853) The play selected for the opening on March 
12, 1853 was Bulwer's The Lady of Lyons , a play which Mrs. 
Kirby had introduced to San Francisco at her debut two years 
before, but which had since become Mrs. Baker's favorite ve- 
hicle. During their career in San Francisco the prestige of 
the Bakers had not only disciplined the temperamental actors; 
it had also been operating on the audiences, subduing their 
rowdyish tendencies. In commenting on the audience of the 
American first night the Golden Era of May 15, 1853 described 
it as: 

"...the largest and most refined audience that 
has ever assembled within the v;alls of a theatre 
in this State." 

Further on the comments take on a more- realistic turn as the 

critic describes some nev/ managerial equipment: 

"It is due to the managers to state that an ef- 
ficient police force has been engaged, who virill 
use their utmost authority in preserving orcLer. " 

The brilliant and prosperous Adelphi season was al- 
most equalled at the American. Under the management of the 
Bakers beginning in May, 1853 it became the most important 
theatre in San Francisco; its ascendancy was finally ended 
with the opening of the even more elegant Metropolitan by Mrs, 
Sinclair on December 24, 1853. 



51 



In July 1853 Catherine Sinclair came to San Fran- 
cisco carrying about her an air of attractive notoriety. 
She was immediately hired by the Bakers and exhibited at the 
American, As a "special novelty attraction" Mrs. Baker and 
Mrs. Sinclair played on consecutive nights the role of Lady 
Gay Spanker in London Assurance . In case the audience and 
critics did not entirely grasp the Idea the "novelty attrac- 
tion" was made even more special. On July 24 they alternated 
as Lady Spanker in different acts of the playJ 

Even the "special novelty attractions," however, 
could not overcome the fickleness of the public. During the 
summer the enthusiasm stirred up by the Bakers had begiin to 
abate in intensity. The audiences needed a breathing spell 
and during the fall attendance declined. The newspapers 
claimed that the high prices charged by the theatres were re- 
sponsible for the thinning audiences; the managers blamed 
the prices on greater expenses. In the Alta California 
of August 26, 1853 Baker offered an explanation of the 
involved finances of the Americanjhe claimed that the regular 
nightly expenses of the theatre were |600,and during Muidoch' s 
engagement were increased to ^1000. 

Vi'lth the engagements of Mrs. Sinclair and Murdoch the 
Bakers had inaugurated a new policy, augmenting the regular 
Adelphi company with eastern stars. But now as a general 
depression hit the San Francisco theatre the triumphant ca- 
reer of Baker as manager was temporarily halted. Increased 
expenses for stars v/ere not being compensated by increased 



52 



attendance. C. R. Thorne, who followed Murdoch in October, 
played for a while for the Bakers and then, disgruntled by 
the meager audience, packed up and left. 

In December 1853, however, the theatres began to 
pick up: the Bakers regained their popularity and featuring 
Caroline Chapman, an early San Francisco favorite, were again 
attracting crowds with a production of Faustus . On December 
24 Mrs. Sinclair and Murdoch opened the New Metropolitan; and 
now, the tide having definitely turned in the right direction, 
people were rushing back to the theatres. 

On January 1, 1854 the Golden Era , taking annual 

stock of the theatrical situation, observed that two theatres 

were open every night; these were the Metropolitan, where 

Murdoch, Mrs. Sinclair and their company were playing, and 

American: 

"...the American, the scene of a thousand tri- 
umphs -•- (where our brilliant Stark was wont to 
move as a 'star' of dazzling effulgence) — we 
find Mrs. Baker, the incomparable artiste, the 
gem of the social circle -- and here, too, tow- 
ering 'a head and shoulder above them all,' 
can be seen the sparkling eyes and benevolent 
face of Mrs, Judah,who is ever greeted by plau- 
dits of admiring thousands." 

TEMPORARILY DESERT SAN FRANCISCO 
The new year began splendidly, but then suddenly the 
theatre had another sl-omp. The spring season was less pros- 
perous, even for the Bakers. After an unprecedented run of 
thin houses they closed the American and fled to Sacramento. 
But in February they were back, to present the Proctors to 



53 



San Francisco. On March 5, 1854 the Proctors departed forthe 
East. Soon after the Bakers followed them. 

The Bakers had an astonis?iing success in San 
Francisco. Their ability as actors, their acumen as managers 
had gleaned them, it was rumored, as much as a million dollars. 
And in return they had bequeathed to San Francisco a permanent 
theatre. 

RETURN TO SAN FRANCISCO — ■ AT THE OPERA HOUSE 

In November, 1858 the Bakers returned to San Fran- 
cisco. Although they had been away from this city almost 
five years their loyal admirers had not forgotten them. Two 
v/eeks after their arrival they began an engagement at Magulie's 
Opera House o They received a tremendous welcome as they made 
their first appearance in a new Boucicault play, Pauvrette ; 
the crowded house frequently interrupted the play to roar 
their applause; the Bakers were repeatedly called before the 
curtain after each act. At the end of the play Mrs. Baker 
took her curtain call alone; then suddenly as if at a concert- 
ed signal the stage was showered with dozens of beautiful 
bouquets. In the front of the house, beaiaing, were the wash- 
ed faces and pressed suits of the gentlemen of the Pennsyl- 
vania Fire Engine Company. Philadelphia had not forgotten. 

Mr. Baker made his little speech before the curtain 
acknowledging the tribute for his wife and himself; very fer- 
vently he expressed their appreciation of the various qual- 
ities of San Francisco, saying that they expected to remain 



54 



permanently in San Francisco and to make this city their home. 
He spoke very convincingly and the audience redoubled their 
applause. 

This, the Bakers' second and last visit to San Fran- 
cisco, was to last only a year and a half; but possibly Baker 
was sincere in his promise. Perhaps he was carried away by 
the exuberance of the welcome, and on their appearance things 
did look very promising for the drama. A week later Lewis 
Baker took over his new duties as stage manager for Maguire ' s 
Opera House. 

Variety was on the ur^ward swing in San Francisco but 
had not as yet made great depredations on the popularity of 
the legitimate drama. There were still several good actors 
left in San Francisco to struggle against the dominance of 
variety: with the Bakers at the Opera House were the depend- 
able and everlasting Mrs. Judah, Mr. Courtaine, Mr. Stevens 
and Miss Grattan; in a few months they were joined by the 
Starks. At the Ljceum were J. B, Booth, Woodward and the 
GougerJaeira sisters. 

?mS. BAKER QUELLS A RIVAL 

The Gougenheim girls, considering their popularity 
menaced by the advent of Mrs. Baker, conceived a master-stroke: 
they would take the fight out into the open; they would chal- 
lenge Mrs. Baker to a duel. 

On December 1 the newspapers announced the simul- 
taneous productions at the Lyceum and the Opera House of 



55 



Pauvrette ,wlth Adelaide Gougenlieim and Mrs. Baker playing the 
title role. This was a contest which excited the battle- 
loving public J despite the arrival of the Panama steamer both 
houses were packed on that night with cheering partisans of 
the two favorites. And Mrs. Baker triumphed, said the Bulle- 
tin of next evening, awarding the laurels to her entire com- 
pany: 

"If the visitor has previously seen this piece 
in the Opera House, he will probably think that 
its representation at the Lyceum is somewhat 
inferior. The scenery is not quite as beau- 
tiful, nor do the actors, generally in the prin- 
cipal parts, approach those in the other house. 
Probably Miss Adelaide Gougenheim does not as- 
pire to be considered equal to Mrs. Baker in 
the part of 'Pauvrette,' while it appears to us 
that Mr. Ryer and Mr. Booth, in the parts re- 
spectively of 'Bernard' and 'Coimt liaurice, ' 
are much inferior to Mr. Baker and Mr.Courtaine 
in the same characters. Mr. Phelps, in the 
Lyce\im, makes but a trifling fellow of the Re- 
publican soldier, 'Michel.' 

Having thus eliminated all competition the Bakers 
continued a successful run of Pauvrette , a sentimental melo- 
drama with a hackneyed plot and a pseudo-historical theme. 
Some idea of the play may be obtained from the Bulletin's 
critique: 

"Mrs. Baker rendered her part in this piece a 
very affecting one, and, many tears were si- 
lently shed in the theatre, as her innocence, 
her helplessness and griefs were successively 
portrriyed. Her costume was not exactly that 
which a Swiss peasant might be supposed to wear 
on the approach of winters and it might be 
advisable, on future representations, to wrap 
up, with some woolen stuff, a few square feet of 
her naked neck." 

Shortly after they produced several other romantic 



56 



and historical dramas, such as the First Exploits of Riche- 
lieu and the Queen of Spades in which Mrs. Woodward starred. 
There was a reminiscence of their early Adelphi season when 
on December 3 and 4 they performed in London Assurance and 
David Copperfield , The usual mediocre farces and "extrava- 
ganzas," however, were reducing the quality of the dramatic 
output; these the Bakers may have considered as a sop to the 
public. Perhaps they were underestimating their public 
taste; they were certainly overestimating its generosity: only 
four nights after their reappearance they were staging a ben- 
efit performance for Mrs. Baker, a too obvious exploitation 
of the public's sentiments and finances. However the critic 
was most indulgent in his reproof in the Bulletin of December 
3, 1858: 

"After playing only four nights in the State — 
for old accounts were settled in this way years 
ago -- it seems rather early to make a special 
appeal to the public for a benefit. However 
the play is a good one-- London Assurance — and 
the principal actors of merit, and anyhow the 
house virill doubtless be crowded," 

The public had certainly been kind to the Bakers on 
their first visit. Besides the fortune in profits they had 
taken home with them Mrs. Baker on her farewell benefit had 
received a most magnificent "diamond Magic watch" jprevious to 
that her gifts had consisted of diamond rings, diamondvmfrches, 
diamond bracelets, and a "Silver tea service valued at $400." 
The public was under no further obligation to them. 

After a poor month in January the Bakers got off to 



57 



a new start In February. Baker was now again on the right 
path as a manager and the public was overjoyed; on February 1 
he gave them their beloved Hunchback ; in the play vi/ere the 
Starks, Mrs. Baker, Sophie Edwin and J. B, Booth. "He had now 
a very complete, a very strong company, probably (as the Bulle- 
tin, Feb. 2, 1858 says) the best ever collected in California 
up to 'this time." And he gave them during the month other 
favorite classics: The Gamester, The Wife, Othello, with these 
estimable actors. 

For som.e reason Mrs, Baker v/as missing from the com- 
pany during March; in her stead Baker engaged Avonia Jones, 
Together they played in several of the plays the Bakers had 
introduced back in 1852 and 1853, at the Adelphi: Fazio , The 
Bride of Lammermoor , La Tlsbe , Ion , Sybil . The performance 
of Sybil was a kind of reunion; in it were playing Mrs.Judah 
and Thoman, who were with the Bakers during the celebrated 
Adelphi season. 

On March 28 the season came to a close, and for a 
month the company remained idle as Baker supervised the ren- 
ovation of the Opera House. The theatre was being improved; 
not only was it being made more decorative but, virhat is pos- 
sibly more important, more comfortable -- In arrangement of 
seats and ventilation. The Bulletin of April 18, 185^"? was 
very much concerned by this change' 

"The poisonous atmosphere infesting many of 
our public buildings, v/hen filled by an audi- 
ence, has afforded us topic for comment on many 
occasions, and v/e are glad to see that in the 
alterations of Magulre's establishment he was 



58 



made an honest effort, at least, to secure an 
ample supply of fresh and pure air." 

The theatre had been altered and renovated and im- 
proved, but in other respects things were still the same. The 
cast was Mrs. Baker, now returned to the fold; Lewis Baker, 
James Stark, Sophie Edwin, and the Messrs. Goad and Thoman. 
Mrs. Judah was not performing in this play; instead she was 
hiding away in Make Your Will , the farce which followed The 
Hunchback . Between the tv/o plays appeared a Miss Jennie 
Mandevllle who sang favorite ballads. 

This was a period in the San Francisco theatre when 
performances were inordinately long. The legitimate drama 
was furiously battling with variety for its very life; it had 
to offer its patrons all kinds of Inducements; low prices, 
swollen programs, entertainment. Thus full-length, serious 
dramas and tragedies were almost invariably followed by 
trivial and irrelevant farces. After the Hunchback Baker 
offered, on April 21, The Merchant of Venice plus The Young 
Rascal of Paris ; on May 3, the Greek tragedy, Medea plus The 
Loan of a Lover and The Eccentric Cosmopolitan . On May 23 at 
a benefit to the Hebrew Benevolent Society the tragedy of 
Romeo and Juliet with D.C. Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Baker, Stark, 
and Mrs. Judah was only one item in the programs; in addition 
there were Senor and Senora Marquez, Miss Kammerer, Mr. and 
Mrs. Courtaine and others appearing in "a grand olio." 

This was also a period when the legitimate drama 
had to compete with variety in the matter of providing 



59 



thrills, spectacles, and "special attractions." The Bal.ers 
produced at the Opera House such "magnif icent military dramas" 
as The Veteran (or France and AM e_ria) , the burlesque spec- 
tacle of Lalla.Rookh, and a very pretentious melodrama by 
Boucicault called Th. Po.e of Rome. It was necessary to im- 
press and overwhelm audiences, and evidently The Pope of Rqq e 
was succeeding. Remarks the Bulletin of February 13, 185$: 

"This is a fine spectacle piece ^^^i?^ was well 
received. There are some incongruities in the 
action; but the imposing black ^^^e^ ,°^^^f 
priest; and nuns, gilded crosses, "^^n-at-arms, 
dirge-like music, end all that style of thing, 
madf the spectators and^hearers quite heedless 
of any artistic defects. 

The audiences were certainly getting their money's 
worth. And yet in comparison with some of the latter achieve- 
ments of the Bakers at the American, these dramas seem like 

quiet domestic idyls. 

AT THE AMERICAN 
The Bakers opened the American season on September 
12, 1859 with a new melodrama, one of the most spectacular 
produced thus far in San Francisco, The Sea of Ice , mth 
Sophie Edwin, Mrs. Judah, J. B. Booth and George Ryer. Very 
little is known of this play, but the title itself sounds om- 
inous. The Bulletin critic was delighted with this new trend 
in the drama. In the issue of September 20, 1859 he says: 

"The arand style in which this piece has been 
set of ?he sLge excites the highest expecta- 
tions of the future liberal course of the man- 
agement « " 



60 



He was not disappointed by the presentation the fol- 
lowing week, of the comedy, Extremes * This was a most "lib- 
eral" production, including not only "a quadrille called 
La Pyrenne, . .danced in the course of the play by sixteen 
ladles and gentlemen" which alone was worth the price of ad- 
mission -- but also says The Bulletin of September 27,1859: 

"...a satire upon men and things of the present 
day, which strikes, right and left, against the 
reigning follies. Politics, ladles' dresses, 
matrimony, model philanthropy, and kindred topics 
are all touched upon. " 

This was also a period of mixed bills, of opera 
performed in conjunction with the regular dramatic program. 
In September the Italian Opera Troupe was playing at the i^mer- 
ican; this company was followed in October by the New Orleans 
Opera Troupe and a French Opera Troupe, On October 6 drama 
seems to have been completely submerged under a downpour of 
French music. On that day, according to the Bulletin, the 
performance at the American consisted of La Pauvre Jacques by 
the Baker troupe; Paer's comic opera of Le Maitre Chapelle 
by the French troupe of Mme. Jeanne Feret and Mile. Eliza 
Petron; the popular chorus of Les Enfant s de Paris , and the 
Barcarole and Prayer from Meyerbeer's L'Eto i ie du Nord . 

Ho?.?ever, there v/ero Intervals of dramatic lucidity 
that were also successful. The drama, David Copporfield with 
Mrs. Baker as David, Mrs.^ Judah as Aunt Betsey, and Mr. Baker 
as Micawber v/as a very popular piece; another was All that 
Glitters is not Gold, with its amusing reference to the local 



61 



scene. 

Under Baker's capable and energetic management the 
American, for the first time in many months, was assuming 
a prosperous air. Lewis Baker had a remarkable ability for 
recognizing public trends and acting on them; he could also 
secure the best acting talent in San Francisco to cooperate 
with him; he knew how to deal with temperamental actors; he 
was an excellent diplomat; he knew how to adjust his dramatic 
programs to satisfy the fickle tastes of the public; he gave 
the public what it wanted and at the same time he did not 
cheapen his theatre. 

BAKER HUMORS A FICKLE PUBLIC 

The taste for a time was for "novelties," for "spe- 
cial attractions" -- for "stunts." Stars like Ada Menken were 
calling attention to their peculiar talents by performing 
spectacular tours de force. This was the age of Mazeppa. A 
common stunt was for an actress to play a man's part in a 
play, or to assume several roles in one play. Mrs. Baker's 
talents were generally of a quieter nature, but she had to ad- 
just heraelf to the trend. 

