Sunday, April 5, 2020

Cartesians: a quartet of tales

A satisfying day. All the four folk I hit on turned up trumps. Some more than others. And I got the washing done and managed to make my own bed ... don't laugh, it's very difficult with my impediments ... for the first time in years. But on to my Cartesians of the day.

Mr Theiler, Mr and Mrs Scates, Mr and Mrs Swinhoe and Miss Kominski. From the very long-serving, to the one-show members: but all with an interesting history.

Let's start with Ferdinand Joseph THEILER (sic) (b Einsiedln, Switzerland 1852; d unknown). And not to be confused with the Swiss ladies' hairdresser of the identical name, born twelve years later, who died in Melbourne in 1940.
Ferdinand was the son of Joseph Meinhard Theiler (b Einseidln, 1813; d 86 Canonbury Rd, London 17 August 1873) and his wife Meinrada Ruhsteller, who emigrated to London apparently in 1855 with his wife and three sons.  He set up in business as a telegraph engineer and scientific instrument maker, latterly in partnership with his sons, Richard and Meinrad jr, and created a business which would become a reference in the field of telephonics. Third son, Ferdinand, however, seemingly did not join the firm, instead, after his father's death, while the two elder boys ran the firm, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music. I see him there in 1877, but he had already begun a career as a bass singer.  I spot him singing in Elijah in the Lenten Oratorios at the Crystal Palace (7 March, Elijah: Thurley Beale, soprano: Helene Crosmond, tenor: Barton McGuckin), and in 1878 with Henry Leslie's Choir (4 April) alongside Georg Henschel, at the Crystal Palace Bruch concert (8 June) alongside specialists Thekla Friedländer and Auguste Redeker, Henschel et al, in Fritihof. In 1879, I see him singing a Messiah in Kent with Elizabeth Nouver, Janet Patey and Cummings, and at Alice Roselli's 'annual' with such as Jose Sherringtn and Eliza Enriquez. Promising stuff.
At the beginning of 1880, he went on the road with Frederic Archer's Opera Company, headed by J W Turner and Blanche Cole. I see him singing the King in Maritana, Ferrando in Il Trovatore, and Father Tom to the Danny Mann of William Ludwig, and seemingly taking part in the first Irene (La Reine de Saba) at Manchester. Promising. On 30 October, when a rather odd Don Giovanni was put on at St George's Hall (five-shilling top!), featuring Ida Corri, he was listed in the cast. Since Frassini and Henry Pope were listed above him ... Masetto? Commendatore? They followed up with Norma, but Pope sang Oroveso.

When the 1881 census was taken, Ferdinand, Living with brother Meinrad and family, said he was 29 and a 'musician'. Fair enough. But apparently his classical dates were not enough. In 1882 (?) he joined the Carte organisation, as a small part player and understudy.

He remained with the company until the end of 1887 (details, as usual, in the archive), after which he apparently married a lady by name Aline Pavie, and disappeared. Brother Meinrad had already left England for Switzerland in 1883, and brother Richard would follow in a few years, so I'm guessing that Ferdinand probably went the same way.
Anyway, here endeth the tale, and descending career curve of Mr Theiler.

