KanColl: The Kansas Historical Quarterlies

Theatre in Kansas, 1858-1868
Background For the Coming of the
Lord Dramatic Company to Kansas, 1869

by James C. Malin

Spring, 1957 (Vol. 23, No. 1), pages 10 to 53
Transcribed by Christopher H. Wynkoop; HTML editing by Name withheld by request;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets are links to notes for this text.


THE history of theatre in Kansas begins, for all practical purposes, with the decade 1858-1868. Attempts at dramatic entertainment prior to 1858 were isolated, but that year brought some semblance of orderly development and continuity. Furthermore, that decade possessed an approximation of unity, characterized by the tradition of the resident theatrical company and the "star" system. The condition which marked the coming of the Lord Dramatic Company to Kansas, in the season of 1869-1870, indicated a sharp break away from the earlier general theatrical practices in the country as a whole -- one that crystallized in this particular area during the late 1860's. A comparatively detailed historical treatment is required to differentiate the decade 1858-1868 from everything that was to come after, and to explain how the change came about that introduced James A. and Louie Lord, and road shows like them. A number of factors were involved in so complex a transition, both as related to the country as a whole and to the local area, but among the Missouri river elbow cities and the interior towns of Kansas, the advent of railroads was critical.

     For practical purposes, also, the history of this decade of theatre in Kansas is virtually the history of Leavenworth theatre, 1858-1867. But it is related in a major fashion to St. Joseph, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and New Orleans. Necessarily the population of Kansas towns afforded something of an index of the ability of each to support theatrical production of any kind, but the theatrical history of each was different. Until the late 1880's Leavenworth was easily the metropolis of Kansas. The only challenge to that generalization would be to consider within the Kansas context the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area, which was mostly on the Missouri side of the line.

     In the appended table the population figures are compiled for ten Kansas towns. The first four are important only to the first period of theatre, but all are pertinent to the second. By 1880 Atchison, the second city of 1860, appeared to be about to challenge Leavenworth, but leveled off to a condition almost static. The changing relative positions of Lawrence and Topeka between 1860 and 1880 are important to the story. As the state capital, Topeka emerged rapidly from a village into a substantial city with a population structure peculiar to its political character. Lawrence, which had occupied a prominent role during territorial days, declined relatively in status and became very nearly static. Theatrewise, it was rated a poor show town. Fort Scott, the fifth city in 1870, had been too small in 1860 to be listed separately in the federal census. It was too small to support a resident theatre, either with or without the star system, in both periods, although the attempt was made in 1870, spring and fall, immediately after the advent of the first railroad from Kansas City. Even with the rail connections, it was relatively isolated from other large towns in either Kansas or Missouri that could provide receipts to meet high time and money costs incident to travel.































Fort Scott














Junction City





















*after 1886, Greater K.C. Kansas

The 10th Census of the United, 1850, left Junction City, blank, indicating that the figure given by the preceding census was not accepted as valid. Possibly the figure should have been 1,778.


     Prior to 1870 Leavenworth's theatrical history had been associated primarily with four different buildings, essentially successive structures. Although not specifying in what building, on November 29, 1856, the Kansas Weekly Herald reported that Gabay's Theatricals had been playing that week to crowded houses. The editor went on to point out that Leavenworth needed "a TOWN HALL for Concerts, Theatricals, Public Meetings, etc. Who will take the lead in this matter?" Although not designated as a theatre, Melodeon Hall served in that capacity in April, 1858, and later. Not until March, 1858, was the Varieties or Union Theatre provided.


     The announcement was made in March, 1858, that H. T. Clark & Company, apparently the owners, "are fitting up the large hall on the corner of Delaware and 3rd streets for a Theatre. It is being fitted up in real city style .... The stage and scenery are in perfect order. The floor is elevated, and good seats so arranged that those in the rear can see as well as those in front. About 500 persons can be comfortably seated." On March 23 the theatre opened and continued until April 16, when it was closed for repairs and preparation of new scenery. The newspaper accounts were not explicit about the situation, but some inferences appear to be reasonable. Probably the first opening was a trial run and a calculated risk in which no more money was invested than was absolutely necessary to test out the possibilities.

     The experiment had proved sufficiently successful, apparently, to justify a heavier expenditure and some substantial changes in management. George Burt, who had been identified with St. Joseph theatre, had been engaged as stage manager as well as actor, was a scene painter, and was credited with being the architect of the Smith Theatre of St. Joseph. He was now made manager of the operating company, which was a local group. The seats were cushioned, and the aisles matted:

The scenery has been remodelled and renewed generally; but the best feature of the late improvement is the "drop curtain," designed and executed by Mr. Burt. It represents the "National Flag" falling in waving folds of "Red, white and blue" upon a marble pavement. Upon the pavement is the word "Union," in large letters of gilt. The design is worthy of the author, the execution artistic in the highest degree, and the effect is charming.

Thus the Varieties Theatre became the Union Theatre. In this fashion, even the theatre in Leavenworth, a city Democratic in politics and reputedly Proslavery in sentiment, reflected the critical political issue of the day. Also, Burt announced explicitly that there would be no barroom either in or about the theatre. This was in deference to "the ladies [who] can in future feel no repugnance in visiting the Theatre... "

     For two and a half months the Union Theatre carried on with apparent success, when fire burned it and both sides of Third street eastward from Delaware street until it had destroyed 35 buildings. The loss was estimated at $250,000. In describing the fire loss, the best available account of the setting of the Union Theatre emerged. The building was known as Market Hall. The basement was occupied by a billiard and bowling saloon; the first or ground floor by the City Market; the second floor by the city recorder's and the marshal's offices and the Union Theatre. In view of this description of the basement occupants of the building, one is left to wonder how Burt's assurance about the elimination of the barroom atmosphere was implemented. With the burning of their own building, the Union company fell back, temporarily, upon Melodeon Hall where a benefit performance was given for the relief of fire victims. [1]


     Within a week of the Union Theatre fire, a move was made to build a new theatre to be ready for operation by September 15. In fact, the opening of the National Theatre did not occur until the second week in November. Burt and Hunter promoted the enterprise and designed and painted their own scenery. Emphasis was placed upon the point that this building was constructed for a theatre, with stage, private boxes, dress circle, orchestra, parquette, gallery, and other arrangements. In fact, Leavenworth insisted that it was the only "theatre" west of St. Louis; at the entrance was the box office and on either side were two large doors. The building was 40 by 100 feet, and the stage was 85 feet deep and 28 feet wide. Although not explicit, the description implied that this was a ground floor theatre, not a second or third floor hall above business establishments. The location was Shawnee and Fifth streets. [2]

     Theatrical operating companies kept the theatre in active use with substantial continuity for about two years, or until mid-September, 1860, after which it experienced a checkered career. It became the American Concert Hall in July, 1861, and by early 1863, was operated as the Varieties Theatre. Attempts were made on different occasions to burn it. In August, 1863, a grand jury had returned an indictment against the "Moral Show" (its familiar appellation), as a public nuisance. After being unoccupied for some time the first attempt to burn the building occurred in November, 1863. In August, 1869, the show was finally closed out -- "a relic of infamy gone." Partly burned in June, 1870, the comment was significant, that although the fire was extinguished nobody "cared in particular whether the filthy old concern was reduced to ashes or not." At one time, and possibly throughout its history, this building was owned by a Philadelphian. [3]


     Stockton Hall at the southwest corner of Delaware and Fourth streets was built late in 1858 and advertised as available after November 22 "for Balls, Parties, Concerts, Lectures, etc., etc."; a "NEW AND SPACIOUS HALL, THE LARGEST AND FINEST IN THE WESTERN COUNTRY ...." In the winter of 1861-1862, when amusement for the military personnel became important to Leavenworth, theatrical activity revived. The Melodeon Concert Hall was refitted for operation, but more important was the conversion of Stockton's Hall into a theatre. Under the circumstances, the Daily Times, January 24, 1862, was convinced "a well managed theatre will pay." On March 20 George Burt and his wife Agnes opened it as the Union Theatre. Under changing management, operation was continuous under that name until the building burned January 25, 1864. The Union Theatre was a second floor affair, at the time of the fire the ground floor was occupied by a drug store, a saloon, and a wholesale liquor store, while the basement accommodated a pork-packing establishment. At the time of the fire the property was owned by a Cincinnati man. [4]


     Soon after the burning of the Union Theatre (Old Stockton Hall) a new building was undertaken, to be opened in September, 1864. It was located upon the old site at Delaware and Fourth streets, 48 feet on Delaware and 90 feet on Fourth street, two stories, the theatre occupying the second floor. The ground floor was occupied by two of the same tenants, the drug store and the wholesale liquor business, who had used the former building, and a new saloon. At the time of the opening of the new theatre the description of this saloon made it appear as attractive as possible: "A perfect little bower of beauty -- mirrors and marble, crystal and coral, decanters and demijohns, is the New Theatre Saloon on Fourth Street." The main entrance to the theatre itself, on the second floor, was also from Fourth street, while the gallery entrance was from Delaware street. The stage of the theatre was 30 by 40 feet, with green room and dressing rooms under the stage, and an entrance from Fourth street. The theatre capacity was 700. When reporting progress in April, the Daily Times, April 21, consoled itself that when completed the metropolis of Kansas would again enjoy legitimate drama. The opening occurred September 10, 1864, with Sheridan Knowles' play "The Hunchback" presented by the resident company.

     Only five years later the Times and Conservative lamented that the old building was misnamed an Opera House -- its acoustics were bad, its condition filthy, and it was dangerous because the old exit from the gallery had been removed. In November of the same year, when the tenor Brignoli had offered an operatic concert, the editorial comment was even more blunt: "We received many complaints and would not speak of it but that there is always something wrong with it [the Opera House]. If the proprietors cannot keep it in good order they should not rent it. The community are getting tired of going into a hog pen unless it is warmed." [5] The conclusion to be drawn from these candid indictments was unmistakable -- a new theatre was necessary. Not until 1880, however, was the new Opera House a reality -- on Shawnee between Fifth and Sixth streets, with a capacity of 900. Thus in December, 1869, when James A. and Louie Lord first visited Leavenworth and revived theatrical activity, in spite of the disparagement about its acoustics, filth, and danger, they played in the old (five years old) Opera House.

     Leavenworth had other public halls which were used for entertainment, special events, and meeting places for organizations. The most pretentious of these was Laing's Hall, over business establishments, located on the northwest corner of Delaware and Fourth streets. It was described as being designed to accommodate 1,000 persons in comfortable arm chairs, and was dedicated April 12, 1864, by the Leavenworth Musical Association. Apparently it was not equipped for theatrical performances until sometime during the 1870's. [6]



     The term "theatre" was used, during the 1850's and 1860's, two ways. It was applied interchangeably to either the building or to the company of actors who performed there, often leaving to the reader the task of discriminating from the context in each particular case which was meant. The exact character of the chain of business relations involved between the owner of the building and the actor on the stage is seldom available to the historian, and cannot be dealt with in the present essay except in the most general terms. The preceding section has described something of the buildings used for theatrical purposes in Leavenworth. The present section deals in general terms with the management of theatrical production, but even this simplified approach is sufficiently complicated to confuse anyone.

     When transportation was slow, unreliable, and expensive (Missouri river navigation was closed by ice about three months of every year) theatrical operations had to be geared to the realities of the situation. Whether in the Missouri river cities, or further east, the resident theatre (theatrical troupe or company) was one possible answer. When Gabay's Dramatic Troupe visited Leavenworth early in November, 1856, the Herald comment reflected this situation: "We learn Mr. Gabay proposes at some future time making permanent arrangements for a theatre in this place. We need a Town Hall for Concerts, Theatricals, Public Meetings, etc." Such a "permanent ... theatre" would require continuity of proprietorship and management as well as a company of actors who would prepare a long list of plays permitting a change of bill each night without too frequent repetitions. To avoid monotony several leading actors would be required and further diversification could be achieved by bringing in stars from time to time on short engagements who might feature plays not on the home list, the resident company playing the other parts, providing support for such stars. The resident theatre might make outside engagements, leaving the home theatre building vacant from time to time or permitting its use on such occasions by other forms of entertainment. The St. Joseph Theatre, the Union Theatre at Leavenworth, and as late as 1870 the Olympic Theatre at Fort Scott undertook to function upon such a basis.

