Homepage   A to Z Index  Book outline   Plays    About these letters    About EJ Phillips   EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page 

Actors' Fund

The Actors' Fund was organized in 1882 by Edwin Booth, [Lawrence] Barrett, [Joseph] Jefferson, Wallack, Daly and Palmer [Blum].  On April 18, 1887 a benefit for the Actors Fund performance of Jim the Penman by the Madison Square Theatre troupe at the National Theater in Washington DC, before President Grover Cleveland and other government officials raised $3,100. [Durham & Odell].  AM Palmer was the third president of the Fund (1885-1897).  The retirement home for actors is now in Englewood NJ

1892 Actors' Fund Fair   Acting life as reported by EJ Phillips

1886  Actor's Fund benefit performance of Engaged The Engaged production first described in these letters was the Feb. 1886 Actor's Fund benefit performance in New York. Daly's , Wallack's and the Madison Square were the three leading New York theatre companies of that time.  According to the NY Times three plays were performed as an Actor's Fund benefit, each act traveling to a different theater.  "Mrs. Phillips a capital Mrs. MacFarlane in Engaged." 

Tickets were $2 and good at any theatre.  Act I of Engaged began at 2 PM at the Madison Square Theatre, while Act II was played at 3 in Wallack's and the last act at 4 in Daly's AM Palmer addressed the audience at Wallack's, Wallack at Daly's and Daly at the Madison Square.

1887  New York, March 17th/87 Yes, we are going to Washington on 17th of April to play there on 18th for The Actors Fund benefit.  It will be a change from the monotony of playing Jim [the Penman] in one city so long.  We go to Boston for the 1st of May.  As yet I do not know what the programme is after Boston

Washington Post 1887 April 13 NATIONAL THEATRE-The week of April 18 at the New National promises to be one of be most brilliant events of the season. Monday given April 18, "Jim the Penman," will be Tuesday the Madison Square Company. ...April 15 JIM THE PENMAN"S VISIT All the arrangements for the visit of the Madison Square Theatre Company to Washington next Monday have been completed. The company will leave at 1 o'clock on Sunday, and besides the regular cast Mr. Palmer will take all the understudies.  April 17 A.M. PALMER The two great American stage managers of the day are A. M. Palmer and Augustin Daly. Daly is, perhaps, the greater stage manager of the two, Palmer the better business man. ...

The Washington Post of Apr. 18, 1887 advertised "One performance only. 
" with the following powerful cast:

Mr. Frederic Robinson,   Mr. H.M. Pitt,   Mr. Alexander Salvini,   Mr. E.M. Holland,   Mr. L.F. Massen,   Mr. C.P. Flockton
Mr. Harry J. Holliday,   Mr. William Davidge,   Mr. H. Millward,   Mr. Walden Ramsey,   Miss Maude Harrison,   Miss Agnes Booth,   Miss May Robson,   Mrs. E.J. Phillips

There was ample press coverage.  An April 18 article announced 
"JIM, THE PENMAN," COMES Manager Palmer brings his Company from New York.  A Pleasant Trip with a Congenial Party - A Dinner Last Night followed by a Reception.  

The trip was made by a special train (parlor car, smoking car and baggage car), placed at the disposal of the party by the Pennsylvania Railroad Co. In addition to the actors, the group included Palmer's son and daughter, brother William, Miss May Robson, GW Presbrey, Alfred Hayman and as guests, Mrs. Jennie June Croly, Adam Badeau, George Parsons Lathrop, George Alfred Townsend (Gath), of the Cincinnati Enquirer, F.A. Duneka, New York World, G.P. Brady, New York Herald, F.A. Burr, Boston Herald and Philadelphia Times; H.J.W. Dam, New York Times; Horace Townsend, New York Tribune, and Mrs. Horace Townsend; W.F.G. Shanks, Philadelphia News, and J. F. Magennis, New York Journal. 