On October 8 the famous sensation-piece, Dumas' The 
Corsican Brothers , was given with Mrs. Baker playing the prin- 
cipal roles, those of the brothers Franchi. Her acting in 
this play Impressed the critics. Mrs. Baker's roles hereto- 
fore had been of the sweet, charming, gracefully feminine type; 



62 



she had been successful as the tender Juliet in Romeo and 
Juliet , the graceful Julia in The Hunchback , disarming as the 
Miss liardcastle of She Stoops to Conquer, coquettish as the 
Constance Fondlove in The Love Chase . She had heretofore giv- 
en no indication that she could also convincingly become a very 
masculine and very passionate Corsican youth; and not only 
one Corsican, but twol That she could do so is a tribute to 
an unexpected and astonishing versatility. 

Spectacle followed spectacle; the theatre was striv- 
ing for effect, and t he public was becoming more and more 
responsive. They were being lured out of the variety halls 
in greater numbers back into the legitimate theatres. And 
Lewis Baker was contributing his share tov/ards this recru- 
descence of the legitimate drama in San Francisco. He was 
having a great siiccess at the American, almost as great as he 
had had six years before at the Adelphl and at the first 
American, and he was having success because he was reversing 
his original course. 

In 1852 he had opened the Adelphl and had steered 
the drama away from preoccupation with the grandiose and the 
spectacular to an interest in humbler themes; in so doing he 
had brought the public back to the theatre. Now in 1859 he 
was doing the reverse: he was emphasizing spectacle; he was 
giving the public glamor and excitement, and again they were 
coming back. But Lewis Baker was an astute student of public 
taste; he knew that this current tendency toward the spec- 
tacular vi/as only an expedient, a means of reawaking public 



63 



interest in the legitimate theatre. Once they had reacquired 
the hahit of theatre-goins, then more subdued, more signifi- 
cant plays could he interspersed with the heavily romantic 

melodramas. 

In the meantime he was successfully producing "sen- 
sation dramas" and historical spectacles, in variety and quan- 
tity. The Poet's Wife , first presented on October 14, 1859 
was followed by a pretentiously magnificent piece called The 
w... .r .T».oleon the Great, in which the role of Napoleon was 
taken by George Ryer. This was followed by another romantic 
adventure drama, an.. Three Guarqsmen an adaptation of Dumas' 
Three Musketeers , in which Junius Booth played D'Artagnan. 

On November 17 the American tried to stir up inter- 
est in the drama in another way. It produced for the first 
time a new local drama called Gold, dealing with scenes and 
situations very familiar to the audience. However, this play 
did not have much success on successive repetitions; its chief 
defect, according to the Herald, (November 18, 1859) was that 
it was not very flattering to California miners. 

Soon after. Baker returned to his spectacles: The 
.n. of the Night , The Mormons , The Invincibles, TheJ[eteran. 
The spectacles were becoming daily more spectacular, involving 
all the members of his company - Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Judah, 
Sophie Edwin, the Mandevilles, George Ryer, D.C. Anderson, 
William Barry, J. B. Booth and others - dozens of supernu- 
meraries, elaborate and magnificent settings. But Lewis 



64 



Ba'«r.s inspirations had not yet dried .p. m Dooem.er 
Victoria and Albert joined the Balder troupe to play an en- 
Sagemant In a new and widely advertised spectacle, Th^.Ele^ 
„.„.t of Slam. rne critics found the acting of Victoria and 
Alhert to be very convlnclns; the fact that Victoria and 
Albert were two elephants helped the realism. Victoria and 
Albert were very educated, but not too intellectual, and they 

made a hit. 

Victoria and Albert «re followed by Mr. and Mrs. 
Forbes, who had played in the East and In London. For a time 
at the American the audiences had a rest from spectacle as 
they watched the Forbes perform skillfully in such standard 
classics as The Hunchback , r,ucrezia Borgia, and Macbeth. In 
the latter play, given on December 17, was a very impressive 
supporting cast, consisting of Booth, Ryer, Baker, Anderson, 
Barry, Thoman and Frank Mayo. 

Soon, however. Baker was back to spectacle. Th£ 
Veteran and the ror.1 can Brothers were repeated. Hev. pieces 
were Introduced, some of which were obviously intended for 
children, like the "romantic and magnificent" Ivanh- P-°4-=^^ 
for Ryer's benefit on December 25. Shortly after Christmas 
there appeared at the American a "magnificent holiday piece" 
T.. Kin, of the Alps . a popular play based on a German legend, 
and involving the whole Baker company. The management had 
advertised it long previously as excelling "in the Interest 
of its Plot, the vigor of the action, and the gorgeous splen- 
dor of its appointments anything that has ever been introduced 



rgp ftrf.-t bffr 
■ Lle:!tttl 00.1 

^t- .;__ . •^iseioi; 



65 



In this city... a holiday treat to be looked forward to, for 
the young folks," (Bulletin, December 19, 1859) 

Fortunately, however, the year did not end for the 
Bakers with any more juvenile pyrotechnics. On December 28 
the Pennsylvania Engine Company, No. 12, the same brave fire- 
boys who had so gallantly rendered tribute to Mrs. Baker on 
her first appearance at the Opera House, received a benefit 
at the American, and on that occasion was presented, not a 
roaring spectacle, but a light and charming drawing-room com- 
edy. Old Heads and Yoimg Hearts . On the 31st Junius Brutus 
Booth had his benefit. This was the first time in two years 
this quiet and dependable actor was given the opporttmity to 
receive due recognition; he selected for his benefit the role 
created by Chanfrau, "Mose" in the melodrama, A Glance at New 
York ; but in addition he chose to play the crooked-back ty- 
rant of Shakespeare's Richard III . And thus the decade came 
to an end. 

The Baker company continued to play for the next tWD 
?;eeks at the American, Richard III had established another 
temporary precedent and upon the engagement of Hackett as 
star they performed in other Shakespearean pieces: Henry IV, 
The Merry Wives of Windsor . On January 14, 1860 the season 
ended v/ith The Three Guardsmen . 

The American engagement had been a very successful 
one for the Bakers and their capable troupe. They were con- 
tinuing the tradition of legitimate drama in San Francisco 



--:'■; "''" ^ ,'-H \Ynficrrrr' ••!. 

->i e*x/rlii;t beiebr.c 
•jei ^QKUch. fiidqO Bdi - -,.... 
^ isaertq eaw noleaooo d^BiW no bcm ^n&olneoA .. ._ 

-i-'oo rr.coT: -gnl waifi gniimflrio bni? cfrisil a *xM «eIOfi:toeq8 s^-t^^^o"^ 

■ :-" — t fil eral;^ ^crrl^ -^ -< --• • ■' ■'-.rot. ... ...J xl-tooH 



1 3xrmiboIeri ©ri.-^ 



-- - •-:-,---- -~- ---- rrtA .III JbiiBrfolH 






XJ_ 



D<3rl III biarioiH tOB'j 
-}a9 ecii cioqis fir. 



JB 



: ' ; r: e; ^ 



:ro'xJ &IJiSq<iO 



66 



when all about them variety was thriving. At the beginning 
of 1860 Maguire's Opera House, where the Bakers had made their 
reappearance in San Francisco, had fallen victim to the trend: 
it had abandoned the legitimate drama and was housing only 
variety and dramatic "novelties." The American under the 
Bakers was the only citadel of legitimate drama to resist the 
siege of variety; they were of course forced to compromise, 
but the point is this -- the Bakers for the second time had 
come to the rescue of drajna in San Francisco: first, when 
inefficient management was bringing about its suicide; the 
second time, when it was being throttled to death by an ag- 
gressive variety. Each time the Bakers had nursed the drama 
back to health. There vi;as nothing spectacular about their 
life or their methods. The Bakers lived and v/orked quietly. 
In contrast to many of their contemporaries they demonstrated 
that one can produce significant work without the accompani- 
ment of clamorous shouting. 

In January, after the close of the American season, 
the Bakers took their docile troop to Sacramento, They -vjeve 
back in two v^/eeks to play an engagement at the Lyceum, with 
Baker still stage manager and with Hackett playing opposite 
Mrs. Baker in such diversified roles as "Falstaff" in The 
Merry Wives of Windsor , "Nimrod Wildfire" in the comedy of The 
Kentuckian and "O' Callahan" in the farce of His Lost Legs . 

This was an age of hyperbole and therefore Baker 
announced his next star, H. A. Perry, as "the greatest and best 



67 



living actor"; but Mr. Perry evidently did not live up to his 

reputation. He played the lead in Much Ado about Nothing , 

Othello , Don Cesar de Bazan , W ild Oats , and the Merchant of 

Venice ; he also v/as "Gossamer, the Laiighing Philosopher" in 

the farce L o ugh ^j""!!'^ n You ^ an ; "Wacoxista" in the melodrama, 

Wacousta or The Curse; "the ultimate Pollywog"in the burlesque 

of M et amor a, o r The L ast of the Follywogs ; and "Edward 

Middleton" in The Drunkard. But the Bul letin which had been 

getting rather critical lately of Baker's offerings at the 

Lyceum was not friendly to Mr. Perrv; for it said, on February 

14, 1860: 

"...if ranting and mouthing a commonplace con- 
ception of character be marks of a great trage- 
dian, then is Mr. Perry one. There is little 
that is graceful or noble in his bearing on the 
stage." 

After this journalistic rebuff Baker v/ent to the 
other extreme: he set about securing the services of the 
world's worst actors. There were many of them in San Fran- 
cisco: pitiful young men who haunted the offices of theatre 
managers, suffering from the sad and bizarre obsession that 
they v/ere great actors. Sometimes it v/as considered a good 
joke to humor one of these lunatics, to publicize him extrav- 
agantly as a star in a widely advertised production. It was 
an imm.ense practical joke and nev/spapers and audiences co- 
operated with glee. 

A PATHETIC BURLESQUE 

Early in October 1859 a certain Mr. Defrles 



68 



approached Baker and insisted that as an actor he was far su- 
perior to any one else in the country, and that he should be 
engaged Immediately to play Hamlet » 

"Have you ever been In a play before?" asked Baker. 

"Well, not exactly," hesitated Mr. Defries, "but I 
can give recitations." And he promptly went into Hamlet's 
Soliloquy, complete with gestures. 

Baker listened to Mr. Defries with mixed feelings. 
One was a desire to chase Mr. Defries out of his office, or 
run very far av/ay himself. Another was to explode with 
laughter. Then an idea occurred to him: why not engage Mr. 
Defries to play Hamlet, take the newspapers and audiences in- 
to his confidence, treat Mr. Defries as if he indeed were the 
world's greatest actor? It would be a marvelous practical 
joke, a super-sensation, a variation from the other "specta- 
cles" of the month. 

Mr. Defries was accordingly engaged to play Hamlet 
and San Francisco ijvas duly Informed. The nev/spapers an- 
nounced him as "the world's greatest actor," a crowded and 
enthusiastic house greeted his debut. He had been carefully 
rehearsed by the hysterical Baker troupe, was presented with 
a startling costume; and Mr. Defries in turn had added a fev>r 
more gestures to his repertoire. 

All week Mr. Defries atrociously mutilated Shake- 
speare and the audiences applauded him furiously on his en- 
trance, after each speech, at the end of each scene, made him 



69 



take Innumerable curtain calls. 

As another Baker "spectacle" Mr. Defries was thriv- 
ing famously. Then came the climax: on October 21, Mr. 
Defries took his benefit. The Bulletin announced: 

"Mr. Defries, who will have it that he is a 
sreat actor, will take a benefit this evenxng 
Sn\e fin' appear as 'Hamlet.' He has been ^ 
this character; but he is determined to push 
through or die (and 'be d— d') in the attempt. 

Again Mr. Defries was welcomed effusively by the 
audience; he strutted around in his gorgeous costume 
flinging his speeches and gestures about, captivating the au- 
dience. Then it began; but it was all started by Mr.Defries. 
"To be or not to be — " began Mr. Defries. 
Somebody threw an orange. Mr. Defries' next gestore 
was a disarming one: he caught the orange and without inter- 
rupting his impassioned soliloquy calmly proceeded to peel and 
eat it. This only stopped the audience a moment; in the next 
moment the air was full of assorted fruit, vegetables and 
weird cries. Mr. Defries' voice grew louder and his gestures 
raore pronounced; he bravely struggled through the storm; then 
he saw the entire audience rise from its seats and make for 
him. With a series of bounds Mr. Defries was off the stage, 
out of the theatre, and galloping down the street, the entire 
audience of the American Theatre in frenzied pursuit. 

Mr. Defries was never heard of again. But the 
sadistic audience had a fine time and Baker was always eager 
to present it with similar treats. On February 24 a poor 



70 



harmless maniac named C. H, De Wolf was cajoled Into another 
Shakespearean role; De Wolf delighted the audience of the 
Lyceum as Shylock. 

But after a while even such treats began to pall on 
the public; Baker began hunting for new diversions. San Fran- 
cisco has always been loyal to its own artists and writ- 
ers, and the Baker troupe produced a series of dramas written 
by local writers. One of these was an irrelevant historical 
drama, The Last Days of Robespierre written by "a lady of this 
city," Yet even chivalry could not prevent the critics from 
being less than enthusiastic for this drama. 

Having tried almost every kind of feast to tickle 
the jaded public and critics without much success. Baker was 
obliged to return to the old familiar classics. During the 
early part of March the Baker stock company, composed nowr of 
Mr. and Mrs. Baker, Sophie Edwin, Booth and Ryer produced The 
Lady of Lyons , Damon and Pythias , Richelieu , Wild Oats , and 
The Love Chase . The season at the Lyceum, however, ended on 
April 3 with two melodramas carrying the suggestive titles of 
The Hidden Hand and Six Degrees of Crime . 

BAICER SUCCUMBS TO POPULAR TASTE 
On April 12, 1850 the Bakers began the last phase 
of their San Francisco career. On that date they helped to 
reopen the American Theatre; Baker was this time again stage 
manager. Booth and Ryer acting as general managers and heads 
of a company vrtiich featured the Bakers, Mrs. Woodward, Sophie 



■■■ni'c n-Ji.r 



71 



Edwm, Jenny MandevUle and ThoMan. The lesltl^ate dna^a 
te.po.aniIy revived .y t.e astute .anage^ent of Lewis Ba.er 
„3 now again .ucc^Mng to the onslaughts of variety; it was 
resisting desperately. One of the principal changes noted hy 

„v thP American reopening was that prices had 
the newspapers at the Americin i=^^f 

teen reduced one-half -- to 50 and 25 cents. 

But even low prices were not enough; the management 
was determined to attract the audiences away from the variety 
houses at whatever cost to the cause of true legitimate dra»a. 
They decided that since the various local dramas, noveltxes, 
spectacles, f arces.stunts they had presented to San Francisco 
had each had a success, a comhination of all these elements 
Plus additional elements from the rival source of variety and 
minstrelsy would produce a super-success. Accordingly they 
selected the opening of the American for the first presenta- 
tion of their grandiose Idea. This was a local drama with a 
local theme. ^^ ---" ^"^t Men of SanJIrancisco. a spectacle 
play, featuring the Californian dehut of the YanKee comedian, 
W. W. Allen; a company of female minstrels; and Mrs. Baker 
playing in seven characters and Jenny Mandeville in seveni 
Though everybody tried very hard the result was not entirely 
successful as far as the critics were concerned. Said the 

Bulletin on April 13, 1060s 

^■p rpv,P Three Fast M en of San 
"The local <lrsraa of ^^^^^^^^-^^^^-^^^^ 

F rancisco (so called prooaoj.^ nrcasionally 



72 



visit a gaming house a thieves-den, ^ f-t™e- 
teller parlor, a masked Jj"; ?'°:,„n b? a 
feature In the farce is the ^-"^^ation, by^ 
numher of females, of ^^^ "^If^ni Alabam' 
Ethiopian ookes stale oonnndrums a ^^^^^^_ 

dancing of Billy 5^=^? „J"° ._,„ animal life ex- 
^^r?ei' ' Ihrflstf fre°°f?eely used, and hats 

indulge in nirth at such absurdities... 

Havins considered the matter thoroughly the Bulletin 
a week later returned with a general denunciation of the man- 

n- -o. Tt found in their cowardly surrender 
agement's new policies. It louna 

r.f ^myiptY a treacherous betrayal to 
to the coarse Influences of variety a 

^r. x.y,p "ipsitimate drama. Says 
their public and to the cause of the legirim 

the Bulletin of April 19, I860; 

"We have been P-^icularly requested by those 

interested to pitch into ^^e farce o 

Thr^^e Fast Yo^mp- Men of S a n Fr^^p£2^_^ J^ 

■^^^^rr^^f^^ ^''^l ?f:T!Vl?eto^ persuade 
indecent a play it is will °^^^;^ . 'the la- 
a San ^—isco audience particularly the^^^^^ 

dies, to ^^^"^^^J^^^^I^kerlBooth company have 
that the present ^y^^'^^i^^^^g" finest dramas in 
produced of late some of ^^^^/^^^^ ^ ed only 
the English language, but ^^^^7^^^^^. , binding 
to a 'beggarly account ^^ /^Pg^^f J^d intel- 
San Francisco weary of ^he relinea ent 

'^^'raid'ft on:rrro:S d ?Sf house nigh?ly and 

?ir \:S^y^in°?-i? P-f • ,, -:r^a^nd -f^^I's 
the rush has commenced to slacken, ana ± 
thought that a Sood sharp census of the^piece 

will bury it hard. Well, ^®°^''°^^;, that the 
that the piece is worthless ^J \^f ^^^^^s and 

-|?:S *Se7ctre s ;3 erform^ln^it, 
fngfthS |eT- o - ™™en - see^^lt 

cannot be their well-wishers, ana 
sees it, voluntarily a second time, or 



f^h Ti: 



73 

it out a first time unless under duress has a 
taste for very low pleasures. "vi/e cannot be- 
lieve that either ladies or gentlemen will pa- 
tronize the American Theatre, as long as the 
present management conduct their business on 
the principles so dishonorable to San Francisco, 
which we have been lead to believe they enter- 
tain, " 

This was an age when prize fighters and critics did 
not wear gloves; and they struck hard. This was not an age 
of compromise; either the critics exalted plays and actors to 
the skies or else kicked them around in the dust. Baker who 
had so long enjoyed the favor of the critics had acquired no 
skill at parrying these sudden blows. But he, unlike most 
of his contemporaries, had a talent for diplomacy, a gift for 
compromise. That was v;hy his success as a manager was so 
great. He was able to convince Booth and Ryer that they had 
made a mistake and that they could start off on the right 
track again by admitting their mistake. 