     The use of the term stock company as applied to the Kansas theatre of this period has been purposely avoided. Although it was the technical term used in the profession for certain types of theatre, sometimes being substantially the equivalent of the Leavenworth situation, yet both the meaning of the term and the status of the Leavenworth Theatre were quite variable and the application to the Kansas theatre might serve only to confuse further the history that is being presented. The term resident theatre has among other things the virtue of being descriptive of the nature and objective of the institution as Leavenworth and Atchison saw it. Also, the term resident theatre has the further merit of contrasting sharply with the term traveling theatre, a difference which is the focus of this study. In other words, this is not a treatment of the changing internal structure of the acting profession in its own right, but a presentation of the relations of theatre as an institution to the changes taking place in the structure of society under the influences of technology, particularly the displacement of water communications by mechanically-powered land communications, together with a recognition of all that this meant to the individual and to the community in relation to entertainment.

     The success of the resident theatre system depended upon more than a population large enough to meet theoretical support requirements. In some respects continuity in management and soundness in long range planning were more important than the continuity of acting personnel. Yet a measure of stability for the membership was desirable to attract good actors who might also be good citizens. Actors and the public might soon tire of each other. Mutual respect between the actors and the public both on professional and personal bases was peculiarly necessary in small cities. For those actors who did have families, the resident theatre could be made attractive. Not only did theatre face these problems, the schools and churches had many of the same difficulties. To meet the problem of the minister and his congregation tiring of each other, the Methodist Episcopal Church made annual appointments, and usually limited reappointments. Theatre had no overhead organization to administer such an approach. In a sense, it was near the opposite extreme in its lack of any organized institutions.

     For the decade of Leavenworth theatrical history, 1858-1867, under review, the principal proprietorships of the acting companies centered successively around four men; a theatrical association for which George Burt was manager, April, 1858, irregularly to 1860 (?), 1862; A. S. Addis, a local photographer, March, 1862, to January, 1864; W. H. Coolidge, druggist, April, 1864, to May, 1866; and George D. Chaplin, actor, August, 1866, to November, 1867. Addis and Coolidge were local business men, not actors; Burt and Chaplin were actors as well as operators and depended upon financial support from others not named. For two years, 1867 to 1869, Leavenworth had no theatre. In the sense of permanent resident theatre, a statement of conclusions would seem almost superfluous. Yet a more intimate view of the workings of Leavenworth theatre are revealing and rewarding.

     The operating association for the Leavenworth Varieties Theatre of 1858 secured the services of George Burt and his "talented and charming wife" Agnes. His specialty was "low comedy," and in addition he was a scene painter. Mrs. Burt played the leading feminine roles of lighter nature usually, and she sang and danced. Burt's major responsibility at the start, however, was that of stage manager. After the trial run of March and April, 1858, and the reorganization, Burt became the manager of the theatre, under the new name Union Theatre. In his announcement to the public he insisted that "The 'Varieties' [Union Theatre] is emphatically a local institution -- the first regular Theatre in Kansas -- (owned by an association of well-known men, who have used every exertion for its advancement) and as such will be supported and protected by our citizens." The Herald, whose editor, L. J. Eastin, was a theatre patron, took similar ground -- "the 'Theatre' is now a fixed institution of Leavenworth. [7]

     Scott's Theatre, playing at Melodeon Hall in April and May, 1858, was operated by a man-and-wife team, Mr. and Mrs. D. L. Scott. Late in May, J. C. Thorne was brought to the theatre, and after mid-June C. R. Thorne was manager of the Union Theatre. The C. R. Thorne family, father, mother, and two sons "chips off the old block" were well known in the west. The fire of mid-July closed their career at this Union Theatre. [8]

     The project for a new theatre, which became the National, was promoted by Burt and Hunter. When the National Theatre opened September 10, 1858, Mr. and Mrs. Burt were still favorites, but another man-and-wife team, well known to the river towns, Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Walters, were hired to sustain the heavy characters. The National's management changed rapidly; Burt and Coutra, April, 1859; Conrad and Haun, June, 1859; Langrishe and Allen, November, 1859; Thorne and Burt, December, 1859; and Burt again in April, 1860. Its management during its last months is not clear.

     The Daily Times gave theatre its editorial support and when the outlook appeared discouraging, September 8, 1859, wrote of the role of theatre as follows:

     The question of whether we are to have some standard place of amusement is being freely canvassed. The old National looks "like a banquet hall deserted." As the evenings grow longer, and the time gradually approaches for overcoats and fires, our "homeless" and restless citizens are growing exceedingly anxious and restive. We have a host of unmarried folk in Leavenworth who would patronize most anything in the theatrical line, and we cannot see why a theatre well conducted would not be well supported.

     During the winter of 1861-1862, with military personnel to entertain, George Burt and George Gosling had remodeled Stockton Hall as a theatre, but Addis bought into the Union (Stockton Hall) Theatre in March, 1862. He was listed as manager, but the staging of shows fell to Burt at first and then to John Templeton who quarreled with Burt and dismissed him in July, 1862. Templeton's control under the Addis regime lasted until July, 1863, when he and a group of the company resigned, in protest of their treatment, and founded a traveling company under Templeton's management. George D. Chaplin became manager of the Union Theatre under Addis in July, 1863, continuing until January, 1864, when the company broke up in a quarrel with Addis over salaries. This theatre building burned and Addis' theatrical career as promoter ended.

     The new "Leavenworth Theatre" in the rebuilt Stockton Hall opened in September, 1864, under Coolidge as manager as well as proprietor, with Henry Linden as acting and stage manager. With some modifications in the proprietorship, this management continued until May, 1866. The Chaplin Opera House (Stockton building) opened in August, 1866, and operated under his control during the season ending in June, 1867; and in reality his management continued from September to November, 1867, when the company broke up in a scandal. For this misfortune the blame did not rest directly upon Chaplin, but lacking adequate financial resources apparently he had found it necessary to make an arrangement that later brought disaster to his enterprise. In the briefest terms, a Leavenworth business man invested in an actress, Susan Denin, making her manageress, with Chaplin as stage manager. The company opened September 7, 1867, running until late October when an engagement in Kansas City took them out of town for several days, reopening in the home theatre November 5. Two days later, without notice, the company went to St. Joseph where they played between two and three weeks, again disappearing without notice -- the company had collapsed when the sponsor decided not to continue paying deficits. Possibly the sponsor and Susan had quarreled. In a lawsuit which followed, the main facts became public property. [9]

     During the winter seasons of 1867-1868 and 1868-1869 Leavenworth had no theatre, although the "Varieties" flourished until closed August, 1869. This fulfilled the lament and prophecy of the Conservative, November 24, 1867:

     Our people have very generally concluded that they are to have no theatre to entertain them this winter. Many of them even regret not having encouraged Manager Chaplin, while he was here, and as they are at a loss to know how to pass the long evenings, would probably be willing to go now and see Julia Dean, Mrs. Gladstane, or some of the other artists of ordinary ability, who have appeared in our city to $50 audiences during the past year. On the whole, we are inclined to think the pleasure seekers of Leavenworth don't want a theatre. They will probably be gratified, for a time at least.

Indeed the winter of 1869-1870 was well along before a break came. Early in November, 1869, the tenor Brignoli, en route to California, stopped for two days, November 9, 10. He presented an operatic concert the first night, which included the first act of "Lucia di Lammermoor" and the third act and garden scene from "Faust," and on the second night came Rossini's "Barber of Seville." It was following the Brignoli performances that the Times and Conservative, November 11, rendered its blunt verdict that: "The community are getting tired of going into a hog pen unless it is warmed." Between that time and the appearance of the Lords, December 20, the opera house had been the scene of a minstrel show from St. Louis, and a tragedian who read a number of dramatic roles and poems. [10] Of course, this did not mean that Leavenworth had no entertainment of any kind; only that there were no theatrical performances. From time to time the opera house and other public halls had many kinds of amusements and lectures, some good, and some very bad.


     Not only was theatre in the west in a state of flux, such was its conspicuous characteristic elsewhere. One of the innovations was the theatre circuit in some form. Thus whatever the origin of the shows, they were assured a place in the offerings of the member theatre in each city in the circuit.

     H. R. Camp, of Kansas City, was reported to have arranged for a circuit including Leavenworth to begin in January, 1864. Apparently this was premature. [11] In 1871 the Western Star circuit, including Kansas City, Leavenworth, St. Joseph, and Omaha, was under the management of J. A. Stevens of Kansas City, Mo., where he headed a theatrical company. Apparently this circuit was based upon stock companies and stars. In November, 1872, Stevens took his company to Topeka for an experimental two-night engagement to test out the feasibility of including Topeka in the circuit. The following year reference is found to a Missouri river circuit, which included Omaha, Lincoln, St. Joseph, Leavenworth, Topeka, and Kansas City. It provided billing among member theatres for traveling dramatic companies. [12] In the West these projects were conspicuously experimental and transitional, and were introductory to more stabilized practices of the 1880's, if anything in theatre can be properly termed stabilized.



     In dealing with the management of theatres and dramatic companies, necessarily something about the actors who appeared on the stage has been included. Several of the managers were actors in their own right. The story of George and Agnes Burt is the first and most conspicuous case in point. When they came to Leavenworth in March, 1858, Mrs. Burt was given a special introduction through the medium of a letter from St. Joseph where she was well known. The writer defended the theatre in general but in particular declared:

     In view of a vulgar prejudice which has obtained to a great extent in the towns of this region, I will add that Mrs. Burt's course in this city, has been such as to gain for her the respect and esteem and love of all who have become acquainted with her, and such as proves her title to move, as she always has, in the best social circles. Of her abilities as a talented and sprightly actress, you will not say I have spoken too enthusiastically when you have witnessed them. [13]

     Some days later, and on the basis of her Leavenworth performances, the verdict was that: "This talented and accomplished actress and lady has obtained for herself in this community an enviable reputation. She plays, sings and dances well, and so far has given universal satisfaction." A few nights later her "Castinet Dance" was said to have been "perfectly bewitching," and she was presented with a gift by a number of gentlemen, headed by Judge G. W. Purkins.

     Additions were made from time to time to the original Burt company. Among them, in June, 1858, were Mr. and Mrs. Pennoyer, and in November Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Walters. [14] The wives in both of these man-and-wife teams were distinctly the better halves. Also during this first period in Leavenworth's theatrical history the beginnings of the star system were introduced, although not so labeled. This is of some importance because at a later time Addis was credited with this innovation. [15] Among the several stars, Eliza Logan must be mentioned in particular. She appeared in April, 1859, for two weeks, beginning April 11, the plays including "Ingomar," "Evadne," "Lucretia Borgia," and "Romeo and Juliet." In introducing her it was said: "Her name may be found on the brightest page of American Drama. Miss Logan is not a glaring meteor, flashing through the histrionic world; but she is a sweet morning star, whose chaste and mellow light gives assurance of its immortality." [16] Not only did she impress the scribe of the Herald, but Mr. and Mrs. Burt named one of their daughters Eliza Logan Burt. Another daughter was named Clara, possibly for Clara Walters [17]

     One of the points made in the press when Burt first arrived in Leavenworth was that he was "determined to elevate the character of the Stage in this upper country, and place it upon a proper basis." Upon occasion the Herald featured the evaluations of outsiders who were supposedly more objective than local critics. One of these strangers who attended the theatre during a brief visit to the city, commented favorably upon a number of the actors by name, particularly the Burts in "The Lady of Lyons," "Ingomar," "The Maniac Lover": "In a word, the Union Theatre has a company of professional artists, the majority of whom are competent to appear on the boards of any theatre ... in elevating the standard of the legitimate drama, and in establishing an institution that should meet with the hearty support of every lady and gentleman in Leavenworth of scholarly attainments, refinement and intelligence." On the same day the Herald editor commented that: "The stock of performers is everything that it should be, embracing actors of every variety, and well capable to fill the characters of any play, however numerous."