The railroad company provided an ample lunch. The party was met with coaches and carriages at the depot and carried to the Arlington, where they were guests of Mr. Roessie, the proprietor. The dinner in the banquet-room of the Reverdy Johnson House annex. "one of the most complete given in Washington this season. The floral decorations consisted of a huge bed of La France roses, six feet long by three in width, in the centre of the table, and oval beds of Jacqueminot and Marimet roses. Corsage bouquets of roses, violets and lilies of the valley were provided for the ladies and boutonnieres of violets and lilies of the valley for the gentlemen.  After dinner Mr. Palmer received a number of callers in his parlor, where he was assisted in receiving by the ladies of his company. Among the callers were Chief Clerk Brown of the State Department and Chief Clerk Youmans of the State Department. Commodore Harmony called while the party was at dinner and left his card. "

To-day the President will give Mr. Palmer and his party a special reception half an hour before the regular reception. From there they will be escorted to the State Department, where, in the Diplomatic Room, Assistant Secretary of State Adee will present them to Secretary Bayard.  They  will then be taken in charge by Chief Clerk Tweedale of the War Department who will escort them to Secretary Endicott's office and make the presentation to him. Commodore Harmony, the ranking officer of the Navy Department, will meet them there and introduce them to the Secretary of the Navy. From this building they will take carriages to the Treasury Department, escorted by Chief Clerk Youmans, who will introduce them to Secretary Fairchild. When their round of Cabinet calls is done they will be received informally by Gen. Sheridan in his office at the War Department. Every seat for the performance of "Jim the Penman" for to-night, has been sold.

The Washington Post of April 19, 1887 reported 
"ACTORS TAKE THE TOWN" A GREAT DAY IN THE HISTORY OF MANAGER PALMER'S COMPANY. They are received by the President and Cabinet Officers and present "Jim the Penman" to a Distinguished Audience.

The friends of Manager Palmer and his Madison Square Company spared no pains yesterday to make the stay of the party in Washington as pleasant as possible. The morning was spent in driving about the city to various points of interest, and at half past one o'clock the entire party visited the White House, where they were to be received by President Cleveland.  They first were shown through the Red, Blue and Green Parlors, and then into the East Room, where they waited for the President. Mr. Cleveland did not keep them waiting long, but soon entered the room through the folding doors leading to the private parts of the house. Mr. Roessie introduced Mr. Palmer, who in turn introduced his son and daughter, and then his company beginning with Mrs. Agnes Booth. When the veteran William Davidge who, the day before, celebrated his seventh fifth birthday, advanced the President recognized him at once and exclaimed "Why, how do you do, Mr. Davidge, I remember seeing you play in New York ever so many years ago." When all the company had shaken hands with the President, he and Mr. Palmer engaged in conversation for a few minutes.

From the White House the party drove over to the State Department, where they were shown into the Diplomatic Reception Room. Here they were welcomed by Second Assistant Secretary Adee.  While waiting for the Secretary, Mrs.. Booth's eyes fell on the picture of Daniel Webster. "Oh how much he looks like Edwin" she exclaimed. This called the attention of the entire party to the portrait which, especially about the forehead and the eyes, might be passed for a portrait of the great tragedian Edwin Booth.  Commodore Harmony joined the party here, and when Secretary Bayard came into the room, made the introductions.  The War Department was next visited, and the party was introduced to Secretary Endicott and to Secretary Lamar, who happened to be in his office. Secretary Whitney was in when they called at the Navy Department ... A call on General [Philip] Sheridan followed next.

"Why, how many ladies you have!" he exclaimed when they had all been introduced by Mr.. Palmer. 

"We can't very well run a theatrical company without ladies" said Mr.. Palmer. They are just as much a necessary part of the outfit as in any organization. You can't run anything without the ladies. "

"They are not very necessary in an army." laughed the General. The General regretted that a prior engagement would prevent the attendance of himself and Mrs.. Sheridan at the performance, but promised to see it soon in New York. 

The Treasury Department was the last place visited, and after an introduction to Secretary Fairchild, Chief Clerk Youmanns ordered the vaults to be opened and the party were shown the great stocks of silver stored behind iron bars. It had been intended to visit the Interior and Postoffice departments, but the party was so much fatigued by their jaunts about the city that they went to the hotel for a few hours rest before the evening's performance. 

It is the concurrent testimony of Messrs. Rapley and other local authorities that the National Theatre never before held so brilliant an audience to see a playas it did last night. All the boxes were full and the seats were packed to the roof.  

In the President's box were the President, Col. and Mrs. Wilson, and Col. Lamont. In the box adjoining were Secretary and Mrs. Whitney, and a richly dressed party. In other boxes were Secretary Endicott and family, Secretary Fairchild and family, Mr. and Miss Palmer, Mrs. W.W. and W.H. Rapley, Mrs. "Jennie June" Croly, Miss Marie Burroughs, and other ladies. Mrs. Hearst occupied the eighth box. Secretary Bayard and his daughters were in the front row of chairs.