On May 2 the Bulletin announced that the Booth- 
Baker-Ryer company was beginning a new series of dramatic en- 
tertainments. He was pleased to remark that The Three Fast 
Men of San Francis co would be "pruned of its old vulgarities 
and indecencies," On May 7 they went back to the successful 
genre of the "sensation play," producing a new drama by the 
prolific Dion Bouclcault, The Romance of a Poor Young Woman . 
The wrath of the critics had by now thoroughly cooled down; 
they found the Bouclcault drama to be "full of striking 
'lights p.n'-X shades' and. . c effective on the stage," (Bulletin, 
May 8, 1860) . 



74 



FAREWELL TO SAN FRANCISCO I 

The Bakers had now only one more week on the San 
Francisco stage and. in their parting gesture turned back time, 
returning to their first Adelphi season of 1852 — they gave 
San Francisco Dickens once more. On May 14 and May 16 they 
appeared in Oliver Tvjjst and Nicholas Nickleby . On the last 
date they received their complimentary benefit tendered by 
the entire theatrical profession and in a week were gone from 
San Francisco. They left a gap in the San Francisco legiti- 
mate drama that could never quite be filled; without Mrs. 
Baker's tender ministrations, v/ithout Baker's capable direc- 
tion, the legitimate drama v/as to slump and for a time sink 
into oblivion. 

For many years afterward the Bakers played in the 
principal theatres of the East, v^inning acclaim wherever they 
appeared. Finally they retired to Philadelphia, the city of 
their first love, and it was here they died — Baker in 1873 
and Mrs. Baker in 1887. They bequeathed to the stage a 
daughter, Josephine Baker, who later married John Drew of the 
Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia and became aunt of the 
Barrymore family. 

In the whole picture of the American theatre the 
Bakers are lost but in the pattern of the San Francisco stage 
their figures stand out very prominently. Twice the Bakers 
rescued the legitimate theatre of San Franciscoi their strong 
hands supported the tottering structure of San Francisco 



O iiO&uOi 



75 



They created a tlie- 



in the time of its greatest need. 

at ions of actors and raanagers 

aF.ers of 



draiiia 

atre into which successive g^ner 

could find a place. They were the pioneer actor-manag 

San Francisco, 



^^p-o^c:vi.^ATTVT.: PARTS TAIIEM 3Y THS_.BAORS 



Date 



Play 



Role 
Alexina Fisher Baker 



1852 The Hunchback Julia 
Romeo and Juliet Juliet 
Fazio Bianca 

David Copperfield David 
The School for 

Scandal 
She Stoops to 

Conquer 



1853 Wild Oats 
The Critic 
Douglas 
The Bride of 
Lammermoor 
Evadne 
The Wife 

The Lady of Lyons 
Love's Sacrifice 
London Assurance 

The Love Chase 



Lady Teazle 
Miss Hardcastle 
Lady Amarantli 
Young Llorval 



Lewis Baker 

Master Walter 
Her cut io 
Fazio 
Micawber 

Sir Peter Teazle 



liover 
iir. Puff 



Ravenswood 
Claude Ivielnotto 



Lucy Aston 
Evadne 
Mariano 
Pauline 
Margaret Elvaoro 

Lady Gay Spanker Sir Hare our t 

Courtley 

Constance Fondlov:- 



75a 



Representative Parts Ta]:on by The Bolters, cent. 



Date 



Play 



1858 Pauvrotte 

Exploits of 
i~iloheliou 



Role 



Alexlna Fislior 3aker 



Pauvrotte 



1859 The Games tor 
Othello 
Armand (or The Peer 

and the Peasant) 
Sybil 
The Merchant of 

Vcnlco 
Medea 

1859 The Sea of Ice 



Mrs. Beverly 
De sdemona 



iCustico Clifdon 
Portia 

Or.arita 



Ext r erne s ]!i' s , C r o s by 

Marble Heart Mile, Mr.rco 

Throe Guardsmen 

Tho Elephant of Slain 

Our .American Cousin Florence 

Tronchard 
Henry IV 
Merry V/ivos of 

V'/indsor Mrs. Ford 

1860 Taming of the Shrew Kathorlnc 
Old lieads and Young Lady Alice 

Hearts Hawthorne 

The Belle's 

Stratagem Letitia Hardy 
Tho Romance of a 

Poor Young Woman Jane Pride 
The surgeon of 

Paris Rosslgnol 

Oliver Tv/ist Nancy Sykes 
Nicholas Nickleby S.-ilce 



Lewis Baker 

Bernard 
Chevalier de 
Matignon 

Lowson 
Casslo 

Armand 



oassanio 

Cai^tain do 
Lc scours 
Smiley 

Ferdinand Volagc 
Buckingham 

Lord Dundreary 

Hotspur 

Dr. Caius 

Petruchio 

Jesse Rural 

Flutter 

Richard Pride 

Choj^les IX 
Fagin 

Wev/man Hogg 



75b 



THE BAKERS 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



Coad, Oral S\ainner Mims, Edwin, Jr., The A -n erican Stage 
Pagear ir. of America (New Haven, Yale Univei'.sxiy Press, 1929) 

Leman, felter M. Mem ories of an Old Actor (San Francisco, 
A, Roman & Company, 1886) . 

Lloyd, Benjamin Estelle Lights and Shades of San Francisco 
(San Francisco, A, L. Bancroft and Company, 1876) . 

McCabe, John H. McCab e ' s Journals (unpublished Mss. Bound 
Sutro Library, San Francisco) . 

Phillips, Catherine Coffin, Portsmouth Plaza (San Francisco, 
John Henry Nash, 1932). 

Rourke, Constance. Troupers of the Gold Coast or The Rise 
of Lotta Crabtree . (New York, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 
1928) . 

Soule, F., Gihon, J. H. , M.D., and Nesbit, James, Annals of 
San Francisco (New York, D. Appleton and Company, 1918) . 

Young, John P. History of San Francisco (San Francisco, 
Chicago, S. J, Clark Publishing Company, 1912) . 



NEWSPAPERS AND PERIODICALS 

The Daily Evening Bulletin (San Francisco) Nov. -Dec .1858 -- 
Public Library, Newspaper Room. 

The Golden Era (San Francisco) Dec. 1852; Jan,, March, May, 
Nov. 1853; Jan. 1854; May, 1880, Public Library -- Sutro, 

The San Francisco Herald Nov. 1859. 



tfi :b 1 on/: ti . 



ot>«I{ ,>{'ioy W3M3 ~ 



, 






0^1 fcXaieH or 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

THE CHAPMANS 

(For dates, see Family Tree on Chapmans) 

PAGES 

Strolling Players On The San Francisco Stage .... ...o. . 76-131 

The Clan. .... = ........,.,. .......................... . 77 

Eastern Debuts ...... ............... o ................. . 78 

The Mississippi Showboat. 79 

River Lif e . , - ■ . . ..................................... 80 

The Tribe Increases . .................................. 83 

Caroline at Burton' s ................................. . 83 

Barnum Engagement ................................ ... . 85 

The George Chapman Family. ... ... . . .............. 86 

Call of the Nomadic Life ...:...............,.......... 87 

Mrs . Chapman ' s Popularity ..... ...... o ............... , 89 

Uncle Billy Chapman 93 

Advent of Caroline and Wm. B. Chapman. ..... ...... c .. , 94 

Bill and Caroline at The Jenny Lind. ................. 95 

Caroline, the Versatile. ..................... ....... 96 

The Chapmans with The Booths 97 

Caroline and Billy in The Mines. ...................... 99 

Favorites of the Mining Camps. ......... -,.....=..... 100 

"Our Caroline" at The San Francisco Theatre........... 101 

In Shakespearean Roles. ............... ............... 101 

Caroline and Lola Montez .... ................ ........ 104 

The Chapman - Montez Feud. ............................ 105 

Lola Heaps Coals of Fire .............................. 108 

The Hamiltons ......................................... 109 

Caroline at The American. Ill 

With Laura Keene and Catherine Sinclair. .............. 113 

Caroline as Burlesque Queen. ......................... 115 

Caroline as Topsy. .................................... 116 

Back to the Mines ..................................... 117 

Renewal of the Feud with Lola Montez. 118 

The Critics' Rebuke. 119 

Waning Popularity. . . . .............. .......... .... 121 

The End of Uncle Billy. ...................... ....... 121 

The End of Caroline ................. ................. 125 

i^dversity For Caroline ................................ 126 

"The Caroline Chapman" ............................. . . 128 

The Chapman Sisters .............. .................... 128 

Representative Parts taken by Chapmans. .............. 132 

Bibliography .......................................... 135 






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CAROLINE ("OUR CAROLINE") CHAPMAN 
(1818 - 1876) 




PHOTO COURTESY CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY ,_ 



WILLIAM B. ("UNCLE BILLY") CHAPMN 
(1802? - 1857) 




PHOTO OOTIRTESY CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



76 



THE CHAPMANS 
Strolling Players on the San Francisco Stage 

During the fifties it was difficult to throw a stone 
at a San Francisco stage without hitting one or two Chapmans. 
Chapmans were everywhere. They swarmed all over, singing, 
dancing, playing in comedy, melodrama, farce, burlesque, 
Shakespeare. If by some miracle all the other actors had 
suddenly vanished from San Francisco the Chapman clan would 
no doubt have been able to take over the entire theatre them- 
selves. 

The Chapmans were a unique phenomenon in the Amer- 
ican theatre. An unusually prolific family they represented 
the tradition of the acting family, the tradition of the 
strolling players. Chapmans were born on the stage and died 
on the stage. There had been a Chapman who was a member of 
Shakespeare's company; there had been a Chapman who was the 
original Beggar in The Beggar's Opera . The ancient tradition 
of the Chapman clan isolated them from others; like gypsies 
they were close and secretive, with a habit of finger commun- 
ication, with a private language of their own. They were 



3:(ll;a 



. « olefin eri^ '^I'UfQ 



■r z^-^^ 



77 



vagabond actors; it was inevitable that in 1851 and 1852 they 
should come to the mecca of American actors — California. 

THE CLAN 

The Chapmans had not been American actors for a 
very long time; theirs was a European tradition. The idea of 
America first possessed the patriarch, William Chapman, in 
the late 1820' s. For thirty years he had been manager of the 
ancient Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, in London; he had acted 
there, together with members of his large family, during the 
theatrical reign of Mrs. Siddons. About 1827 he transported 
his brood to America. These were his sons and daughters: 
Samuel, William B, , George, Sarah, and Caroline; tv^fo others, 
Bernard and Elizabeth, remained in England. 

With the facility and versatility of those born to 
the theatre the Chapmans could play anything; they acted in 
tragedies, comedies, farces, interspersing a song and dance 
between the acts. They were at home in every genre of the 
theatre, from the highest to the lowest. The theatre was 
their home. 

In the Eastern cities and towns the Chapmans had 
been successful, but it was in the East that the Chapman fam- 
ily was beginning to disintegrate; it was difficult to find 
engagements which could include the whole family. William 
Chapman, whose heart was filled with an inexahustible love 
for his children, was determined to keep them together. 



^n 'irr, oi ©moo 






nXii 5 1- 



anew ^sriT 



iadi Iter 



t»OXT 



EASTERN DEBUTS 
In 1828 Willl8.m Chapman pere made his American 
debut at the Bowery Theatre in New York, in Othello. Soon 
afterwards, his two eldest sons made their dehut at the same 
theatre; two years later Samuel and William B. Chapman went 
to Philadelphia to become the first managers of the Walnut 
Street Theatre. They also continued as actors. On October 
3, 1829 Williara B. played Rip Van Winkle - the third to play 
this famous role. The Chapmans were tightening their bonds 
with the i^^erican theatre; Samuel a short time later married 
Elizabeth Jefferson, the sister of Joseph Jefferson, the ac- 
tor who was later to become famous as Rip Van Winkle. In 
later years Frank M. Chapman, the son of William B. Chapman, 

^p T^o^-nh Tpfferson -- the ties of Jefferson 
became manager of Joseph jeiieroon 

with the Chapman family were rather complex. 

Then calamity struck the Chapman family. Riding to 
the theatre one day, Samuel fell from his horse and broke his 
leg. The doctor urged immediate amputation. Samuel, who as a 
child had played Prince Arthur in King John with Mrs. Siddons 
at Covent Garden and could look forward to no other life but 
that of the theatre, exclaimed: "Cut my leg off^ Never! Rath- 
er would I die first I" And he died. The good citizens of 
Philadelphia who had loved him put up a monument to his mem- 
ory. 

It was probably this disaster which determined Papa 

Chapman's next step. He had to do something to keep the fam- 
ily together, to keep them constantly under the protective 
patriarchial wing. Necessity produced the first showboat. 



79 



THE MI SSIS SIPPI SHOWBOAT 

In 1830 wanderlust had driven the Chapmans irora the 
eastern cities to the small towns of the middle west. The 
legendary passion of William Chapman for fishing is, by many 
writers, used to explain the origin of the first shov/boat. A 
more banal explanation is the increasing size and unwieldi- 
ness of the Chapman family. It v/as very difficult to find 
halls v/here they could perform: it was difficult to find 
hotels where they could sleep. Troupers v/ere often stranded 
in the little towns and it was difficult for them to find 
transportation. 

One afternoon (so the story goes) while Chapman 
pere was sitting on the banlc of the Mississippi v;ith a fish- 
ing pole in his hand, he saw a flatboat floating downstream 
and that gave him the idea -- Floating Theatre! 

And so the showboat, with its flag projecting above 
a side roof bearing the single word "Theatre," with its com- 
fortable little house forward, its little hall with virooden 
benches and tiny stage v/ith muslin curtains and tallow can- 
dles for footlights, floated with the current, from tov/n to 
tovm, up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Here the 
Chapraans lived and here they played. 

It was a kind of idyllic existence where they put 
on plays for their ovm amusement, worked at a large reper- 
toire, played in classic tragedy, danced, sang, acted in 
blackface. But mostly they fished. Acting and fishing 



80 



were the great interests of their lives, and there was much 
overlapioing. They learned their parts with a book in one 
hand and a pole in t?ie other, and often during intermissions 
and while offstage they would run out, throw over a line, 
and see how the fish v/ere biting. 

RIVER LIFE 

Dozens of ?muslng anecdotes are told about the 

Chapman craze for fishing and how this sometimes interf erred 

with the coherence of their dramas. Once while performing 

in The Stranger , one of the favorite dramas of the period, 

this revision of the usual scene (Scene 1, Act IV) occurred: 

"The Stranger: (calling his servant) Frances! 
Frances! (No reply) 
Frances! Frances! (Pause) 
(angrily) Frances! 

Distant Voice: Coming, sir! (Considerable 

pause. The Stranger walks up 
and down in a towering rage.) 

The Stranger: Frances! (Enter Frances) 

Prances: Here I am, sir. 

The Stranger: Where the d — ? V/hy did you not 
come when I called? 

Frances: Why, sir, I was just hauling in a nine 
pound catfish. . .But you should have 
seen the one that got away.-"- 

It was said that even after leaving the showboat, 

the Chapmans smelled almost constantly of fish. Usually the 

fish bit quite freely, but sometimes, for the struggling 



•::-Theatrical Managem.ent in the West and South, Sol.F, Smith, 



81 



Chapmans there was not even fish to eat. In lieu of money for 
tickets they were often glad to accept vegetables, eggs, and 
poultry. The audiences were sometimes very poor, if not crit- 
ical, and the Chapmans had to be content with what they got. 