Next stop, Mr Frederick Landor SCATES (b Dublin c1855; d Burnley 10 October 1900). Son of Joseph Scates and Mary Ann née Sounes. I guess he spent his youth in Ireland, but in 1881 he is on the mainland, 26, and a 'clerk in a bank'. And the following year he joined Carte (details, as usual), for a five-year stint, largely as an understudy. When his Carte days were done, he moved to Henry J Leslie's management, at the Lyric Theatre, understudying Arthur Williams in the lead comedy role of Corporal Bundy in The Red Hussar and later playing in the makeweight piece The Sentry (Sergeant Major). In 1891 he went on tour as Batty Todd in The Middleman, but returned to the Lyric management to play in the tour of La Cigale. Originally cast as the Mendicant and, doubtless, understudy, he wuld go on, over the next few years, to play both the Duke and William. In between times, he was seen as ?Rex Harvey in The Duke's Diversion (1893), in The Late Mr Castello (1896), and in several productions, including Little Christopher Columbus with Alice E Perceval. In 1896, he played pantomime at the Lyric, Hammersmith, and then went on the road with a Sign of the Cross company, before, in 1897, he and his brogue were cast as the Irish Major O'Neill in The Lady Slavey. He was seemingly still playing the role when he died of 'malignant scarlet fever', in Burnley, at the age of 45.
His wife put a death notice in the press. It said brusquely that he was 'husband of'. Not even 'beloved husband of'. And I think that the shine may have gone off the marriage quite quickly after one child. They had toured separately ever since Mrs Scates had left the Carte company. For, yes, she had been briefly a member of the troupe in 1884 and again in 1885. And, truth to tell, she had gone on to a much fuller and more substantial career than had Fred.
The lady was born Flora Caroline TUESKI (b New Cross 29 May 1866; d Lewisham 10 July 1953), a daughter of one Henry Tueski (b Prussia, c1839; d Lee, Kent 22 August 1911) and his wife, Sophia Henrietta Manus (d 21 Fitzroy Square 17 February 1892). Mr Tueski was a 'businessman', a travelling wheeler-dealer, who ended up twice in prison for dubious white-collar crime, before he cooled down and became a foreign traveller for a city textile warehouse. Mrs Tueski was a pianist. A pianist good enough to give and play in concerts in London. So Flora Caroline and her sister Blanche Estelle (Mrs McHutcheon) were brought up to music, and at the age of 14, Flora was already described in the census as 'artist'. At 17, she joined the D'Oyly Carte touring troupe (Fleta in Iolanthe) under the name of Florence TERRISS, which aroused the ire of William Terriss of the Adelphi. Flora retorted in print that his real name was Lewin, and Terriss was her real name. Cheeky. At age 20, she married Fred, and gave birth 1 February 1885 to a son, Arthur Clarence Scates.
The list of Florence's credits over the next sixteen years would make an oversized article. They icluded musical comedy, comic opera, drama and comedy in leading roles, round the country, and second parts when leads weren't avaiable. She seems to have been thoroughly professional, and no matter how subsidiary the part always seemed to upll the reviews. The fact that she 'won a prize in the Pear's photographic beaty show' doubtless added to her appeal. In 1895, the Era newspaper saw fit to publish a biographical sketch of her career to date.

It was, of course, a wee bit selective. She had toured in the forgettable provincial musical Claudio (Valentine) in 1889, played Jim in On the Frontier in 1891, Ned in Man to Man for William Bourne in 1892, Lady Rose O'Malley in The Nationalist (1893), Kitty the servant with songs and dances for Spry and Monti in A Secret Crime (1894) ...
June 1895 was far from the end of Flora's career, however. 1895 saw her as Lavinia in The Trumpet Call and Ganem in Ali Baba at Edinburgh, and in 1896 she returned to musical comedy to star as Julie Bon Bon, the Gay Parisienne, in Erskine and Macdona's tour of the hit show. She left Macdona in 1897, to go to Australia, where she played for two years for J C Williamson and Arthur Garner in Two Little Vagabonds, Under the Red Robe, Harbour Lights and as Ancaria in The Sign of the Cross, but rejoined him on her return to play more Gay Parisienne and Gertie Gentle in the successful The New Mephisto. She was in her third year of that tour when Fred Scates died ...
She advertised that she was available 'for town only', but in effect she retired. And in a matter of weeks she remarried. He seems to have been a laundryman, by name John Alexander LONGTHORN (b Bristol c1861)) but he reinvented himself as an actor by the surname of HOWITT. There was another son, Alick Henry Longthorn or Howitt (b Islington 24 October 1908; d Attleborough 22 August 2009). I don't know how successful John Alexander was as an actor, but I can tell you that in the 1911 census he is 'actor' and Flora is running a laundy business! When he died in 1935 (31 October) he left a meagre 275 pounds.

Next, Robert Alfred SWINHOE (b Formosa 2 October 1865; d Elmgrove Hospital, Brighton 4 June 1946).
We'll get the Formosa bit out of the way first. Swinhoe was the son of a memorable man. Robert Swinhoe senior (1836-1877) was a naturalist and biologist, doing ground-breaking work in China. His life and works (a number of books) are detailed in a number of reference works. He was also British consul for his area. His wife was Christina Lockie Stronach (1840-1914), born in Penang (Straits of Malacca), but living part of the time in England where Robert was educated. Father suffered a stroke while still in his 30s and died when Robert was twelve, leaving Christina with five children.