It would be easy to fill half a column with names of well-known persons in the audience. It is only to be added that the modern demand was complied with, and almost all the ladies in the boxes, and nearly half of those in the orchestra and orchestra circle removed their bonnets and left them in the dressing room.  At h the end of the second, much applause and amusement  were created by an attempt to get a nest of lovely and enormous bouquets to the ladies in the cast. Difficulty was experienced in disentangling the ribbons which bound them together and every rise of the curtain and every fresh revelation of discomfiture and embarrassment caused a fresh outburst of playful raillery. 

Souvenir card  Lady D 
Mrs. Phillips "Washington trip April 18, 1887

Here's rosemary for you - that's for remembrance -- Ophelia" compliments of  
[overleaf] The PenMen
EJ Phillips played Lady Dunscombe
The card has a number of autographs including George Patrick Brady, Frank A. Burr, HJW Dam, FA Duneka, George Parsons Lathrop, Wm. F.G. Shanks,  Geo Alfred Townsend, Horace Townsend,  WG Whitney and Adam Badeau.  Thanks to Howard Rosenberg who looked up the Washington Post account of this trip. I now know who these people were.

These bouquets were intended for Mrs. Agnes Booth, Miss Maud Harrison, Mrs. Phillips and Miss Robson, and they were accompanied by round robin cards, on which the names of the ten donors were written -- the ten journalists present from New York as guests of Mr. Palmer. These were Geo. Adam Badeau, George Alfred Townsend, Mrs. Croly, George P. Lathrop, W.F.G. Shank and the other correspondents.   And in the center of the card was written "From the Penman." 

The receipts amounted to the superb sum of $3,100 for the Actor's Fund of America. No such money has ever been realized before at any Washington theatre at the prices charged last night. 

As the curtain rose on the beautiful and exquisitely arranged blue and gilt drawing room scene in the first act of "Jim the Penman" it gladdened the eyes and brought forth rounds of applause. The performance was, of course, an excellent and brilliant one. As the actors severally entered  they were in turn warmly greeted , and as the curtain fell on the first act the applause broke forth in a storm from every part of the house.  The enthusiasm reached its height at the close of the third act , when in response to loud calls and applause , Manager Palmer appeared at the footlights and said 

My company and myself, ladies and gentlemen, deem it a high honor that we are permitted to appear in this distinguished presence and before this representative American audience. But when to that high honor and privilege is added the fact which comes to us from the front of the house , that we shall carry home with us for our Actors' Fund the sum of $3,100 as the result of your labors and generosity, the measure of our gratification is complete. IN my own name and in that of my company, and above all, in the name of that sweet charity whose ministers we are, I thank you again and again for this magnificent result and I venture to express the hope that this occasion may be the forerunner of similar ones when my brother actors of New York shall appear here in behalf of the same sacred cause.   The party will return to New York this morning.

File:George Alfred Townsend (Poems of Men and Events).jpg George Alfred Townsend    File:George Parsons Lathrop 001.jpg`George Parsons Lathrop        Mrs. Croly   Adam Badeau Matthew Brady,
                                                                                                                                                                                                        US National Archives

Adam Badeau (December 29, 1831 – March 19, 1895) was an American author, Union Army officer, and diplomat. He was most prominent for his service on the staff of Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War and his subsequent three-volume biography of Ulysses S. Grant.  Wikipedia accessed 2018 Feb 14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Badeau  He was also a theater critic and friend of Edwin Booth.

Jennie June Croly Jane Cunningham Croly (December 19, 1829 – December 23, 1901) was an American author and journalist, better known by her pseudonym, Jennie June. She was a pioneer author and editor of women's columns in leading newspapers and magazines in New York. She founded the Sorosis club for women in New York in 1868 and in 1889 expanded it nationwide to the General Federation of Women's Clubs. She also founded the Woman's Press Club of New York City.... a pioneer feminist... Croly sympathized with the women's suffrage movement but was not active in it. ... She told American women that financial independence and economic equality was as or more important than the right to vote.[8] Wikipedia accessed 2018 Feb 14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Cunningham_Croly

Henry J W "Harry"  Dam: died 1906 Californian, journalist for New York times and then for the London edition of the New York Herald. Dramatist New York and London  Strand magazine 1896 https://books.google.com/books?id=2nhHAAAAYAAJ&dq=hjw+dam+new+york+times&source=gbs_navlinks_s  includes photo of

Frederick A Duneka (c1863-1919) American journalist, New York World until 1900 and then at Harpers and edited Samuel Clemens work. Mark Twain Encyclopedia 1993 https://books.google.com/books?id=zW1k-XS6XLEC&dq=frederick+a+duneka+harpers&source=gbs_navlinks_s