They stopped at every town or village on the banks 
of the river, throwing out a gangplank wherever there was the 
possibility of an audience. They did their own billing, 
tacking the programs to neighborhood trees. They v/ere also 
their own musicians. These were the days when music v/as a 
necessary prop for melodrama; it was used to produce all kinds 
of emotional effects. The Chapmans had no real orchestra, 
but they themselves played all the necessary music behind the 
scenes. Whenever an actor or actress came on there was al- 
ways the proper chord. The "frontwood robber," dressed in 
topboots, face buried in inky whiskers and v^rig, would deliver 
himself of his villainous schemes confidentially to the audi- 
ence to accompaniment of violins played pizzicato. Everybody 
died to slow music; sometimes it was very inconveient v/hen 
the actors doubled as the musicians. In one play Harry 
Chapman, who was first violin and vi/as also playing in a stark 
tragedy, received his fatal sword-thrust and proceeded duti- 
fully to expire. He staggered to the wings and fell with his 
head and shoulders off stage, spoke his last speech, and 
played slow music for himself as he died. The Chapmans were 
remarkably ingenious. 

Those early days on the Mississippi were full of 



rj'tgn.T ': voT''/: 



-Hub i: 



82 



delightful incident, reflecting on the growing popularity of 

the showboat. Captain Louis Rosche in "Old Man River"re- 

lates one adventure in his aggressively popular dialect: 

"One time before Chapman had his steam packet, 
he tied up his barge theatre at some little old 
one-horse town where mostly everybody was as 
poor as a church mouse and couldn't raxse the 
price of admission, which was fifty cents. A 
crowd of them wanted to see the show, though, 
and hung- around all afternoon trying to get him 
to give 'em a cut rate. But he wouldn't do it 
and went ahead with a performance for_a handlui 
of people who had enough money to get m. 

"The rest of them hung around on the wharf feel- 
ing like a bunch of children somebody sent to 
bed without any supper, and when they heard the 
folks inside the barge laughing and clapping 
their hands, that was too much for them. bo 
they cut the ropes and gave the boat a shove, 
sending it down the river. Everybody on the 
inside was so busy either acting or watching 
the show, none of 'em had any idea what was 
happening and the boat floated on down the stream 
five or six miles before it fetched up on a 
sand-bar. When the show was over and the au- 
dience found out they had to wade ashore, they 
were hoDping mad, and I reckon Mr. Chapman had 
to do some tall talking before he made 'em see 
it wasn't his fault." (San Francisco Examiner s 
American Weekly , March 20, 1938.) 

In a few years the showboat had become a permanent 
institution on the Mississippi and the Chapmans had accumu- 
lated enough money to buy a small steamboat which they fitted 
up very comfortably as a theatre with a pilot, engineers and 
deck hands. For eleven years, between 1830 and 1840, 

"Chapman's Floating Palace" plied up and down the Mississippi. 

Here they acted, here they lived, loved, were born, married, 

died. Especially born - for the Chapmans had extraordinary 

vitality and fertility. 



83 



THE TRIBE INCREASES 
In March, 1838 Sarah Chapman and William Hamilton, 
an Englishman who had just joined the company, came down the 
gangplank together at Jackson, Mississippi, and returned to 
the showhoat as man and wife. On the Chapman Floating 
Palace a large family was horn. What with the original fam- 
ily, the marriages, the intermarriages, the Chapmans soon had 
enough actors to cast even the fullest of Shakespearean trag- 

edies. 

Also married on the boat was George Chapman; he too 
married a member of the company, a widow called Mary Parks. 
Mrs. George Chapman later gave birth to an interesting family 
of twenty children; she survived all but three of them. 

Williain B., the eldest son of William Chapman, had 
married in England Phoebe Taylor, a musician who later became 
the first organist of St. Mary's Cathedral on California and 
Dupont Streets in San Francisco. They had two sons. 

In 1840 old Mr. Chapman played his last part and 
caught his last fish. With his death the idyllic existence 
of the showboat came to an end. Without the patriarch to 
hold them together the Chapman family quickly scattered. 

P. AROLINE AT BURTON'S 
Caroline, the youngest, never married. In time she 
became known as the most gifted, the most versatile, the most 
popular and famous of the Chapmans. She was only 22 when she 



.RQtbe 



84 



went to New York with her brother William B., but she had 
been brou^^ht up on the showboat, had acquired amazing stage 
resources and an cxoandmg reputation as pn exquisite dancer, 
an enchantinjj; sin,-^;er, an actress equally proficient in trag- 
edy, coiii3dy and biirlesque, Altlioiigh not beaiiti^ful, she had 
an amazing charm and oorsonality, so that later San Francisco 
took her to its heart possessively and called her Our 
Caroline." Says Constance Rourlie in Troupers of the Gold 
Coast ; 

"Not beautiful, m repose she seemed awkward, 
but she had through experience gained a wide 
expressive range. Her plain features took on 
radiance, her darlc eyes flashed, her lank fig- 
ure melted into grace. vVith vivacity she could 
play lovi/ comedy, burlesq.u-;, sing mock Italian 
bravura, i-.,ipersonate Mrr.i. Eracebirdle in The 
Tra^.ody Queen with sovictiung of Covent Garden 
splendor. . . . '* 

At Burton's Theatre m Hew York Caroline became al- 
most instantly famous. In The Annals of the Now York Stage, 
Odcl quotv:.s Ireland, the critic, as calling her "the most 
ivacious soubretto known to our otagc." Ho praise;-, hor 'ver- 
satility, almost unprecedented'' and her work in low comedy 
"not only -.ntircly unsurpassed, m^t nearly unrivalled.'' Her 
style was "perfectly original" a;-i(i her chambermaids and rus- 
tics worv- ''totally fre.; from stage conventionalities." In 
melodrama she "invariably brought dovm the houso in thunds-rs 
of applause." He described hor physical appearance: 

"Though her fuatures werj plain, her large mouth 
was redeemed by the v/hitest of ivory, and her 
lustrous dark eyes cou.ld convey a glance more 



V 



85 



meaning, of either mirth or sadness, than any 
contemporary optics on the Nev/ York stage." 

Critic Ireland, wondered hov/ she could have attained 

such stage ability in the crude theatres of the West, In her 

father's "floating establlsliment on the Ohio and Mississippi 

Rivers," and how she could have remained so long unknown to 

New York. But it was the hard school of the shov/boat that 

gave Caroline the necessary experience, that sharpened her 

talents. At Burton's she was the whole show; she was the 

"Famed Caroline Chapman of Burton's"; she made for the immense 

popularity of the theatre and the wealth of the proprietor. 

After her triumphs at Burton's, Caroline played a season at 

the Olympic, a "branch" establishment. 

BARNUM ENGAGEtffiNT 

Then she joined Barnum — after all, with her amaz- 
ing talents she was something of a freaki However, she was 
not exhibited in a cage, but in Barnum' s Stock Company at the 
American Museum. Caroline played in that perennial American 
classic, The Drunkard . The critics were shocked at what they 
termed this debasement of her talents, at her "spending the 
winter as companion to beasts and birds in the so-called Hap- 
py Family of the Menagerie . "-::- 

Acting with Caroline was her brother, William B., 
known primarily as a low comedian although he too could at a 



-:: -Annals of New York Stage , Vol, VI p. 71 



^r^.^ n 



lo^/'fr)? 



I rv(^^«<f. 



orft 



I." ••• ilr'acfas 



iftri ;tB ,B;tn»XjBct ♦tori 



86 



moment's notice slip into any part which demanded the talents 
of a singer or dancer or tragedian; and her sister Sarah 
Hamilton who, like Caroline, was plain of face but known as a 
fine tragedienne. In 1852 this branch of the Chapman family 
journeyed across the continent to California;but another con- 
tingent of the Chapmans had preceded them by about a year. In 
1850, under the management of Charles R. Thorne, the "George 
Chapman Family" had arrived in California; they were among 
the very first of San Francisco pioneer actors. 

THE GEORGE CHAPMAN FAMILY 

The outstanding member of the George Chapman family 
was unquestionably Mrs. Chapman. In 1850 she gave a perform- 
ance with her husband, her daughters Clara and Josephine, in 
a hall on Washington Street; but since it was difficult to 
get a good company together they soon left for Sacramento. 
Here they opened a theatre. One night during a performance 
word came that a hospital was burning; Chapman led his com- 
pany to the blazing building and they carried the occupants to 
his theatre, Mrs. Chapman wrapped the patients in the silks 
and velvets of her stage wardrobe, went home and wrote an ac- 
count of the fire for the Alta California . She was also a con- 
tributor to the Golden Era . Besides being an actress and writ- 
er she also found time to raise an amazing number of children. 

As the George Chapman family continued to expand, 
the problem of finding a suitable cast no longer occurred. 



87 



Their repertoire was constantly increasing, embracing all the 
current standard dramas and popular comedies, high and low. 
The sole problem vi/as to find theatres for their performances. 
With the prevalence of fires this was a difficult task. 

CALL OF THE NOMADIC LIFE 

The Chapmans hov/ever did not have to remain in 
cities; they were essentially strolling players and were much 
happier when they could lead a nomadic existence. In 1851 
they left Sacramento for a tour of the mining regions. They 
were the first accomplished actors to make the tour. They 
traveled all through California, Washing-on,. and Oregon. The 
life was never too rough for them and they received an en- 
thusiastic v;elcome from the miners. This kind of life ap- 
pealed to them and for many years they continued to travel 
through the mountains, with occasional brief incursions into 
the city. In October 1851 the George Chapman family sud- 
denly popped up in San Francisco. Their previous engagement 
had had its effect and they were cordially v.-elcomed. 

With Junius Booth, Jr., George Chapman opened the 
American Theatre. On October 22 they made their debut in 
the Lady of Lyons . Mrs. Chapman played the role of Pauline, 
apparently a standard choice for debutantes in San Francisco 
-- it had also been the part selected by Mrs. Baker and Mrs. 
Stark for their first appearances. Mrs. Chapman, playing 
opposite James Stark, produced an immediate impression, v/hich 
was augmented by succeeding performances in the following 



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days in the comedies The Honeymoon and The Serious Family. 
The critics remarked on the sprightliness of her acting; com- 
edy was evidently Mrs. Chapman's forte, as it was that of the 
other Chapmans. But like all Chapmans, she was not limited 
to one theatrical genre. During the first week of November 
she played such diversified roles as Calanthe in Damon and 
Pythias , Jack Sheppard in the play hy that name, the title 
role in Therese, Juliet to Stark's Romeo, and Minnie in Some- 

body Else . 

The ostensible head of the George Chapman family 
was completely subordinate to his wife;he had to content him- 
self with the sobriquets "Honest George," or"Good Old George"; 
he was respected by San Francisco as a "good citizen." His 
daughters, Mary and Josephine, and Clara Rivers were more es- 
teemed by theatre-goers; they were charming dancers and 
pleased the audiences with their polkas, hornpipes, and taran- 
tulas. Also rising in popularity was his eldest son, Alonzo, 
showing much promise as an upholder of the Chapman comic tra- 
dition. When he played with his mother and Stark as Peter in 
The Stranger on October 30 the critic of the California Cou- 
rier discovered in him "considerable ability and comic effect." 
On November 16th the Family made their last ap- 
pearance at the American and quickly scuttled off to the 
mines. At the end of January they were back at the American. 
After a month or two, during which time Alonzo had arrived 
at such proficiency that he could be entrusted with a leading 



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otmco tyan . teti 

ebBoi 



89 



role, (in My Neighbor's Wife ) performed for the first time on 
January 29, 1852) they were off again. The wandering troup- 
ers were not again heard of until a year later when, during 
January and February, they played an engagement at the San 
Francisco Hall. This terminated with a magnificent benefit 
for Mrs. Chapman; like almost all t he other actresses of the 
time she was adored by the woman- starved population of San 
Francisco. Reviewing this benefit the Golden Era of February 
13 said: 

MRS. CHAPMAN'S POPULARITY 

"The complimentary benefit given to this lady 
on Thursday evening last, was, without doubt, 
the most brilliant affair yet witnessed in 
California, The demonstration was not gotten 
up for the purpose of ascertaining who would 
pay the highest price for an hour's amusement, 
or to give the votaries of fashion an opportun- 
ity for displaying the beauties of 'codfish 
aristocracy, ' but for the purpose of testifying 
the kindly feelings which are entertained for 
one who has been among us for several years, 
and who, with a large and interesting family, 
intends to settle in one of our own beautiful 
valleys, where the wages of her professional 
labors will be expended for the adornment of 
our young State, to the prosperity of which she 
has so long been identified. 'Success to the 
Chapman Family. ' " 

Mrs. Chapman did not disappoint her well-wishers; 
she did settle in California. Long after deserting the stage 
she continued to live in San Francisco, until her death in 
1880, surviving her husband by four years, as well as seven- 
teen of her twenty children. Her most prominent bequest to 
San Francisco v>fas her daughter. Belle Chapman, who became one 



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90 



or the Most Important Members of the celebrated Cllfcnla 
Theatre StocK Company. With her husband and with many others 

v,„=t Mr=i GeorKe Chapman is burled In Lone 
of the Chapman host Mrs. ueoisc ^ . 

Mountain Cemetery. 

But In 1863 Mrs. Chapman was very much alive. In 
February with the Family augmented by several other competent 
actors she was giving performances In Marysvllle. We next 
hear of the Family m May of the same year when t hey darted 
again into San Francisco and took over once more the American. 
This was a brilliant and colorful season of drama and comedy 
featuring Mrs. Chapman In farce with George Chapman, and ex- 
otic dances by the Chapman girls. 

For their opening performance on June 22, 1853 
they selected again one of their favorite comedies,ThO°nei^ 
2oon, m which Mrs. Chapman appeared as Juliana; the farce, 
... Artful Dodger , with George Chapman as Tim Tinkle ; and 
popular dances by Mary and Josephine Chapman. Comedy, farce, 
and ballet continued to constitute the Chapman bill of fare. 
The next week (May 29, 1853) they put on the "serio-comxc 
drama," t.. .erlous Family , m which the entire Family parti- 
cipated; the farce. Th^jmeelwrifiht; and the Spanish dance 
La Jota with the Misses Chapman and Rivers. 

June was a brilliant month for Mrs. Chapman. On 
the 5th the Family produced the "grand Eastern spectacle" of 
The French Spy which apparently was a tour de force for the 
talented actress. In announcing the play, T he Golden .,Sra of 



r.r't- 



91 



June 5, 1853 was very flattering: 

"Mrs. Chapman will appear as the heroine, 
'Mathllde, ' a character in which she certainly 
has no rival in California. Mr^. G, Chapman 
will appear as 'Mohamrned., ' and the talented and 
promising Alonzo in the character of 'Tony.' 
V/e have frequently witnessed the performances of 
The French Spy in the largest theatres in the 
East, hut were never more pleased iwith the de- 
lineation of the hold and devoted 'Mathilde' 
than by Mrs. G-. Chapman, on the California 
hoards. In the combat scene with 'Mohammed,' 
she displays a skill in fencing which would do 
credit to a professor of the art, and which 
never fails to call forth the heartiest ap- 
plause. " 

The month continued with the performance of many 
favorite comedies, dramas and farces, such as Crasher and 
Slasher , The Lottery Ticket , Nicholas lUctd fibv . Jack Sheppard , 
The Artful Dodger ; and many graceful dances, plain and fancy. 
The San Franciscans v/ere becoming increasingly more devoted 
to Mrs. Chapman; they displayed their affection, as usual, by 
their response at benefits. On June 26, 1353 there was a 
benefit at the American for her, "a whole-souled lady and an 
excellent artist." The fact that the Family had been so long 
in California and appeared to be considering it as their per- 
manent residence after a career of v/andering over the country, 
drew from the Golden Era (of June 26) this moral: 

"Our playgoers should learn to discriminate be- 
tween those who have 'driven their stakes' 
among us, and those who, Shylock-like, hoard up 
all the gold that comes within their grasp and 
who, v.'hen the ostensible object of t heir mis- 
sion is attained, leave the country and laugh 
at those Vifho -- (to use the language of one of 
them) v;ere foolish enough to pay so dearly for 









J Giom 8. 



the acting of ^-l-^r'Slanf °'ho:e"senlurin 
l^ ^'^^- ?r'enSri.ous su^s^r t6 to 
$8 per v/eek." 

The San Francisco public wa. heslnnlng to turn 
...inst the .ctor. .ho had so cruelly exploited It. senti- 
ments. Kven such favorites as the Star.s and the Ba.ers had 
turned out to he fortune hunters, leaving San Francisco as 
3oon as the. had acc^ulated a fortune, to tr. their Xuc. 
elsewhere. B, contrast the puhllc appreciated the loyalty of 
. Mrs. Judah «ho regained In San Francisco, fair weather or 
,„.X, the constancy of the Ohap^ans .ho, after a lifetime of 

reer in California. 

., ^ ^v,„ FanilY continued suc- 
For the next few months tue tamx/ 

cessfully at the American. But scon t he hlood cf the stroll- 
ing actors. Which flowed so turbulently m their veins, bore 
the™ away fro. their ad.lrers. October found the. hao. In 
the mountains, continuing their successes In the .Inlng towns 
of San Joaquin Valley.ln Coluanhla, Sonora, MarysvlUe. Agaxn 

X. ^-.cVi ir\fr> San Francisco for 
and again the Family were to da.h into 3a 

hrlef visits, after their trips through the mountains, unt.l 
finally the miners began to be bored and the San Francisco 

welcome wore out. 

in July, August and September of 1B53 the San 

-,■ ^--i«ved its a^ooreciation of their talents 
Francisco public displayed xts aip 

^'■^ +-n almost every member of the huge Family, 
by staging benefits to almost every 



93 

On August 2, 1853 the young danseuse Mary Chapman received 
her testimonial; for this occasion a gu.est comedian, Charles 
A. King, joined the company to play the role of Boh Smlthers 
in The Model Farm , assisted by Mrs. Chapman as Lotty 
Smlthers. On September 18, "Honest George" Chapman was given 
his benefit. The next evening v^/as a special benefit for the 
beloved Mrs. Chapman. The burlesque of Beauty and the Beast 
was given. This was indeed a special event in the life of 
the Chapmans; it was the important occasion of a family re- 
union, for joining with the Family in their celebration were 
San Francisco's "Uncle Billy" and "Our Caroline" Chapman. 

