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1891    1893    1894    Baltimore 1891    Baltimore 1892    Baltimore 1894  

Washington DC: National Theatre

1885 Grover Cleveland inauguration Souvenir of the Inauguration Ball, March 4th, 1885 EJP and Palmer's company performed.  The ball was in the New Pension Building (entrances at the F, G and 5th Street doors). No hat, bonnets, overcoats nor cloaks, allowed to be worn on the ball room floor.  Persons not allowed to stand in centre of "dancing halls" during dancing. 

The Pension Building is now the National Building Museum in Washington DC. http://www.nbm.org/Virtual_Tour/Virtual_Tour.html  History http://www.nbm.org/Info/history.html

1887 The Madison Square Company's trip to Washington DC April 18, 1887 for an Actors' Fund Benefit performance of Jim the Penman received extensive press coverage. 

1891  previous: New York 1891

Willard's Hotel 
Washington DC 
April 24th 1891 

My dear Son,

Have just heard that we are to be a travelling company until Jany 1892. "Ben" [Benjamin Harrison was President] is not at home so I could not present your compliments to him - he is swinging around California somewhere.  I walked around the White House yesterday, but did not go in.

I do not yet know where we shall put up in Baltimore, but you can direct AM Palmer Co Theatre. That will find me.  Love and Kisses etc Mother

Washington Post Apr. 25, 1891ad "AM Palmer's Madison Square Theater Co." National Theater Today at 2 A Pair of Spectacles and A Man of the World. Tonight at 8 Jim the Penman

Willard's Hotel 
Washington, DC  
April 25th 1891 

Dear daughter Penelope, 

I am delighted that [grandson] Edward is doing so well and enjoys his outings so much - he will grow good and strong with such treatment.  I hope you will have him christened Sunday. Of course it would afford me great pleasure to be present - but I think his christening is too important to be put off until I could attend, which could not possibly be for some weeks to come. 

Sorry I had to disappoint you, in not returning to pay you another visit - but the promise was made when, by the advertisements in the papers, I thought I would not have to leave New York until the 3rd of May, and it was rather difficult to get away to say goodbye to Hattie. 

I did get away though, on the Friday morning at 9, and returned by the 4 PM train on the Monday, Mr. Millward, our prompter, having kindly dropped me a note on the Saturday telling me the company playing in Alabama were going to be photographed on the Monday, and there would not be a rehearsal until Tuesday 11 AM. That gave me a few more hours with Hattie than I first expected.

I think Hattie is getting along very nicely - I think has now gained strength to enable her to get through her approaching sickness [baby due]. She was at Mrs. Dolman's on Thursday and thinks she perhaps may not again go so far until the "picnic" is over. Anytime after the 6th of May we may expect squalls. 

The report is that the company leave for Portland Ore on the 13th of July, to open there on the 20th for one week, and that the company will travel from that time until January 1892. Whether I am included or not I cannot say, but the supposition is that I am, and I do not object - it is not so lonesome for me when I am traveling and no more expensive. 

I have not been feeling very well for the past few days, have dyspepsia. We had very hot weather coming over on the cars, and I drank a very cold apollonian lemonade which I think checked up my digesting apparatus, and I ate some canned chicken which added to my misery, and on Monday & Tuesday I felt very wretched. 

I have not told Hattie anything about it, for she has enough to worry her in her present condition, [pregnant with Elizabeth Ellen] without worrying about me.  I had some mixture from the drugstore which helped me very much and I feel better. 

Yesterday I went to see the Soldier's Home - a beautiful place.  The weather has been so hot & not feeling well I have not done half the sight-seeing I intended to. Still I know a little more about Washington than I did. 

It is a beautiful city and seems to be improving very fast - new streets are being opened up in all directions and grand residences are being built. I do not wonder that Walter [Dolman] wants his mother to come and live here. It is just lovely. But I suppose it would require a couple millions bank book to make one comfortable as one would wish to be amidst such gorgeous surroundings. 

Jack is now wearing kilt skirts, jerseys and reefer jacket. Hattie writes that he looks very nice in them and that "people do not mistake him for a girl". She wanted a girl but does not like to have Jack taken for a girl! 