George Parsons Lathrop (August 25, 1851 – April 19, 1898) was an American poet and novelist. ...he was married in London, September 11, 1871, to Rose Hawthorne, the second daughter and youngest child of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1875, he became associate editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and remained in that position two years, leaving it to edit the Boston Courier in 1879. ...In 1883 he founded the American Copyright League, which assisted in securing an international copyright law. Wikipedia accessed 2018 Feb 14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Parsons_Lathrop

George Alfred Townsend  (January 30, 1841 – April 15, 1914), was a noted war correspondent during the American Civil War, and a later novelist. Townsend wrote under the pen name "Gath", which was derived by adding an "H" to his initials, and inspired by the biblical passage II Samuel 1:20, "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askalon."  ...He originally wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and in 1861 he moved to the New York Herald. He is considered to have been the youngest correspondent of the war. In 1865, Townsend was Washington correspondent for the New York World, covering the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and its aftermath. His daily reports filed between April 17 – May 17 were published later in 1865 as a book, The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth, reprinted in 1977,[2]  ...By 1868, he had become one of the most quotable Washington correspondents, working for the "Chicago Tribune," and, after 1874, for the "New York Graphic."   Wikipedia accessed 2108 Feb 14  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Alfred_Townsend

Horace Townsend: author and journalist for New York Tribune, wrote about fire safety in Frank Leslie's Monthly in  1883  Richmond Theater Fire, LSU Press 2012  https://books.google.com/books?id=WFuc9Ak2f5oC&dq=%22horace+townsend%22+new+york+tribune+fire+safety&source=gbs_navlinks_s  For many years London correspondent New York Herald, and before going to London was assistant to William Winter New York Tribune.  Fourth Estate: A weekly newspaper for publishers, advertisers, advertising agents and allied interests, 1901 https://books.google.com/books?id=9eNHAQAAMAAJ&dq=%22horace+townsend%22+%22new+york%22+fire&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Washington Post 1887 April 19
April 19 FIFTY YEARS AN ACTOR A TALK WITH WM. P. DAVIDGE, AGED SEVENTY-THREE. He Hopes For a Return to Stock Companies and Says That There is More Mechanism Than Art on the Present Stage. PERSONAL APPEARANCE. A TESTIMONIAL. A MATTER OF PURE ENGLISH. MECHANISM AND NOT ART. William P. Davidge, who is now a member of the Madison Square Theatre Company, and played in "Jim, the Penman," at the National last night, is without doubt the oldest actor now on the American stage.

An April 20th letter from Hattie to Albert adds more information.
I read in last evening's paper of the gay time "Jim the Penman" has been having & that the President wrote his autograph on the ladies souvenir cards with Mrs. Phillips' pen.  I suppose that was the pen John gave her for Christmas. 

39 West 12th
New York
April 28th [1887]

My dear Son.

Your letter rec'd this morning.  Too bad you are still kept in suspense about your stock [printing press]. And I cannot help you.  It is too bad!  I Well perhaps your next letter will bring better news -- I was and am pretty tired over my journey.  I do not know that I can give you any better accounts of the trip than the papers have given.  Everything was pleasant except the weather and even the rain held up  long enough for us to see the White House, Treasury and State Department. buildings -- and then on our return to the hotel we had a thunderstorm - but that cleared off about 5 PM and gave us clear weather for the Evening.  The President sat very quiet during the performance and seemed to enjoy it.  He is not a handsome man, but Bayard is.  We had a splendid time and I did not spend one cent going or returning.  We did not stop at Phila going and only 10 minutes at the Broad Street station returning, so of course I did not see Hattie.  Will send you an order for ten to-morrow.  Wish it could be ten times ten.  I worry a great deal about you dear but I can do very little else and that does not help you or me.  God bless and help you out of your present trouble and we may yet be able to weather the storm.  Be patient -- and hopeful.  Glad you have written to your sister. Love and kisses from your loving Mother.

A similar (though not as festive) trip to Washington was made in March 1890 with the cast of Aunt Jack for an Actors' Fund benefit. A special train took the actors to Washington, arriving there at 11:47 am. The performance began at 1pm and they started their return to New York at 3:15, reaching the theatre in time to appear there at 9pm. 

Actors Fund Fair  1892  
New York, Jan 24th 1892
  I rehearse at 11 tomorrow and at 3 PM have to attend a "tea & reception" at the Holland House [Hotel] 30th St & 5th Avenue given by the committee of "The Actors Fund Fair" to be held in May at the Madison Square Garden.  I suppose the object to-morrow will be to see what everybody concerned is willing to do, to make the affair a success. 

