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Nebraska State Journal

April 27, 1894
page 6


Last night the Hopkins Trans-Oceanic Specialty company played to a good business at the Lansing. The performance was opened by the Dixon brothers , who played ditties wild and wailing upon instruments wierd and windy. Their bell specialties were heartily encored. Next the famous Lars Larsen Family appeared in their great tumbling acts. Only three of the ladies performed, as one of them is ill from an injury recently receieved on the triple bars. The head to head balancing act was well executed and loudly applauded. Messrs. John and Harry Dillon sang several very coarse parodys on coarse songs. Much the best specialist of the evening was Kara, the juggler. His silk hat and ball performances are very skillful and clever and he has a truly wonderful little habit of keeping an entire dinner set in rapid circulation through the air. Next appeared Fulgora, the great "transfigurator." I doubt whether that word is in Webster, but we'll let it go. It was probably taken from the Century lexicon. His transfigurations, though differing somewhat from Raphael's , were very good, and he blossomed from costume to costume with astonishing rapidity. His elocutionary efforts were rather tame, and if he intends to give that racing recitation often he should learn how to pronounce the word "derby." His facial representations of great men would have pained the widows and relatives of the distinguished deceased. His Napoleon I. looked like he ought to be selling wiener wursts and his Abe Lincoln bore a striking and painful resemblance to those dark-eyed Latins who sell bananas. Mr. Will H. Fox whiled the weary hours by some musical wit that was faint and refused to come to. He achieved the startling feat of rendering "After the Ball" as a piano solo with his talented nose. This is the third man whom this paper has to chronicle in the sad list of singers of ancient song. The Larsen sisters again appeared, this time on the triple bars. Their work was graceful but mediocre. That part of the audience which had seen the bar performers in the Light infantry minstrels several weeks ago were a little bored last night. Misses Mellville and Stetson sang several lively duets. Miss Stetson has a genius for being wicked gracefully. Her audacity is startling, but not at all disagreeable. In short, she is naughty — but she's nice. Her "Don't You Believe It" was a study in shadowiness. De Brissel, the French modeller, successfully entertained the audience. Billy Van rather wore his welcome out. Papinta's dance creations were very showy and almost equalled those of Ida Fuller , with "Panjandrum."

On the whole the company was much above the average specialty company. Mr. Hopkins' advance notices say it is too bad Shakespeare is dead, he would have enjoyed the Trans-Oceanics so; which statement shows that Mr. Hopkins knows more about the real William than many people who probably read "Hamlet" oftener than he does. However, Shakespeare probably saw lots of Trans-Oceanics in his day and may be having a steady course of them now, for all we know.


  Hopkins Trans-Oceanic Specialty company: John D. Hopkins' Transoceanic Star Specialty Company was a vaudeville company of the 1890s; it shared many acts with the Boston Howard Athenaeum Company, and sometimes the two companies were billed together. It was not a permanent group of acts even in any one year, as performers came and went; however, the Dillon Brothers, William H. Fox, Robert Fulgora, the Larsen Family, Kara, and Melville and Stetson were frequent parts of the show. Fulgora owned the company by 1898. As one of its specialties, the company showed an early version of the movies with its kinematograph as early as 1896.

  Lansing Theatre: The Lansing Theater, on the southwest corner of 13th and P Streets, was built in 1891, displacing the Funke Opera House as the largest and finest theater in Lincoln. The owners were J.F. Lansing (b. 1842), a Lincoln real estate man, and his brother-in-law Henry Oliver (b. 1857); Edward A. Church was the manager. According to the program of the opening week (November 23-28, 1891) the auditorium consisted of the orchestra and parquet seating on the main level, with dress circle at the rear and sides; three tiers of five boxes each and six loges were at the sides. Above were the balcony and the gallery. With standing room, about 2500 people could be present.

The building also housed offices, including that of Cather's friend and fellow reviewer, Dr. Julius H. Tyndale. It was renamed the Oliver Theater in 1898.

The Oliver Theater, Lincoln, Nebraska. The theater was originally named The Lansing Theater.

  Dixon brothers: The Dixon Brothers were appearing with the Hopkins' Trans-Oceanic Company as early as 1892.These musicians may be the same Dixon Brothers who wrote and sang "Down with the Old Canoe" about the sinking of the Titanic; they played country music and were recorded in the early 1930s.

  Lars Larsen Family: This was a family of Danish acrobats, consisting of "four handsome and graceful women" (Odell Annals of the New York Stage, XV, 704) and one man, an equilibrist. Jennie and Emma Larsen performed on the triple horizontal bars. Although the Larsens performed with the Trans-Oceanic company several times in the early 1890s, they were not tied to the company and frequently appeared as an independent act at other venues.

  Messrs. John and Harry Dillon: John and Harry Dillon were brothers who performed parodies and other comic songs in vaudeville; they also wrote comic novelty songs: Harry wrote the words and John wrote the music for "Do, do, My Huckleberry Do" (1893), which was included in Charles Hoyt's hit A Trip to Chinatown, and "Put Me Off at Buffalo" (1895). Their brother, William (1877-1966), later performed with them and also wrote songs, most notably "I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad)" (1911).