Think I will now take pity upon you and stop or you will be fatigued reading all this. Think of me at the christening, for I shall think of you all and be with you in thought, if not in person. Love and Kisses etc Mother

The Willard's Hotel  (opened 1861) is still in business at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, and very elegant. Mary Glen had tea there in January 1992 with friends/colleagues from her first post-college job at the Franklin Mint, which was splendid preparation for this project. 

Soldier's Home  Described in the 1942 WPA Guide to Washington DC as "one of the most attractive sites in the District" and "the oldest soldiers' home in the United States", it is still in Northwest Washington, not far from Catholic University and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Both Winfield Scott and Jefferson Davis were instrumental in its founding by an act of Congress in 1851.

T H E  E U T A W 
Sylvanus Stokes 
Proprietor  Baltimore      
         April 28th 1891 

My dear Son,  

Had a good house last night in spite of the circus, Richard Mansfield and several other attractions. I was pleased we remained over Sunday in Washington as it enabled me to go to Arlington Heights and see one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Once the residence of Gen. Robt E. Lee, now the resting place of Gen [Philip H.l Sheridan whose tomb is in front a little to the right of the Lee Mansion.  The house commands a view of the Capitol and Monument across the river and is just lovely.  I enjoyed my trip to Washington very much. 

Our next objective point is Pittsburgh where we hold forth next week. Then on to Buffalo.  I might not have to go to Chicago as they are talking of playing nothing else but Alabama there. I shall not know anything for certain about it for a week or two. 

I hope you had Edward christened on Sunday. It was a perfect day in Washington.  His trip to Otisville would strengthen him for the short journey to Church. Hope he behaved like a little soldier. Love and Kisses to my dear children three Neppie, Edward & Albert from their loving Mother 

next: Buffalo May 1891

previous: New York Oct. 1892 Columbus Celebration

Eutaw House 
Baltimore & Eutaw Sts 
Sylvanus Stokes, prop'r 
Baltimore, Md  Nov 1st 1892

My dear Son, 

I am moving around so fast that I get very little time to write, but do the best I can.  On Saturday notice was put up that we left after performance for NY, to remain there over Sunday and leave at 10:10 AM Monday for Wilmington, so I not having anyone in New York to see, got permission to go on to Phila Sunday 9 AM train.  

Met the Co at Broad St at 12:20.  Reached Wilmington  at 1:30 or there about.  Played at night and left there nearly 1 AM for this town, reaching this hotel at 3 AM.  I did not get up until 12.  Took breakfast at 1 and since have been mending and getting clothes ready for wash. 

It was a great mistake bringing us from Wilmington last night.  We might better have had our rest there and have come on this Morning.  It is only a two hours ride -- 74 miles I hear is the distance.  We are badly managed with regard to travel and dates.   We remain here 5 nights which seems quite a treat after the travel we had last week.  Glad Neppie recd the V.  I will now enclose one to you.  Love and Kisses to you all dear children from your loving Mother

Eutaw House  Baltimore Md
Novr 5th 1892 

My dear daughter Neppie, 

Dear little fellow, how I should like to hear [grandson Ted] prattle.  His nose will be out of joint now with Mrs. Williams who has found such a beautiful boy for herself.  I am delighted to hear she got through so nicely, and hope she will not be too hasty in getting around again.  No matter how well she feels, tell her to keep quiet for at least three weeks.  My congratulations to her and a Kiss for the boy. 

I have not yet heard whether we leave here tonight or tomorrow Morning but we are to play in Hartford, Conn on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday nights and then to Troy for the other three nights.  The following week will be I am afraid very trying & disagreeable.  One night in Herkimer, one in Ithaca and the 3rd in Oswego.  Then the other 3 in Syracuse.  We are jumping about the map of the US pretty lively and I fear cold weather.   