Actors' Fund Fair Harpers Weekly May 1892

Stanford White's Madison Square Garden Theatre
 in lower right hand corner, enveloped in greenery

The Actor's Fund Fair was held May 2-7, 1892  in Stanford White's new (opened 1890) Madison Square Garden.  "The entire floor was laid out as a miniature village of one street in the midst of a plain.  The buildings were models of famous theatres of ancient London and older New York , and the architecture and picturesque local color of several centuries and of places far distant from each other were cleverly brought into harmony.

The Garden Theatre was a portion of Stanford White's Madison Square Garden structure, but separately managed.  The auditorium, eight boxes, a gallery and a balcony seated about 1200.  The bases of the box tiers and the heavy columns forming the frame of the outer proscenium arch were of onyx and the wall hung with silk in tints of light yellow and cream.  [Kings NYC

I was trying to get out of the affair, but last night as I was leaving the theatre the Call Boy came with a message from Mr. Palmer to me and Miss [Maud] Harrison that he (Mr. Palmer) should consider it a personal favor to him if we would attend the reception - which was a polite way of telling us, we must go.  You know receptions & teas are a great bore to yours truly. 

The New York Times reported the reception was attended by 300 to 400 ladies and speeches were made by Mrs. Kendal, Agnes Booth and Georgia Cayvan.  "The Actors Fund Fair: What the Ladies will do to make it a success" Jan 26 1892

New York, Feby 26th/92  I started out in the Morning with two ladies to canvass Toy Stores for the donation of Toys for the "Actors Fund Fair" which takes place the 1st week in May.  Yesterday we had donations of Toys given to us to the value of $60.    

I will enclose this with a business communication in a business envelope to show you the "part" I am trying to act at present.  I am a perfect novice, and wish I had you here to give me a lesson on Committee work. 

Without my desire or consent, the Ladies Executive Committee made me chairman of Sub- Committee no. 24 (There are 40 sub- Comm'ees.)  And I know as much about it as a cat knows how to play a fiddle.  My only comfort being that there are many others just like me.  I have four ladies on the Committee with me.  Mrs. D.P. Bowers, Mrs. [Percy] Haswell, Misses [Julia] Arthur & Rockman.  Had Mrs. Frank Mordaunt but she and her husband leave the City next week with the "Lost Paradise" and she cannot act on the Committee here.  

New York, Feb 26th 1892 
Mr. & Mrs. A.E. Nickinson 
Middletown, N.Y. 

Dear Sir & Madam, 

The above named Fair is to take place at the Madison Square Garden, beginning May 2nd for one week.  The object of the Fund in giving the Fair is to realize $100,000 to establish an orphanage for children of deceased Actors - any contribution will be gladly accepted by yours -
             Elizabeth J Phillips 
               Committee No 24 
               Actors Fund Fair 

On reverse of this letter are a list of patrons including former President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland, Mr. and Mrs. Stamford [sic] White, the John Jacob Astors and many others

New York, March 6th/92 Last night I closed my appearances in New York for the present and do not know when I shall appear here again. 

I am still busy with the Actors Fund Fair but hope to get through with my share this week.  Have collected written guarantees of toys from various stores to the amount of $75.  And promises from several others, but some I am afraid are doubtful.  Eight weeks from tomorrow the Fair is to begin.  And should I have to go to Chicago I shall not be "in it". 

NY  April 7, 1892  Since I arrived here which was at 6 PM Sunday I have been very busy - having to travel to Williamsburg [Brooklyn] every night and to Matinee yesterday - and having in the meantime my own work and Fair work to attend to. The [Actors Fund] Fair is progressing nicely - and when it is over Mr. Palmer may come down to Earth again - and tell us what he has provided for us.  Until then, I do not believe he knows himself what he is going to do.  Come when you can - if in the meantime I am sent out to Oshkosh or the Sandwich Islands - I will telegraph in time for you not to come.  

New York, April 12th/92  With this I send you the last "Fair Tokens" which will show you the Fair is doing well.  

NY, April 22/92   That night we open the Fair here.  Fair opens May 2nd 7:30 PM.  Mr. P[almer] told me he expected to have some good plays next season and better parts for me -- "For" said he "I have found that I cannot get anyone else to please the Public and myself better than you do"!  Now what do you think of your Maternal Mother! I am tired.  Fair is too much for me.  Hope to see you all at the Fair.