     Nearly a year later the Times admitted that: "Our neighbors of St. Joseph and Kansas City laugh at us, and call us sneeringly, the 'Cottonwood town.' So be it. Let those laugh who win." Again a stranger was quoted: "despite your newness, and the suddenness of your being, yours is the only place which imitates -- which has the air and look of a metropolis." Also, Leavenworth was still proud of George and Agnes Burt because they were held "in the highest esteem by our citizens, not only for the interest they contribute to the stage, but for their social qualities." [18]

     The Thorne family played at Scott's Theatre in May and stayed to perform at the Union Theatre, C. R. Thorne beginning in "The Wife," June 2, and later playing "Richard III," and "Othello." Mrs. C. R. Thorne played Amelia in the last named play. In July Thorne was in charge of the Union Theatre. When the National Theatre opened in November, 1858, Mr. and Mrs. Burt were on hand for the lighter parts and Mr. and Mrs. Walters for the heavier parts. In November, 1859, the Thornes took over the National and the next month the Thornes, Burts, and J. R. Allens worked together for a time. Burt became ill, and the Thornes and Allens went to St. Joseph. Burt, who had been having reverses, became involved in lawsuits, but in April, 1860, the Times reported he had been vindicated -- "Burt is indomitable ... and we may soon expect to see the National again in its glory." Conditions were against the theatre during the next months, the year of the great drought, and the National closed in September leaving Leavenworth without a theatre until 1862. Not at the National, but at Stockton's Hall, a benefit was scheduled for Burt on September 1, 1860. The Times urged: "Let all who can scare up a quarter, invest it in making him a bumper. He has fought hard here for his honorable profession, and as the pioneer of Leavenworth histrionics should never be slighted by our people." [19]

     During these trying years of beginnings, the Burts, the Thornes, and the Allens were closely identified with the area, particularly with St. Joseph and Leavenworth. The elder Thornes retired from the stage in 1862 and settled in California. [20] Part of the personnel of these early years carried over into the second period beginning in 1862, but most of it in the later years was new.


     When the National Theatre suspended in September, 1860, Leavenworth was left without any regular place of amusement other than the saloons, billiard halls, and places of a still lower order that did not advertise or receive locals notice. Nevertheless a vacuum tends to be filled by something, and such was the case in Leavenworth. Starting operations in Melodeon Hall, on Cherokee street, Ben Wheeler, a flamboyant local "character," launched the American Concert Hall during the winter of 1860-1861. On April 9, 1861, the Daily Conservative, D. W. Wilder, editor, either as a "local" or as an unidentified advertisement, reported on the nature of the attractions: "Miss Fannie Gilmore in her songs and dances, Ben. Wheeler in his Irish comicalities, Pendergrast in the 'Happy Land of Canaan,' and Carroll and Lynch in their negro eccentricities, are unapproachable, and present an array of talent unequaled in the West." In this "varieties" type of entertainment "stars" came and went and the composition of the company changed with some personalities persisting over a substantial period of time.

     When the American Concert Hall moved to the old National Theatre, July 10, 1861, the features stressed were songs, dances, plays, and burlesques "never before produced in this city." Furthermore, the advertisement boasted that the price had been reduced "from one dime to 10 cents." Of the opening it was said that "the elephant 'Columbus' was hugely ludicrous, and the operatic burletta, 'Oh hush,' was immense." The following week came the "Orphan Girl," and the "Masquerade Ball," and the source of income to supplement the reduction of price "from one dime to 10 cents" was revealed to the historian who otherwise might be naive and might worry about how so low an admission fee could finance a show advertising at least a half dozen named stars: -- "'Major John' at the bar contributes to the comfort of the spiritually inclined." Possibly some sense of the degradation involved was reflected in a paragraph in which a parallel was drawn:

     The old National Theater, wherein Hamlet and Romeo were wont to be murdered, and Shakespear's [sic] ghost haunted the grim-visaged representatives of his fertile brain, is now the nightly scene of Afric's fair sons excentricities [sic], interspersed with a variety of entertaining amusement.

But the burden of the article in which the above paragraph occurred was praise of the merits of the current show and its particular star:

     Miss Gilmore is gifted with rare musical talent, and in to all of her melodies she throws her whole soul, imbuing each with a touching pathos, and feeling that strikes the heart, and like sweet melody lingers to please the people of Leavenworth, and they can properly show their appreciation by attending her benefit on Saturday night.

     With a change of bill the following week the public was assured: "No plays will be introduced that need shock the nerves of the most fastidious." Sure the American Concert Hall was well on its way to earning its ironic appellation the "Moral Show." [21]

     The opening of the Civil War in April, 1861, inaugurated a feverish activity of military preparations. These were momentous weeks of decision for everybody. The selfish, the insincere, the charlatan, had an opportunity, and many made the most of it. Ben Wheeler, colonel, if you please, went to St. Louis to see Fremont about military matters and reported satisfactory arrangements for his military company, the Fusileers, which would appear soon on dress parade at the American Concert Hall. Soon the Conservative began to ask what had become of them -- had they gone south to join the Confederacy? They did not appear in the mayor's parade, and the Conservative inquired again about the mystery. The excuse given was that they were too busy preparing the next play: "He Would Be a Son of Malta," which opened September 10. The Fusileers were called to meet at the theatre September 18. The following evening a new program was presented, including "The Omnibus" featuring Ben Wheeler and others: "... those who thirst will be attended to promptly by the lady waiters, or by 'John' at the bar. The utmost order and decorum is preserved in every part of the house, and everything is conducted with the strictest regard to propriety." And so it went -- "rich, rare and racy" into the winter of entertainment for soldiers and others that season of 1861-1862. But what became of Ben and the Fusileers is not clear. The management of the Concert Hall changed rapidly.

     In July, 1862, a facetious paragraph referred to both the American and Fusileers, but without giving much tangible information:

     The Ancient and Honorable Fusileers, Col. Ben Wheeler, commanding, J. R. O'Neil Captain and A. G. G. G. (awful glorious, great gun), have consented to come out, march and show themselves on the Fourth. Since last year's festivities they have seen much action in the tented, contented and discontented field. Persons wishing to unbend and recreate themselves should go to the meeting at 4 o'clock this afternoon, at the American, when recruits will be received. Under the new law half the bounty will be paid on enlistment.

     In December, 1862, Maj. Ben Wheeler was reported to have opened a saloon "in the lately remodelled and renovated Moral Show building." Apparently his venture did not last long, because the notorious "Varieties" took over under different management during the winter of 1862-1863, and in spite of encounters with the law survived until its final closing in 1869. [22]


     As actor, in differentiation from his career as manager, George Burt's reception was cordial when he undertook, in February, 1862, to operate the Union (Stockton Hall) Theatre. Before regular productions began a benefit for Mrs. Burt was announced for March 20. The play was to be "Honey Moon." The "local" of the Conservative pronounced Burt "the best theatrical manager in the West" --

     The house will be crowded and the crowd will be delighted. Manager Burt, we are glad to state, has opened the Union on an entirely different principle from that which has heretofore governed our theatrical representations. It will be strictly fastidious and our best people will favor it with their patronage.

     The Times "local" agreed that the heading "Mrs. Burt's Benefit" was enough to attract all play goers: "Many of our citizens remember and appreciate her good qualities as a woman and actress, and will fill the house ... Burt will be on hand with his usual budget of fun."

The Conservative, March 21, announced sadly:

     Burt has postponed that Benefit. He says he has lived here five years and always brought a drenching storm whenever he advertised a Benefit. In the fall of '59 he left the stage for other pursuits; hence that unprecedented Drought [of 1860]. We think it will pay those who drive over the prairies to get up a purse and send Burt out of the State, to be brought back by the farmers on the first indication of a dry season.

     The Times continued, March 22, that despite the weather, Burt was determined to satisfy the fun-loving people of the city by opening the Union Theatre: "... we will not be responsible for damaged vest buttons and buckles, when Burt opens his budget of fun."

     Again a benefit for George Burt was announced on April 3, for that very evening -- "Benefit of George Burt (The Aquarius of Kansas)." Three comedies constituted the bill: "Toodles," "Merry Cobler," and "Ellsworth Tableau." But the "local" of the Conservative commented: "Go early and get a good seat, it will be a gay old time -- 'if it don't rain'." The Times version reported that: "Burt, by special request of many of our citizens, will open Union Theatre Hall to-night, and entertain his many friends for an hour or two ... assisted by his 'better half'..." Also, several young men had volunteered to take part. The plays listed by the Times were "He Had a Brother," "Why Don't She Marry?," "Merry Cobler," and "Toodles." Neither paper reported next day upon the show. Not explicit in these notices was the fact that Burt had not assembled a complete company and was not yet producing plays. That accounted for the reference to volunteers who were making a show possible.

     When the announcement came, March 26, that Addis had bought Gosling-Collins interest in the Union Theatre, making Burt manager, the Conservative observed:

     The well established character of this gentleman as manager, and the high popularity he has attained as a comedian will make the "Union" the chief attraction of the city. As an artist, Burt stands pre-eminent in his profession. His National drop curtain would grace any theatre in the country, and is a work of art of which our citizens should be proud. Burt has struggled through hard times, ruinous law suits and numerous opposition to establish a good theatre in Leavenworth, and he is justly entitled to the encouragement and support of our citizens.

     On April 5 the Conservative announced a benefit for Mr. and Mrs. Kent and again took advantage of the occasion to elaborate upon the debt owed to Burt:

     The efforts of Mr. Burt to revive the drama in this city have been perfectly successful. He has succeeded in producing fine pieces and making a place of amusement fitted for the enjoyment of the best class of people. Our community is indebted to his exertions for this privilege, and they have shown their appreciation of his services by full houses every night of the new season. [23]

     But about a month later, in alarm (?), the Conservative asked: "Where is Burt? We must send for him and have him get up a Benefit. He is now at Fort Riley and they have showers there every day. Burt is the only man equal to the dry emergency and must be obtained at any cost." The occasion for the absence of Burt and Addis was the troop movements of April and May, 1862. A May 25 local reported that "Mr. Addis, Deguereotype Artists, has returned from an extensive and profitable trip through the State ...." Thus Burt and Addis had been reported at Lawrence where the show business was good on account of the troop assignments there. Early in May they moved on to Topeka, and later came the report quoted from Fort Riley. The next major movement of military personnel came the last week of May when named Wisconsin and Kansas regiments were marched to Fort Leavenworth for transport by steamboats. A soldier writing from Fort Riley, May 22, reported: "Fort Riley is ours! Yesterday the 'Home Guards' evacuated the Fort, 'retreating in good order,' and save the bedbugs and gray-backs who hold a life lease on the place, we are the undisputed possessors." As no one seemed to understand the purpose of the marching and counter-marching, or of the unpredictable transfers of officers, or of the merits and status of the quarrel between Gov. Charles Robinson and the Lane faction about who controlled Kansas regiments, morale was very low. Apparently, the soldier badly needed amusement that would relieve his mind even temporarily of troubles.

     The return of Burt and Addis to Leavenworth near the end of May was thus geared to the military situation. Also, the makeshift theatrical company had served its purpose. Addis went east for photographic equipment and to engage a new theatrical company. Burt remained in Leavenworth to keep the show going, opening May 27 with a four-play bill: "Kiss in the Dark," "Yankee in Kansas," "Brown's a Brick," and "Irish Assurance." Interspersed, of course, were songs and dances. [24]

     In view of this background, the events of the following weeks are particularly difficult to accept. The new Union Theatre company brought in Misses Julia and Lola Hudson, Miss Helena, and Mr. Wilson, but most important to this story John Templeton as stage manager and leading man. Mr. and Mrs. Burt remained, Burt being listed as manager. The opening occurred June 17 with "The Avenger" and "Honey Moon." The second night the plays were "The Stranger" and "The Limerick Boy," on the third night, "Black Eyed Susan" and "The Rough Diamond," on the fourth night, "Camille," and on the fifth night, "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Family Jars." Though hot were the summer days, every seat was reported taken; then special ventilation was improvised to insure greater comfort. Both the Times and the Conservative were generous in their praise of the venture, the latter emphasizing that it is "a first class place of amusement where persons of refinement can go and be delightfully entertained;" -- "It is an orderly and comfortable place." The Times observed that "A well patronized theatre is an evidence of unusual prosperity or depression, as in the latter instance people will go to drive off the 'blues,' and in the former because they want amusement, and think they can afford it."