I suppose the Election is keeping Albert busy and on Wed'day we shall know who is the victor.  Seems a pretty hard fight at last and bets more numerous than ever.  Everything seemed so quiet a month ago that it did not seem like election time at all.  My love and Kisses to Albert, Ted and Neppie my dear children from their loving  

next: Hartford, Nov. 8, 1892 

previous: Buffalo Dec 1892

Washington Post Dec. 29, 1892 "
Next Week's Amusements" "Joseph" at the Academy of Music
There seems to be no doubt that theater-goers will have a rare treat when Ramsey Morris' comedy company (from New York) presents "Joseph" next week.  The cast shows a brilliant list of names. "Joseph" should not be confounded with farce-comedy and Manager Morris' company will demonstrate the fact that they can make an audience roar for nearly three hours without once resorting to horse play or low buffoonery.  "Joseph" ran for over 700 nights in Paris.


Willard's Hotel
O G Staples, Proprietor
Late of the Thousand Island House
Washington, D.C.
January 4th 1893

My dear daughter Neppie,

I arrived at Hattie's New Years Morning at 5:30.  I did not have to knock at the door for Hattie & John were downstairs before I was out of the carriage, and though no noise was made by any of us, the door was only just closed when Jack called out, "I'm in bed Grandma; come up stairs and see me".  Of course I did so, and was hugged & Kissed and made very welcome by him, but it was too early for any of them to get up, so I went to bed and had three hours sleep which I much needed, having gone through a very hard week of travel.  Bad theatres & hotels and felt pretty tired.

After breakfast I was shown Jack's tree and all his presents of which he had a goodly number and was much delighted with all.  I left the house a little after 11.  Hattie & Jack going with me to Broad St Station and John joined us there.  I took the 12:25 train and reached here at  4 PM.  We had a very quiet nice day & a good dinner.  Roast Turkey, cranberry sauce, &c and an English plum pudding made by Mrs. Harrison and sent by Maud [Harrison] as a Xmas gift to us all and a very delicious present it was.  

We are here for a week and it seems quite like a rest.  We have had two good houses so far, the play has made a "hit" and the prospect is good for the rest of the week.  From here we go to  Richmond, Va for three nights, that will be the 9th, 10th, & 11th.  On the 12th will be in Norfolk, Va, the 13th & 14th I am not sure of.  We will be in Charleston  [West] Va.  On the 16th  Cincinnati for a week, Albert's native town.

One of the tours will be Toledo for 3 nights.  We will open at the "Union Square" Theatre, NY on the 20th of March for three weeks and perhaps longer.

Weather is very cold here!  I am sitting by a grate fire and have my plaid shawl over my shoulders and still do not feel warm enough.

Willard's Hotel, 
 O.G. Staples, Proprietor 
 Late of the Thousand Island House 
 Washington, D.C.   
 Jany 6th 1893 

My dear Son, 

Astonished to hear you have no sleighing - the sleighs are running here in fine order and the swells are displaying their fine "turnouts".  I went out at noon to take a walk but was glad to come back. 

We had a very poor house last night in consequence of the snow-storm, I suppose. Mr. [Ramsey] Morris said to me last night that he wanted to talk to me about next season. He hints of being established permanently in a New York Theatre should Joseph be a hit in New York we shall remain for a longer period than three weeks.  I am afraid though that the Union Square is not the right theatre for us - too far downtown now. 

Jack has a hook and ladder wagon drawn by two white horses - an engine drawn by a white and a bay - a hose cart also drawn by two horses.  He said "Santa Claus brought him just what he wanted".

I suppose you have seen by the papers that AMP[almer] is to have possession of the Madison Garden Theatre in 1894.  The company are now playing Alabama in Boston & rehearsing Lady Windermere's Fan" for next week I guess. Miss [Julia] Arthur, Miss [May] Brookyn & Mrs. [DP] Bowers are the ladies in the cast.  [JH] Stoddart & [Frederic] Robinson are not in it. [Maurice] Barrymore, [Edward M.] Bell & [EM] Holland are.  Miss [Maud] Harrison is still idle, as I suppose I should have been, had I not been lucky enough to accept this. In short time, you may hear from me, that I have re-engaged with Mr. [Ramsey] Morris.  My love & Kisses to Ted, Neppie and yourself from your loving Mother 

Willard's Hotel 
 Washington D.C
 Jany 8th/93

My dear Son, 

On account of cold weather & snow our business suffered, but we had a fine house last night, and the play has made a hit and a return date is talked of at some future day. Mr. [Ramsey] Morris wants me for the next season.

