Author Archives: carljohnson

The Remarkable Hands of Mary Nash

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Mary Nash

The last (for now) of our little look at famous actors and actresses from Albany. This one, Mary Nash, was said to have been born in Troy in 1884 (the Morning Telegraph begs to differ, as we will see), but grew up and was schooled in Albany. The family appears living on Broadway (the one in Manhattan) in 1905. She had her stage debut in as a dancer in 1904. She appears in the Internet Broadway Database in performances from the end of 1905 through 1932, including a turn in Shaw’s “Major Barbara” and 26 other productions. She appeared in three films in 1915 and 1916, but didn’t really break into movies until 1934, when she was 50. She was in the Shirley Temple films “Heidi” (playing the aptly named Fraulein Rottenmeier) and “The Little Princess,” but those with a love of screwball comedy will remember her best as Tracy Lord’s mother, Margaret Lord, in “The Philadelphia Story.” She was in 26 movies through 1946.

An article in the New York Morning Telegraph in 1903 announced her breaking into show business with the headline: “Managers Daughter Will Be An Actress – Mary Nash, Eighteen Years Old, Child of Keith’s Manager, Is Under Contract for Coming Season.”

Mary Nash, eighteen, daughter of Philip F. Nash, manager of Keith’s Theatre, is under contract for the coming season to play in a Broadway production. She has just been graduated from the Sargent School of Acting. She was born in Montreal, Canada, and received her early education in Albany.

An edition of “The Theater” in 1911 wrote about “Sisters Who Have Won Out on the Stage,” featuring Mary and sister Florence.

Mary Nash holds a unique place on the theatrical stage this season, for as the telephone girl in “The Woman” she has created a new role. She has come into her own without any theatrical traditions. Hard work and cleverness are the basis of her success, and a strong desire to go on the stage ever since she was a little girl living in Albany, where her father, now assistant manager of the Keith circuit, was connected with the business side of the theatrical profession.

Mary Nash spent most of her childhood and girlhood in Albany, and the thoughtful, dark-eyed little girl who would sit in one of the boxes of Proctor’s Theatre on North Pearl Street, week after week, looking with intentness upon what was taking place on the stage, is well remembered by many of the theatre-goers of the capital city.

After studying at the Albany High School and the Academy of the Holy Names, she went to Canada, where she completed her education at the Convent of St. Ann Le Chiene. In 1901 she entered the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts in New York, from which two years later she graduated. During the summer of 1903 she became a member of a stock company, playing the ingénue parts, and then joined the company headed by Ethel Barrymore. She played in “Captain Jinks,” “Alice Sit By The Fire,” and other plays in Miss Barrymore’s repertoire, and also with Mary Mannering and in “The Girl from Kays,” but it was in her creation of the role of Cicely in “The City,” played last season with Tully Marshall, that Miss Nash made her first big hit, followed this season by her success as Wanda Kelly. She is not only a clever actress, but has a fine soprano voice and dances very well.

She was noted as “an Albany girl” in most notices in the local papers. In 1922, The Times-Union headlined a piece “Mary Nash, Albany Girl, Lauded For Her Beautiful Hands.” Well, yes, although it’s a fine line between “lauded” and “compared to extinct reptiles for no apparent reason.”

Albanians who are always interested in their fellow townsmen whether it be for their achievements or for other reasons, will be interested in the following story taken from the New York American o Sunday regarding the wonderfully beautiful hands of Mary Nash, Albany girl and sister of Miss Florence Nash who appeared at Proctor’s Grand a few weeks ago.

Miss Nash is a graduate of the parochial schools of this city and up to the time of going upon the stage resided on Elm street, where her aunt, Miss Margaret Mack, still resides. Her mother Mrs. P.F. Nash resides in New York with her two daughters, Mary and Florence, and frequently visits her sister in this city.

The story concerning Miss Nash who is the star of Captain Applejack follows:

Does Mary Nash, the star of ‘Captain Applejack,’ possess the most beautiful hands extant? An advertisement so states and pictures of her hands are shown as ‘proof’ of the claim.

At any rate she has set many girls to scrutinizing their hands for comparisons with hers. Her hand is rather large, the fingers long and tapering.

When a Washington scientist saw the beautiful fingers illustrated, he smiled a wicked smile and calmly announced that Mary Nash’s hands were evolved by a ferocious, amphibious reptile, a monster that made life a terror for what ever type of reptiles existed 20,000,000 years ago. He added that Mary’s hands, fingers and nails, feet, toes and nails, had nothing whatever on those of our far back ancestor called Dimetrodon, and that he had just finished mounting the first known perfect skeleton of the creature to prove it.

One of the most extraordinary phenomenons of nature was the disappearance of human-like hands and feet during fifteen or more million years. The extinct amphibians, which preceded the arrival of true reptiles, were well equipped with human-like hands and feet. The succeeding reptiles specialized in near flippers for fore limbs, retaining within, fortunately for us, the skeleton of the hands and fingers.

After these great reptiles, mostly dinosaurs, became extinct, the more human-like hand reappeared in mammals, to be finally perfected by man or, if you prefer, by Mary Nash. You have a wide choice here. You can align yourself with the artists who favor Miss Nash’s hand and fingers as the super-beautiful in such things, or with the Washington scientist who insists that the hand and fingers of Dimetrodon, the amphibian of millions of years ago, were just as artistic and even more useful.