UNCLE BILLY CHAPMAN 
William B. Chapman was called "Uncle Billy" by 
George Chapman's children; it was Inevitable that the idea 
would catch on with the other half of San Francisco. He was 
an uncle to everybody and when he died in San Francisco in 
1857 his thousands of friends throughout the country mourned 
his loss. He died like a true Chapman, practically on the 
stage; although old and broken he was active to the last. A 
month before his death, on November 7, 1857 he was perform- 
ing at Maguire ' s Opera House as Alphonso in Delicate Ground 
and 0' Smirk in The D\mb Belle . The obituary in the Bulletin 
of November 9, 1857 thus siommed up his career in San Francisco: 

"Mr. Chapman was the best low comedian in this 
State. His hiimor was natural and overf loviiing. 
No audience could resist sympathizing with his 
mirth. His first step on the boards was the 



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94 



signal for a general smile 5 and as he opened 
his moutli, his hearers burst into laughter. He 
was a most useful man to any management, pre- 
pared at the shortest notice to take any part, 
from the lover of twenty, "sighing like a fur- 
nace," to the lean and slipioered pantaloon. He 
would sing, dance, and fight with those #10 
were young enough to be his grandchildren. He 
was never at a loss before the footlights; if 
he did not know or had forgotten the author's 
words, or cared nothing for them — which was of- 
ten enough the case — he gave his own, which if 
not so classical as the original were pretty 
sure to raise a grin on every face. The liber- 
ty of gagging--mother's 'tolerable, and not to 
be endured' — v^^as forgiven in 'Uncle Billy.' He 
was a universal favorite and will long be re- 
gretted by lovers of drajna in this State." 

ADVENT OF CAROLINE AND WM. B. CHAPMAN 
In 1852 William B. Chapman arrived in California 
with his sisters Caroline and Mrs. Hamilton to whom he had 
been closely attached ever since leaving the showboat. On 
March 15, 1852 he made his debut at the Jenny Lind Theatre as 
Dr. Pangloss in the comedy, Heir at Law Mrs. Hamilton as- 
sisted him as Lady Duberly. Although usually eclipsed by 
his more brilliant and spectacular sister, Billy Hamilton 
rapidly built up a substantial reputation as a character ac- 
tor; now, because of his increasing age he was specializing 
in old men's roles; Dr. Pangloss was one of his favorite 
parts. 

Like all the Chapmans, he too had within him a re- 
markable flair for comedy, which usually veered to the bur- 
lesque. He was a master of what is known as "low" comedy: 
he could play the clown, he could sing, he could dance, and 



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95 



was a marvellous entertainer. He was in the habit of "throw- 
ing the audience into convulsions with the comical songs in 
his cornucopia of whimsicalities" ( Herald , June 16, 1853) or 
"with his inexhaustible fund of anecdotes keeping the house in 
a roar from the rise to the fall of the curtain." His talent 
was fundamentally inclined toward farce but he had the versa- 
tility of his family; he very easily slipped into such roles 
as Grumio in Katherine and Petruchio , Tony Lumpkin in She 
Stoops to Conquer , the First Gravedigger in Hamlet , and Duke 
of Gloster in Richard III . 

The last role, however, was some kind of a joke, 
probably a burlesque. Performed on the occasion of his bene- 
fit at the American (November 28, 1856), together with the 
fourth act of the Merchant of Venice , in virhich his son played 
Shylock, the audience was Instructed that "no cabbages will 
be allowed on the stage, they not being characters in the 
play." This benefit was a characteristic Chapman riot: be- 
sides the excerpts from Shakespeare there was the comedy. 
Breach of Promise , songs and dances, and "Our Caroline" de- 
livering the hunting speech from London Assurance . 

BILL AND CAROLINE AT THE JENNY LIND 
On March 24, 1852 Caroline Chapman made her debut 
at the Jenny Lind; she appeared as Widow Cheerly in the 
comedy. The Soldier's Daughter , and Beauty in the extravagan- 
za. Beauty and the Beast . The critics admired her "pleasing 
and graceful" manner, and a week later Caroline delighted 



96 



them with one of her "graceful dances." From then on she 
entranced her audiences with the brilliance and fecundity of 
her talents. She flashed before them in Shakespeare, in 
farce, in the old English comedies. During the next 'two 
weeks she was Lydia Languish in The Rivals , Lucille in A 
Story of the Heart , The Spy in The French Spy . Meanwhile 
Uncle Billy with spontaneity and verve kept up a running pat- 
ter of songs, conundri;mis, recitations. 

Nothing was too lavish or pretentious for the 
Chapmans to undertake. They followed the spectacle play, The 
French Spy , with the grand musical spectacle of Clari, Maid 
of Milan , the lavish burlesque tragedy, Bombastes Furioso -- 
and then they were gone from San Francisco to play a short 
engagement at Sacramento. In May, however, they were back at 
the Jenny Lind, full of inexhaustible energy, putting on more 
exuberant, more extravagant productions. The Naiad Queen 
was followed by The Fair One with the Golden Locks and the 
spectacular Green Bushes . 

CAROLINE, THE VERSATILE 
But the Chapmans were too sensible to continue daz- 
zling their audiences with spectacle. They often offered 
more solid drama, such as Dombey and Son (July 12, 1852), 
comedies, such as The Review (May 18), and a local farce, A 
Trip to California , (July 11). Uncle Billy continued to send 
the house off into gales of laughter with his comic acting. 
As Paul Pry he was especially successful. Like many of his 



97 



roles, this was a slapstick part, "a character which hiS ren- 
dered v/ith great fidelity and spirit, naw popping in at mal- 
apropros moments, now tiambling into the window, chased by a 
pack of dogs, always with his invariable old umbrella. . ." 
( Alta California , July 19, 1852.) And Caroline interspersed 
her more serious roles with her exhilarating dancing, with 
her enchanting songs. Her "Sweep Song" was becoming the theme 
song of the Jenny Lind,and was hummed all over San Francisco. 
Caroline continued to startle her audiences with the diver- 
sity of her talents; this was an age of tours de force and 
during July she performed very often In the celebrated farce. 
Actress of all Work , in which she took five different charac- 
ters. Out of the Chapman cornucopia flowed every conceivable 
delight. 

THE CHAPMANS VJITH THE BOOTHS 
At the end of July there was great excitement in 
San Francisco. The strange, quixotic genius, the great trag- 
edian, Junius Booth, had arrived in town and was playing a 
tviTo weeks engagement at the Jenny Lind. With him were his 
wife and his young son, Edwin. The tvi/o great acting families 
joined forces for this special event. It would socm the 
walls v/ould burst as San Francisco packed the Jenny Lind to 
watch "Our Caroline" playing against the magnificent Booth. 
Just a while before, the audiences had been delighted by ex- 
travaganza, easily pleased by shabby farces. Now they lis- 
tened intently and in a sober silence to the tortured grandeur 



1 1 '-.n 



^w baa nrroS rtl bevtni 
ilJ ynn&L 



98 



that was the elder Booth. 

On July 30, 1852 Booth made his first appearance as 
Sir Edward Mortimer to Caroline's Helen in the Iron Chest , 
that powerful drama that was Booth's favorite in San Francis- 
co. It was an interesting combination: the lyricism and 
lightness of Caroline against the somber, tragic background 
of Booth. Constance Rourke make her own analysis: 

"Caroline Chapman played with a natural grasp 
of the essentials of character within which her 
strange native passion could overflow, but she 
had cast away nearly everything of fixed tradi- 
tion she had ever knov/n. The elder Booth 
played within a ritual, essentially simple, by 
which every touch of action or of business had 
long since been prearranged. If the mold seem- 
ed rigid, there was beauty — or might be — infin- 
ite revelations of character. Within that deep 
pattern a v/ild ajid transcendent life might burn, 
as if by the renouncement of small individual- 
isms an inner -understanding could be made com- 
plete, "-::- 

They -olayed together, the Chapmans and the Booths, 

in Othello , Hamlet , Macbeth , Richard III , A New Way to Pay 

Old Debts . This was the real debut of Edwin Booth; it was 

also an occasion when a few of the yo\inger members of the 

Chapman dynasty made their official entries on the stage. 

Frank M. Chapman, the son of Uncle Billy, appeared in a 

child's role mth Booth; William H. Hamilton, the nephev/ of 

Uncle Billy, appeared as the boy, Fleance, in Macbeth; 

his mother, Sarah Hamilton, played Lady Macbeth, and the 

Booths took over the other principal roles; Junius Brutus 



-n -Troupers of the Gold Coast , pp. 43-44. 



99 



Booth as Macbeth, Junius B. Booth, Jr., as Macduff, and Edwin 
Booth as Malcolm. Caroline danced, Uncle Billy sang comic 
songs; they played together in a farce. It v/as altogether a 
field day for the Chapmans and the Booths. 

CAROLINE AND BILLY IN THE MINES 
In the autumn of 1852 the Jenny Lind had been sold 
to the city by Maguire to be converted into a city hall; the 
Booths were dispersed; the Chapmans were off to the mines. 

It was a kind of life which pleased these hardy 
troupers; in it was a constant element of danger which spiced 
their existence. San Francisco was possibly becoming too 
tame for these vagabonds. In the San Joaquin Valley there 
was cold and rain; there was the constant, entertaining pos- 
sibility of bandits; life in the camps was full and riotous. 
They played in every camp, large and small, in bars, in 
tents, in flimsy hotels. Everywhere they were received with 
a giddy and passionate enthusiasm. 

When they arrived at Coliimbia they found a real 
theatre to receive them. Columbia, one of the largest camps 
in the mountains, had sprung up over night into a real city. 
Its theatre had been built by an actor who, arriving in San 
Francisco when ships v/ere being deserted wholesale by the 
gold-crazy sailors, had by use of his dramatic wiles terror- 
ized the crew into unloading his ship. For a season this 
nameless actor joined the Chapmans, The Chapmans had to de- 
pend upon accidental meetings with other strolling actors 



-:lrr> 



lo-bXoa 



-si 



GEORGE CHAPMN 
(1803 - 1876) 




PHOTO COURTESY CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



100 



and amateurs for the formation of their company. But they 
played with ex^eryone, played everything. 

FAVORITES OF THE MINING CAMPS 
In December when they opened the Broadway Theatre 
with an actor called Campbell, producing the old favorite. 
Beauty and the Beast , they started a riot. The overjoyed 
miners threw buckskin purses cramraed with nuggets, onto the 
stage. They followed the Chapmans to and from the theatre 
at every performance, often carrying them gayly on their 
shoulders. On succeeding nights they bombarded the stage 
vdth such a flood of coins that the region was completely ex- 
hausted of silver until spring, 

Tliere was a freedom, an extravagance, a spontaneity 
about life in the mining camps; the Chapmans could do any- 
thing they liked; the miners welcomed every nev outburst of 
dramatic frenzy. When they left Columbia f or t he opening of 
the new Phoenix Theatre in Sonora on New Year's Eve, a mob of 
miners, a thousand strong, formed their escort. In Sonora, 
Caroline spoke the opeiiing address on the little stage in 
back of the saloon. She sang. Uncle Billy played the banjo 
and cracked jokes. They produced an enthusiastic She Stoops 
to Conquer . During the next week they put on Theresa, or the 
Orphan of Geneva , The Hunchback , The Hundred Pound Note , Betsy 
Baker , and other popular favorites of the time, with the as- 
sistance of an occasional amateur and with their companion- 
able sister and brother-in-law, the Hamiltons. Then they played 



101 

in Campo Seco, and in February were back in San Francisco. 

" OUR CAROLINE" AT THE SAN FRANCISCO THEATRE 
At the San Francisco Theatre the Chapmans and the 
Booths v/ere reunited. On February 18, 1853 Caroline, Billy 
and Hamilton joined Junius Brut\is Booth, Jr., in taking over 
the management of the theatre. Soon that pioneer entertain- 
er. Dr. Robinson, joined the company, to sing his ov/n SDngs, 
recite his ovm verses, and play in his own plays. Then young 
Edwin Booth joined them, after a v/inter of hardships in the 
mountains. Edwin Booth's talents as the potential great trag- 
edian were not yet recognized. He had to strum a banjo, 
play the lead in The American Fireman , spread burnt cork on 
his face in a blackface version of Box and Cox , and burlesque 
local celebrities. 

As a comedian Edwin Booth was never much of a sen- 
sation. Even in tragic roles his future greatness was not 
yet seen; it took the more discerning critics of the East to 
"discover" him later. On April 21 he played Richard III to 
Caroline's Elizabeth (no comment in the newspapers). Two days 
later, on his benefit, he played Hamlet for the first time; 
Caroline played opposite him as Ophelia and Billy was the 
First Gravedigger. Of this performance the Alta California 
(April 26) had only this to say: 

IN SHAKESPEAREAN ROLES 

"Miss Chapman's Ophelia, of course, was excel- 
lent as everything is which this most talented 



102 



v/oman undertakes," 

Of another later performance as Ophelia the critic 

of the Herald (June 15, 1853) had this to add: 

"Her representation of the beautiful, confiding 
and unfortunate lady was so effectively render- 
ed, so true to nature, as to draw tears to the 
eyes of her audience. The versatility of this 
admirable actress is astonishing. In tragedy, 
in comedy, melodrama and burlesque she appears 
equally at home, and in all natural, piquant 
and attractive." 

And indeed the spring of 1853 at the San Francisco 
Theatre was a fecund and glorious period in the career of 
Caroline Chapman. It was just before Lewis Baker v/as to 
start his career as a manager in San Francisco and to inaugu- 
rate a new trend in drama, insistence on more thorough re- 
hearsals; more finished performances. But now there was a 
nev/ play every night and v/hether the lines were well learned 
or not did not make much difference -- there was plenty of 
enthusiasm. The Chapmans romped about in comedies, high and 
low, all kinds of farces and burlesques, tragedies, Shakes- 
peare, musical extravaganza. 

During April, 1853 Caroline cavorted about tire- 
lessly in such a bewildering variety of performances as the 
opera Guy Manner inp; (April 6), Richard III (April 21), the 
extravaganza. Yellow Dv/arf (April 22), the fine old English 
comedy of manners. The Rivals (April 23), the spectacle Green 
Bushes CApril 24). ¥/ith all the copiousness of her talents 
Caroline's modesty is refreshing; there is something quiet 
and unassuming in her gaiety, in her sprightliness, a certain 



'10 s^liq 

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103 



graceful off handed charm. At the height of her career the 

Dally Alta California (December 7, 1853) thus analyzed her 

charm, with the inevitable moral: 

"It is no disparagement to any other actress we 
have ever had in California, to say that in her 
particular role of characters, she has never 
had an equal. In either genteel or low comedy 
she by far excels all others, and it matters not 
whether singing, dancing, or acting is required, 
she is equally proficient in all, and brings 
the highest cultivation and most graceful na- 
tive qualities to the performances. The clear, 
happy laugh and the perfectly natural noncha- 
lance appear so simple and unaffected that out 
of pure sympathy her audiences must enjoy the 
play. She evidently loves and takes pleasure 
in her profession. In heavy tragedy she does 
not essay to rank with several others, and she 
therefore does not appear in parts of higher 
character. It may be said of her that she 
never appears but with a glad smile for her au- 
dience, and that she never fails to receive in 
return a similar welcome. 

"Of her merits, there is, so far as we knov/, 
but one opinion, and all pronounce her excel- 
lent. Of others, even the best, there is a 
variety of opinion, and some object to one 
thing and some to another, but of Miss Chapman 
nothing is said but in way of approbation. She 
quietly pursues her way, affording unmixed 
pleasure to her audiences; and mth no loud 
flourish of trumpets, no mammoth play-bills to 
announce a reappearance, she labors on to the 
satisfaction of a public that seems to think 
that the only thing entitled to support and 
complimentary benefits is pretension. With all 
Miss Chapman's merit and her long residence in 
California, she has hardly ever been honored 
with a complimentary benefit. Yet repeatedly 
we have seen densely packed houses when some 
awkward amateur was to appear, whose proper vo- 
cation was that of an oyster rather than an ac- 
tor. But so goes the world. Soinid and fury 
are the things that win, and not merit. 'Tis 
so on the stage; 'tis so everywhere." 