"As Booth's health declined, Jefferson's stature increased. He began to move into his role as "dean of the American theatre". On April 30, 1892, the producer AM Palmer announced that [Joseph] Jefferson had agreed to open the Actor's Fund Fair in Madison Square Garden and had sent a $500 contribution. For the occasion, the Garden was converted into a city street filled with theatrical reminiscences -- The Globe Theatre, Dicken's Old Curiosity Shop, and even the Chatham Street Theatre in which Jefferson had made his New York debut in 1849. Within each facade there was a boutique stocked with donated merchandise and staffed by society matrons. The fair began at 8 PM with its officers mounting a set of stairs into an overhanging box on the south side of the building. Jefferson entered moving "lightly up the stairs" with Palmer and the much enfeebled Edwin Booth, who was unable to speak publicly. Both actors were warmly applauded, and Jefferson made a brief speech. Then Booth and Jefferson bowed, hand in hand, to an applauding audience, while the band played The Star Spangled banner," and Mrs. AM Palmer waved the American flag above them. It was a formal public acknowledgement of their equality in tragedy and comedy."  Bloom, Arthur, Joseph Jefferson: Dean of the American Theatre, Savannah, Frederic C. Beil, 2000

New York, May 1st 1892  No, Hattie has decided not to come to the Fair.  We begin tomorrow night and will feel pretty tired I guess by the time 11 o'clock arrives.  I expect to be there tomorrow from 10 AM to 11 PM and perhaps later. Think there will not even be a grease spot left of me at the end of the week. I cannot tell you yet when I shall start for Chicago.  May have to go earlier in the week than I want to, but I do not think before Friday and I may have to go on Monday.  There will be five ladies to go.  Mrs. [Agnes] Booth, Mrs. [DP] Bowers, the Misses [Julia] Arthur and [Maud] Harrison & self.  Mr. & Mrs. [Frederic] Robinson went with the Company last night, although he does not play until I do.  I shall have to be guided by the way the others go, or are sent by the management.  I do not think I shall be able to see you before going, unless you all come to the Fair.  

And I hope you will be able to do so.  I have a ticket to take you in.  On Monday Fair begins at 8 PM.  All other days opens at 1:30 and closes 11 PM.  Messrs [Edwin] Booth and [Joseph] Jefferson open the Fair,  Love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Edward and Penelope from their loving Mother

Yesterday -- Scharles Bro of 24th to 23rd St Toys raised their donation of $10 guaranteed in March to $100.  It is a child's theatre & they have it on exhibition in their store window on 23rd St . 

Actor's Fund Fair Souvenir Programme, Madison Square Garden  May 2nd 3rd https://archive.org/details/souvenirprogramm00acto  See the Agnes Booth cigar on page 18.

NY, May 4 1892 All right.  Hope to see you. I have no time to write. In Fair from 12M to 11 PM.   And all other time is devoted to outside work. Have to hustle I tell you. 

N.Y. May 12th 1892 Today I finished selling and resigned my position as Toy seller to the Actors Fund Fair.  On Saturday I leave for  Chicago by the New York Central at  4:30 PM.  So I cannot pay you the visit I should have done tomorrow had we gone by the Erie.  On Saturday night the Fair closes by the awarding of the Cleveland Diamond.  There is great speculation as to who will be the lucky one.  Of course my ticket will be the one to draw it! 750 is my number.  So watch for it. 

Cleveland  Diamond

One of the earliest large diamonds to be cut in New York City (but not the first!) was called the “Cleveland Gem” a 42¼ carat diamond that appeared in 1884 and disappeared mysteriously in 1892. The rough diamond was discovered in South Africa in 1873, and originally weighed 78 carats…. The cutting of the diamond coincided with one of the most bitter partisan political battles for the Presidency that the United States has ever experienced. Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, the former Mayor of Buffalo, New York and Governor of the State of New York was pitted against Republican James G. Blaine, a former Congressman from Maine, in a highly vitriolic campaign. Dessau would tell a New York Times reporter: “Father and I had a disturbance [argument]. He wanted to name it Cleveland before Cleveland was elected. I desired to call it Blaine. At last I said ‘I’ll compromise with you, and if Cleveland be elected we’ll call it the Cleveland gem.’

The Actors' Fund in New York City began laying plans for an enormous fair in Manhattan to raise money for their charitable work. The Actors' Fund was created in 1882 for the benefit of “suffering members of the dramatic profession …. In its first decade, the Actors' Fund dispersed more than $136,000 to 2,571 theater people, as well as saw to the proper burial of 509 men and women who would have otherwise been relegated to a pauper's grave. As the organization grew, it became painfully apparent that contributions from the public and the proceeds of special matinée performances at theaters in Manhattan and Brooklyn were inadequate. 