True, Dimetrodon got no limelight like Mary, but he got everything to eat that swam, walked or crawled. His story is quite as sensational as anything Rex Ingram has dug out for the screen.

No, we really have no idea what that was all about, but it was too remarkable not to share.

As mentioned, the Nash sisters were a thing – there was also Florence Nash. The Theater tells us this:

Florence Nash

While Mary Nash was a member of the stock company in 1903, her younger sister, Florence Nash, used to accompany her back and forth from New York to Jersey City, where the company was located. The younger girl had never thought seriously of going on the stage, but one day the leading woman was taken ill and her place must be filled, and Florence Nash, with no time for consideration, said she would fill the breach. That was all the training she had in dramatic art, and she was the little girl that created the role of The Lisping Girl in the “Boys of Company B.” She had the second part in “The Darling of the Gods,” with Percy Haswell as the lead; she was in “Miss Hook of Holland” and in “An Every Day Man,” which had a long run in Chicago. Her work has been character parts and comedy.

The Internet Broadway Database has Florence, born in 1888, appearing in 15 plays from 1907-1930. She only had three film roles – in 1914, 1935, and 1939, but in 1939 she was one of “The Women,” Nancy Blake, in George Cukor’s masterpiece. (It also featured Ruth Hussey, who played alongside Mary Nash in “The Philadelphia Story” as Elizabeth Imbrie.)

Mary died in 1976 in Los Angeles, at 91. Florence died much younger in 1950, at the age of 61. An alert reader (and we would have no other kind) tells us that both are buried in St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands, in their mother’s Mack family tomb.

Harry Lash: Vaudeville Performer, Groucho’s Double

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Mr and Mrs Harry Lash

Continuing our discussions of 1920s star performers who started out in Albany. Today, Harry Lash, vaudeville performer and a double for Groucho Marx.

Harold Lashever was the son of Max and Dora Lashever,  immigrants from Russia whose language was German. Max came here in 1890 and worked in clothing manufacturing, living on West Van Vechten Street. His name was originally Loshevsky; in 1902 he had it legally changed to Lashever. He and Dora were nationalized in 1900. When he was 18, in 1920, Harold was working as a salesman for a news association. He had three younger brothers.

1923, at Proctor’s in Schenectady: “Miss Ruby Raymond, Charles Stewart [sic] and Harry Lash constitute the Ruby Raymond trio. They have woven a series of dances into a story entitled, ‘The Ambitious Urchins.’” Around this time, he was described as “an Albany boy who recently advanced from the ranks of an amateur performer.”

1924, at Proctor’s Grand: “Monday’s bill brings back to Albany Harry Lash, who started his vaudeville career here after winning first prize in the opportunity contest. He is assisted by Charlie Cerussi in an offering called ‘Variety a la Carte.’” They were billed as Cerussi & Lash, “Two Boys with Pep and Personality,” and the Opportunity Contest had been in April 1922. Another article on the appearance said they had appeared in the “Passing Revue” which played in New York for a full season.

At some point, Harry hooked up with Charlie Stuart, his boarding school friend, and they got appearances in vaudeville, performing in something called “Strange People” at the Loew’s State in Brooklyn in 1926

In 1927, featured a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lash, headlined “Harry Lash Truly Glad to Return to Home City and Proctor’s Grand.”

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Max Lashever Springs Surprise on Annual Visit by Bringing Bride With Him.

“And folks, I can’t begin to tell you how much pleasure it gives me to be playing before this audience. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for Albany, for I was born and raised here. In fact I was born in a house on the very site, etc. and even etc.”

Any person who attends the theatre has heard the above eulogy given more than once and has never put any too much faith in it. But if Harry Lash, of the comedy team of Stuart and Lash, should say these lines during his act at Proctor’s Grande this week, they would be the truth and nothing but the truth.

For Harry Lash really is a “local boy,” who is actually glad to play in Albany. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Max Lashever of 744 Myrtle avenue, with whom he is staying while in Albany, Harry has a host of friends who remember him back in the old days at school 14 and at Albany High school, and will remember the interest that he always took in the theatre. In fact, it was his performance in a Y.M.H.A. show six years ago that gave Harry the idea that he should try the stage as a career.

At least once a year, Harry manages to play Albany. This year, however, he brought a surprise with him. Last Tuesday in Providence, R.I., Harry was married to Miss Irma Powers of Denver, Co.., who has graced several Broadway shows.

Mrs. Lash declares that her retirement from the stage is only temporary and that she will soon return to the realm of the footlights.

“Glad to get back to Albany,” says Harry. “You bet I am. This ‘local boy’ stuff has been worn threadbare, I know, but when I assert my feelings toward Albany, you can bet that it isn’t the bunk.”

Stuart and Lash continued on the Loew’s circuit for a number of years, and eventually they ended up on the Keith circuit. The Syracuse Journal in 1931 gave us more detail on Harry Lash than his hometown paper appears to have done, with a story on how “Keith Comedians Owe Success to Schools” –

It has been said that the theatrical profession is one that you can’t learn in school. Denial of this is made by two who should know, Charlie Stuart and Harry Lash, those two very funny men who headline the stage show at Keith’s currently.

