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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'sAM 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

The Washington Post of Apr. 18, 1887 advertised "One performance only. 
MONDAY EVENING, April 18. A.M. PALMER'S NEW YORK COMPANY in 
"JIM, THE PENMAN
" 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 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. 

AT THE THEATRE
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.

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. 

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. 

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 -
          Sincerely 
             Elizabeth J Phillips 
                    Chairman 
               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.

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 . 

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. 

Bibliography
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.

Actors Fund http://www.actorsfund.org/ 

Last updated Feb. 28, 2005

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