     The dramatic critics were less generous with individuals. Templeton cast himself and Miss Helena in the leading roles for most of the plays and he was pronounced only "fair," or "Templeton did better, much better, than we anticipated as 'William' [in "Black Eyed Susan"] night before last, and as 'Armand' [in "Camille"] last evening . . . a really fine actor." Miss Helena received the best press although that may be a reflection of a male bias in an age which was peculiarly a man's world -- she "took the house by surprise on Friday evening by her correct and spirited rendition of 'Camille'." The play "Camille" was repeated twice soon thereafter. The Times commented that: "The play is one of those which may be termed terribly sensational and wholly French ...."

     The Burts got few good parts during these opening days of the season. When the comedies "The Serious Family," and the "Two Gregories" were to be presented, the Conservative local said: "We want to see Burt's 'Aminadab' for we think he will do it to perfection." This was the same day that the Times pronounced Templeton's playing in "Camille," the previous night's offering, as "fair" while saying that: "Burt's Izak was a happy conception well rendered, as are all his comedy parts ...." And Miss Hudson was referred to as "refreshing" in the role of "Marie." [25]

     Trouble was brewing and quickly came to a climax. In the papers for July 4 the advertisement of the Union Theatre changed form, dropping Burt's name from the position of manager. The Burt benefit announced for July 16 met the usual Burt luck, rain and poor receipts. In the controversy Burt was dismissed. Friends of the Burts met at the Planters' House, July 25, to try to arrange a proper benefit, but apparently failed. Templeton issued a card July 27 stating his side of the case and alleging that Burt had had no financial interest in the Union Theatre since Addis had bought control, and worked on a salary basis, had managed nothing, his listed position as manager of the Union Theatre having been merely a courtesy title. Whatever the merits of the controversy, for the time being, the Burts were again eliminated from Leavenworth theatre activities. Although out of sequence, perspective may be better focused to quote the Conservative's compliment to the Burts in announcing their benefit with the comedies "Asmodeus," "Lottery Ticket," and "Omnibus." "Mr. and Mrs. Burt take a Benefit to-night at the Theatre. Unless Burt's usual luck of a rainy night follows him, the house will be packed to overflowing .... The public are more indebted to Mr. Burt than to any other person for having a Theatre here, and his long and successful labors should meet with a substantial reward from his hosts of admiring friends." [26]

     Replacements were brought to the Union Theatre in July and only about four weeks prior to summer closing, August 19, Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Walters who were already known to Leavenworth, and Henry (Harry) Jordan, and Mr. Charles. They appeared for the first time in Sheridan Knowles' "Hunchback." The Conservative, July 23, took exception to the conduct of Jordan: "Jordan ought to be told, and we think we will do it, that profanity and vulgarity are not wit." Other personal comment on the company pronounced Mrs. Walters as "a good actress and sings finely," and except for Eliza Logan, Miss Helena was the best actress to visit Kansas.
     The impression Mrs. Walters made on the Times critic, as of August 5, 1862, was expressed freely on the occasion of her benefit, when she played in "Ireland as It Is" (Judy O'Trot), and "A Loan of a Lover": "The bill might be more attractive, perhaps, or at least not so stale, but she has friends enough to fill the Hall, just for the pleasure of hearing her sing 'Annie of the Vale,' and the 'Flag of the Free'; and besides no one would tire of her inimitable rendition of 'Judy O'Trot'." She was scheduled to sing other songs, one of which was "I Have No Money," in the second play. After the event, the Times continued August 7:

     Mrs. Walters' benefit on Tuesday night was a perfect triumph, which she must be proud of as long as her recollection of it lasts. She has made an impression during her engagement here, and given us a sparkling and vivacious originality which months of cut and dried conventionality will fail to extinguish.

     On the occasion of the closing of the summer season, the Times August 17 undertook to sum up the high points of the theatrical situation, evaluating several personalities by name, apparently condemning others by silence, but paying respects adversely to one in forthright terms. Addis was complimented as "successful" in his role of manager, "earning the good will of the entire company." Burt and his friends would have dissented. Miss Helena and Mrs. Walters were linked: "Both favorites with our play goers, it would be difficult, perhaps, to say which has made the deepest impression. The former has charmed all by her very natural and correct style of acting, while the latter, as an actress and vocalist, has taken a new lease of admiration of our citizens." Templeton came in for praise as "an indefatigable worker and fully competent manager .... As an actor he has made himself many friends ...." Jordan was rated as a number one comedian. And O'Neil: "What would they do without ... [him], who not only gets up the scenery in a truly artistic manner, but plays everything from 'Brabantio' to 'Lady Creamley.' He is at home in anything among the 'wings'." No mention was made of Mr. Walters. Apparently his habits had made him a controversial subject, and as will come out later, most unpopular. But, as with a bee, the sting of the Times summary was in its tail:

     Wright -- cannot consider his visit to Leavenworth as either a pleasant or agreeable episode in his latter day experience. Well, we are a stupid set, thus to ignore the presence of live genius; unable to distinguish between excellent and execrable; which reflection may, in a measure, console the aforesaid for any chagrin at his lack of success here.

     The fall theatre season of 1862 got off to a slow start. Templeton was retained by Addis as manager because, as the Conservative, September 14, put it, he "gave such universal satisfaction last season." With a short company the opening came September 16 with "The Stranger" and "Irish Lion." On the fourth night "Camille." Templeton and Miss Helena took the leads, with Mr. and Mrs. Jordan in secondary and comedy roles. A new danseuse, Mlle. Aubrey, was announced October 4, "said to be skilled in the 'poetry of motion,'" and the reappearance of Mr. and Mrs. Walters came October 6. The following day the Conservative reported that they drew an unusually large audience: "The Union has now an efficient company, and can do up the 'legitimate drama,' as well as the farce, the song and the dance in good style." But the Conservative, of which D. W. Wilder was the editor, had not been satisfied with some things:

     We have thought for some time that we would make a friendly suggestion to the manager of the Union Theatre, but have deferred it for some time. We propose to do so now. He must have noticed that the conduct of a large portion of the audience, particularly those who occupy the rear of the building, is not such as should be allowed in places where ladies and gentlemen are expected to be present. Yelling, blasphemy and vulgarism, will do more to break down the institution than the best artistes in the country can do to build it up. We believe that this accounts for the fact that fewer of the best portion of our people attend the Theatre of late than formerly. We do not attribute blame to the manager or proprietor, and believe they will see that the fault is corrected.

Others must have been dissatisfied and less tactful, because a later note reported that: "Mr. Templeton, Manager of the Union Theatre, still survives, all rumors to the contrary notwithstanding."

     In spite of the unusual reception given to Mrs. Walters upon her first appearance in October, she was not cast for important roles or given prominence in billing. Principally, she was mentioned as featuring ballads and the favorite songs of the day. Eventually, on December 4, she was allowed a benefit, taking her turn as a secondary member of the company, but the Conservative gave her a very special notice on the preceding day:

     Of Mrs. Walters hardly too much can be said in this city, where her appearance upon the stage is always a signal for applause, where she has never sung a song that was not encored, and where her versatile talents and irrepressible mirth have won for her, from first to last, the hearty good will of the whole community. She deserves a house crowded from dome to foundation, and she will have it, and hundreds will snarl at Addis and at Leavenworth because there is not a house here big enough to hold them.

     The following day the praise continued:

     She has labored long and faithfully to please the Leavenworth public, and render the Theatre a pleasant and attractive evening resort, and has so far succeeded as to excite rounds of applause at her appearance each evening. We hope to see the house well filled ....

     The Conservative was no doubt sincere in its praise of Mrs. Walters, but the editor was also propagandizing for a new theatre building, which he said was "greatly needed." One of the leading business firms was understood to be planning a new building at the corner of Delaware and Third streets, its dry goods business on the first floor with a theatre above.

     A final round of benefits occurred at year's end and the first days of January, 1863, before the season closed January 17. Templeton led off and afforded the Conservative an opportunity to say kind things: "... no man ever worked harder or more successfully to please his patrons, and render our Theatre a first class one. . . ." In this reference was made both to his managerial function and to his "proving himself an actor of uncommon merit." Mrs. Walters' second benefit came January 16, 1863, in "Wandering Boys," and "Irish Diamond." [27]


     The reasons are not clear why a long vacation was taken by the Union Theatre from January 17 to March 11, 1868, when a new company was assembled. Actors had to eat the same as other people, so the members got up a series of shows of their own for which Addis permitted the use of the Union Theatre. But he made the matter plain to the public: "The vacation exhibitions given now are got up by the company for their own benefit. Mr. Addis has sent Mr. Templeton East to engage a new company, and does not wish to have it understood that the present performances are his regular Theatre ...." This was printed February 4, the day before Mrs. Walters' benefit was scheduled. The series of shows had opened February 8, and the Conservative reported that: "This institution opened as successfully as ever last night. A good audience was in attendance and everything passed off nicely." Difficulties developed from another direction. Mr. Walters had not been mentioned in the theatre reports which praised Clara Walters so generously, but obviously he was unpopular as the following notice makes only too evident:

     Owing to the threats against Mr. Walters, by some rowdies in town, that gentleman will not appear to-night at Mrs. Walters' benefit .... This change will preclude the possibility of any trouble, and no one need have fear of a disturbance. An efficient police force will be present and if any rowdie interrupts the performance, he will be instantly arrested.

     Five days later, February 10, but whether or not the threat of difficulties at the theatre was a manifestation of general conditions or strictly personal is not clear, the commanding officer of the Military District of Kansas, Brig. General Blunt, proclaimed martial law in Leavenworth. Mrs. Walters was personally popular with the military people at the Fort, and presented a musical entertainment there February 26, postponed from the previous night on account of a storm. Early in March she accepted an invitation from citizens to present a musical and dramatic entertainment at the German Theatre Hall, March 4, but the public was assured that the saloon operated in connection with the hall would be closed. She was assisted by other members of the company. As the number of chairs available was not sufficient, Mrs. Walters tried to rent additional chairs from the Union Theatre, but Addis refused permission. This led to a public controversy in which she proved Addis untruthful, but also deprived herself of employment when Addis reopened. [28]

     The new company secured by Templeton for Addis was only partly new: George D. Chaplin, Frank Roche, Harry and Anne Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Wildman, Mary McWilliams, Miss Miller, and Mr. Smith. Seven of the old company were retained, including: Miss Helena, and Mlle. Aubrey. Chaplin and the Stones were the important additions, especially Chaplin, formerly of the New York Winter Garden. After his second appearance he was rated "the best actor who has ever visited Leavenworth." The Conservative protested his playing female parts, insisting that he was too good for that. On March 18 he played "Othello" to Templeton's "Iago." On April 20, the star system made its appearance again; Mary Shaw for two weeks, Cecile Rush for three weeks, C. W. Couldock and daughter Eliza for nine days, and Kate Denin for two weeks. These stars, together with the new members of the company, made possible the presentation of a number of plays seldom if ever offered in Leavenworth. Cecile Rush was particularly popular in "Fanchion" and played it five times during her visit; "Ida Lee" was played three nights. On this and later visits Couldock and daughter played his specialties, "Willow Copse," "Chimney Corner," "Richelieu," "Merchant of Venice," "King Lear," "Romeo and Juliet," "Louis XI."

     But Addis had not taken a true measure of the woman who was Clara Walters, without a husband to complicate her life. She arranged for the remodeling of a hall on Delaware street, between Fifth and Sixth streets, naming it the People's Theatre, of which she was the sole lessee, with J. R. Healey of the former company as stage manager, and Col. Lyman Eldridge as treasurer. She was the first woman theatre executive in Leavenworth. The Conservative greeted her venture cordially: "The company is said to be an excellent one, and under the energetic management of Mrs. Walters, who is herself one of the best actresses and singers of the West, we doubt not will draw crowded houses." This was April 10, and the People's Theatre opened the following night.

