THE ACADEMY OF MUSIC
Old ad for Academy of Music dated September 1 1886
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Among the earliest theaters in Parkersburg was the Academy of Music, located on the upper floors of the building at 507 Juliana St. where the Steak House now occupies the street level area. The Academy of Music's opening date is a bit vague in the memories of veteran theater J buffs here, but a surviving program proves it was there as early as Sept. 1, 1886,
Edward J. Hiehle recalls that the Academy of Music (all play houses had rather grandiose names in those days) was served by two box-offices, one located at street level for purchasers of orchestra seats and the other upstairs for the sale of gallery seats. Neither area was; costly, because the program shows the prices were 10 and 20 cents.
Stage equipment was hoisted to the second-floor stage by block and tackle from the 5th St. side of the building. The program was beautifully printed on pink paper in the ornate style of the period. We learn that the manager was M. C. Van Winkle. Although Mr. Hiehle recalls' that many great stage stars appeared at the Academy of Music (which was the name of New York's major opera house until the Metropolitan opened in 1883). Listed are Lillian Russell, Mr. and Mrs. John Drew and Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Barrymore. The latter were the parents
of Lionel, Ethel and John Barrymore, and the Drews were connections.
The name of the play being presented on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 1886,was "Conrad, or The Hand of a Friend!" by Frank Dumont, performed Gorman's Dramatic Company with Mr. Gorman in the title role. His reputation, alas, has not survived in the annals of the theater, nor have those of his acting troups. It is intriguing that a child's part, Little Elsie, as played by someone called, In the fancy French manner, La Petite Sadie. That's classy. Inside the program was carried a rather extended "Synopsis of the Drama," apparently for the benefit of those patrons unable to follow the action. C It is good enough to repeat here.
Act I - Conrad extends his hand Scene Warren Duncan's Villa on the Ohio River. Impending Ruin and a Bitter Foe. The Banker's Only Child. "The Man with the Zebra Clothes." A Story of the Past. The Lawyer's Clerk and his "Attachment for the Kitchen." The Insult. Conrad Spoils' Philip Lawton's Love Making. The Convict in his New Attire. Lawton Fall to Bribe a Faithful Servant. The Hand of a Foe and the Hand of a Friend. A New Alliance and a New Compact of Villainy. The Robbery and Attempted Escape of the Assassin. The Rascals Baffled in
every Hostile Movement. Picture and Thrilling Tableau.
Act II - Five Years After. Wild Canyon in Colorado. The Hut in the Mountain Range. Conrad and his Little Companion, The Rich Claim. The Wayfarers and the Mongolian Servant. A Familiar Voice and a Strange Face. Conrad Recites and Sings to Little Elsie. A Strange Discovery and an Old Friend Turns Up in the Nick of Time. A New League of Vallainy. Elsie Face to Face with her Old Enemy. A Plucky Woman and an Eccentric Admirer. The Chinaman's Proffered Assistance. The Burning Hut and Imminent Peril of the Child. A Strange Rescue and a Most Thrilling Denouement. Tableau.
Act III-The Day of Retribution. Scene 1 - Rocky Pass Amelia Branigan Bewails the Loss of a Husband. Conrad's Unexpected Meeting with the Widow. Pecksniff Trapped and Won Over to the Right Side. A New Alliance and a Strange Trio on the War Path. Scene 2 - The end of the Outlaw, League. The Captive. Black Charley's Slumbers Rudly Interrupted. Vocal and Saltatorial Exercises to Amuse the Bandit crew. "An Absorbing am! Thrilling Narrative." A Sudden Climax Precipitated. "The Fellow with no Brains." Refuses to Accept Taffy. A Most Satisfactory Settlement of Old Debts and Utter Destruction of Outlaw League. Thrilling Tableau. Well, no one can say that the melodramas of that time were not packed with plot complications. But there was more to come.
The announcement for the following "solid week" beginning Monday, Sept. 6, proclaimed the appearance of "The Petite Favorite," Miss Nellie Free. In addition, at those prices of 10 and 20 cents, "elegant silver souvenirs (sic) were being given away.
Apart from the advertising, the program also offered amusement to the audience in the form of jokes. As an example, here is a limerick: "Each evening a good looking Mr. Comes around for to visit My Sr. - One night on the stairs - He, all unawares Put his arm around her figure and Kr." Here are some more: A man must not expect to live' in clover simply because he marries a grass widow. An enthusiastic meeting two girls who haven't seen each other or an hour. When a girl talks about "two strings to her beau" does she mean his suspenders?
For impudence you take the palm" as the lass said to the dude when she slapped his face. Among the things we learn from the program is that the thoroughfare on which the news paper office is located was spelled Julianna st. in 1886. The only advertiser in the program still surviving in Parkersburg's business world is J. W. J Dudley and Son, florists, then located on Market St. However, McKinney and Dils, 90 Market St., dealers in dry goods, was a forerunner of the present Dils Brothers and Company. ne of the early Parkersburg names is reflected in a men's clothing store at 48 3rd St., DeCamps and Chancellor.
Some of the city's street names survive in other business men of 1886 W. E. Skirvin operated a drug store at 6th and Market Sts., perhaps where O. J. Stout Co. conducts business. Ralph Covert was proprietor of a shoe store at 67 Market St., and John R. Murdoch ran a coffee store at 104 Market St. One of the most endearing advertisers was he who besought the public: "Don't send your Shirts, Collars, Cuffs and other Washington to Cincinnati, but Patronize Home Folks." This I was inserted by Lee Wah Hing's Laundry, under the First National Bank, "the best in the land," and the Chinese man promised that "he will wash, iron and starch your clothes in
excellent shape and charge you less than the Cincinnati prices.
Citizens with literary interests could patronize W. H. Brown's News Depot and Circulating Library, where the leading city newspapers, periodicas and weeklies could be purchased. and an annual membership fee of only one dollar entitled the member to obtain almost any book for one week. It is obvious that although Parkersburg was quite a small town in 1886, residents had available a great many comforts. R. Wild, baker and confectioner, for instance, supplied private parties, weddings and festivals, indicating that the city's social life was Dot neglected.
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