A Busy New York City Street Scene At The Casino Theatre – 1907
We’re looking at the Casino Theatre on 39th Street and Broadway in a Detroit Publishing Co. photograph that the Library of Congress has labeled “Saturday Matinee circa 1900 – 1910.”
By looking at the few details available we can narrow down approximately when this photograph was taken. The weather appears to be on the cool side, as some of the men and women wear coats over their dress attire.
There are a couple of partially visible signs for the show playing at the Casino. Directly behind the man walking in a bowler hat and light colored suit, an advertising sign says that the star of the production is Jefferson De Angelis.
De Angelis appeared in two shows at The Casino between 1900-1910; The Gay White Way which ran from October 7, 1907 – January 4, 1908 and The Mikado which ran from May 30 – July 1910.
An important piece to the puzzle is just below De Angelis’s name, and that is the partial name of a co-star with “nche” in their name. Checking the records for both shows that would appear to be Blanche Ring.
The confirmation for this casting is in the main sign on the round marquee above the corner of the building. With only a few letters showing, but clearly seen is CARR and above that is Alex. Below Alexander Carr’s name is the word “Way”
De Angelis, Ring and Carr were indeed the principal players in The Gay White Way a musical revue in three acts, produced by Lee and Sam Schubert. Based on the clothing worn by our pedestrians it is probably October or November 1907.
The show’s songs included such interesting titles as “Merry-Go-Round” by Louis A. Hirsch and E. Ray Goetz;;”Somebody’s Been ‘Round Here” by John W. Bratton and Paul West; “If You Must Make Eyes at Someone” by Leo Edwards and Matt Woodward;”Dixie Dan” by Seymour Furth and Will D. Cobb; and “My Irish Gibson Girl” by Jean Schwartz and William Jerome. The sheet music seen on the right for “My Irish Gibson Girl” incorrectly titles the show The Great White Way.
Here is what “Dixie Dan” sounded like, performed by early 20th century popular singer Billy Murray.
Outside the theatre there are a few things to take note of.
The first is a bit of a surprise and something that still occurs today: the sale of scalped and fake or misleading tickets. Only a few words on the sign in front of the theatre can be seen because a smartly dressed young man is standing in front of it. The sign essentially warns potential show attendees with the words “BEWARE Ticket Purchases From Speculators…” warning against buying tickets from anywhere but the theatre box office.
To the frustration of theatre managers scalpers or “ticket speculators” as they were called in 1907, swarmed the box office buying tickets to popular shows. They would then sell them at a premium to the public. Ticket speculators were licensed and regulated by the city. But powerful theatre managers such as Marc Klaw and Daniel Frohman raged against speculators and the resale of tickets. Besides taking the best tickets from being sold at the box office, a typical complaint was a naive customer would buy a ticket from a speculator and discover the seat was not as good as promised. The speculator who sold it, was long gone or could not be recognized when the patron would come back outside to confront him.
Some things never change.
The next interesting item is on the second floor of the store adjacent to the Casino Theatre, a clothing / tailor establishment with two items on display – a skirt for $5.00 and a dress for a whopping $20.00. Twenty dollars represented about two weeks salary for a woman sales clerk working at a department store. Realize this: at the turn-of=the-century 85% of New Yorkers never went to the theatre, the $1.00 admission was too expensive.
One well to do man with a walking stick in his left hand, nifty bow-tie, slick fedora and open overcoat looks towards the camera, aware that a photograph is being taken.
The hats most of the ladies wear are something else.These two women in the foreground look like they are each wearing a mini-garden atop their head’s.
There is one well-coiffed, finely dressed, petite woman with her back towards the camera. With her Gibson Girl hairstyle you can almost picture what she looks like. If she would just turn around for one second so we can see her face! Unfortunately that can’t happen and her features will forever remain a mystery.
Construction on The Casino began October 1, 1881 organized by Rudolph Aronson. The theatre was funded by some of New York’s wealthiest and most famous citizens including J.P. Morgan, Cyrus Field, Charles Louis Tiffany, L.L. Lorillard, Ulysses S. Grant Jr. and George Peabody Wetmore, The announced architect was George B. Post, but the theatre was built by Francis Kimball and Thomas Wisedell. When the Casino was completed New Yorkers praised its Moorish design. It was the first theatre to have electric lighting.
The Casino opened on October 21, 1882 with The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief.
Arguably the Casino’s most famous production was Florodora an imported English musical comedy which opened in 1900 and ran for over 500 performances. The show contained the “Florodora Sextet,” six beautiful women who were the main attraction of the show. These women were the objects of desire by men, many of whom had vast sums of wealth and showered the women with gifts. Members of the Sextet changed during its run and apocryphally the women all married millionaire’s. During the show’s long run, Evelyn Nesbit was a Florodora girl in 1901.
The final performance at the Casino was given by the American Opera Company on Saturday, January 18, 1930. The show was Faust and attending were a long list of Broadway’s greatest actresses, actors and managers who were associated with the Casino over its 48 year history. The wrecking ball fell soon after, and a 30 story office building went up in its place.