     The first regular performance, April 13, opened with a "Grand Musical Olio" -- "The Battle Cry of Freedom" (new) by Mrs. Walters, "Robin Rough" (duet) by Mrs. Walters and Mr. Healey, a ballad by Healey, and a ballad "Kathleen Mavourneen" by Mrs. Walters. The featured play was Sheridan Knowles' "Hunchback" and the afterpiece comedy, "The Irish Tutor." The company was strengthened by new members as time passed, Arnold and Rogers, both from Cincinnati, and April 29 the star of them all, Sophia, the little daughter of Col. C. R. Jennison, jayhawker, saloon keeper, gambler, horseman, and political boss of Leavenworth's third ward. Her "Eva" played to Mrs. Walters' "Topsy" in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," George Aiken's version, was a smash hit. It ran four nights -- "Miss Sophia Jennison's 'Eva' was superb." She showed "self possession and grace" in her first appearance upon the stage. After May 6 Mrs. Walters took her show to Lawrence, returning at the end of the month. On Saturday night, May 30, after the play was over she collapsed and was unconscious until after daylight Sunday morning. The responsibilities of business management and acting had proved too great a burden. [29]

     Apparently Clara Walters spent the month of June recuperating her health, but possibly she had taught Addis a lesson. At any rate, July 2, she was advertised to play Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Union Theatre. The local observed that drama lovers would learn with pleasure of her return after so long a retirement and predicted the largest audience ever to assemble in the hall. Mrs. Walters was featured regularly during the next two weeks when the theatre closed for the summer. Furthermore, she had good parts, playing heavy roles not formerly associated with her career, including Queen Elizabeth in a second Shakespearean play "Richard III." The closing announcement listed the members of the company who would be retained for the fall opening -- the two principles were Mrs. Walters and George Chaplin whose theatrical careers were to be closely linked for several years. [30]

     The return of Mrs. Walters, whether causal or casual is not certain, coincided with the publication, July 2, of a card by John Templeton and six other members of the company, including Miss Helena and Mlle. Aubrey, announcing their resignations: "to preserve ourselves from theatrical imposition, and to maintain the decent dignities of ladies and gentlemen." Chaplin became both acting and stage manager, combining Templeton's position of acting manager with his own as stage manager. Chaplin's end-of-season benefit came July 10: "With Mrs. Walters to support him as leading lady, we should be glad to see Chaplin become a permanency in our midst, for none who have played here have more friends among our play goers."

     Evidently the affairs of the company were not functioning smoothly because the Times, July 12, enigmatically explained: "When Stone announced on Friday evening that the next would be positively the last night of the season, he probably forgot the fact that Mrs. Walters was justly entitled to an extra night in consideration of her laborious efforts to amuse our play-going public." With this apologetic introduction, the Times announced the farewell benefit for Mrs. Walters to occur Monday, July 13, in the plays "Ben Bolt" and "Grandmother's Pet," -- "with a pleasing interlude of vocal music in which herself and Miss Shaw will appear. Give her a bumper."

     Having been with the company for only the last days of the season, July 2-11, the announced closing date, nine show nights, a rigid application of the custom of theatre, might not have recognized Mrs. Walters' rights even though she had appeared as the leading lady. Miss Helena, the season's leading lady had resigned. But, in any case, the Times announcement gave the impression that the benefit was probably only an oversight in publicity. The Conservative, of the same date afforded a contrasting version of the situation; that the benefit was tribute initiated independently of Addis if not actually in rebuke:

     The patrons of the drama and the public generally will be pleased to learn that Mr. Addis has given the use of the Theatre, and the old company of favorites have volunteered their services for a farewell benefit to Mrs. Walters tomorrow night. Never, since the first dramatic entertainment given in this city, has an actress been upon Leavenworth boards, whose popularity has equalled or been as long continued as that of Mrs. Walters. Stars from Eastern cities have visited our city, who for a few nights have carried an expectant public by storm, and after their departure the first appearance of the old favorite would be more enthusiastically received than ever. In short, while she remains, no other actress can usurp her hold upon the admiration of the patrons of the drama. She has contributed more than any other member of the profession to the entertainment of the theatre goers in the city, and on the occasion of her benefit to-morrow night the hall should be filled as it never has been before.

     Some people do not seem to learn easily. Others find it impossible to learn any lesson well. Possibly the belated consideration of Mrs. Walters' case, if the implications of the Times' version were true, or permission for her friends to use the theatre, if the Conservative interpretation was correct, reflected somewhat of a bad conscience and a making of amends for the chair-renting incident, her omission in the spring from the reorganized company, and her single-handed challenge in launching the People's Theatre. Whatever may have been the reasons, and the true inwardness of the affair may not have found expression in the press: "Mrs. Walters' benefit was the largest of the week, and one of the finest houses of the entire season. This is the best evidence of the appreciation in which she is held by the play going public." The season really did close the next night, with the Ladies' Aid Society benefit from which Addis was reported to have paid that organization $120 and possibly as much as $150. In commenting on the close of the season the Times praised Addis, and Chaplin since he "took the reins." The editor insisted that the hall was not large enough and hoped for a new theatre by 1864. [31]

     During this long vacation Addis followed a policy rather different from that of the earlier period. He announced a series of concerts, beginning August 1, featuring Mrs. Walters. The second concert was scheduled for August 15 but was postponed due to illness. On August 21 came the Quantrill raid in Lawrence, and Addis arranged an early extra performance of his new theatrical company for August 28, the proceeds to go to the Lawrence victims. [32]


     The regular fall theatrical season for the Union Theatre 1863-1864, opened August 29 with a few new faces in the company, and Chaplin in the managerial role as leading man. Mrs. Walters and a new member, Annie E. Dillingham, shared the feminine leads. In the "Lady of Lyons," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "Les Miserables" (Fantine and the grown-up Cosette), Mrs. Walters played the leads, but Miss Dillingham played Juliet to Chaplin's Romeo. None of the local company, however, had much opportunity for personal publicity in print because the time was well filled with the passing succession of "stars"; Ettie Henderson, C. W. Couldock and daughter Eliza, Mr. Neafie, Emily Thorne, Carlotta Pozzoni, Jean Hosmer, Cecile Rush, and J. Wilkes Booth. At first the local actor who played the lead opposite the star was billed by name, next only the local company collectively was listed, but quickly even that recognition was usually eliminated, the star shining in lonely splendor. Couldock had the advantage over the others listed because his daughter always played the feminine lead.

     Between stars, however, the local company carried on, and were recognized for benefits. Mrs. Walters was so honored November 13. The Times took advantage of the occasion that day and the next to pay her the highest compliments:

     The favorite pre-eminent of the Leavenworth play-goers, Mrs. C. F. Walters, has a benefit this evening at the Union .... Mrs. Walters has been among us longer than any other lady on the boards .... [Exceedingly versatile -- comedy and tragedy.] Whatever have been the "foreign" attraction [star] the appearance of Mrs. Walters has always been the signal for the heartiest applause ....

     The critic's appraisal after the event was even more enthusiastic:

     We like home feeling. There is truth in the old saying "The prophet has no home in his own country," yet, if rightly applied, there is justice in it -- the home man and the home feeling should be first.
     Theater goers like "stars" -- so do we. But these stars should not blind us to home worth. Yet they do, and often when they should not.

     Of course, stock-actors are always the subject of abuse. We are so familiar with them that we do not acknowledge their worth. This is wrong. Stand by home men wherever they are, and by home talent wherever it shows itself.

     We make these remarks especially in reference to Mrs. Walters. She is always equal to her part. She is rarely inferior to the "stars" who shine around her. The glitter of her coronet is as bright as the brightest we have seen in those who are called or considered "above her." See her where you may -- be Mrs. Walters in an ordinary or extraordinary part -- let her appear as she may -- still, she is always excellent -- always acts well, and does well.

     One characteristic marks her, and it is a shining one -- telling alike upon actor and audience -- life. She is full of spirit; she never lags; the fire of the heroine she represents is in her, and she flashes it out. That fire is in her song. It is in all she does and says -- and, hence, she is, and should be, a favorite of the public.

     Her reception last night proves the truth of all we say. It was stirring and earnest. It proved that the home actress of Leavenworth is appreciated.

     For some reason not clearly apparent the editor of the Times, December 8, saw fit to discuss the star system, prefacing his comments by a theatrical interpretation of an index of prosperity of a city. As a general rule, he argued, "the best criterion we can have of the prosperity of a city is the extent of patronage bestowed upon amusements. To be sure there are exceptions to this rule" -- people may wish to escape from trouble -- they "may wish to obliterate the blues or find a temporary relief from anticipations of bankruptcy. But the editor insisted that such exceptions did not apply to Leavenworth. Credit for the high position of the theatre in Leavenworth was assigned to Addis "and to no other can be accredited the introduction of the 'star system' which while it may be decried in certain quarters, is the present policy of the stage." He insisted that only this system had made possible "those dramatic 'luxuries,' Fanchon, Chimney Corner, Evadne, etc., as performed by the first artists in the country, and produced in a style that would be creditable... to any theatre in the West." Of course, this led up to a plea for a new theatre building suited to the metropolitan position of Leavenworth.

     All this was a strange preface to what followed. The same issue of the Conservative, January 3, 1864, that reported the joint curtain call an enthusiastic audience had given Mrs. Walters and Chaplin for their acting in "Black Eyed Susan," reported the alterations in the heating system that assured patrons that the theatre would be "thoroughly heated." Then came the turn of fate. On the night of January 5 the gas gave out leaving the theatre dark. By January 10 apparently substitute lighting had been provided or the gas had been restored, but the audience was dismissed because of differences between the management and the actors about salaries. Mary Gladstane, the star who should have played January 4, was snowbound and did not arrive until January 13 after the salary quarrel had closed the theatre. Announcement was made, however, that the theatre was available to her to present her own performance, and that Chaplin and Walters would co-operate. But already a benefit for them had been arranged at the Turner Hall for January 13, along with the comment that they had not participated in the controversy. This is difficult to reconcile with other data. At any rate, Miss Gladstane left Leavenworth without appearing on the stage.

     When the storm broke, the Times, January 12, editorialized:

     It is somewhat strange that Leavenworth must be periodically bored by the quarrels of actors, actresses and managers. Last night, at the Union, the audience was treated to a dish that has been served semi-occasionally since the first time a theatrical company performed in this city. Will not managers be just? Our citizens will support a good theatre, let it be managed by whom it may, but not at the expense of those who depend upon their profession for subsistence.

     In contrast, the same editor in the same issue remarked pointedly: "The difficulties at the Union Theatre do not deter our German friends" at Harmony Hall giving "German Emigration to America," and "The Bewitched Villager." This is a reminder that the Turnverein and its related activities deserve a full historical treatment that lies outside the scope of this essay.

     In the Evening Bulletin, January 12, Chaplin issued a "card" alleging that Addis had said that if the falsehoods reported the previous evening at the theatre were retracted, he would pay full salaries and give benefits, thus acknowledging the season's end. Chaplin's response to this proposal was explicit; that he had stated no falsehoods therefore there was nothing to retract. Addis replied about money matters the following day in the Conservative, Chaplin rebutted the same day in the Bulletin and introduced a new factor even more explosive than money. After calling Addis a liar and detailing the alleged lies, Chaplin continued: "His reasons for not liking the ladies of the company, I have only lately discovered: there is scarcely one he has not grosely insulted and in every instance he has been indignantly repulsed." Chaplin closed by asserting that he stood ready to swear to these statements. Addis replied with a libel suit. The Times quipped: "Between manager and actors, the public is having as much fun as they would if the Union was in full blast.

     The first hearing on the Addis-Chaplin suit was held Saturday January 16, when the case was dismissed on technicalities and a new suit filed immediately which was set for hearing the following Monday. The court room was filled, according to the Times, with rowdies and lecherous individuals who enjoyed the lawyer's examination of the ladies who blushed at the indelicate details they were required to relate. Among the witnesses was C. F. Walters who was handled by the Times as follows:

     That nice young man -- truthful young man -- C. F. Walters, Skevire, is in town. He appeared at the Police Court yesterday, and testified adversely to the veracity of a woman who has supported him when he couldn't raise a five cent piece. As a matter of course, his testimony was ruled out. It's a pity such a thing could not be kicked out of town.

     No longer did the Times treat the controversy as providing "as much fun as" the theatre "in full blast." --

Suffice it to say, the whole proceedings -- from beginning to end -- were indelicate and disreputable alike to all parties .... The course pursued by manager and company, in this affair, will do no good to themselves or the profession. It conveys the idea that quarrels, rascality, bad morals, and obscenity are the necessary consequence of the introduction of the drama ....