School gave Charlie and Harry their start in show business. Strangely it was not attendance at school that did it, but being frequently expelled was responsible.

The pair met at a New York boarding school after each had been shown the doors of every public school in the Bronx and Albany. Comparing notes, Charlie found that too much entertaining and not enough studying brought Harry to the boarding school from Albany, and the records showed that he was there for the same reason.

The frequent expulsions from school didn’t curb the desires of these two young men to entertain their fellow students, and they soon found themselves on the outside of the boarding school looking in. Both decided they had had enough of school, and, being interested in stage careers, began looking around.

Meanwhile they had to eat, so Charlie found himself a job on the old curb market and Harry became an experienced soda fountain operator. Then the stage opportunity came at the old Hamilton theater in New York, where amateur follies were produced. Charlie got a job in the show and recommended Lash for another spot. Thus the team of Stuart and Lash was born.

That was nine years ago. After the Hamilton Follies the pair signed up with an act and during their third week in vaudeville played the Temple here. After a few weeks’ work Charlie and Harry began to find out about some of the hardships of the show business. When they worked everything was great, but when they didn’t – well, they were hungry.

Times have changed now, however. Stuart and Lash can take their place with those at the top of the vaudeville ladder, and those who have been host to them at dinner say it’s plenty easy for them to be funny.

Stuart and Lash could get by in any town on their own merits, but now they are surrounded by one of the outstanding intact shows on Keith time. The boys still spill secrets on each other and Harry dropped a hint to ask Stuart about Miss Loretta Fisher, beautiful and talented dancer in the same show and far, far into the night love-sick Charlie talked and talked about Miss Fisher.

In 1936, Harry was noted in a brief in the Flushing North Shore Daily Journal for having signed for a role in “Where’s Elmer?” an MGM feature. We don’t find that that actually happened, but it’s interesting that Harry was enough of a name to warrant a brief out in Flushing.

In the Chicago Tribune, Sept. 4, 1936, we learn that Harry Lash and his partner Stuart were doing some fill-in work for the Marx Brothers, with Harry taking the role of Groucho. Headlined “Marx Brothers See Doubles Try Out Gags,” the story provided some fascinating insight into the film-making process:

So that the three Marx brothers can see themselves as they look to others while they do their comedy bits, Groucho, Chico, and Harpo have put three vaudeville performers to work representing them. Billie Dooley enacted the Harpo part in rehearsals. Harry Lash of the vaudeville team of Stuart and Lash is Groucho by proxy. Skins Miller represents Chico.

One will find the three brother comedians sand makeup and wardrobe, sitting alongside Director Sam Wood and Writer Al Boasberg while they “look at themselves.”

The scene today was supposed to be a hotel room with Groucho making comedy love to a pretty girl. In rush Harpo and Chico as paper hangers and proceed to hang everything in sight, including Groucho, the girl, and themselves. For two weeks they will be working out their comedy this way and then will be ready to go to work once again.

The movie was “A Day at the Races.” IMDB reports that Harry Lash was an uncredited racetrack spectator.

That wasn’t his first uncredited role – from 1936 to 1940, he played such uncredited roles as “friend of drunk,” “reporter,” “second taxi driver,” and “hot dog concessionaire.” In fact, his only credited role was in 1937’s Headin’ East, playing Spud, “Lohman’s henchman.”

We’re not sure what happened after that; we lose track of Harry. It’s from IMDB that we learn that Harry died May 29, 1949, in Los Angeles.

Albany Dancer Olga Beauman

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Olga BeaumanIn 1927, Albany seemed to have no shortage of prominent players in the performing arts. Alongside the mentions of Ward Crane and Elizabeth Hines, the Times-Union also featured dancer Olga Beauman. “Struttin’ to Fame,” the T-U wrote, “Perhaps, is Miss Olga Beauman, popular young Albany dancing instructor, who has just joined the footlight folk as a featured dancer in the Brooklyn Strand Theatre. She has turned down a Ziegfeld offer, for the time, so that she may continue her classes in Albany with her theatre work.”

Olga Beauman was born around 1908. Her father James, was from the Irish Free State; mother Emily Beauman was from New Jersey, which is where Olga was born; the family was in Albany as early as 1903, and by 1910,  James was listed as running a dance academy in 1910, and both parents were listed in 1920. James Beauman’s dance academy was in Van Vechten Hall, on State, two doors east of Eagle. James was 26 years older than his wife, and 44 years older than his daughter; he died at age 70 during a heat wave on Memorial Day weekend of 1929, in a store on Hudson Avenue. After that, Emily and Olga continued to teach dance from their home at 399 State Street, Suite 707 (it’s the well-appointed building still on the northeast corner of State and what is now Henry Johnson Boulevard). Their dance school’s recital was performed in the Albany Institute of History and Art. In September of ’29, Olga did dance for Ziegfeld, in “Show Girl.” There were frequent mentions of her dance performances in the late 1920s, including performing as a featured dancer at New York’s Paramount Theatre in 1928, where was appearing “under the direction of Mme. Serova, noted dancing teacher.”

In 1927, Olga was identified with the latest dance craze, the “Black Bottom:”

WATCH YOUR GROCERIES – If you are a “Black Bottom” fan. Students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have calculated that the new fangled dance required more calories than any other. The theory was virtually proved by students at Beauman’s Dancing Academy. Miss Olga Beauman said she could eat a big dish of corned beef and cabbage after she did the “Black Bottom.”