H ftail oi» j»J- l^rrCkHrf 



104 



CAROLINE Aim LOLA MOMTEZ 

In Jvme, 1853 the glamorous Lola Montez fluttered 
into San Francisco self-consciously encvunbered by a gaudy 
past, brocaded with romantic legends. Everybody was appro- 
priately excited by her autobiography^ shocked by her danc- 
ing, bored by her acting. But the notoriety of her charac- 
ter threatened to steal the public away from the San Francis- 
co Theatre; and Caroline, the star, accepted the challenge. 
She threw down her gauntlet. 

Lola played in Marltana , taking three parts; 
Caroline topped this with the perennial little burlesque. 
The Actress of All Work , playing seven parts in twenty mi- 
nutes i Lola produced her autobiographical play, Lola Montez 
in Bavaria ; iminediately afterwards the Chapmans introduced a 
short extravaganza with the same title, which had been a suc- 
cess in New York, Flinging all her theatrical stock away, 
Lola produced a serious historical drama, Charlotte Corday , 
in i/^ich she tried to identify herself with the eighteenth 
century revolutionist; she danced two spider dances in one 
evening; at a fireman's benefit she gave selections from 
all her plays. 

Although this tour de force exhausted the ingenuity 
of Lola Montez, it did not tax the cleverness of the Chapman 
troupe. They relentlessly continued to persecute the fabu- 
lous Co^'ontess with their travesties. The critics and the 
public \<nevr that they had something even more devastating up 



105 



their sleeves; they held their breaths and expectantly aivait- 
ed the next move. It came during the final week of June, 
1853. 

THE CHAPtilAM - MQNTEZ FEUD 
On June 25 another of the Chapmans joined the feud. 
At the American Theatre, young Mary Chapman dejiced the Spider 
Dance. ThlS;, according to the boisterous critics, v/as much 
better than the original — in fact, ''knocked the socks off 
the fiery Countess." ( Golden Era , June 26). And then, over 
at the San Francisco Theatre the other Chapman branch pu.t on 
a new local burlesque, a full length extravaganza by Dr, 
Robinson called l"/ho ' s Got the Countess ? Full of satiric al- 
lusions and personal innuendo, ridiculing the arrogance and 
pretense of Lola Montez, this burlesque aroused a storm of 
protest. The critics began to battle among themselves and 
found everything wrong with the play itself. Said the Alta 
California of June 25: 

"The plot of the piece -- if it may be called a 
'plot '--is very miserably arranged, and the di- 
alogue lacking in wit, point, appropriateness 
and oven in common sense, and is, to croiym all, 
bunglingly arranged in bad rhyme," 

The next day the Golden Era appeared in violent 
disagroementt it congratulated Dr. Robinson on producing the 
first successful original piece in California. But they ac- 
cused Billy Chapman in his "Spider Dance" of "laying it on a 
leetlG too thick," According to the Alta , this dance and 
Caroline's acting were the only redeeming features of the 



aao t 



106 



play. 

The critical feud waxed hot; readers v/rote indig- 
nant letters to the editors, adding fuel to the flame. One 
such reader, carried away by an impetuous gallantry wrote a 
letter full of picturesquely eloquent prose, to the Herald 
(June 26, 1853) calling upon all of Lola's loyal public to 
defend the honor of their besmirched idol, and lamenting the 
lady-like Caroline's lowering herself by indulging in rude 
and ugly personalities. Some of this passionately oratoric- 
al letter deserves quotation: 

"With the exception of Miss Chapman's comic 
bravura, and Mr. Chapman's grotesque dance, 
which after all are the great points in the 
burlesque, but which would be equally amusing 
If entirely disconnected v/ith it, the whole af- 
fair is an exceedingly coarse and vulgar attack 
upon one v/ho, whatever her faults and foibles 
may have been, has proved herself a noble- 
hearted and generous woman, and who little de- 
serves that her exertions In behalf of suffer- 
ing humanity, so freely offered, so readily ac- 
cepted, should be paid by ridicule and scurril- 
ity. Who is there that, after serious reflec- 
tion on the character and conduct of Lola 
Montez while a visitor among us, can go and 
witness with pleasure and delight a vulgar mis- 
representation of her manners and behavior, a 
ridiculous caricature of her person and a 
coarse exaggeration of her peculiarities? Not 
you, gallant firemen of San Francisco, of whom 
she spoke with so much heartfelt enthusiasm, 
and to whose noble charity she so finely and 
voluntarily contributed thousands of dollars. 
Not you, members of the Benevolent Association, 
for v/hom she toiled with so much pleasure, well 
knowing that the wide spread of your charity 
was not confined by prejudices of race or rell- 
gion--not you, or those v/ho through you, have 
become the gratified recipients of her bounty. 
. Not one v/ho possesses a particle of taste, a 
spark of chivalry, or a feeling of sympathy for 



107 



an unprotected but lovely, generous and confid- 
ing v/oman, in his composition.... 

"Such performances as the "Spy-Dear Dance, " 
though sufficiently nonsensical, are at any 
rate legitimate sources of fun, and occasional- 
ly exceedingly amusing. But a ladyj Gentlemen 
a ladyi If no gratitude is felt for her be- 
nevolence, good taste should have decreed at 
least that her name and character should not be 
publicly ridiculed and outraged in this commun- 
ity. But besides all this, there is another 
stringent reason why this effort of genius 
should not have been placed before the public. 
There probably never was, and never will be, an 
actress in San Francisco v;ho has made more warm 
friends and admirers than Miss Caroline Chapman. 
She can play anything and everything and do it 
well, and her name is an unfailing attraction 
wherever she appears. No matter what she under- 
takes, she renders herself acceptable, and gen- 
erally far more than acceptable, to her audi- 
ence." If she were to play the 'Devil,' I 
haven't the least doubt she vrauld do it perfect- 
ly, and be greeted with roars of applause; but 
we don't want to see her in any such character. 
Miss Chapman is a lady, and a most admirable 
artist; and I cannot believe that lowering her 
in this manner to a more profound depth than I 
have supposed low comedy to be capable of, can 
be more agreeable to herself than it is to her 
admirers. 'It's really not at all in her way." 
Nol NOi We've had enough of this; personali- 
ties may amuse for a moment, but a little re- 
flection makes them offensive. Give us 'Beauty' 
again, charming Carry, and don't let them make 
a Mule of you any longer." 

Yet, though critics railed and filing broadsides at 
one another, at Dr. Robinson, at the Chapmans; as the editors 
continued to be bombarded with angry epistles, some less elo- 
quent but all equally inspired; the San Francisco Theatre 
continued to be crowded at every performance. Lola Montez 
was of course popular, but San Francisco also had a sense of 
h\imor. It laughed at Caroline's impersonations of Mula, 



108 



the stormy actress who never knew her lines, stamping, co- 
quetting, whirling through the ridiculous ballet of "Spy- 
DearJ" It laughed at Uncle Billy's clowning through the rale 
of Louis Buggins. Even the sober Booth got Into the spirit 
of the burlesque with nis ridiculous Plunkitt. Gradually 
as the enthusiastic public demanded more and more repetitions 
of '.1/ho's Got tne Countess ? Dr. Robinson kept building up the 
piece, including more and more characters until everybody in 
the cast of the American Theatre -- where Lola had been play- 
ing -- was in it: the manager, the critics, the prompter, 
even the audience i Vi/hen, on June 25, Caroline played Juliet 
to Booth's Romeo, Romeo and Juliet was preceded by the bur- 
letta. Who's Got the Coxintess? 

For weeks at the San Francisco Theatre hilarity 
reigned; Lola Montez vi/as completely routed by a more bril- 
liant, more accomplished actress. Gracefully Lola submitted 
to the defeat and retired from the field. Soon she abandoned 
San Francisco, taking with her a new husband, a certain 
Patrick Hull, possibly a salve to her injured feelings. And 
she was gone. 

LOLA HEAPS COALS OF FIRE 

But this was not the last time Caroline and the 
colorful Countess were to meet as theatrical enemies. Again 
in 1856 Caroline, nov/ in her decline, was to struggle desper- 
ately against a waning popularity with another burlesque of 
Lola Montez, A Trip to Australia or Lola Montez on the Fanny 
Major. 



nloa e'^ 



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lO BWpBE 



109 



Against the Chapmans, however, Lola dismissed all 
thought of personal animosity. Wle the theatre represented 
to Caroline all of life, to Lola it was but a small fragment 
of her complicated existence. She accepted the presence of 
Caroline Chapman in the stock company at the American Theatre 
when she played an engagement there in 1856. Testifying to 
her innate good nature and her affection for children is a 
little garment - now preserved by the California Historical 
Society — knitted by Lola Montez and given by her to little 
Caroline Hamilton, the namesake and niece of Caroline Chapman. 

THE HAMILTOMS 
Little Caroline Hamilton has some kind of histori- 
cal importance as the first child actress to play Little 
Eva in ITncle Tom's Cabin in San Francisco. In October, 1867 
at her father's benefit at the Metropolitan she mado her 
debut as a full-grovm actress, playing Julia in the old fa- 
vorite. The Hunchback . Her Chapman blood, her father's care- 
ful training stood her in good stead. The critics had lost 
their earlier flair for rhapsodic over-statement, but they 
were favorable to this new Chapman. Said the Alta California 
of October 14, 1867: 

"Miss Hamilton has a fine appearance, good 
figure, graceful action, and excellent mem- 
ory- her correct memory was noticeable xn the 
perfect reproduction of her tutor's style of 
Smphasis and hesitation, to her ov/n detriment 
at times. If the instructor could have giv- 
en the idea of the character, without these 



110 



effects, the debut would have been a wonder- 
ful success; such abandon and profuse gestic- 
ulations certainly never before were at the 
command of a novice, and used with such good 
effect. Some of the points fell short of 
the effect intended, because of the slow 
approach of the climax, the opposite extreme 
being the usual fault of beginners. With study 
in a correct school. Miss Hamilton will be a 
great addition to the stage." 

Caroline Hamilton, with all her brothers and sis- 
ters, had been born on the Chapman shov/boat. Consequently 
they all in time became accomplished and versatile show 
people. Their mother, Sarah Hamilton, had a fine reputation 
as a tragedienne, being especially successful in the roles of 
Lady Macbeth and Queen Elizabeth. In the Chapman Collection 
at the California Historical Society is the crown she wore as 
Queen Elizabeth. The Hamiltons came to San Francisco with 
Caroline and Uncle Billy and for a time acted v/ith them, al- 
though they were sufficiently ntimerous to form their o-wn pri- 
vate branch of the Chapman dynasty. 

The Hamiltons played at the Jenny Lind, the San 
Francisco Theatre, Magulre's Opera House, the Metropolitan 
Theatre — William H. Hamilton in most cases assumed the role 
of actor-manager. Little is known of his acting ability, al- 
though he was probably quite proficient as a result of his 
experience in London and on the showboat and at Burton's in 
New York, The California Historical Society Quarterly (Vol. 
VII, p. 282) reports that "he was said to be a quiet, unas- 
suming man who possessed an Inexhaustible fund of general in- 
formation and was greatly esteemed by all who knew him." 



Ill 



Vatii his family, Earallton roiTiained in San Fravicisco 
un'cil 135C. Toej then traveled through the Sou_th vntil the 
Civil War hroi-e out and forced ti'ieii to return North. After 
short engage-nents In Nev/ York and Pliiladelphia they came West 
once more. In 1-58 iicinilton sailed to Europe for an operation 
for cancer and died in London, His v/ife, Sarah, lilve inost of 
the California actresses, was of sturdy stock. She survived 
her husbr-nd until 1871. Like her clster-in-lav/, Mrs. George 
Chapman, she also outlived most of her numerous progeny. 
T'.TO children who survived her became v/ell-knov/n on the San 
Francisco sta^e: Caroline Hamilton, v/ho lived on until 
1928, and William H. Hamilton, v/ho died at the a^e of eighty- 
three, and who among other things had taken the part of the 
boy, Flcancc, in a production of Macbeth in 1852 at the old 
Jenny Llnd in wjiich tlio entire Booth family participated; he 
had also in the course of his a/ivcnturous career been a pony 
express rider for V/ells-Fargo bjt'vecn Reno and Virginia City. 

CAROLINE AT THE AMERICAN 
After practically making a ccroir for herself as a 
parodist of Lola Montcs, Caroline with cliaract eristic zest 
Ewervcd off into other fields. In July and August, 1853 she 
was playing with Uncle Billy in sucli classics as The Rivals , 
Katherine and Pctruchio , Much Ado About Nothing , and The 
Merchant of Vonice . Tir-n on August 23, she plunged into a 
new local extravaganza by the exuberant Dr. Kcbinson, The 
Past, Present and Future of San Francisco. Like most of Dr. 



112 



Robinson's literary productions this was in remarkably atro- 
cious verse but it was full of sprightly local allusions and 
delighted the o.udience, Caroline appeared as "the Genius of 
San Francisco" in no less than ten different disguises. The 
Herald of August 24 was pleased with her performance, al- 
though ambiguous about the nature of the play: 

"Her admirable mimicry in the scene of the 
Music Girl v;as particularly well received and 
gave a very truthful idea of a remarkable fu- 
ture in the Past and Present, and in all prob- 
ability, the Future of our City." 

On September 19, Caroline and Uncle Billy volun- 
teered, their services at a benefit for brother George at the 
American Theatre, and soon were out of the city. In October 
they were playing at Marysville and at Stockton. Then in 
December they were back again in San- Francisco. On December 
5 they brought light and laughter again to the darkened 
American, opening with the Bakers in a production of Faustus . 

This waa Caroline's debut in the role of Adine 
and she was so successful in her interpretation that the com- 
pany was forced to repeat Faustus several times. This spec- 
tacle play became at once popular; the mise-en-scene was very 
impressive, and probably had much to do with its success. 
Says the Herald of Dec. 10, 1853: 

"Each representation of the legendary drama of 
Faustus improves on the preceding one in the 
manner in which its remarkable changes of scen- 
ery are executed, and its machinery now works 
smoothly and evenly, presenting its beautiful 
tableaux with their most imposing effect. The 
excellent acting of Mr. and Mrs. Baker and Miss 
Caroline Chapman appear to more advantage also. 



113 



as the mechanical portion of the representation 
is improved, and. presents altogether a combina- 
tion of dramatic talent and scenic display that 
is seldom equalled on any stage." 

All through December Caroline performed at the 
American, playing in farces, burlesques, comedies, and an oc- 
casional tragedy. On December 23 she had her benefit and for 
the occasion romped gracefully through "a variety of comedy, 
farce, and fairy extravaganza." Two days later, on Christmas 
day, she ended her season at the American and darted off 
again to the mountains. 

The same evening Caroline departed from San Fran- 
cisco there occurred an event of extreme importance. It was 
the opening of the Metropolitan by Catherine Sinclair, inau- 
gurating a nev/ era for the San Francisco theatre. A new pe- 
riod v/as setting in, a period of glamour and sophistication 
in the theatre; San Francisco v/as becoming urbane and culti- 
vated; it required a glamorous setting for the personalities 
of its theatre. The period of the strolling players, the 
gypsy troupers, was now passing. The Chapraans were beginning 
their decline. 

WITH LAURA KEENE AND CATHERINE SINCLAIR 
While Uncle Billy continued in San Francisco, con- 
vulsing the audiences of the American in his favorite charac- 
ter of Billy Lackaday, Sam Slop in The Rake's Progress , and 
Paul Pry — Caroline remained in the mountains, deferring 
her return to San Francisco, probably aware of the new theat- 



nnt rn*i 









na8 n: 



114 



rical trends and the changes In the Chapman fortunes. Mean- 
v/hile, during the first few months of 1854, she strolled 
through the mountains, being greeted effusively by the miners, 
meeting interesting and romantic bandits, prancing about with 
her old energy on the impromptu stages in the saloons of min- 
ing towns. . .For a brief moment in May she reluctantly aban- 
doned this carefree life, and returned to San Francisco to 
play v/ith Mrs. Sinclair at the Metropolitan. But this was 
for only one evening. May 19. The Chapmans, Caroline and 
Uncle Billy, joined the regular Metropolitan company in a 
production of the popular comedy. The Serious Family , and at 
the close were applauded with a suggestion of the old furor. 
Caroline bowed gracefully and Uncle Billy made a facetious 
impromptu speech which promptly bowled the audience out into 
the aisles. The next day they played at a benefit for Laura 
Keene, the popular actress-manager of the American Theatre. 
They v/ere joined by their sister, Sarah Hamilton, and they 
played Lydia Languish, Bob Acres, and Mrs. Malaprop" in The 
Rivals to the complete satisfaction of a cordial audience. 

These, however, were only isolated occasions. There 
were too many competing attractions in tov/n and their welcome 
quickly wore off. The Chapmans did not receive another en- 
gagement until June 29, yfh.en they became members of Laura 
Keene 's company at the Union. On August 2, Laura Keene abrupt- 
ly departed for Australia. Again the Chapmans v;ere stranded. 
With Laura Keene, however, they played a colorful, spirited 



>il*»1"l 



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115 



season and revived for a time their former popularity. 