Georgie Drew Barrymore has been taken very ill in San F'co and is being sent home by Sea. Poor woman she is having a hard time of it. [She died July 2, 1893 in Santa Barbara California.] 

I play in Pike's Opera House, Cin'ti [Cincinnati] and think I shall stop at the Burnett House as it is the nearest to theatre.  My love and Kisses to Neppie, Ted & Albert  my 3 dear "Kids" from their loving Mother 

opposite  Capitol  Park
Rates reduced to  $2.50 & $3.00 per day 
Comfortable coaches run to& from all stations & steamboat landings 
                                            Jany 10th 1893 

My dear Son, 

Glad that you have the prospect of good sleighing. I am tired of cold weather.  I wish they would take us down to New Orleans   You will see we are still jumping around the map and likely to do so until the 25th of June. We have a lot of traveling before reaching Union Square Theatre on the 20th of March.  With love & Kisses to Neppie, Ted and Albert from their loving Mother 

next: Cincinnati Jan 1893

previous: Pittsburg, Nov 1894

The Randall
Washington, D.C. Decr 4th 1894
My dear Son, 

Here I am at the Capitol of the Nation.  Opened last night to a fine house, Mrs. Grover Cleveland being present with Mrs. Carlisle Bissell and other dignitaries, but I did not see them. 

I sent Neppie our route until the 18th of Feby.  We have more travelling than I expected, having some few one night stands.  In March we play in New York and Miss Olga [Nethersole] sails for England in May. 

Barton Hill is now with us in place of Mr. [JH] Barnes who retired last Sat night.  He sails for England about the 12th.  I have the White House, Treasury Building and Park in view as I write and the theatre is next door to me.  From my window I can see the late Gen. Robert E Lee's residence across the Potomac.  Arlington the place is called and now the Soldier's Cemetery where Phil Sheridan is buried & other great men.  Love and Kisses to you all dear children Neppie, Ted and Albert from your loving Mother 

Washington Post Dec. 4, 1894 review
Olga Nethersole's debut before a Washington audience as Camille
The general verdict of those who lingered at Albaugh's until nearly midnight last night to witness the closing scenes of "Camille" is that the advance notices of Miss Olga Nethersole's have been none too glowing and that England has at last sent us a great emotional actress -- possibly a tragedienne. The mere fact that she could, for nearly four hours, maintain interest in that time-worn and tearful tragedy may be taken as an indication that an artist of new and original powers is before and that a new Camille has been born. 

In her first scenes she is Camille the siren, willful and coquettish, spoiled and a trifle pettish, but intensely real.  She does not flirt with Armand but her fascination is undeniable and the first important fact of the drama - why the hero should throw himself away on a woman of her class -- is firmly established. After that the other events follow logically, but she must be more than merely beautiful to win Armand in the first place.  

Miss Nethersole is thoroughly consistent. Her strong scenes are impassioned but not theatric.  Like Mrs. Kendall she is not afraid to spoil her makeup by faithful imitation of a woman in tears. This was rather too realistic for some of the masculine element in the audience, but it is only truth to state that after her interview with Armand's father - - a long and trying scene of sustained intensity -- half the women in the house were in tears. Likewise her death bed scene, while not so realistic as to be revolting, was wonderfully near to the truth. In short she is a modern actress who knows how to hold the mirror up to nature, without revealing or concealing too much.

Miss Nethersole's support in this play is good.  Maurice Barrymore being a manly and convincing Armand, while Barton Hill and Mrs. Phillips are excellent in their roles. There was a fine audience, including Mrs. Cleveland, Secretary and Mrs. Carlisle, Mrs. Bissell, Logan Carlisle, Senator Mitchell, Mavroyent Bay, and many members of Congress and the diplomatic corps.  