The RPI “study” concluded that an Indian war dance would only require the calories from “a few hot dogs – with mustard and onions,” and that an old-fashioned waltz only required 4 calories, “as against 20 for the ‘Black Bottom.’” Even the Charleston, taught by Miss Frances Wright of the Beauman Academy, was not as strenuous. So said science.

Also in 1927, Olga got her first professional contact, which came with a significant write-up in the Times-Union:

Blue Eyed OlgaPretty Artiste Declares She Feels Just a Bit ‘Fluttery’ at Thought of Leaving Tonight for First Professional Contract.

Golden hair and blue eyes from Albany will dance with nimble limbs before New York city audiences of Mark Strand theatres this winter, when Miss Olga Beauman, eighteen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James R. Beauman, of Beauman’s dance studio, fulfills her first professional contract. The contract calls for a week’s appearance once a month.

The call from the realms of Terpsichore came only a few short hours after Miss Beauman had returned from New York city where she has been a student at the Vestoff-Serova Russian School of Dancing. She will leave Albany tonight, blithe with the glory of her impending first professional appearance, for rehearsals at the Vestoff studio.

Her premiere will be at the Brooklyn Strand next Saturday and will consist of toe and jazz dancing.

Miss Beauman recently refused an offer to join the galaxy of Flo Ziegfeld’s brilliant satellites. The offer was through Alvertinia Rasch, well-known dancer, under whom Miss Beauman has also studied, and was rejected because Miss Beauman is “heart and soul a teacher,” and wishes to continue instructing pupils at Beauman’s academy. Her present contract allows her to continue doing so three weeks each the [sic] month.

“It is my first professional contract,” said Miss Beauman, with winsome smile and only a trace of nervous anticipation, “and despite appearances in Town hall, New York city, and in other cities, I feel, well, a little of the fluttering, which poets sing about. It’s the first rung on my calcimine ladder, and I hope to dance my way to the brilliant spotlight at the top.”

In 1931, Olga was still teaching with her mother. At some point, she met a young fellow named Hawley Ades, a graduate of Rutgers who directed the glee club and played piano in the jazz band, and then landed a position as the pianist for the Beauman Dance Academy. Hawley became an arranger for Irving Berlin and, later, Fred Waring; Hawley and Olga were engaged in February 1933.

We found a brief article from 1938 about the birth of their daughter, titled “Three Careers.”

“Hawley W. Ades, music arranger for Fred Waring’s orchestra, and his wife, Olga Bowman’s [sic] Albany’s own dance star, are the parents of a daughter named Audrey Caroline. At the present time opinions differ as to which road to fame the young lady will follow. The father desires a pianistic career, the mother wants to be perpetuated through the art of terpsichore, while the grandmother, Mrs. Mary F. Ades, wants to see an organist in the family.”

Hawley’s obituary says he and Olga retired to Florida in 1975, “where they were involved in a myriad of musical and dance activities.” Thanks to an alert reader with better searching skills than mine, we know that Olga died May 21, 1993. Hawley lived to the ripe old age of 100, spending his last few years in the Capital District, passing on in 2008; both are buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

 

 

Elizabeth Hines, Ziegfeld Girl

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While we’re speaking of Albany-born stars (well, we were), we found a brief mention of Elizabeth Hines in a 1927 Times-Union.

ON BRIGHT BROADWAY – Miss Elizabeth Hines, Albany girl, has long been one of the sparks. She represents her native city in musical comedy, appearing as star in Ziegfeld and George White productions.

Elizabeth Hines 1921 Tatler

Elizabeth Hines in the Tatler, June, 1921

In fact, while we find her connected with George M. Cohan and a number of Ziegfeld productions – particularly “Showboat,” the delay of which led her to sue Ziegfeld in 1927 – we find very little on her life or her Albany connection. In 1928, the Times-Union noted that the “Albany printer’s daughter who rose to stardom on Broadway” had been awarded $12,000 over that cancellation; she had sought $100,000. “Naturally, even $12,000 is acceptable to Miss Hines and Ziegfeld is so happy over the comparative smallness of the award that he is to give his eight-year-old daughter a new roadster.” He sounds like a delight.

The Internet Broadway Database says that Hines was born in 1895, and credits her first Broadway production as “Molly O’,” in 1916. She received a lot of notice for her performances in “The O’Brien Girl” (1921), “Little Nellie Kelly” (1922-23), and “Marjorie” in 1924.

She may not have lived in Albany very long. In the 1910 census, when she would have been just 15, it appears that the family was living in Manhattan. Father Thomas Hines was an “operator” (probably of a press) at a newspaper, and brother Walter, then 18, was listed as a theater actor. We would almost doubt the connection, but the same Thomas Hines, and wife Annie Palmer Hines, are interred at Albany Rural Cemetery, so there’s some kind of connection there.