One of the most interesting propositions came from John R. Rogers. He offered to allow the Actors' Fund to raffle off the Cleveland Diamond at the Fair, provided they pay off the money he owed on the loan (which apparently amounted to about $6,000) and that they split the proceeds of the auction equally (NY Times, 1901). With an estimated value of $20,00, the diamond would be one of the most valuable items to be raffled at the Fair. The Board members of the Fund agreed and the Cleveland Gem was soon ransomed from the bank. 

One of the highlights of the Fair was to be an exhibition of diamonds, rubies and precious stones, “the largest ever seen in a single collection.” Centerpiece of the display would be the Cleveland Diamond itself, pronounced by the New York Times as “a stone valued at $20,000 and regarded by jewelers as another Koh-i-noor.” (NY Times 1892c) Stanford White designed a “Moorish booth” - which echoed the Moorish style architecture of Madison Square Garden - in which the Cleveland Diamond and other gems would be exhibited. The booth was under the management of veteran actress Mrs. D P Bowers and Dora Goldthwaite, a relative newcomer to the New York stage (NY Times 1892e) . The Actors’ Fund printed 20,000 tickets for the raffle of the Cleveland diamond, at $1 each, numbers selected apparently based upon the gem’s estimated value. 

By the close of the Fair, the Actors’ Fund had raised the staggering amount of $180,000.

Oddly, the raffle of the Cleveland Diamond failed to capture the public imagination. Less than half of the chances for the raffle of the Cleveland diamond were sold… by the estimates of the Actors’ Fund executives, only about 9,000 tickets. They continued to sell tickets on the gem for several days after the close of the fair, but with limited success. (NY Times 1892k; NY Times 1892l) 

When the drawing was held, on the 14th of May, the winning ticket was number 9,810, a ticket which had not been sold. (NY Times 1892m). By the terms of many 19th century raffles and lotteries, when an unsold ticket was pulled as winner of the item, no second drawing was held for the item (which has become common practice today). Instead, the item reverted back to the people who were raffling it off.

Under the agreement that existed between Rogers and the Actors’ Fund, if the diamond was not won as a prize, it was to be auctioned off and the proceeds divided equally by Rogers and the Fund. Indeed, the Actors’ Fund reported in early June, 1892 that the Cleveland diamond was still in their possession , and that its disposal was to be “left in the hands of Messrs Sanger, Aldrich and Knowles, to be sold as speedily as possible” (NY Times, 1892n). The three men tasked with selling the diamond were all board members of the Actors’ Fund and were from the ranks of the most respected theater management professionals in New York City.

Nothing further was heard of the Cleveland Diamond for nine years. Then, in April, 1901, Rogers prosecuted a suit against the Actors’ Fund in New York State Supreme Court to recover the $6,500 which he claimed that they owed him for his share of the proceeds from the auction/sale of the Cleveland diamond. (NY Times, 1901). He hired the law firm of Leventritt and Brennan to represent his cause. While waiting for the case to reach trial, Rogers was treated to a brief vacation at the Insane Pavilion at Bellevue Hospital …

Testifying before New York Supreme Court Justice Vernon Davis, Rogers recounted the terms of the contract which the Actors' Fund had agreed to... that the diamond would be raffled and the proceeds divided 50-50, and if the diamond was not won at raffle, it was to be auctioned off and the proceeds divided equally between Rogers and the Actors' Fund. The board members of the Actors' Fund did not debate this point. But A. H. “Abe” Hummel, a prominent New York attorney apparently representing the Actors' Fund, declared that “the diamond was disposed of in accordance with the contract” and that the Actors' Fund had in fact fully settled with Rogers. (NY Times 1903a) Hummel's role in the case was somewhat nebulous... but there are hints that he had been a supporter of Minnie Palmer both with respect to her divorce and to her career (in 1907, Rogers identified Hummel as one of the chief mistakes that Palmer had made in managing her career). If so, Rogers was probably much pleased a few years later when Hummel was convicted of suborning perjury in 1907, disbarred, and sentenced to a year in prison. Albert Palmer testified as the former President of the Actors' Fund. Frank W Sanger, long-time treasurer of the Fund and former business manager of the Metropolitan Opera House, took the stand and stated that the diamond had, in fact, been consigned to an auctioneer, but inexplicably couldn't seem to recall whether or not the diamond was sold (NY Times 1903b). The auctioneer was never named, nor was he ever called to the stand to testify. It is also odd that no reports of the actual auction have been found in period newspaper accounts... certainly the sale of a 42 carat diamond with so prominent and tumultuous a history would have received public notice!