Washington Post Dec. 6, 1894 
AS THE FAIR JULIET  Her Personal Triumph Complete"
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear is Miss Olga Nethersole's Juliet compared with the support she receives in this play. Personally the young English actress is a revelation and a fulfillment of the powers of which she gave promise in "Camille", but "Romeo and Juliet" is not a one part play. It is only truth to say that Mr. Barrymore's Romeo is as much a disappointment as his Armand was an agreeable surprise. He looks the part, and some of his scenes are excellent, but others are as crude and ill-digested as to destroy the harmony of his whole characterization. Beyond the Friar Lawrence of Barton Hill and the Nurse of Mrs. EJ Phillips, there is little to commend the rest of the cast. 

Washington Post, Dec. 9, 1894
IN RE OLGA NETHERSOLE Some Critical Comments on the New English Actress
No new and almost unknown actress has come to Washington within recent years and in a single week's engagement gained such general and enthusiastic approval as Miss Olga Nethersole. ... As Juliet she challenged comparison with Julia Marlowe, who has long been Washington's prime favorite in this part. ... In the Transgressor she may be said to have risen superior to the play, but in Camille her triumph was unqualified.  ,,, Miss Nethersole is yet a young woman, only 21 it is said-- and she has been seven years on the stage. ...she does not come from a theatrical family, her father being a London solicitor.  She was educated partly in Germany and partly in the public schools of England. Her stage aspirations were early pronounced and in March 1887 she made her first professional appearance at the Theatre Royal, Brighton. ...After fifteen months provincial appearance Miss Nethersole made her London debut at the Adelphi Theatre in Pettit and Grundy's play "The Union Jack".  

Mt Vernon Hotel
Monument Street West 
Baltimore, Md
F H Nunns, Manager 
Decr 10/94 

My dear Son, 

I was very glad to hear you had such a pleasant family gathering for your 5th Anniversary and Thanksgiving.  Must have been quite a houseful and Neppie must have had to "hustle" and quite lively.   

I am going out to find the Post Office and send your Xmas gift.  Two months ago I did not think it possible for me to send you anything this year, but by God's love I can!  I send thus early because this is the nearest point to reach you for some weeks to come and week after next I shall be in a foreign land  [Canada? -- She was born and grew up in Canada] and the week after.  I send $40 -- $15 each for you & Neppie and $10 for the boy. 

I hope you will enjoy a Merry Xmas & happy New Year with love & Kisses to my dear children Albert, Neppie and Ted I remain their loving Mother 

Mt Vernon Hotel 
 Decr 14th 1894 

My dear daughter Neppie, 

No, I have not been working so very hard for the past two weeks.  I get out of playing Frou-Frou and have not had so many rehearsals.  And the travel has not been so severe, and no cold weather to contend with, but when we leave here our journeys will be longer and cold weather will catch us in Rochester next Monday and in Buffalo on Thursday.  Then to Toronto & Montreal.

Our Manager told us this Morning that we go to Providence the week after Montreal.  That is the 7th.  I was glad to hear it for I feared it might prove to be a week of one night stands.  After Providence, Harlem 1 week,  Then 1 night stands for a week and Chicago for two weeks.  Milwaukee 1 week and St Louis 1 week.  Then I imagine we go back to New York, Brooklyn, &c.  

About the middle of the 3rd week in April Miss Nethersole sails for England, to play 10 weeks in London under Augustin Daly's management.  Then takes a company of her own and plays through England for the Summer.  So I shall have a very short season this year.  Only 20 weeks. 

I hope Teddie's letters will be answered for Xmas.  He must be a good boy and obey his Papa and Mama in all things and then I guess Santa Claus will be good to him.  I shall be a long way from you all but my hearts love and best wishes to you all.  So with love and Kisses and best wishes to my dear sons Albert & Edward and my dear daughter Neppie I am always their loving 

Santa Claus sends Ted a dollar.

next: Toronto

Federal Writer's Project, WPA Guide to Washington DC, New York : Pantheon Books, 1983 (originally published 1937/42).
Washington on Foot, edited by John J. Protopappas and Alvin R. McNeal, Washington DC,  National Capital Area Chapter, American Planning Association and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

Last updated May 14, 2004

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