In his earliest twenties, he joined the Carte establishment as a chorister, and became a fixture as a small-parts player over a period of some eighteen years (details in archive). In 1889 he married chorister Jessie Ann CRUICKSHANK (ka Jessie VINCE) (b Sevenoaks 1862; d Plymouth 1961) somewhere out of the reach of the British registrar. She, too, would be a long serving member of the company.
When he finished his years with Carte, Swinhoe moved into Edwardesian musical comedy, touring The Dollar Princess (de Bresac), taking over in The Girl in the Train (Willem), touring in The Count of Luxembourg, Gipsy Love and The Marriage Market, playing in revue at London's Ambassdor's Theatre and, in 1919, finally touring in The Lilac Domino.

In 1919 he rejoined the Carte management in the capacity of stage manager, through, so the Archive tells us, to 1925.
Jessie was born in Kent, the daughter of Peter (d 1890) and Jessie Cruickshank (née Goodbody, d 1929) and began with the company, apparently, after half a dozen years experience elsewhere. In the 1881 census she is already declaring herself a 'stage actor', along with aunt Emily Goodbody (Mrs Thomas Reeves). In 1891, of course, she is with her year-old son, Robert Reeves (!) Swinhoe (b 16 November 1889; d Nottingham 17 April 1952) and mother, taking time out in Hoxton. However, she apparently kept right on performing, and a second child, Christina Emily (b Brighton 29 November 1890; d Fulham 1989), who would maintain her mother's record of nearly reaching the century of age, doesn't seem to have put a hitch in her stride. Auntie Charlotte Pollard, née Goodbody, seems to have brought up Christina.
Like her husband, Jessie stayed with the Carte companies till 1905 before a long and apparently chatty retirement.

And last, Jessie KOSMINSKI (b Shoreditch 1874). I had no intention of investigating Miss Kosminski, but, while Scates-ing through British Musical Theatre, I bumped into her and thought 'how hard can this be?' A quickie. I didn't know what was coming. Fifteen years in the music world ...
Jessie was born in London, a daughter of Polish-born Jew, Martin Kosminski, and his British wife (1872) Augusta née Barnett. Kosminski began as a woollen merchant, bankrupted, and switched to the wholesale fur trade, where he did much better.

Jessie was set to music at a young age and in February 1886 her piano teacher, Polish-German ex-American pianist Johann Henry Bonawitz presented her in concert at Queen's Gate. When she appeared at Harold Bauer's concert the next season, she was billed as 'the juvenile pianist .. who created a sensation at the Portman Rooms lat season'. Bonawitz had presented a series of concerts at the Portman Rooms, dislpayin harpsichord and spinet music. On 26 October 1887, she gave a recital at Prince's hall 'for charity'. The Brousil girls, Bonawitz's live-in colleagues, and Rose Hersee (who had 'created' his opera Irma) supported the young lady. Like most juvenile artists, Jessie then disappeared from public view and when she resurfaced, in 1896, it was as a vocalist and 'a pupil of Marchesi'. She appeared in mostly charity concerts: 1 July at the Foreign Press concert alongside Esther Palliser and Evangeline Florence (Shadow Song), 14 July at Carlo Ducci's modest Queen's Hall affair and at St James's Hall for Distressed Foreigners ('O riante nature'), in 1897 on 30 April for the General Hospital Fund with Blanche Marchesi, in May for the General Theatre Fund ('Sing, Sweet Bird'), again for Ducci, at a Smoking Concert at the Grosvenor Club, at another charity do at St James's Theatre ..
It was apparently at this stage that she joined the chorus of La Grande-Duchesse at the Savoy. Perhaps furs weren't selling so well this year. She pursued the stage experience in a tiny role in the touring musical comedy Miss Chiquita (1899), and I spot her at Rotherhithe singing 'The Absent-Minded Beggar' in a production of Alone in London, before she turns up on the bills at the Palace Music Hall with Lionel Brough, Marie Dainton and performing animals. She held her place at the Palace for most of the year, while appearing in the Alhambra Sunday League Concerts with such as Miss Dews and Charlotte Thudichum ...
And then it was done. While father was advertisingin the northern press, wanting to buy moleskins, Jessie got married. All I know of her husband is that he was named Alfred Rosenthall. Two 'l's. And they vanish. Why do I suspect South Africa? In 1902? Well, they obviously left England anyhow ...  End of story.

Well, this story. Chill autumn day ... nice cup of Oxo ... and why not some more?

1 comment:

Katerina Songbird said...

Such a detailed and interesting read!! Thank you Kurt! 🎶