     The editor had already given his readers what he considered wholesome advice:

     No theatres, no snows (shows], no dances, no amusements of any kind in our city at present. Some of our citizens are turning their attention to more serious matters, as this evening at the M. E. Church will convince anyone who will visit the interesting meetings now being held there. It is well. There is something beyond the pleasures and pastimes of this mundane sphere, and it is the duty of every one to obtain the pleasure which the consolation of religion alone can give. We advise our citizens to attend these meetings. They may reap some benefit, and it certainly can do no harm.

     But in fact there were competing institutions and even actors had to eat. A saloon occupied a part of the first floor of Stockton Hall which housed the second floor Union Theatre and the proprietor inserted the following advertising local:

     Since the smash-up of the Union, Cooter pere has been giving, and will continue to give, a series of concerts, in the "Green Room" With "legitimate artists," a "legitimate manager," and no "half-salaries," the institution is bound to run. "The best of wines, liquor and cigars to be had at the bar." P.S. -- No pretty waiter girls. Take suthin, Doc?

     This was the situation when on the morning of January 25 fire broke out above the stage in the Union Theatre destroying the whole structure. The theatre had occupied the second floor; Coolidge and Company drug store; Ashton & Bros., wholesale liquor; and Cooter's Saloon occupied the ground floor, and the Ashton & Bros., pork packing establishment operated in the basement. Cooter moved what he had saved back to his old location on Third street, between Delaware and Shawnee streets:

     Cooter -- the indefatigable, unconquered Cooter -- is on his pegs again .... The season will open tonight [January 29] with a new Opera, written expressly for the occasion by the Colporteur. A talented corps of artists will render it in the inimitable manner for which they are so well known.

     Chaplin, Mrs. Walters, and the theatre company went to New Orleans to play at DeBar's Theatre. The Times devoted a full paragraph to praise of Chaplin's year at Leavenworth. "In the thankless role of Manager ... he has acquitted himself to the satisfaction of even the most fastidious ...." Addis did not continue in the theatre business. For the evening of January 28, the third day after the fire, a meeting was called to consider the organization of a fire department to replace the existing fire companies. [33]


     The Leavenworth Theatre, successor to the Union Theatre, opened September 10, 1864, in the new building erected upon the Stockton Hall site. No proprietor was indicated, but W. H. Coolidge, proprietor of the drug store which occupied part of the ground floor, was listed as manager, with Henry Linden as acting and stage manager. The play was the "Hunchback." The company was shorthanded and the reception given it was not enthusiastic. The show closed October 2, for winter preparations and for Linden to recruit additional talent, also to play an engagement on his own account in Kansas City. The local paper became restive at his delay in returning, but November 24 the theatre reopened. Linden and wife, and J. B. Turner played the leading parts until January, 1865, when a succession of stars was imported: Ettie Henderson, Carlotta Pozonni, Mary Gladstane, Rachel Johnson and B. Macauley, McKean Buchanan and Virginia Buchanan. J. B. Turner played "Nick of the Woods, or the Jibbenainosay," which was repeated several times before the end of the season, but the play that created a sensation was the "Octoroon" by Boucicault which played ten times in succession, barring a single night interruption, and several times at intervals later in the spring. This phenomenon drew from the Times, February 21, on the occasion of the announcement of its tenth showing, a long editorial on the failure of the legitimate drama in Leavenworth, which may have had a meaning beyond the single issue of artistic excellence:

     All efforts to establish the legitimate drama in this city have heretofore failed, and they will continue to fail so long as the majority of the theater-going people care more for sensation than acting, more for loud talking and fierce gestures than correct reading and natural motions. The Hunchback was played last night, to a comparatively small house, the greater portion of which was undoubtedly attracted more by the announcement that Linden would play "Cuffy" in a negro farce, than by the first named piece, and although the play was well put on the boards, and better rendered than expected, it failed to interest the audience, or extort from it one single round of applause. We advise the management to stick to the sensational. It is better suited to this community, besides being more remunerative. To-night, at the earnest solicitation of a large number of persons, the "Octoroon" will be played again. Owing to the bad state of the weather, last week, many persons were prevented from seeing it, and as it is decidedly sensational, it of course attracts attention and created a desire in the minds of theatre-goers to witness its representation.

     The theatrical season 1865-1866 continued under the same management, but the proprietors were designated as Coolidge and George Ummethun, the resident agent of the Cincinnati owner of the building. Again the company opened short-handed, Linden himself being absent. The Times, September 10, 1865, editorialized in a satirical attack upon the "poor simpleton public" and its absurd expectations, not realizing realities, including "the risks and vicissitudes of railroad and steamboat navigation." Linden appeared finally on September 16.

     Again, during this season stars dominated the scene for most of the time: Blanche DeBar, Ettie Henderson, C. W. Couldock and daughter (twice), Cecile Rush (twice), Jenny Hight, Yankee Locke, Pauline Cushman, Marietta Revel, Susan Denin, Fannie Price, the Maddern Sisters, but more unusual three members of the local company were given star status, two for a week's run each, Mrs. Linden being the first.

     In February, 1866, two old friends returned to the Leavenworth theatre, George Chaplin and Clara Walters. During their absence, since the break-up of the Union Theatre in January, 1864, they had been reported as playing in the St. Charles Theatre in New Orleans in May, 1864. Both were in Leavenworth a short time in June, 1864, and gave concerts in Laing's Hall. In December of the same year Clara Walters was reported as making a sensation in New Orleans with "The Ticket-of-Leave Woman," a burlesque on "The Ticket-of-Leave Man," Chaplin passed through Leavenworth again in May, 1865. Now, upon his return to Leavenworth Theatre, Chaplin played Saturday, February 3, to Saturday of the following week as the star after which he took his place in the company. Mrs. Pennoyer was again a member of the company and played the feminine lead, but without star billing. The following Saturday Clara Walters was the star and remained as a regular member of the company.

     During his week as star, Chaplin played "Ingomar," "Hamlet," "Money," "Macbeth," "Lady of Lyons," and "Madelaine." It was recalled that he had been a universal favorite some two years earlier, but in commenting upon individual roles, the Times was patronizingly complimentary: "Hamlet" was a "very creditable rendition;" his "Money" was "far beyond mediocrity;" his "Macbeth" was "not so perfect as in previous efforts;" and finally: "He is emphatically a good actor ...." Clara Walters, specializing in the lighter characters, played in "Perfection," and "Ireland as it is." The Times introduced her as "an old favorite ... and if reports speak truly, has greatly improved during her absence." After the event the Times reported that in spite of the rain and mud she drew one of the biggest houses of the season: "... We do not think she has any superior in the delineation of Irish character." [34]

CHAPLIN AGAIN, 1866-1867

     The Chaplin Opera House opened the 1866-1867 theatre season on August 20, virtually a "new" opera house after the summer's remodeling operations. The personnel included names from the previous winter; Clara Walters and Mrs. M. A. Pennoyer in particular. The first plays were "Honey Moon," and "Sarah's Young Man," followed by another favorite pair, "Lady of Lyons," and "Lottery Ticket." The third night brought an Irish play "Arrah-na-Pogue." Although the critic pronounced the company as yet awkward, this play had four successive showings, including Saturday matinee, giving way to J. E. Little's "Richard III" on Saturday evening. Repeat performances became frequent during this winter, both by stars and the resident company. The traveling stars were Miss Leo Hudson, Blanche DeBar, C. W. Couldock (alone), Emilie Melville, Mrs. J. H. Allen and D. R. Harkins, Cecile Rush, Jean Hosmer, Stuart Robson, Lotta and Joseph Proctor. In December the Burt family, with two small daughters, returned to Leavenworth, being assigned stardom. Furthermore, Jean Clara Walters, as she was now officially billed, had her turn from the local company as star in January, 1867.

     The Burt family had been reported, during the winter of 1862-1863, to be operating a theatre in Grand Rapids, Mich., but otherwise information about the period of their absence from Leavenworth remains a blank. The prospect of their return was announced December 16, 1866, and on the 18th notice was given of the "first appearance of Mr. Burt, and the youthful prodigy Eliza Logan Burt." On December 20 Burt and little Eliza Logan played "Ten Nights in a Bar Room," and were such a hit that, including Saturday matinee, they played it four successive times -- Eliza Logan Burt "as 'Little Mary' is the attraction in the piece." On Monday the Burt family presented "Uncle Tom's Cabin": George playing Gumption Cute; Mrs. Burt, Aunt Ophelia; and of course, Eliza Logan starred as Eva. Christmas day Burt played his famous role in "Toodles." The elder Burt daughter, Clara, was featured one night as a vocalist. After the cordial star-rated reception the Burt family settled down as members of the company.

     In April, 1867, apparently the usual Burt luck was present. Mrs. Burt and Eliza Logan were to have a benefit April 6, but it was postponed until April 10. A special attraction was provided, a card picture of the little girl being presented to each woman attending the theatre. About this time, apparently, the Burt family started a new venture, a traveling company, a partnership known as the Johnson and Burt Theatrical Troupe, which played at Lawrence, Kansas City, and Atchison. In 1876 the Burt family was still in the field as a traveling dramatic company appearing in Independence, Kan., the week before Christmas. A benefit was given to the Burt children (Clara not being mentioned, but two new ones being present): Eliza (now 15), Willie, and Nellie. [35]

     The theatrical season of 1867-1868, at Leavenworth, "managed" by Susan Denin, added nothing to the glory of Leavenworth theatre and ended shortly after a few minor stars had appeared: Belle Boyd, LaBelle Oceana (who had starred formerly at the American Concert Hall), Mary Gladstane, and Madame Scheller, -- and of course Susan herself. Then followed the two-season theatrical blank, 1867-1868 and 1868-1869, before the Lord Dramatic Company appeared in December, 1869, a complete traveling theatrical company, not a resident stock company -- traveling-star combination. The Lords represented a new order in theatre. [36]

     Too much should not be made of the adverse criticism of the theatre or of the obvious failures of the theatre and of its public in Leavenworth. Theatre everywhere and always was in crisis -- that is its normal condition regardless of place or time, or whether it thrives only to live again in a different form. Primitive or "civilized" people insist upon escape into a world of make-believe in some guise, and for manifold purposes.


     No complete record of the plays presented in the Leavenworth theatre between 1858 and 1867 can be compiled. Prior to the spring of 1859, for example before Eliza Logan was star, no formal theatre advertisements appeared, and besides the newspaper files preserved are incomplete. The "local" column contained comment and announcements, however, with an approximation of regularity. After the summer of 1862, a fairly complete record is available. A large part of the plays must be classed as ephemeral, with emphasis upon the comedy and farce side. Nevertheless, the showing of Shakespeare's plays and other classics, "The School for Scandal," and "She Stoops to Conquer," for example, was substantial; "Othello," "Hamlet," "Macbeth," "Richard III," and "King Lear" appeared about in that order of frequency; and besides there were occasional showings of "The Merchant of Venice," "Much Ado About Nothing," and "As You Like It." Other plays that were popular included several drawn from English literature; dramatized versions of Dickens' "Cricket on the Hearth," "Chimney Corner," "Oliver Twist"; Tennyson's "Dora"; Scott's "The Bride of Lammermoor," "Rob Roy," and "The Lady of the Lake." From the French were "Fanchion, the Cricket," "Camille," Hugo's "La Tour de Nesle," and "Les Miserables," besides several of lesser merit. From the German examples were "Ingomar," "Leah (Deborah) the Forsaken," and Schiller's "Robbers." The better American literature did not contribute much, but Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" appeared in two or more dramatizations. Plays involving the American Indian were represented by "Metamora," "Wept of Wish-ton-Wish," the farce "Pocahontas," and the frontiersman of Kentucky and the Indian in the dramatized version of R. M. Bird's "Nick of the Woods, or the Jibbenainosay." Besides the ubiquitous Negro (burnt-cork) minstrels of continuously declining quality, plays using the Negro, with exceptions to be mentioned later, dealt with him only as a comic character.