  Kara, the juggler: Juggler Michael Steiner (1867-1939) was born in Germany; as a young boy he was impressed by a circus juggler, and taught himself juggling. He made his professional debut in 1883; his stage name, Carradini, was shortened to Kara by his agent. During his first American tour in 1892,? Kara began performing in frock coats and evening dress instead of the usual acrobatic tights, and he became known as the "gentleman juggler."? He juggled everyday objects—dishes, cutlery, chairs, hats, eggs, cigars—rather than the balls and clubs of earlier jugglers. Kara was immensely popular, but he was interned in a POW camp in France at the outbreak of World War I, with little opportunity to practice. After the war his fellow "gentleman juggler" Salerno helped him restart his career; Kara retired in 1927.

  Fulgora, the great "transfigurator.": Robert Fulgora's specialty on the vaudeville circuit was "costume transformations" and "lightning changes," according to Odell (Annals of the New York Stage, XV). He appeared frequently with the Hopkins Trans-Oceanic company and the allied Howard Boston Athenaeum Company in the early 1890s. By 1898 he owned the Hopkins company.

  Webster: Noah Webster published his first dictionary in 1806; his American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) had 70,000 entries, and he added to it for the Revised Dictionary in 1840-41. After Webster's death, the Merriam company took over the rights, and published the Unabridged version in 1864. In 1890, in recognition that Webster's was a standard reference tool in the English-speaking world, the new edition, with 175,000 entries, was called Webster's International Dictionary.

  Century lexicon: In 1883 the Century Company published an American edition of Charles Annandale's Imperial Dictionary. The new, expanded edition of this work, published from 1889-91, was more comprehensive than Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.

  Raphael's: The painter (1483-1520) Rafaello Sanzio was born in Urbino, Italy, the son of a painter. His talent showed itself early; in 1500, not long after he went to Perugia to study, he was recognized as a master painter. His first major work, "The Marriage of the Virgin," was painted in 1504, the same year Raphael moved to Florence to study Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. There he painted a great series of beautiful, serene Madonnas. In 1508 Raphael went to Rome, where his good looks, charm, and genius earned him the sobriquet the "prince of painters." He painted frescoes in the Vatican, including the great "School of Athens," and also earned fame as a portraitist. His last masterpiece, "The Transfiguration" was unfinished at his death, but shows the new direction of Raphael's art in its complexity and tension. Raphael died at the age of thirty-seven, and was buried in the Pantheon in Rome.

  Napoleon I: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was born in Corsica. He joined the French army as a lieutenant in the artillery in 1785. As the French Revolution got under way, Bonaparte supported the Jacobins, and began his rise in rank: in 1793 he became a brigadier general for the defeat of the British at Toulon. In 1795 he became commander of the armies of the interior for defeating the rebels against the National Convention, then commander in chief of the Army of Italy in 1796. His victories against the Italians and Austrians, and then his conquest of Egypt led to his appointment as first consul, master of France at the age of 30. He made lasting legal, governmental, financial, and educational reforms, and had himself crowned emperor in 1804. However, he was determined to expand the borders and hegemony of France, leading to renewed war with the British and the disastrous attack on Russia in 1812. By 1814 Napoleon's empire, and his support in France itself, was crumbling, and he was forced to abdicate. Exiled to the island of Elba, he seized a time of instability to return, rallying his soldiers to him until his final defeat by the British and Prussians at Waterloo. Thereafter he was exiled to the island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic, where he died.

  Abe Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), sixteenth president of the United States, was born in Kentucky. He studied for the law in Illinois, becoming a well-known lawyer representing both the railroads and ordinary people. His debates with Stephen A. Douglas in an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in 1858 brought him into national prominence. He was elected president in 1860 as the Civil War became imminent. His aim was to preserve the Union; however, the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the southern states, earned him the name of the Great Emancipator. The Gettysburg Address, spoken at one of the great battlefields of the war, solidified his position as a writer and speaker of power, clarity, and vision. After Lincoln was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday, April 15, 1865, he became venerated, at least in the North and West, as the savior of the Union.

  Mr. Will H. Fox: In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Will H. Fox was a composer of tear-jerking songs such as "Break the News to Mother Gently," "The Broken Home," "Sentenced to Death," "Only a Violet from Mother's Grave," as well as an occasional comic song, such as "When McManus Goes Down to the Track." About 1892 he went into vaudeville with a comic piano act called "Paddy Whiskey," burlesquing the newly famous Paderewski, in which he played the piano with his toes and his nose. His act later consisted of comic songs on the piano and topical monologues; a 1912 music hall program announced that he had performed his specialty over 16,000 times.

  whiled the weary hours: Expressions such as "to while away the time," meaning to pass away time in some relatively trivial occupation, have been in use since the seventeenth century. A closer source may by chapter 9 of Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop (1840) where "she left her own little room to while away the tedious hours."