In 1928, the Times-Union ran a picture of Hines on the front page with the brief cutline: “Smoking by Women – Is one of the 23 roads to hell, in opinion of Rev. G.C. Shell of Watertown. Elizabeth Hines is an Albany girl stage star, who recently wed a New York banker. She poses in smoking attitude.” The recent nuptials referred to here were apparently supposed to have been a secret; the Albany Evening Journal reported them Nov. 17, 1927: “Elizabeth Hines, musical comedy star, protege of George M. Cohan, has just been revealed as a secret bride. Since August 18 she has been Mrs. Frank Rigg Warton. Her husband is engaged in banking, and since she is happiest when sticking to her work she intends to return to the stage.” She was apparently well enough known that she was name-checked in a syndicated column by O.O. McIntyre, “New York Day by Day,” in 1927, without any further explanation:

New York – Thoughts while strolling: Those men who stand in Fifth avenue doorways checking off busses. Elizabeth Hines. Flappers talking the Moran and Mack lingo. What’s become of ginger snaps? A drug store with a balcony restaurant.

What does that mean? No telling.

Albany’s Movie Star, Ward Crane

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Ward Crane 1927

“HIS SHADOW – Hovers over star-specked Flickerland, as an up and coming comet. For years in minor roles, Ward Crane, Albany’s own movie star, is now being cast in important parts in leading pictures.” Times-Union, 9/23/27

In the early days of film, one of the first stars was Albany’s Ward Crane.

Born in 1890, Ward Crane was a “young good looking boy … very popular with his classmates at C.B.A. and quite a young man about town. Ward Crane went to New York where the first movie studios were located, later journeyed to Hollywood and in an incredibly short time, became one of the most important leading men in an industry that was only in its infancy … He was the patent leather haired type of movie villain or hero as the script called for and was always sure of a good handclap at his entrance on the screen by those who knew him ‘when.’ After a short but successful career on the screen, he joined the Navy in the World war. He became ill and died at Saranac Lake and is buried in St. Agnes Cemetery, Albany.” That came from an Edgar Van Olinda column in 1937.

His IMDB profile says that he was the son of a railroad engineer, and had a career in government, “serving as confidential stenographer and then secretary to Governor William Sulzer.” Sulzer was impeached, and Crane got a commission in the Navy. Stationed in San Diego, he met movie stars including Allan Dwan, who suggested Crane try the movies. The bio also reports that he had pleurisy and attempted the rest cure in Saranac Lake, but developed pneumonia and died at the age of 37.

The T-U gave him a good send-off when he died, with numerous photographs of his funeral procession and stills from his movie career. “Ward Crane, Albany youth, was buried today with full military rites from St. Patrick’s church while thousands of his movie admirers and Navy comrades paid tribute. The traditional ‘taps’ was sounded at the grave in St. Agnes’ cemetery. Crane had won his way into the motion picture realm by serving Uncle Sam in the Navy during the World war. The funeral today was conducted from the home of his father. Thomas F. Crane, 501 Central avenue, thence to the church with military processional.” (Later in the article, his name is given as John J. Crane.)

Ward Crane passport photo

Crane travelled to Cuba in 1920 to film the Famous Players-Lasky film, Something Different – from Hal Erickson at allmovie.com
https://www.flickr.com/photos/puzzlemaster/5499503960

The T-U gave yet another version of his rise to stardom. A graduate of CBA, he then took a commercial course at Albany Business College and received an appointment in the Capitol. “Former Governor William Sulzer was greatly impressed with Crane and made him his private secretary. He had the opportunity of acting in the same capacity under the late Governor Martin H. Glynn, but left the state service after the impeachment of Governor Sulzer. When war came, he enlisted in the Navy. As an ensign, he was assigned to a naval station “in the vicinity of Los Angeles,” and there became acquainted with “celebrities of the motion picture colony.” He made a good impression, and at the close of the war received offers to be in the movies. “The profession appealed to him and in addition he had the backing of Douglas Fairbanks and others.” He doubled for Norman Kerry in his initial appearance on the screen, and then received a supporting role in “The Luck of Irish.” He later appeared with Marion Davies, Irene Castle, Marie Prevost and others, and he was best man for Buster Keaton at his marriage to Natalie Talmadge. He was also a friend of Jack Dempsey, and hung around Dempsey’s Saratoga Springs training camp in 1927.

He appeared in a classic of the time, “Sherlock, Jr.,” as the villain opposite Buster Keaton. A year later, in 1925, he was Count Ruboff in Lon Chaney’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”

A short film from 1913 appears in his IMDB credits, indicating perhaps an earlier interest or opportunity, but from 1919 to 1928 he appeared in 47 films. Of interest, in a 1920 feature called “The Scoffer,” directed by Allan Dwan, Crane appeared as “The Albany Kid.” What that role may have entailed is not made clear, but a movie that features a mistress named “Alice Porn” has to be worth checking out.

In 1931, this little snippet appeared in the Binghamton Press:

“Irene Castle McLaughlin, former dancing and motion picture star, has not yet forgotten the late Ward Crane, movie actor. While visiting in Albany the other day, Mrs. McLaughlin placed a wreath of flowers on her former dancing partner’s grave.”

Much Ado About Windshield Stickers

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We ran across an odd little article from the Times-Union in 1928 that raised more questions than it answered:

Harnett to Rule on Smith Auto Sticker
A ruling may be made within a few days on the use of Al Smith windshield stickers. Motor Vehicle Commissioner Harnett will return next week from the Democratic convention at Houston and the ruling may be made at the time.
At one time the bureau banned pictures of bathing beauties from cars. Whether this applies to potential presidential nominees is a debatable question.”