     Social problem plays were fairly conspicuous, "The Poor of New York," "Under the Gaslight," the "Drunkard," and "Ten Nights in a Bar Room." Irish plays were probably the most numerous of any single class, a list of over 20 in number has been compiled, all treated the Irish as comic characters or in ridicule. Dion Boucicault's "Colleen Bawn," first produced in New York in March, 1860, is an exception. [37] Kate Denin first brought it to Leavenworth in June, 1863. In offering "Ireland as It Is" to the Atchison audience it was characterized as an Irish national drama sympathetic to the peasantry: "This thrilling picture of the struggles, trials, and sell-denials of the Irish peasantry has been universally acknowledged as the most beautiful and touching domestic drama ever placed upon the stage." [39] Of course, the play "Robert Emmett" was unconcealed Irish nationalist propaganda based upon the revolt of 1796.

     The star system determined largely the choice of plays presented, the more prominent of these luminaries specializing in a limited number of roles. Necessarily, in the West, the theatres found their choices of stars limited by availability. From 1863-1867, C. W. Couldock offered quite regularly "Willow Copse," "Chimney Corner," "Still Waters Run Deep," "Richelieu," "Louis XI," "King Lear," "Othello," and others, with slight variation. Cecile Rush was almost sure to present "Fanchion," "Evadne," the "Hunchback," etc. Others seemed to follow the changing fashions.

     Of the playwrights represented, the most conspicuous was Dion Boucicault, born in Ireland, then of the New York theatre. The leading version of "Rip van Winkle" available after 1850 was that of Charles Burke, but in 1865, Boucicault's appeared. Boucicault's "The Poor of New York," which compared victims of the panics of 1837 and 1857, was offered first in New York, and later in Leavenworth in October, 1859. His "Octoroon," based on Mayne Reid's "The Quadroon," was first played in New York in December, 1859, and created a sensation in Leavenworth in February, 1865. "Colleen Bawn," and "London Assurance" made frequent appearances in 1863 and later. Tom Taylor's plays were popular, particularly "Still Waters Run Deep," "Our American Cousin," and "The Ticket-of-Leave Man."

     Some plays were so striking in their impact upon the public as to stimulate a demand for repeat performances. Partly, no doubt, the effective combination of actor and play were the explanation rather than the content of the production itself. On occasion this occurred with the local resident company, but more often it was associated with a limited number of stars. In a few cases the preoccupation of the public with a particular subject might account for the response. In May, 1859, Miss E. Mitchell, advertised as a niece of Booth, played "The Mormons" four times and in October, 1859, the Langrishe-Allen St. Joseph Theatre company played "The Poor of New York" at the National for three nights. Public interest in subject matter as social issues of the day no doubt contributed to the demand. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was played once in October, 1859, five times in August, 1862, and four times in April, 1883, and raises the perennial question about the hold exercised by both the book and the play upon the public in the United States and abroad. "Camille," played by the local company, was offered twice in June, 1862. The enthusiastic response, December, 1862, to "The Lady of the Lake," played by Clara Walters and Healey of the resident company would seem to provide no special circumstances other than good acting. American themes were treated in "Nick of the Woods, or the Jibbenainosay" (twice) in January, and "The Hidden Hand" (four times) in April, 1863, by the resident company. Mary Shaw played twice each "Our American Cousin" and "Child of the Regiment" in April, 1863, while Cecile Rush gave "Fanchion" (four times) and "Ida Lee" (three times) in April-May, 1863. Kate Denin's presentations of "Colleen Bawn" and "East Lynne" (twice each), occurred in June, 1863.

     A year and a half later the "Octoroon" sensation, ten nights, by the resident theatre company, in February, 1865, must have been associated with the state of public sentiment near the end of the Civil War in relation to abolition of slavery and the race issue which it raised. But the Maddern Sisters may have been responsible for the run of "Three Fast Men" for six nights in May, 1866. In August of the same year the resident company presented the Irish play "Arrah na-Pogue" four times. The success in August, 1866, of such widely different plays as "Mazeppa, or the Wild Horse of Tartary" (six nights) and "Putnam," a story of the American Revolution (two nights), must have been due primarily to the star Miss Leo Hudson. The "Sea of Ice" was first presented in Leavenworth in October, 1866, by the local company for a five-night run. The return of the Burt family, with the spotlight upon little Eliza Logan Burt, may help to explain the four-night run, in December, 1866, of "Ten Nights in a Bar Room." The vogue of the "Seven Sisters" in January, 1867, was only partly the responsibility of "Lotta," because the local company played it for two nights in the February following. Also, the resident company played "Rosedale" (Wallock's 150 night sensation in New York) for four nights in June, 1867. "The Black Crook" run of 18 days in July and August, 1867, was clearly a combination of high pressure advertising and a sensational show. In retrospect, this record reveals a peculiar grouping of repeat performances in two chronological spots, April-June, 1863, and May-October, 1866, for which there does not appear to be any assignable reason.

     These repeat performances were one thing, but long-term popularity of a play regardless of players is quite another. Shakespeare and the classics held their own remarkably well in Leavenworth during the decade 1858-1867, but were losing ground near the end, and during the next decade. Other plays of a serious nature whose popularity persisted included the "Hunchback," "Evadne," "Lucretia Borgia," "Don Caeser de Bazan," "Ingomar," and "Camille." Of a less serious nature, or in some cases farcical, were "The Lady of Lyons," "Our American Cousin," "Toodles," "Ireland as It Is," "The Serious Family," and the farcical afterpieces, "The Limerick Boy," "The Lottery Ticket," and "Jenny Lind." The social problem plays "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and "Ten Nights in a Bar Room," were of course in a class by themselves. What provided the hold of these plays upon the public imagination is one of the intangibles that eludes all attempts at explanation. Likewise, when "The Lady of Lyons" was billed for July 24, 1862, the Daily Times protested that it would not draw, that it was played out and should be laid on the shelf. Afterwards, the editor had the courage to admit his error -- it drew a large audience and went off remarkably well. Several of these well-worn pieces continued to be standard fare for nearly two more decades.

     An extended reference to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has been deferred until this stage in the discussion. The vogue of the original book, prior to the Civil War, was phenomenal and no more than a reference to that fad need be made here. The play presents some special problems. In Leavenworth, a town with a strong Southern background, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was first presented on the stage October 24, 1859, to a house "quite well filled." In fact, the reporter said: "It was by all odds the largest audience of the season."

     Considering the limited extent of the company and their facilities for rendering a scenic piece of this description, the play was excellently gotten up, and the parts rendered in a respectable manner. We trust that its representation will fill the depleted treasury of the managers and make the Theatre no longer desolate with a beggerly array of empty seats.

     The evening did not pass, however, without trouble: "The William Yerby, who became so indignant at the Anti-Slavery sentiments of Uncle Tom as to compel the police to remove him from the theatre, and for which on Wednesday he was fined by the Recorder, has, we understand, not subdued the pugnacious propensities he then exhibited." On the same day as the trial, "he challenged Marshall Malone to fight a duel with Colt revolvers, large size, at sixteen paces." Also, the report circulated that he threatened the press: "Oh, dear how we quake in our stocking-feet," jeered the Times. [39]

     The second presentation of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" came in August, 1862, and prior to the preliminary emancipation proclamation. Also, this was near the beginning of the Addis-Templeton regime at the Union Theatre, and soon after Mrs. Walters' arrival. She played Topsy, and the Conservative conceded that "a better Topsy than Mrs. Walters cannot be produced." Nevertheless, Editor Wilder was not happy. He conceded something, however, that the presentation "did the highest credit to the manager, Mr. Templeton, and the scenic artist, Mr. O'Neill ...." What distressed Wilder was that in the midst of the Civil War a Proslavery version had been presented:

     The version used, however, leaves out Legree and some of the most important scenes, and makes Uncle Tom a mere obedient servant. As it was put on the boards in New York Uncle Tom's Cabin would be good for thirty nights. We are not more pro-slavery than New York City, and there is no necessity for catering to that sentiment.

     True, it ran five nights only in Leavenworth, not thirty. [40]

     The Times reacted positively also to this wartime offering of "Uncle Tom's Cabin": "The most popular dramatization of modern times, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' will be produced for the first [sic] time in this city, at the Theatre this evening. Jordan does Uncle Tom, Mrs. Walters, Topsey, Miss Mann, Eva, and Miss Helena, Eliza Harris." After the second performance the Times, August 8, also exploded about the alleged Proslavery version:

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is announced at the theatre for this and to-morrow evenings. A crowded house greeted its first production, Wednesday night, and we can unhesitatingly say that as far as it goes the play was excellently put upon the stage, and in the leading characters well done. Mrs. Walters' "Topsey" is an interesting and truthful portraiture of a character very common on the plantations in the South; Miss Helena succeeds admirably, as she ever does, in the effective part of Eliza Harris, the fugitive quadroon; Jordan's "Uncle Tom" is a fine piece of character acting, and Healey does the gracious Kentuckian, Fletcher, in a manner that all along carries with it the sympathies of the audience; but nevertheless the omission of the scenes with Legree and Casey, and the death of Uncle Tom, make the play seem as incomplete as if one had read only the first volume of the book itself, with no chance of getting the remainder of the story. Lack of people may be sufficient excuse for shortening the play, and we would much rather this were the case than that it were done to spare the sensibilities of the resident remnant of Border Ruffianism in the city. The whole piece, -- and it can be done by one or two "doubles" -- would draw a good per cent on the cost of its presentation and the money invested for canvas and colors. Except in a few minor points the play is exceedingly well done. The crossing scene is well contrived; but were we disposed to be critical we might ask how it is that feudal banqueting goblets find their way into a Kentucky tavern? or why Tom Loker and Haley are made to resemble a couple of grog shop loafers rather than the flashy "traders" they are intended to represent? Little Miss Mann's "Eva" is a surprising performance, in view of her inexperience, Wednesday evening being the first time she has ever appeared on the stage. In a little time, however, her slight monotony will wear off, and her rendition of "the flower of the South" be all that can be asked for.

     In April, 1863, Leavenworth again saw "Uncle Tom's Cabin" on the stage, a first-time run with Mrs. Walters again as Topsy and Sophia Jennison as Eva at the People's Theatre. The Conservative noted with satisfaction that George Aiken's version of the play was to be used, and recalled the past:

It has been put on the boards once before in this city, but mutilated in the most approved pro-slavery style. We sincerely hope and trust that such will not be the case to-night. It is one of the most exciting pieces ever written, and we believe the management of the People's will present it in a masterly manner. [41]

The play was given again in September and December, 1863, and January, 1864, but in Leavenworth its popularity was limited. In Atchison, according to the Champion, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was seen for the first time on April 30 and May 1, 1866. In conclusion, whatever the meaning may be, the great vogue of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in its dramatized form in Kansas, came after the Civil War and after the abolition of slavery was an accomplished fact. Furthermore, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" either in book form or in play form was really popular only among white people. To self-conscious Negroes, Uncle Tom's submissiveness and the patronizing attitude toward the negro race were offensive. Only Eliza's escape stirred the race pride and that was not central to the original conception of either the book or the play. In its wanderings as a stage play, except for Topsy's antics, Eliza and the pack of hounds became the focus of the play's more sensational advertising.

     Introduced during the decade of the 1860's were a number of new plays that proved durable. Those listed here in that category probably reached their peak of popularity in Kansas during the decade of the 1870's, some continuing as standard even later. Although records are too incomplete to be certain about firsts in Leavenworth, Boucicault's "Colleen Bawn" (1860), probably had its initial presentation in Leavenworth by Kate Denin in June, 1863. On the same visit she introduced "East Lynne." In April of the same year, with Amy Stone as Capitola, "The Hidden Hand" received a first local hearing. It was dramatized from Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth's novel of the same name. "The Ticket-of-Leave Man" came to the city in 1864, also by the local company. "Lady Audley's Secret" was introduced by Jean Hosmer in May, 1867.