CAROLINE AS BURLESQUE QUEEN 

Caroline again demonstrated her startling versatil- 
ity in r.oucicault's comedy, A School x^or Scheming; ; in the 
spectacle-play, The Sea of Ice ; in the broad burlesque, 
Williking and his Dinah , Caroline showed that in the field 
of burlesque she probably had no peer in the country. Her 
buoyancy and high spirits were contagious, creating an atmos- 
phere of refreshing and spontaneous gaiety. On July 19, there 
v;as a new extravaganza, Taming a Tartar , which particularly 
delighted the Union audiences. During the performance 
Caroline sang and danced and accompanied herself on the hand 
organ -- the audience, carried away by the spirit of things, 
proceeded to throw quarters on the stage, and the little 
tambourine girl scrambled about under the shov/er picking them 
up, and the show ended with the audience dancing in the 
aisles and singing Caroline's "Sweep Song.'' 

During August, 1854 there were no theatres to re- 
ceive the Chapmans and they v;ere idle: but at the end of the 
month Catherine Sinclair added them to her troupe at the 
Metropolitan. In rapid succession, starting with her first 
night on August 25, Caroline plunged into such formidable 
roles as Calanthe, the Queen, and Martina in the solid 
dramas of Damon and Pythias, Richard III , and Don Caesar de 
Bazan. She played until January 8, 1855 with the Booths, 
with Jfaie. Montplaisir, with other celebrities. She gave 



;ortflO .flflnJtij v.l. 



beri x^ '^^B oxfpeelijj: 

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116 



abundantly of her talents but she was no longer the indefati- 
gable Caroline of a fev; years before — she was tiring. She 
had led a pace that could not be kept up indefinitely. 
Caroline could no longer prance through a full length play, 
an afterpiece, several entr'actes of singing and dancing in a 
single evening. The Chapman life had been too grueling. 
Now the Chapmans v/ere actually on the decline. 
After Caroline left the Metropolitan on January 8, 1855 she 
did not receive another engagement in San Francisco until the 
end of August. In the meantime she toured the mines once 
more with her brother, but even the miners were bored. When 
they returned to San Francisco to play at the San Francisco 
Theatre they found that their houses were diminishing, that 
minstrelsy had erected a solid bulwark forcing them into de- 
cline. But Caroline had resources; she was a veteran; with 
her family she had weathered every gale. She came forward to 
meet the competition of variety in a manner explained by 
Constance Rourke, In Troupers of the Gold Coast (p. 117) : 

"Presently Caroline Chapman, v/ho had been a 
brilliant Lady Teazle, who could play an ardent, 
enchanting Juliet, in spite of her high, gawky 
stature and plain appearance and her years, who 
had at her command a more extensive repertoire 
than any actress who had appeared on the Cali- 
fornia stage — tlie defeated Miss Chapman sought 
to meet minstrelsy on its own ground, and came 
out in Uncle Tom's Cabin , blacked up as Topsy." 

CAROLINE AS TOPSY 
It v;as on September 3, 1855 at the San Francisco 
Theatre that this striking event occurred. It was a great 



n'>Of'- Di'c\ e 



.yJllO-jr'iJP' 



*>V "^ *3*^ ' 



117 



success. Uncle Billy also applied, burnt cork to his face and 
became Phlneas; Junius Booth, Jr., was Uncle Tom: Caroline 
Hamilton v;as Little Eva; and Uncle Tom's Cabin v/as given six 
successive performances. On the 10th the clamor was so grra,t 
that Little Eva's death scene was repeated after the produc- 
tion of Love's Fetters , on the same bill. 

Caroline and Uncle Billy no longer possessed their 
early unflagging energy, yet, possessed by some desperate 
force, they sought to r epeat their former triumphs. On Septem- 
ber 2, they revived the play in v/hich Uncle Billy had made his 
San Francisco debut, as Dr. Pangloss in Heir at Law ; also 
Caroline's fp.mous tour de force. Actress of all Work , in which 
she played six characters. The preceding evening they had 
given Buckston's comedy. Leap Year or Lady's Privilege , to- 
gether with another favorite farce. The Hundred Pound Note , 
in which Caroline played the dual role, The Lady and the 
Peasant Girl. 

BACK TO THE MINES 
On September 10, Caroline ended her engagement at 
the San Francisco Theatre. It had been a hectic season and 
some of Caroline's early popularity had been revived; now the 
Chapmans were once more off to the mines, the last rouxid. 
They were approaching the end of their high powers. They 
were going to the mines not because they wished to, but be- 
cause San Francisco was weary of them. They continued to 
pour out an interminable variety of pieces in rapid succes- 



118 



sion, because that was what v/as demanded; the audiences de- 
manded excitement and gayety and novelty; the Chapmans were 
being worn out. 

In 1856 old Uncle Billy was approximately 54 years 
old and looked a decade older; even gay Caroline was no long- 
er young -- she was 38. They had spent a lifetime on the 
stage, almost alv/ays together, and nov/ as they toured the in- 
terior of California they offered an iirunense repertoire. It 
was a kind of second wind which inspired them. In Sacramento 
they played a brief engagement and among other pieces produced 
Julius Caesar : Civilization , a new European play; Plercule , 
the Huron , a naturalistic spectacle play; Mohammed; ^'!}^:"_j±-t}L' 
and an extravaganza entitled First Nip:ht or the Virgin in 
California, which had to do with an sjnateur actress behind 
the scenes and involved a manager, a prompter, stage carpen- 
ters, actors, lamplighters in clashes and counter clashes. 
First Ni^Aht was followed by an opulent afterpiece, Midas . 
This new vitality of the Chapmans v/as a burst of desperation. 

RENEWAL OF THE FEUD WITH LOLA MOHTEZ 
In August, 1856 a tremor rocked the buildings and 
sent a quiver through the inhaoitants of San Francisco. It 
was not an earthquake but quite an upheaval -- it was that 
woman, who during her lifetime had become a legend, Lola 
Montez, back from Australia and parading through the streets 
of the excited city. Mev/ legends, gaudy, romantic and myster- 
ious, further embellished her; her spider dance was forbid- 



119 



den In Melbourne; an actor called Folland was drowned en route 
under very strange circumstances. Firm, bold, fearing no one, 
the notorious Countess opened on August 7 at the American 
Theatre, walking straight into the warring camp. San Francisco 
held its breath. The Chapmans rolled up their sleeves j for 
Lola's enemies, back from the mines, were now in control of 
the American. 

The Chapmans warily waited for Lola to make the first 
move. The audaciotis Lola accepted the challenge — she had 
apparently not learned her lesson from the battle three years 
before; perhaps her experience in Australia had given her re- 
nev/ed confidence in her histrionic ability. At any rate 
soon she v/as playing the part of Mrs. Chilllngton in The 
Morning Call with Uncle Billy Chapman opposite, and the crit- 
ics were noting the remarkable improvement in her acting. The 
public s'jvung enthusiastically over to the side of Lola. 

THE CRITICS' RBBUKE 
Imperturbably the Chapmans waited their chance. 
Suddenly, on an off night for the star, they put on the old 
burlesque, Lola Hontez , Caroline playing the part of Catherine 
Koper. But this time something went wrong. Lola Montez 
had too much of a lead; the tide nov; turned against them. The 
critics turned upon the Chapmans their most potent weapon -- 
silence. The Chapmans staggered -- but they had gone through 
too much to be vanquished by this blow. Again they sat back 
and waited for the next move on the part of their adversary. 



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io lieri^t fc9;tXBW anBrnqaffO sri:^ Y^cfadTua 
III ?ri;t rto iaq -zeti^ ^and^e orfct ^ol cfrisj 
^ -.iT^ -: iiBq orf^t .^nlYJ^^cr oniXorrflD 

sc.JaoM »tXoJ .anoTA- inew anirli'eraoa ©laizf elrl:! iiffl 

erfT . .Iflgr. fcamt;^ won aJilj 

-7 ieora tloM ertHm\nriO od^ v.: aoiilio 

bail YOri* *tfrt 



RS. GEORGE CHAPMAN 
1813 " 1000 




PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



120 



Soon it came, Lola Montez annoiinced a public auc- 
tion of her jewelry for the benefit of Polland's two children. 
There were diamond bracelets and rings galore, rubies, jeweled 
crosses, pendants, a jeweled comb, lockets, necklaces, heavy 
pieces made of Australian gold. This charitable gesture met 
with much approval — but not from those unregenerate enfants 
terrible, the Chapmans. On the eve of the auction they pro- 
duced a brand-new burlesque, occuping the entire evening's 
bill, A Trip to Australia, or Lola Montez on the Fanny Major . 

Lola's concern for her agent's children, her char- 
ity and her spiritual interests, were pure, unmitigated hokum, 
thought the Chapmans — they spent the entire evening prov- 
ing it — and the critics fell furiously upon them. Yet in 
spite of the critical thunderbolts the Chapmans continued the 
burlesque, slashing vigorously and hilariously at Lola's new 
pose of la soeur de charite, filling the play with all kinds 
of imaginative detail about the Australian tour and poor Mr. 
Folland's death. The critics raged and the audiences howled; 
they filled the house every night. The entire company of the 
American joined the Chapmans in this festival of mirth. The 
cast was as follows: 

Lola Montez, Countess of Landsfeldt C. Chapman 
Rhoda, her friend. . .Mrs. Burrill 



Mrs. Fidides 
Ella Fidides 
Tomlinson. . . 

Simons 

Tommy ....... 

Neptune. . . . . 



Mrs. Campbell 

-Fanny Howard 

Mr. Co ad 

Mr. Glover 

Mr . Chapman 

Mr. Hann 



The Chapmans were superb — everybody admitted that 



jnoM £1 1 
laned c 

y.'asri traoalMoen «c*e-' 

i-r..: 9'-i,i.*'3g olc' alrtT .Mos 

ie (itat^no^Bims eeorf;^ moil ;ton ivd 
-c'fq /?drf noliox/fl odct lo eve drid 
e V^jn-f-nsvo oilina 9/i;t gnicjirooo «oupB©fTxrcf we^n-brtnicf jb bobu^' 

gxfj no se.fnoy ^jJoJ to tnii»'i Jg^fA 
- cif! ^aJbll/to a'^nosfl leri loi me 

.rfu;;>f- .icTlmni/ ^eiuq eiev? tCd^Bsisdnl Iswai tJtqe lorf £«/' 

-.vo'icr 3aln9V© sTi: '-ts eil;t :taeqe y^^* — enaraqjBrfO srii drf- 

^f'! /39i/ni:}noo en/imqariO 9ri:t 8JIorfT«»fanx;rfi laoiJiio erf* lo ediqe 
van e'AloJ ^s YJ-BWotiflXld Jbns Y-tByoiojA peeXowo 

85nl^ lie rictlw YSlq &iii ^-tlllt t9;tli«rio eb •• 
.'iM Tooq bna ti;©^ nfliIJ8i:tBi:rA esii ;tx/odfi lia^eb ev 

.'It p.9on9lbua ©rii bna JbogfiT eolctlip ed' 
etii lo -^nsqinoo aillns orfT .irigln t 

.riintr. lo lavl^esl aldS at A 

:r:v,-oIIr.l 

If- 
IS 



121 



but they were most unfair, said the critics. The critics 

pretended to Ignore them, but they did this quite badly. Their 

critiques aroused interest and curiosity, such as the one 

found in the Bulletin of September 2, 1856: 

"The piece as a literary composition is not 
worthy of criticism. The subject being some- 
#iat notorious, and the buffooneries of the 
actors, excited much spasmodic laughter. The 
dog, the monkey and Mr. Chapman without his 
pants, were natural and very amusing." 

WANING POPULARITY 



In spite of the do^jvnpour of critical scorn the 
Chapmans sttibbornly continued the play through the fall of 
1855. For a brief moment they had returned to their old 
heights. But soon even their loyal public began to desert 
them; they were playing to rapidly diminishing houses. With 
the exception of the new burlesque, the bills at the American 
lacked the old Chapman variety. They repeated the old plays. 
They began to appear more and more irregularly. Finally on 
December 28, 1856 they ended their American engagement and re- 
ceded from the San Francisco scene. Lola Montez remained in 
the ascendant; to her the final victory, for Lola was soon 
to leave San Francisco and to accixmulate richer and more di- 
verse legends and finally to blow out in a burst of glory, 
while the Chapmans slowly, slowly, were to come to a bitter, 
pathetic end. 

THE END OF UNCLE BILLY 

The end of Uncle Billy was not long in coming. Af- 
ter the close of the American season he had gone once again 



TO en" 



bciB iB'nj:iBn 9'isw 

J J 1 X 9fl J Oj ;> -'iiijj J -> 1 j;':' y'.i.- J.i :.>■■;■'- ^■.•' 

^„ ^' -^ f '-.god ollcfu-q Iflyol ilerict • 

i' " . .. iori snlrielhlBili) xLhlqr- 

• '"'' ' ' ' " 

'li hQalr-rasT sectn ' ' ^ .•oe ooe . 



>C-i-V 



■-Juii:ip.Ci 



122 



to the mountains, but a frenzied competition had developed in 
the mining camps, and he was defeated by younger, fresher 
talent. In despair he returned to San Francisco, and final- 
ly in May, 1857 secured an engagement at the Metropolitan 
where he with his sister Caroline were in support of Annette 
Ince. On September 14, the tottering old man, making his 
last feeble tour of the camps, was run over by a buggy at 
Marysville. He was only slightly hurt, but this was the 
shock which precipitated the end. 

Two months later, in the midst of a minor engage- 
ment at Maguire's Opera House, the beloved old man died on 
November 26, 1857. The newspapers guessed his age to be 70 
or 74 although he was not much over 55, but he looked ex- 
ceedingly old and worn after a lifetime of unending activity, 

^ . ' f onr^a-incT nf iokinfj. For him San Francisco 

of dancing, of smgmg, oi jokj-Uo* 

felt the affection ordinarily retained for their favorite ac- 
tresses. He was very dear to them; he was "Uncle Billy." 
The newspaper coiment is significant of the esteem in which 
this old actor and pioneer comedian was held. In the He£aM 
of November 9, appeared this tearful obituary: 

"It is with exceeding pain that we record the 
death of W. B. Chapman, the distinguished .and 
veteran comedian and meritorious citizen. Mr. 
Chapman was ill for two weeks. Previous to his 
demise, but nothing fatal was apprehended until 
iSst previous to the close of his mortal career. 
On Saturday night, his wife was fitting at his 
bedside reading to him, when the old gentleman 
T^assed away with the quietude of an infant drop- 
ping Into repose. As an artist Mr. Chapman had 
no Squal in his time in California; ^^^ gentle- 
man, he was kind-hearted, urbane, abstemious, 



tlons : 



123 



and a most worthy member of society. After 
passing through the trying and chequered scenes 
Incident to his profession, in a long life of 
nearly, or quite, seventy years, during which 
he played in almost every portion of our vast 
country, and always commanding the warmest ap- 
plause and esteem of his audience, in an in- 
finitude of characters, this accomplished vet- 
eran of the drama has been gathered to the 
great army of the dead. The dark curtain ofdeath 
has shut him out from the stage of life... 

"We shall never again behold his familiar form 
and speaking features in this world; his well- 
knov/n voice and merry glance will no more ad- 
dress themselves to our senses, but his image, 
and the remembrance of his many admirable 
qualities y/ill long remain deeply graven in 
the hearts of his hosts of friends and admiF^ 
ers in this State and elsewhere. The void on 
our stage, occasioned by his death, will prob- 
ably not be filled in years, if ever." 

The next day came the funeral and further lamenta- 



"The cortege was quite large, _ and composed of 
all the members of the dramatic profession in 
this city and nearly all those of the French 
Dramatic Company, besides many warm, personal 
friends and admirers of the deceased. The 
funeral of this veteran was no hollow show, 
but the solemn attestation of sincere friends 
to his worth and talents, and their unaffected 
grief at his loss. Mr. Chapman was probably 
the oldest living actor on the American or 
English stages, and has been the instr\Ament of 
imparting much of gratification and innocent 
enjoyment to thousands upon thousands in 
England and America. That man who spends 
sixty out of the seventy-four years of his 
life in making the heart glad, and without 
giving one pang to his fellow beings is indeed 
worthy of admiration. May the 'sods of the 
valley' rest lightly on the good old man." 

Uncle Billy had made several fortiines during his 

long career on the stage, but it appeared that there was 

nothing left for his widow and orphans. William Chapman came 

from a long line of impecunious vagabond players. He had 



124 



had a lot of fun out of the theatre, and that 'vas his reward. 
To his dependents he left a small piece of property on Tele- 
graph Hill, heavily mortgaged -- the house in which "Uncle 
Billy" used to give his famous dinners to the theatrical 
colony on the Kill and afterv/ards ride down the precipitous 
slopes in his rickety mule cart. 

But the San Francisco theatre and the San Francisco 
public were not going to forget their debt of gratitude to 
Uncle Billy. The Eastern comedian, J. P. (Yankee) Adams, 
who had played v/ith the Chapmans and had been a good friend 
of Uncle Billy, suggested a benefit. On November 26, a huge 
complimentary benefit was staged at Maguire's and at the 
American Theatre in vi/hich the entire theatrical profession, 
American and French, participated, and the proceeds were pre- 
sented to the widow and orphans of William Chapman. 