In 1928, Governor Alfred E. Smith was working toward winning the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. What these windshield stickers might have looked like we can’t determine, and whether they blocked a driver’s vision we don’t know. We’ve been unable to find Harnett’s decision.

Advertising cutout of Jantzen Knitting Mills' Red Diving Girl.

Advertising cutout of Jantzen Knitting Mills’ Red Diving Girl.

The bathing beauty stickers, however, we did get a lead on. In September 1927, some of the women who were featured on the stickers attempted to visit with Commissioner Charles A. Harnett, who was conveniently out of town. They were the Lottie Mayer Bathing Beauties, who were performing a water ballet at Proctor’s Grand Theater. An ad from a performance that year in Syracuse called Lottie Mayer and her Bathing Beauties “America’s Greatest Spectacle,” and noted that the performance featured “The Jantzen Girl – The Original Diving Girl Poster Model.” From posters to windshield stickers – we can’t figure out if there was more than one woman pictured, but apparently there was indeed a vogue for featuring Jantzen stickers on the windshields of cars. They may have even provided hood ornaments. (So apparently those Playboy decorations and even less decorous mudflaps seen on trucks these days are not a new idea.)

Lottie Mayer’s Bathing Beauties , with Commissioner Harnett (inset)

 

The Library and the Law

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Schenectady Public LibrarySince we recently featured the old Schenectady Public Library, which sat at the corner of Union Street and Seward Place for nearly 66 years, thanks largely to the beneficence of Andrew Carnegie and Union College. A 1930 article in the Schenectady Gazette proclaimed that “Book Thieves Here Are Rare,” and went on to offer that the police were quick to help.

“The library is protected by educational and penal laws. Police justices have always been a great aid to members of the Schenectady library staff in cases of this nature. Book stores have agreed not to purchase volumes without examining them. Perforating stamps giving the name of the library are used. The thief noticing one on the title page usually tears that out. He does not notice, however, that certain pages of each book are also stamped. Pages 50,125 and 175 are favorites in the punching process . . .

The public is honest, however. Librarians are firm believers in that. Out of the half million loans from the city library each year, not more than five books are lost. That ratio is meager compared to the number of dishes broken annually by a housewife.”

Sick burn, library beat writer. The author went on to note that overdue books were, in fact, a problem, and that people could be forgetful. He indicated that western stories and detective mysteries were “preferred by people who are tired and don’t want to think. On the other hand, an unusually large call for the works of Thackeray, Cooper and Dickens is noted.” He also said that the library’s requests for books on useful arts was notably high, and that books on electrical and civil engineering, painting, carpentry, etc, were always in demand.

“Circulation figures at the library have been enormous this year but waiting lists on the new books are not as long . . . During the past week, between 1,000 and 1,500 books have been passed out daily by the assistants on duty. One of the five branch libraries in the city gave out 700 books in one day last week. The branch libraries are located at: Bellevue, Mont Pleasant, Woodlawn, Brandywine avenue at Becker, and, in the Pleasant Valley section, Craig street at Lincoln avenue.

“No person is refused permission to take books, no matter where he or she is from, the librarians stated. If people residing near one of the branches want a book not on hand there, the main library is called and the book delivered.”

Three Stories about William Holding’s Auxetophone

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auxetophone adWhile researching Professor William Holding, who led a very busy orchestra that played on the Day Liner and in the Ten Eyck Hotel’s grill, we ran across a story about the Professor related by old time columnist of old times, Edgar S. Van Olinda. Then we ran across it again. And again. And each time, it was more than a little different from the previous. Van Olinda was a columnist for the Times-Union who seemed to have known everyone and remembered everything, but he didn’t necessarily remember the point of his stories retold over the decades. This is interesting, not only because the level of detail varies with each telling, but there are little important details in each one as well.

In 1942, this is the story he told:

We recall back in those days, before the event of music, Prof. Holding had a large reproducing machine near the band stand, called an Auxetiphone,  [sic] which stepped up the volume of tone by means of compressed air. On this particular evening, some of the boys from the Masonic temple–O, fellows like Bill Gillespie, Ed Easton, Fred White and other members of Masters Lodge, wont to gether together after the degree work for a little session in the Ten Eyck grill. As you may recall, the steward of the Ten Eyck was Ed Sherlock.
Prof. Holding had a lot of fine records and owned orchestrations which he and his men of the ensemble played as an accompaniment to the records. Often the musicians would put on an orchestral record and play along with it from their own scores. During the playing of one of these numbers, Ed Easton, turned to one of his companions and said without batting an eye: “You wouldn’t think Al Rennie would let the orchestra practice while the customers are sitting around, would you?” A disgusted look from Mr. Sherlock. A little later, Mr. Holding put on a record of the greatest tenor of all time. At the end of the selection, dead-pan Easton again remarked: “Gee, I never knew Holding could sing like that!”
That was TOO much for Mr. Sherlock, his face getting redder every minute. “That’s not Prof. Holding singing, you so-and-so. That’s Caruso!” said the disgusted steward as he disgustedly returned to his cubicle off the kitchen. And no one laughed louder than Prof. Holding when told what caused such unseemly mirth following his artistic rendition of the orchestral part.