  After the Ball: This song by Charles K. Harris was one of the first big hits of the new popular music industry in the U.S., selling two million copies in sheet music form in 1892. A little maiden climbed an old man's kneeBegged for a story—"Do, uncle, please!"Why are you single; why live alone?Have you no babies; have you no home?""I had a sweetheart, years, years ago;Where she is now, pet, you will soon know.List to the story, I'll tell it all,I believed her faithless, after the ball." After the ball is over,After the break of morn —After the dancers' leaving;After the stars are gone;Many a heart is aching,If you could read them all;Many the hopes that have vanishedAfter the ball.

  Lincoln Light infantry: One of the two regiments of the Nebraska National Guard; it was commanded by Col. J. P. Bratt from 1890 to 1898.

Light infantry are less heavily armed and equipped than regular infantry, making them more mobile for such duties as skirmishing. The term came to apply to elite units.

  Misses Mellville: Janet Melville and her partner Evie Stetson did songs and imitations, according to Odell's Annals of the New York Stage (XV). Although two-person acts were frequent in vaudeville, two-women acts were rare. The Library of Congress's American Variety Stage collection contains the script of a routine, "The Horse-Car Episode, or, Who'll Get the Umbrella," written for Melville and Stetson.

  Stetson: Evie Stetson performed songs and imitations with her partner, Janet Melville, in a rare, two-woman vaudeville duo. Odell's Annals of the New York Stage (XV) notes that they performed with the Hopkins Trans-Oceanic company as well as in combinations with other performers. The Library of Congress's American Variety Stage collection contains the script of a routine, "The Horse-Car Episode, or, Who'll Get the Umbrella," written for Melville and Stetson.

  "Don't You Believe It": Possibly the song, "Don't You Believe It Dear Boys" by Harry La Marr, published in 1885 in a group called "Serio Comic and Other Songs."

  De Brissel, the French modeler: Adrien de Bessell did modeling in clay in his vaudeville act in the early 1890s. He traveled with the Hopkins Trans-Oceanic company, but like many of the other acts, also performed at other venues in combination with other acts.

  Billy Van: Billy Van was a blackface minstrel performer; he got his start with Al. G. Field's minstrel show in the mid-1880s, and was later with William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee company.

  Papinta's: Papinta, who billed herself also as the "Flame Dancer", was a skirt dancer who advertised that she danced with fifty yards of silk in her costume. She toured the U.S. extensively in the later 1890s.

  Miss Ida Fuller's: Ida Fuller was a well-known skirt (or butterfly) dancer, like the more famous Loie Fuller; she advertised herself as Loie Fuller's sister and pupil. The announcement preceding her appearance in Lincoln said she came "direct from the Follies Dramatique Theatre, Paris" (April 5, 1894). According to a (perhaps satirical) interview published in 1893, she had once been with Buffalo Bill's company, surviving shipwreck on the Mississippi River and a hotel fire in New Orleans.Her collection of theatrical memorabilia is in the Mansion Museum, Forest City, Iowa.

  Panjandrum: Panjandrum (1893), with music by Woolson Morse, libretto by Cheever Goodwin, was the third production starring the combination of the petite Della Fox and the very tall DeWolf Hopper.

  Mr. Hopkins': John D. Hopkins owned the Hopkins Trans-Oceanic vaudeville company in the early 1890s. Around the turn of the century he owned a chain of seventeen vaudeville theaters in cities such as St. Louis and Chicago.

  William Shakespeare: William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born in Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire, England. Documents of the time show his father, John Shakespeare, to have been a well-respected tradesman who held office in the town. His mother, Mary Arden, came from an old land-owning family. He was probably educated at the grammar school in Stratford; at the age of eighteen he married Anne Hathaway, by whom he had three children. Not until eight years later, in 1592, does his name start to appear connected with the London stage. By 1594 he was a part of the Lord Chamberlain's company, which by 1598 had their home at the Globe theater. His plays were successful with both the public and royalty, enabling Shakespeare to buy various properties in London and Stratford. He retired to Stratford about 1613, where he died.

Many anecdotes and legends grew up in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries about Shakespeare's life, whose authenticity cannot be now be proven, but some of which have been widely accepted: that his father was a butcher, that Shakespeare as a youth got into trouble poaching deer, that he held horses at the stage doors when he was trying to break into the London theater, that he was lame, or that he caught the fever of which he died in a drinking bout, for instance.

Some of his fellow actors collected his plays in 1623 in what is now known as the First Folio. The only works Shakespeare himself seems to have published are the early poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594), both dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, a young nobleman who may also have been the subject of many of Shakespeare's sonnets, apparently written over the decade from 1593-1603.

Shakespeare's authorship of the plays ascribed to him began to be seriously questioned only in the late eighteenth century, largely on the ground that he was too humbly born and poorly educated to be capable of writing such great works. The most serious alternatives—and the question was warmly debated in the nineteenth century—put forth were Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and the Earl of Oxford.

  Hamlet: Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (written 1599-1601), a five act tragedy, is widely considered the greatest play in English. It was apparently based on a 12th century history, or on a preceding play on the same subject, possibly by Thomas Kyd. The play deals with murder, revenge, madness, and man's will. It contains some of the most famous lines in English, especially Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be or not to be" as well as such famous scenes as Ophelia's mad scene, and Hamlet with Yorkick's skull.