Even two years later San Francisco had not forgot- 
ten their beloved Uncle Billy. On April 4, 1859 as Mrs. W. 
B, Chapman prepared to leave for the East, she was given a 
grand complimentary benefit at the American for herself and 
her children. Participating in the show were other relatives 
of the late William Chapman, namely Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, 
and Caroline Chapman. Shortly afterward the Hamiltons depart- 
ed; and Caroline, after procuring fewer and fewer engagements 
and having no longer any family ties to hold her in Califor- 
nia, reluctantly left San Francisco. 



125 



T EE END OF CAROLINE 

The Chr.pmans v/ere a strongly united family and be- 
tween Billy &jid Caroline, who had been so close together, the 
bond was especially strong. Caroline had never married; the 
only love she Imew was for her brothers and sisters and for 
the theatre. She had reldom been separated from Billy; the 
stage and Billy had been so closely associated for her that 
it was hard for her to act with anyone else. Caroline's 
whole world was crumbling o 

From force of habit she continued to appear on the 
stage, but her old vitality was disappearing. And the the- 
atre itself was changing; was demanding, instead of the ver- 
satile troupers who were so important^ a inanifestation of the 
early days of the San Francisco stage, more specialized per- 
formers, more glamorous personalities. Caroline had had to 
make rapid adjustments to the change of taste, but now age 
and weariness were taking their toll; she no longer possessed 
the gift of giving the people what they wanted. She had giv- 
en an impetus to the free, untrammelled theatricals that were 
evolving into the all-conquering variety, and she herself was 
submerged by the change. 

During 1858 and 1859 she continued to play sporadic 
engagements at Magulre ' s Opera House and at the Lyceum, sup- 
porting such stars as "Yankee" Adams and Mrs. Wood. In 1859 
she sailed East, remembering her early success at Burton's 
v/hen she was the talk of New York, hoping for engagements she 



126 



was dustinod not to find. Nov/ York, too, had grown up; it no 
longer offei'cd a welcome to the cjpsy trouper. And after more 
than two years oi' dlsappoiiitment Caroline returned to San 
Francisco. 

ADVERSITY FOR CAROLINE 
The end for Caroline was long-drawn and tedious. In 
San Francisco she knew only obscurity and illness, sxaall parts 
at benefits or in minor productions. Occasionally she might 
be given a leading role; but it would usually be an inexpress- 
ibly bad play. The state of the drajna vi/as falling low in 
San Francisco. A typical example is the exaggeratedly super- 
natural Faust ian hocus-pocus ''sensation drama" called Death , 
or the Arg;el of Midnight , given on December 2o , 1861, the 
first play in v/hich she starred after her return to San Fran- 
cisco, The deliberately casual manner in which the critic of 
the Bulletin discusses the plot of this terrifying drama is 
amusing, and merits quotation: 

"This is a tale of German diablerie. The scene 
is at Munich. Dr. Bernard (Mr, Thorne, Jr.) a 
young physician of great skill, saves many pa- 
tients but profits little, pecuniarily, by his 
practice. He is tempted to serve others, and 
sell his conscience, but refuses. Vtoen In de- 
spair, the Angel of Midnight (Miss Chapman) ap- 
pears before him, and they malce an unholy bar- 
gain together, that whenever the said Angel 
shall be visible (to the Doctor only) at the 
couch of the sick, he (the Doctor) shall no 
longer use his professional talents to defeat 
Death, but quietly yield the struggle; for 
which good service, the Angel promises to give 
him (the Doctor) vvrealth, reputation, and the 
possession of his beloved. Many characters 



127 



mlnslo in tlio drama, unci the Angel nov and. then 
appears, of com^De, At last the shadow of 
Death threatens the bride and the mother of the 
young physician. He is in agony, and beseeches 
the Angel to ta]<:e his o^.ti life, but spare those 
dear to him. The difficulty is finally got rid 
of by prayer to Him in v/hose hands are the is- 
sues of iife and death; the Angel disappears, 
the compact is broken, and the young Doctor, his 
bride, his mother and the other good and indif- 
ferent characters are preserved -- the bad ones 
having been previously destroyed. All this is 
wonderful and terrible, and that is just what 
the author Intended and what the audience are 
supposed to be pleased with. The villain of 
the piece is the Baron de Lambeck (Mr. Mayo); 
and the chief funny man is 'Dr. Rouspeck, a 
Cliar lat an ' ( Mr , Thoman ) " 

Caroline was no longer in demand as a singer or 
dancer but she continued to play in the various old favorites, 
sensation plays, extravaganzas, farces, naturalistic dramas, 
and fairy spectacles that were desperately offered to dazzle 
the public and lure thorn away from the temptations of variety. 
In February, 1866 she v^fas a member of the American company 
that combined with the Buislay family to produce a ''grand ro- 
mantic fairy spectacle" called T he iJllvos which seemed to be a 
precursor of Billy Rose's most extravagant nightmares; for 
The Elves was "a medley of tragedy, comedy, farce, pantomime, 
operetta, with a sprinkling of Harlo quinism and a faint sug- 
gestion of the circus." ( Bulletin , Jan, 22, 1856) 

Caroline's enga£:eraents became more and more scarce. 
In 1869, after an absence of three years from the stage, she 
made her reappearance at the Alhambra; then she played a pit- 
ifully small season of one vireek. She reappeared at the Met- 
ropolitan for one week, in August 1870, During the fall of 



128 



the yc^j* she dragged herself on c. shabby tour of tlio interior 
of the; State. Finally on Hay o, 1876 she died in San 
Francisco, old beyond her years, alone and forgotten. 

" THE CAROLIrffi CHAPI..AN " 

San Francisco was considerably removed from the ex- 
citement of the Civil V/ar but at times there were brief 
echoes of the long, thunder rolling throughout the country. 
At one time a little gun-running Confederate brig dashed au- 
daciously from the bay and s-vept out into the sea, evading 
pursuit. It was a bold and dnfiant gesture that stirred the 
imagination. This little brig was called the Caroline 
Chapman , For Caroline Chapman too had been bold and free, 
lawless, disrespectful of power and pretension. She had in- 
fluenced a new mood of rebellion in the theatre; had given 
impetus to the lawless theatricals that were now dominating 
the San Fi'ancisco stage, and in the change she too had been 
swept aside with the others, discarded to make v;ay for the 
nevj. 

The Chapmans -..'ere a great force in the development 
of the San Francisco theatre; they v/ere for a time represen- 
tative of San Francisco itself, the pioneer and worldly San 
Francisco, loving pleasure, living richly, gay ly, a gypsy city 
enlivened by gypsy troupers, strolling players. 

THE CHAPI.iAK SISTERS 
'.Vith the disintergration of the Chapman family and 



129 



the fading of Caroline Chapman ends the story of the stroll- 
ing players in San Francisco, But tliere is an epilogue;--- 

It v/as late one afternoon in the late seventies, 
when a heavily-laden stage coach clattered through the Calif- 
ornia raountains. As it curved around the road adventure v/as 
av/aiting, in the form of highwaymen. There were a pair of 
these gentlemen, extravagantly dressed in the mode of the 
time; their faces were covered by black silk masks; their 
pistols glistened heavily in the dying sun. The bandits 
looked romantic. And efficient. Promptly the stage-coach 
stopped. 

It was obvious that here was something more than a 
practical Joke -- these people meant business. The driver 
flung his arms up in the air and almost fell off his perch. 
Inside the coach v/as much tremulous agitation. The sterness 
of the bandits relaxed as they examined the contents. They 
bowed gallantly as they helped doacBn'd the twittering, 
brightly- costumed young ladies. A few of the passengers were 
indignant; they fretted, they fi:mied; they told them that they 
would be late for their engagement. They did not attempt to 
deny that this was the troupe of the Chapman Sisters. 

Chapman Sisters? The older bandit was incredulous. 
He remembered Caroline, and Uncle Billy, and Josephine, and 



-;:-From C. Rourke, Troupers of the Gold Coast , p. 228 



130 



and George. But these had passed away. And here were these 
two cliarmin;], girls, Blanche and Ella Chapman. It was too 
good an on^ortijuity. The bandits cleared a space beside the 
road. They shot a few times into the dirt. Everybody began 
to dance. 

For hours the company danced and sang on that im- 
promptu stage, Jake Wallace ran through the interminable 
stanzas of his ballad. The Days of Forty-Nine , a ventrilo- 
quist tremblingly recited his patter, the Chapman sisters 
danced polkas and tarantulas and chirped their merry songs. 

Then the fastidious bo.ndits buckled on their pis- 
tols and danced quadrilles and lancers with the ladies of the 
company. And at the end of that, as was the chivalrous custom 
of the day, they kissed each lady separately. It was roman- 
tic and democratic, and everybody had a fine time. 

The bandits were very grateful for the entertain- 
ment. They helped the Chapman sisters into the coach. The 
older man was especially tender. Twenty-five years before in 
Sonora, he explained, he had applauded Caroline and Uncle 
Billy. 

The stage-coach rolled on; from the road the ban- 
dits waved a picturesque farevrell. The horses galloped at a 
terrific pace through the passes as the perspiring driver 
furiously whipped them on. Then, after about twenty break- 
neck miles, he fainted. The two Chapman girls rushed to his 
side. 



131 



The driver came to, but he would not leave his 
seat. For under it v/as a treasure-box containing a fabulous 
sum in gold. Wolls-Fargo hr.d boon savod. 

And also the honor of the Chapman family, thought 
the Chapman sisters, Blanche and Ella. 



132 



RSPRiSSNT.ATIVS PARTS TAI-IEl- 3Y THE G^iAP^IANS 



Date 



1851 



Flay 



Role 



Mrs. Georn;e Chapman lir, George Chapman 



The Lcdy of Lyons 

The Hone^nnoon 

The Serious Family 

Daiiion and Pythias 

Theresa 

Romeo and Juliet 

Somebody Else 



1852 My Neighbor's V^fe 



Pauline 
Juliana 

Calanthe 

Therese 

Juliet 

Minnie 



1855 The Artful Dodger 
The French Spy 
Nicholas Nickleby 
Jack Sheppard 
The Model Farm 
Crasher and Slasher 
The Lottery Ticket 



Mathilde 



Lotty Smithers 



Tim Tinkle 
Mohainined 



Caroline Chapman 



1852 Heir at Law 

Katherine and 

Petruchio 
She Stoops to 

Conquer 
The Soldier's 

Daughter 
Beauty and the 

Beast 
A Story of the 

Heart 
The Rivals 
The French Spy 
Clari, Maid of 

Milan 
Bombastes Furioso 
The Naiad Queen 
The Pair One With 

the Golden Locks 
Dombey and Son 
The Iron Chest 
Theresa, or The 

Orphan of Geneva 



William B. Chapman 
Dr. Pangloss 
Grumlo 
Tony Lumpkin 



Widow Cheerly 

Beauty 

Lucille 

Lydla Languish 

The Spy 



Helen 



133 



Representative Parts Talcen by the Chapmns, (Cent.) 



Date 



Play 



Role 



Caroline Chapman VJllliara 3 . Chapman 



1852 The Review 

A Trip to California 

Actress of All Work 

The Hunchback 

Betsy Baker 

1855 Richard III 
Hamlet 

Lola Monte z in 

Bavaria 
liVho ' s Got the 

Countess? 
A Nev; Y/ay to Pay 

Old Debts 
Romeo and Juliet 
The Merchant of 

Venice 
A School for 

Scheming 
The Past, Present 
and Future of 
San Francisco 
Guy Manner ing 
Faustus 
Yellow Dwarf 
The Rake's Progres; 
Much Ado About 
Nothing 



1854 The Serious Family . 

^— The Rivals Lydia Languish 

The Sea of Ice 

Taming a Tartar 

Damon and Pythias 

Richard III 



Elizabeth 
Ophelia 

Catherine Kloper 

Mula 

Juliet 



The Genius of 
San Francisco 



Adine 



Calanthe 
The Queen 



Don Caesar de Bazan Martina 

1855 Uncle Tom's Cabin Topsy 

The Hundred Pound (The Lady 

Note (The Peasant Girl 

Leap Year or 

Lady's Privilege 



Duke of Gloster 
First Grave 
Digger 



Louis Buggins 



Sam Slop 



Bob Acre; 



Phineas 



134 



Hcproscntativc Parts Taken by t:io Chapraans , ( Cont , 



Date 



Play 



Role 



Carolino Chapman V/illiam 3. Chapman 



1856 A Trip to Aits trull a 
or Lola i.iontcz on 
the Fanny Major- 
Richard III 



Lola ■Monte; 



Tommy 



1857 Delicate Ground 
The Dint Belle 



AlDhonso 
0' Smirk 



1861 Death or The Angel An;,cl of 

of Midnight Mdni;~ht 



1866 The Elves 



135 



THE CIIAPMANS 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



Rourke , C ons t anc e . Troupers of t}.ie Gold Coast or The Rise of 
Lotta Crabtree (New York, Harcourt, Brace and. Company, 1928). 
pp. 38-45, 4^-55, G8-60, 70-71, 80-81, 112-118, 126-127, 
152, 228. 

Hornblow, Austin A Hlstor;v of the Theatre in America (Phila- 
delphia, J. B. Lippincott, 1919). Vol. 1 p. 138. 

Goad, Oral Sumner, £. Mims, Edwin Jr., Pageant of America (New 
Haven, Yale University Press, 1929) Vol. 14^ "The American 
Stage" pp. 152, 187. 

Nobles, Milton. Shop Talk (Milwaiikee, Riverside Printing 
Co., 1881). 

Smith, Sol P. Theatrical Management in the West and South 
for Thirty Y ears (New York, Harper & Bros. , 1868) . Chap. 9 
p. 89. 

Brown, T. Allston History of the American Stage (New York, 
Dick and Fitzgerald, 1870). pp. 66, 69. 

Odell, George C. D. Annals of the New York Stage (New York, 
Columbia University Press) Vol. V p. 220, Vol. VI pp. 56, 
57, 71, 146. 

McCabe, John H. Journal (San Francisco, unpublished Mss. 
bound, Stat'' Library, Sutro Branch) . 



NEVJSPAPERS AND PBRIODICALS 

California Historical (San Francisco, 1928. Sou- 

Society Quarterly venirs of an Interesting 

Fami ly by Helen Throop 
Pratt). Vol. VII pp. 282 
et seq. 

The Argonaut (San Francisco), Jan. 26, 

1854. 

San Francisco Examiner (American Weekly Section. 

March 20, 1938) . p. 18 

California or Daily Courier (Published by James M.Crane, 

San Francisco, from January 
to December 1851). Oct, 22- 
24, 23-31, Nov, 1-8,1851. 



loG 



NEijVSPAPxiRS MD PERIODICALS (Cont.) 



Dcdly Alt a C alifornia 



The San Francisco Herald 



The Golden Era 



The Evening Bulletin 



Fisaro 



(Sc'.n Francisco). March 16, 
2^:, April 2, 10-12, May 4- 

8, 12, 13, 18, Jixno 13-15, 
July 12, 23, 31, Aug, 14, 
1852° April 3, 17, 26, iiay 
5, 23, June 25, July 11, 
Dec, 6, 7, 1853; Feb. 4-6, 
July 1, 11, 12, 17, 19, 24, 
26, 30, 1854 J Oct, 14,1867; 
May 9, 1876; March 3, 1830, 

April 6, 21-25, June 12,15, 
16, 19, 22, 26, 27, 29, July 
1, 10, 11, 14, 51, Aug, 31, 
Sept, 2, 15, 19, 21, Dec. 7, 
1855; Sept. 1, 3, 1856; Nov, 

9, 10, 11, 25, 1857. 

(San Francisco Public Li- 
brary, Sutro Branch) Dec, 
19, 1852; Jan, 2, 13, Feb, 
13, 20, 27, May 22, 29, 
June 5, 12, 19, 26, July 3, 

10, Aug, 14, 21, Sept, 18, 
Oct, 9, 30, 1853, 

(San Francisco), Sept. 2, 
5, 24, Nov. 28, 1856; Nov, 
9, 1857; Jan. 7, May 20-29, 
Aug, 30, 1858; April 4, 
1859; Dec. 23, 1861; Jan. 
22, 1866; Aug, 30, 1870; 
Nov, 16, 1876; March 2, 
1880, 

(San Francisco), June 1, 
1872, 



PROJ"::!:CT EDITORIAL STAFF 



Resesrch Director. , e . .Jack W. vaison 



MONOGRAPH ll/RITERS 



George Du.casse 
Cornel Lengyol 



A]-an Harrison 
Eddie Ghiiaano 



RESEARCH ASSISTMITS 



Mathew Gatelj Gretchen Clark 

Dorota^^ Phillips Lenore Le^ere 

Lauretta Bauss Florence Braaley 

;^yland Stanley 



ART and PHOTO REPRODUCTION 



Lala Eve Rivol 



M, H. Mc Carty 



PRODUCTION 

V/illiam K. Noe Elleanore Staschen 
Clara Kohr 



Altjiough the entire research and sten- 
ographic staff on the project assisted 
in tiie preparation of these monographs 
at various' stages In production, par- 
ticular credit should be given to Mr. 
George Ducasse for his rewrite work on 
all three of the monographs in this 
volume. 

Lawrence Sstavan 
Project Supervisor. 



^ 

^i 






4) 

'•* 1