In 1964, Van Olinda remembered it this way:

Mr, Holding and his ensemble played on the Albany Day Line steamers, between this city and Kingston Point, and then would hot foot it up State Street to Mr. Rockewell’s hotel. For the dinner hour Mr. Holding had an Auxetiphone machine near the bandstand, whose volume was stepped up with compressed air. His repertoire consisted, principally, of the current light operat [sic] medleys, and on request, would play excerpts from grand opera, using a Caruso Red Seal record, and playing the score with his orchestra.
One night, some of the kabitzers were sitting around the room, among them, Steward Ed Sherlock. When Caruso’s magnificent tenor blazed forth in one of his famous arias, one of the lads turned to Mr. Sherlock and said:
“Gee, I didn’t know Bill Holding could sing like that!”
Fixing the gentleman with a stoney stare, Mr. Sherlock replied: “Why, you ignorant churl, that isn’t Bill Holding, That’s the great Caruso.”
And that was the end of a beautiful friendship.

In 1945, he gave his most elaborate rendering of the story, again beginning with a visit from the local Masons of Masters’ lodge No. 5.

One night in particular, some of Masters’ leading lights were seated around one of the many tables, among whom were the late Edward Easton, banker William Lane Gillespie and Ed Sherlock, steward of the Ten Eyck and a member of the lodge. Mr. Sherlock, an Englishman, was of a more or less serious disposition. Mr. William Holding, leader of the orchestra and his versatile musicians were playing request numbers, embracing everything from grand to light opera.
This same auxetiphone [not actually yet mentioned in the column], a stepped-up with compressed air victrola, was in use during the sojourn of the members of Masters lodge’s inner circle. Mr. Holding had a lot of records of famous singers for which he had obtained the orchestrations. It was his pleasure to play one or more of the records, while he conducted the orchestra, furnishing the musical accompaniment which wasn’t too prominent in the old horn recordings, pre-dating the present orthophonic method.
Mr. Holding decided to play one of the very popular Caruso recordings, something like “Una furtive Lagrima,” and was just getting his musical teeth into the score. Caruso’s magnificent voice was filling the quietude of the grill room, when Ed Easton turned to Ed Sherlock and said: “Gee! I never knew that Bill Holding could sing as well as that.”
Fixing the Albany lawyer with a knowing look, Ed Sherlock said, disdainfully: “Why you darned ignoramus that isn’t Holding singing; that is Caruso.” And as the members of the group gave the laugh to Mr. Sherlock, he muttered something about being unable to fathom the American sense of humor.

There may yet be other versions of this story that Van Olinda thought was worth telling over and over again.

If this Auxetophone sounds a bit like a reverse karaoke, it pretty much was. It was specifically promoted for use just as Professor Holding used it, and the Victor Talking Machine Company provided the orchestrations that the musicians were to play: “In order to promote the use of the Auxetophone in conjunction with a small orchestra, Victor published scores that it called Orchestrations. Each of these scores was designed to be used along with a specific Victor record. When properly used, the famous singer featured on the record would be accompanied by live music. This was the next best thing to having the famous singer hold a concert in your home town.” According to the Auxetophone website (one of those things for which we love the internet), they were made from about 1906 to 1915, and sold for the staggering sum of $500. If you want to hear one, you’re in luck; or perhaps not:  “Have you heard the auxetophone? It is to be hoped not.”

 

The Musical Holdings

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We spoke yesterday of Claude Holding, the accomplished musician who then became an accomplished hotelier, building the Wellington Hotel on State Street. His story, and his father’s, tell a tale of times long gone.

William Holding, Claude’s father, was often called Professor Holding and was one of Albany’s most well-known orchestra leaders. He led an outfit called the Albania Orchestra in the 1890s, and later had the orchestra that played on the Albany Day Line and then performed each evening in the grill room of the Ten Eyck Hotel. This all comes from various Around The Town columns by Edgar Van Olinda over the years.

“How did the scions of the families, engaged in the lumber, cattle and stove businesses spend their evenings in the early decades of the century? There were no television, ratio, nor compact cars, and few night spots. Following a play at the Empire or Harmanus Bleecker Hall theatres, the young bloods would assemble in the grill room of the Ten Eyck Hotel, now the Town Room, to quaff a few and listen to the infectious music of William Holding’s salon orchestra.”

In one of the columns in the Times-Union, in 1942, Van Olinda showed a painting that Frank Hutchens made in 1906, which then hung in the Wellington Hotel office of Claude Holding.

“Here is a picture that should bring a lump in the throat of some of the older Albanians, for it shows the beloved music master of the Ten Eyck hotel, Prof. William Holding, leading his fine orchestra in the grill room of the State street inn during the period prior to the first World war.” The painting, unfortunately too poor in the scanning to bother presenting here, shows a group of eight musicians playing. The members of the group were: William Blakeslee, clarinet; Neil Wilde, cornet; Prof. William Holding, violinist-leader; Morris Borodkin, flute; Neils Jacobsen, bass viol; Claude Holding, violin; Gabrielle Califoano, viola; and Arnold Janser, ‘cello. This was not only a working orchestra, but a hard-working orchestra, playing essentially three gigs a day: down the river on the Day Liner, back up the river, and then hike their instruments up State Street hill to the Ten Eyck for the evening show.