In the end, the case was dismissed without an effective resolution… the New York Times noted “there was no evidence that there ever was an auction, and nothing to indicate what became of the stone after the raffle.” (NY Times, 1903b). The author has found no further mention of the Cleveland Diamond. A special benefit performance was held at the Lyric Theatre for Rogers in mid-1904, suggesting that he was having financial difficulties. (NY Times, 1904)


Georgia Cayvan got more votes than Agnes Booth as the most popular lady at the Fair.  Al Hayman, AM Palmer and Mrs. Palmer made speeches and the naphtha [powered] launch [boat] was awarded to Agnes Booth   NY Times May 8, 1892 https://www.nytimes.com/1892/05/08/archives/a-downpour-of-dollars-money-flowed-into-the-actors-fund-treasury.html

New York Times May 1 1892 https://www.nytimes.com/1892/05/01/archives/ready-for-the-actors-fund-fair.html   https://www.nytimes.com/1892/05/01/archives/beautifying-the-garden-making-it-ready-for-the-actors-fund-fair-a.html
New York Times May 2, 1892 https://www.nytimes.com/1892/05/02/archives/ready-for-the-fund-fair-madison-square-garden-in-the-hands-of.html
New York Times May 3 1892  Opened by Joe Jefferson  https://www.nytimes.com/1892/05/03/archives/opened-by-joe-jefferson-first-nighst-of-the-great-actors-fund-fair.html
New York Times May 9, 1892  Net Profit of at least $160,000 https://www.nytimes.com/1892/05/09/archives/a-net-profit-of-160000-at-least-that-sum-realized-at-the-actors.html

New York Times May 15 1892 Cleveland Diamond https://www.nytimes.com/1892/05/15/archives/the-actors-fund-fair-closed-awards-of-the-cleveland-diamond-and.html

Actors' Fund plot at Evergreen Cemetery Brooklyn
About Stage Folks by William Ellis Horton 1902 http://books.google.com/books?id=tQQOAAAAYAAJ&dq=buried+%22May+brookyn%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s   says that May Brookyn, Henry Mader Pitt and more than a thousand stage folks are buried in the Actors Fund plot which was dedicated in 1June 6, 887 with a speech by Edwin Booth.
Evergreens Cemetery 1629 Bushwick Ave Brooklyn http://www.theevergreenscemetery.com/   Tony Pastor and Blanche DeBar Booth are buried here.

Actors' Fund History http://actorsfund.org/about-us/history   Although the theater business was booming, the theatrical profession suffered a tremendous setback when President Lincoln was assassinated by an actor, John Wilkes Booth. Prejudices against the profession existed prior to that time, but Lincoln’s death rekindled the old hatreds and added more fuel to the fire. Because of their low standing, members of the profession were regularly denied charity from most institutions, including many religious organizations. It was not unusual for them to be refused a decent burial.

In 1879, a new theatrical paper—the New York Dramatic Mirror—arrived on the scene. A young NYU freshman, Harrison Grey Fiske, submitted an article and soon after was writing regularly for the paper. When one third of the Mirror’s stock became available, his father bought it and Fiske became the paper’s editor. Knowing the critical problems facing the profession he immediately began a campaign for an “Actors Fund.” Thanks to Fiske’s persistence and foresight, The Actors Fund was founded on June 8, 1882.

The first Actors Fund home on Staten Island was dedicated in 1902. This was made possible in part by the successful 1892 Fair held at Madison Square Garden, which raised over $163,000. This was the first time that the profession was overwhelmingly accepted by society. In attendance were President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland, Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, J. Pierpont Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Actors' Fund History https://actorsfund.org/about-us/history
Actors;Fund of America, Souvenir and Programme of the Actors' Fund Fair, Madison Square Garden, May 2d,3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 1892, Forgotten Books, London, 2018
Baker, Paul L, Stanny: The Gilded Life of Stanford White, New York: Free Press, MacMillan, 1989.
Lowe, David Garrard, Stanford White's New York, New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Wikipedia, Actor's Fund  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actors%27_Fund_of_America

Last updated January 5, 2020

Homepage   A to Z Index  Bibliography  People   Places   Plays   About these letters  About EJ Phillips  Chronology EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page