     Burlesques on great or popular plays, especially the tragedies, were a peculiar phenomenon. The first noticed was "Otello, or de Moor ob Wenis" in November, 1862. Another "Norma" has been found for March, 1863. The climax of this burlesque fad came during the season of 1866-1867; "King Lear, the Cuss," "Hamlet, or the Wearin of the Black," "Katherin and Petruchio" ("The Taming of the Shrew"), "Antony and Cleopatria," "Camille, or the Cracked Heart," the "Spectre Bridegroom," "Mazeppa, or the Wild Rocky Horse," "Lady of the Lions," "The Ticket-of-Leave Woman," and "The Ticket-of-Leave Man's Wife." Whether or not identified by the form of the title or by description as a burlesque, during the season, when one of the great plays or major current melodramas was played as the afterpiece, or by the comedy members of the company, it was almost certain to be a burlesque on the real play. Generalization about what this meant is difficult. Probably it was in part a reaction against the excesses and artificialities of the actors in both tragedy and melodrama. Also, it may be interpreted as a reflection of postwar cynicism following the emotional extravagances of the slavery crusade and war patriotiam, and all the "moral" bombast and pretenses that had accompanied the "national" crisis. In part, almost certainly, it was escapism from postwar confusion, public and private; economic, social, religious, and political. But when all this has been said, the matter is still elusive.


     The prices of admission were not reported for 1858-1862. The advertisements of June, 1862, listed dress circle seats at 40 cents (Ladies 25), a lady and gentlemen 75 cents, two ladies and a gentleman $1.00, parquette, 25 cents. In March, 1863, parquette seats were 50 cents, with the same lady-gentleman combinations, dress circle seats 40 cents, and the new gallery 25 cents. In the new theatre on the Stockton Hall site, in September, 1864, the dress circle and parquette seats were 75 cents, and the gallery and colored gallery, 50 cents. The same prices prevailed a year later. The Chaplin Theatre opened in August, 1866, at advanced prices: dress circle, men, one dollar, ladies 75 cents, lady and gentleman $1.50, parquette 75 cents, the galleries 50 cents respectively. Reductions came within the month. The boxes for eight persons were $8.00, dress circle and parquette, 75 cents, the galleries 25 cents. The season of 1867 began with dress circle and orchestra chairs 75 cents, parquette seats 50 cents, and the colored gallery 25 cents.


     Some form of dramatic representation seems to have been an essential aspect of all cultures since primitive times. Theatre per se is a-moral, its ethical significance depending upon its use. Among primitive peoples the dramatic forms were conspicuously religious and ethical, yet in modern society a separation occurred in which theatre came to have many associations of essentially an opposite social nature. Some of these have been revealed only too clearly in the present study. Leavenworth had over 200 license-paying saloons, in November, 1858, constituting a source of substantial city revenue. A saloon, in the form in which such institutions operated during the third quarter of the 19th century, was often if not usually housed in the same building as the theatre. The Market building, which housed the first Union Theatre in 1858, had a saloon in the basement, and one of Burt's first steps as theatre manager was an attempt to dissociate in the public mind the theatre and the saloon.

     "Order and decorum" were promised in 1858 as they had been promised in 1856 when Gabay's Dramatic Company played in Leavenworth. A third aspect of assurances related to the respectability of the acting personnel. Thus the Burts, especially Mrs. Burt, were spotlighted in the social scene as good citizens. They were determined to elevate the stage and overcome the "vulgar prejudice" that obtained in the towns of the area. A particular bid was made for the patronage of women. About 100 "ladies" were said to have been present on the occasion of Mrs. Burt's benefit in April, 1858. If true, this meant that one of every five persons in the "full house" of 500 was a woman. Even this optimistic estimate, however, left theatre attendance primarily an aspect of a man's world.

     The theatre had its competitors in the entertainment field in the form of minstrel shows, varieties (which "covered" a multitude of sins), and showboats. During the years 1858-1859 the Gambrinus Saloon offered its free concert every night in addition to a free lunch. Of course, the liquor that was supposed to accompany these was not free. The American Concert Hall, with its 10 cent admission charge, was only one step removed from the Gambrinus establishment. Reality was represented, therefore, in the plea of September 8, 1859, for some decent place of amusement for "unmarried folks" without homes where they could spend their evenings. After the National Theatre reopened to a precarious existence, the Times, October 13, urged support for "a respectable place of amusement" and warned: "The supply is regulated by the demand." Several days later substantially the same advice was repeated, but the National Theatre managed to operate only irregularly for less than a year more.

     Soon after the Union Theatre was re-established in Stockton Hall in 1863, a saloon on the ground floor, an actor was admonished by name that "profanity and vulgarity are not wit," and over a year later another actor was reprimanded for drunkenness on the stage which required a replacement during the evening's production. On October 3, 1862, the Conservative insisted that audience behavior was a responsibility of the management. The quarrels between managers and companies over contracts and salaries came to a climax in the libel suits of January, 1864. The Times' admonition was to the point, that such scandal "conveys the idea that quarrels, rascality, bad morals and obscenity are the necessary consequences of the introduction of the drama." Benefits to good causes to offset the public's moral sensibilities were futile gestures, whether to the new Christian church building fund, the Hospital fund, the Ladies Aid Society, or the Lawrence Quantrill massacre sufferers. Nor did reduced admission charges for women offset moral delinquencies at the theatre.

     Possibly absentee ownership of the buildings equipped for theatre may have had a bearing on saloon and theatre in the same structure: a certainty of rental income to offset risk. The National Theatre building was Philadelphia owned, and the Stockton Hall was Cincinnati owned. The Union Theatre advertisements (old Stockton Hall), during the hot summer months of 1863, reminded patrons: "Ice Water in the Theatre for the accommodation of Ladies and Children." Should it be necessary to point out the implication? When the theatre in the new Stockton Hall opened in September 1864, the ubiquitous saloon was on the ground floor. However, on the occasion of Clara Walters' vacation concert in the Turner Hall Theatre, she had the saloon closed for the evening. But Clara Walters was more than offset by Susan Denin, and Leavenworth Theatre was discontinued for two years on that note.

(Part Two, the Theatre in Atchison, Lawrence and Topeka, Will
Appear in the Summer, 1957, Issue.)

     DR. JAMES C. MALIN, associate editor of the Kansas Historical Quarterly, is professor of history at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and is author of several books relating to Kansas and the West.

     1. Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, March 13, 20, 27, April 17, 24, May 1, July 17, 24, 1858.

     2. Ibid., July 24, October 16, 23, 30, November 13, 1858.

     3. Leavenworth (Daily) Conservative, July 7, 10, September 18, December 28, 1861; March 23, June 14, November 19, December 9, 1862; July 25, August 9, 20, November 13, 1863; Daily Times, Leavenworth, July 26, August 9, 13, 1863; Times and Conservative, Leavenworth, August 3, 1869; June 15, 1870.

     4. Daily Times, Leavenworth, November 22, 1858, February 5, April 23, 1859, January 24, March 20, 1862, January 26, 1864.

     5. Times and Conservative, Leavenworth, August 1, November 11, 1869.

     6. Daily Times, Leavenworth, December 10, 1863; May 7, June 22, 1864; Leavenworth Daily Conservative, April 10, 23, June 23, 1864.

     7. Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, March 13, 20, 27, April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 15, 1858.

     8. Ibid., April 24, May 22, June 5, 12, 19, July 10, 17, 1858.

     9. Daily Times, Leavenworth, September 6, 10, 1864, June 27, September 9, 10, 1865, August 19, 1866, August 7, September 7, October 23, 1867; Daily Conservative, November 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 27, 28, 1867.

     10. Times and Conservative, Leavenworth, November 4, 9-11, 14, 22-28, December 9, 1869.

     11. Daily Times, Leavenworth, October 27, 29, 1863.

     12. Ibid., September 26, 1871, February 6, 1873, February 3, 1875; Leavenworth Daily Commercial, September 28, 1871, February 7, 1873; The Kansas Daily Commonwealth, Topeka, November 28, 1872.

     13. Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, March 20, 1858.

     14. Ibid., June 5, 12, November 13, 1858.

     15. Daily Times,, Leavenworth, December 8, 1863.

     16. Eliza Logan (1829-1872) was a member of the Cincinnati theatrical family of Logans, and sister of Dr. C. A. Logan, the distinguished Leavenworth physician, who had located at Leavenworth in 1857. She married George Wood, theatrical manager in her home town, later in 1859 and retired from the stage.

     17. Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, April 9, 16, 23, 1859; Daily Times, April 11-23, 1859, December 20, 22, 1886.

     18. Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, March 27, May 22, 1858, March 26, 1859; Leavenworth Weekly Times, April 23, 1859.

     19. Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, May 22, 29, June 5, 12, 19, July 10, November 13, 1858, March 26, June 18, December 24, 1859; Daily Times, November 9, 17, December 8, 14, 1859, April 17, 1860.

     20. Daily Times, Leavenworth, May 2, 1862.

     21. Leavenworth Daily Conservative, April 9, July 7, 9, 10, 11, 16, 21, 25, 28, 1861.

     22. Ibid., August 27, 28, 31, September 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 18, 19, October 30, November 10, 13, December 1, 5, 10, 12, 28, 1861, March 23, 25, June 14, 26, 27, July 1, 3, 20, 22, 31, November 19, December 9, 1862, July 25, 26, August 9, 1863; Daily Times, March 23, 25, 30, April 1, 2, 4, May 12, June 10, 1862.

     23. Daily Times, Leavenworth, January 24, March 20, 22, April 3, 1862; Daily Conservative, February 4, March 19, 20, 21, 26, April 3, 5, 1862.

     24. Daily Times, Leavenworth, April 12, May 7, 1862; Daily Conservative, May 15, 25, 27, 28, 1862.

     25. Daily Times, Leavenworth, June 17-22, 24, 25, 1862; Daily Conservative, June 17-22, 24-28, 1862.

     26. Leavenworth Daily Conservative, July 16, 25, 1862; Daily Times, July 16, 17, 25, 27, 1862.

     27. Leavenworth Daily Conservative, September 14-20, October 3-5, 7, 8, 21, December 3-5, 24, 28, 1862, January 16, 17, 1863.

     28. Ibid., February 4, 5, 7, 11, 25, 26, March 4, 8, 10, 1863.

     29. Ibid., Apri1 10 through May 6, June 2, 1863.

     30. Ibid., July 2 through July 14, 1863; Daily Times, July 2 through July 14, 1863.

     31. Daily Times, Leavenworth, July 10, 12, 15, 1863; Daily Conservative, July 2-4, 7 through 15, 1863.

     32. Leavenworth Daily Conservative, July 28, 31, August 15, 28, 29, 1863; Daily Times, July 28, August 1, 25, 27, 1863.

     33. Daily Times, Leavenworth. January, 6, 7, 10, 12, 14-17, 19, 21, 26, 29, 1864; Daily Conservative,, January 3, 5, 13, 15-17, 19, 21, 26, 29, 1864; Evening Bulletin,, Leavenworth, January 12, 13, 1864.

     34. Daily Times, Leavenworth, May 7, June 22, 23, September 6, 8, 10, October 2, 27, November 17, 24, December 9, 1864, February 21, May 5, June 27, September 10, 1865, February 3, 5-11, 13, May 18, 1866.

     35. Independence Kansan, December 15, 22, 1876. At Atchison, the Daily Champion, April 13, 1866, gave Eliza Logan's age as five which would have made her 15 in 1876 when at Independance. If Clara had survived the rigors of traveling theatre, she may have been in school or married.

     36. Leavenworth Daily Times, August 19, 1866, through June 20, 1867, covers the daily offerings and comment thereon, but a few particular issues may be designated to document particular statements in the foregoing narrative; August 26, September 14, December 16-30, 1866, January 6-13, February 3, March 17, April 5-7, 10, May 6, 1867. The Daily Conservative provides similar daily coverage, but some dates of particular interest for the history of the Burt family are December 11, 1862, January 11, 1863.
     The fall season of 1867 is covered by both papers, the Times and the Conservative, September 7, November 27, 1867, some issues of particular interest are Daily Conservative, November 8, 12, 19, 24, 27, 28, 30, 1867.

     37. Arthur H. Quinn, History of the American Drama, From the Beginning to the Civil War (New York, 1923), p. 377. Quinn limited his generalization that there was only one such Irish play to the use of the better common class of the Irish and other conditions which might make his verdict rather drastic.

     38. Atchison Daily Champion, February 21, 1866.

     39. Daily Times, Leavenworth, October 26-28, 1859.

     40. Leavenworth Daily Conservative, August 6-9, 1862.

     41. Ibid., April 28-30, May 2, 1863.

Go to next installment     Go to cover page for this issue     Go to cover page for this issue     Go to KHQ main page