“This same group functioned on the Day Line steamers, playing as far as Kingston Point and returning on the up boat from New York and showing the through passengers from the Metropolis what a good orchestra really sounded like . . . During the reign of Strauss, the Waltz King, and at the time Puccini was just beginning to be known as an opera composer, Prof. Holding and his group could be heard every evening, either on the hotel mezzanine or in the State street grill. Requests were welcomed by the professor and graciously played by his men, and there were very few numbers asked that Mr. Holding, senior, did not have at the tips of his agile fingers.”

William Holding was listed as a professor of music in the 1910 census; it appears he was a private instructor. He was 64 and living with wife Lodeska at 98 Chestnut Street then. He had earlier addresses on Morton, Central and Clinton.

Claude Holding, who was said to have joined his father’s orchestra as a violinist before he had turned 12, actually left Albany for New York City for about 10 years, returning in 1902. “Claude Holding has the distinction of having been a member of the Philharmonic orchestra of New York under the baton of Emil Paur, and numbers among his intimate friends of that former period, such outstanding figures in the musical world as Anton Seidl and Victor Herbert. The Albany man owns Seidl’s baton, which, inscribed to him, hangs on the office wall; the maestro’s beret and gown and smoking set; priceless relics of the Golden Age of music. Mr. Holding had a rich experience as violinist in the orchestras of the Empire, Garrick, Madison Square, Knickerbocker, Herald Square theatres; the Manhattan Opera house and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He was also a member of the Richard Arnold String Sextette, one of the finest chamber music organizations of New York at the time it was considered the ranking organization in a highly specialized field of music.

In 1956, Van Olinda wrote, “And some day, if you are interested, drop into the Wellington Hotel lobby, and look at the oil painting of Bill Holding and his Day Line and Ten Eyck Hotel ensemble. No rock ‘n’ roll in that era.”

Claude Holding did quite well for himself. It was noted in 1957 that he had owned an 11-bedroom mansion and boathouse at Still Bay on Lake George. He was also highly regarded: “The late Claude Holding, hotelman, had many fine traits. One day at his Lake George home he wanted to introduce an Albany man to some friends. He had forgotten his name for the moment, so he asked him. In a few days the man received a letter apologizing.”

The Wellington Hotel and Its Musical Owner

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We’ve shown the top postcard before, but thought it would be nice to put together these three postcard views of Albany’s famous Wellington Hotel, the longest survivor of the grand hotel era in the Capital City. It started as a small hostelry on State Street with only 17 rooms, when it was bought in 1911 by a musician who had played in hotels and on steamboats and then decided to try his hand at the hotel business. That was Claude J. Holding, who expanded the Wellington to 200, then to 400 rooms. His July 24, 1949 obituary in the Times-Union said that ‘”he gained wide recognition when he established the first ‘built-in’ garage in this section of the country. The innovation permits hotel guests to enter an elevator immediately upon leaving their cars.”

The expansion of the Wellington was big news in 1914, with the Times-Union saying it would compare favorably with the classiest apartment hotels in New York city. “It will be one of the most modern apartment hotels in the country, lighted throughout with electricity, equipped with electrical elevators and with running hot and cold water in every room. The breakfast and tea room which will be situated on the main floor of the Howard st. part of the building will be elaborately decorated and elegantly furnished and will be one of the daintiest and most attractive places for dinners in Albany and vicinity. The present dining room will be converted into the offices of the hotel. The present reception room will be altered and redecorated. There will be an elevator in the new and old parts of the building. The aim has been to make the hotel strictly fire proof in every detail. In the Howard st. part there will be 103 rooms, and 50 additional rooms will be afforded by the ‘L’ making the total number of rooms in the hotel about 200.”

Claude J. HoldingClaude was the son of a famed orchestra leader named Willis Holding, who was the music master at the Ten Eyck Hotel; Claude started playing with his father’s orchestra before he was 12. He played violin and viola on the steamboats between Albany and Kingston, and studied under Richard Arnold, master of the New York Philharmonic, who made Holding a member of the Arnold Sextet. He was a member of theater and operatic orchestras and “played in the band at performances of Maude Adams when she starred in ‘The Little Minister.’” While he gave up the music profession for hoteling, he did continue to conduct the YMCA orchestra for many years.

Claude was also active as a founder and president of the Albany Society Council, trustee of National Savings Bank, president of the Albany Auto Club, member of the Chamber of Commerce, legislative chairman of the New York State Hotel Association, director of the New York State Chamber of Commerce, director of the American Automobile Association, and member of the Fort Orange Club. He was 74 when he died. One of his sons, Reynolds Holding, took over after that, and eventually sold out to the Carter hotel syndicate,  “a chain outfit from New York,” as columnist Edgar Van Olinda put it.

After endless stops and starts to redevelop the Wellington and its neighboring buildings, the Berkshire Hotel and the Elks Lodge, the Wellington and its annex were finally taken down, leaving only its facade fronting a new development. The site is now taken up by a parking garage for the Renaissance Hotel, which is what they’re calling the DeWitt Clinton these days. The garage survived on Howard Street until very recently, but was finally demolished to make room for the new Capital Center.

Wellington Hotel Street ViewOn the left side of this Street View you can see the reworked facade of the Wellington, not quite the same as in its glory days, but way better than it was for many years.