Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Captain Corcoran ... billionaire!


Yes. It's true. And I didn't know it till the other day, so it's been a fun story to investigate.  

The burialplace of a baritone

I popped into David Stone's WHO'S WHO IN G&S website the other day, too see if my newly-found details on William HAMILTON would also be news to him (they are!!), and on the same page was an entry for one Stuart HAROLD. Odd. Why had I never investigated this chappie? Admittedly, I've concentrated mainly on the British Cartesians. But I've had a wee go at most of the Americans too.

A wee go? Two whole days. And the story just kept on getting bigger and bigger and curiouser and curiouser ...  it's a story which would make better reading if I peeled it like an onion: each discovery leading to the next ..  but here's the result anyhow.

HAROLD, Stuart (STOCKER, Harry [Randolph]) (b Philadelphia 12 January 1857; d Los Angeles 15 April 1918). Randolph was his mother's surname and an elder brother was christened with it as his middle name. Harry may have acquired it later.

His parents were Dr Anthony Eugene Stocker (b 5 March 1819; d Pennsylvania, 23 May 1897) and Jane Fitz née Randolph (b 9 July 1823; d 27 December 1892), and they were a family, it seems, of some little substance. Two servants and a coachman (for urgent night calls?) in 1860. I notice sister Caroline (Mrs Jones Wister, ironmaster) gets into one of those books of American 'noble' pedigrees. Anyway, I see the family is well represented on the splendid findagrave site ...

Anyway, young Harry apparently found a nice high baritone voice, and whatever he did in his teens, he was doomed to the musical (mostly) theatre from the beginning of his twenties.  

I see him first 17 March 1879 taking part in the the first professional prodcution in Washington, at Ford's Theatre, of HMS Pinafore. A 22 year-old Corcoran. Zipporan Montieth was Josephine, and future  buffo A W F McCollin was Ralph. The company went on tour and I see them in April in Richmond, Va. and Cincinnati

Later that year, the company played the musical comedy Electric Light. Next, he was seen as Samuel in D'Oyly Carte's Pirates of Penzance alongside Furneaux Cook and Rosina Brandram, apparently covering and playing Corcoran. In late 1880, he was engaged by R E J Miles's Revellers, playing jeune premier in a lightly cast pasticcio piece (including some Sullivan) named That Awful Child. Miles was also manager for Alice Oates, so several of the cast were then diverted into her version of Les Bavards. In November 1881, Mrs Oates dropped anchor at the California Theatre, San Francisco. And among her company was 'Mr H Harold', baritone). They played La Mascotte, Le Petit Duc, Giroflé-Girofla, Les Cloches de Corneville and Harry seems to have played baritone and tenor roles. In particular Pippo to Alice's Bettina.

However, it was in San Francisco that he met his future. She was a thrice-wed and at least once-divorced lady named Clara née Baldwin. Daughter of property developer and racing man Elias Jackson ('Lucky') Baldwin of Baldwin's Theatre, Baldwin's Hotel etc. Clara, whom the press had labelled 'a woman of easy virtue', had hit the headlines with her latest marital escapade when, a year and a son into her second marriage, she had eloped with the famous harness-racing driver, Budd Doble (13 May 1873). They had a daughter before she divorced him. Number four husband (14 November 1882) was to be Harry. Oh, on her wedding certificate Clara professed to 26 years of age.  She was born 14 May 1847. A decade before Harry. The marriage lasted, and ultimately made Harry's fortune, but for the meanwhile he was still a travelling comic-opera baritenor.

However, most of his work in the next years seems to have been around California, although he visited Boston to play opposite Blanche Corelli in the local piece Arctic. He appeared in Pop!, rejoined Alice Oates for another round (La Mascotte, La Jolie Parfumeuse), played with Selina Dolaro in Louis Nathal's production of The Bridge of Sighs, and with Adelaide Randall in the Bijou Company, and in 1886 a summer season in Baltimore (La Fille du Tambour-major, Satanella, Fantine, Giroflé Girofla, Rodolpho in La Sonnambula, Umberto Spinola in The Merry War, La Mascotte) which he left to go to the Boston Museum to play le Comte de Flavignac in Audran's Love's Vow (Le Serment).  Allbaugh's, Washington hired him to repeat his Spinola with its song 'Dreaming'. I wonder if that was an Americanised 'Nur für Natur"? The season continued with more Mascotte. And then 22 November 1886 made an unaccustomed appearance in New York, as Florian in Princess Ida.

He stayed in New York to play his Pippo opposite the Bettina of Lillian Grubb and the Lorenzo of Nat Goodwin and appear in Goodwin's Big Pony and Thames Darrell in his version of Little Jack Sheppard.
Then it was back on the road with Jeannie Winston playing the Prince of Palermo in Boccaccio, before he joined the company presenting the weat coast musical Said Pasha, and partaking of another Baltimore summer with 'The Thompson Opera Company', and Laura Bellini's production of La Jolie Persane. Except it was Laura Bellini's production. The co-producer was Mr Stocker. The company fell to bits, and Mr and Mrs Stocker headed for New York.

The next years were still fairly prolific: more Said Pasha, more Mascotte, the short-lived Jacinta with and the so-called Louise Beaudet Company, Norcross's company, further ventures at management at Milwaukee's Schlitz Park ... but his 'day job' was closer to home. As 'Lucky' Baldwin aged, Harry, although most especially Clara's ?uncle, Hiram Augustus Unruh, had effectively taken over the management of his (and his daughter's) now vast Californian property and financial and business holdings, including the Baldwin Ranch where they lived. And when Baldwin died in 1908 ...

Of course, the usual crooks surfaced, claiming to be Baldwin by-blows, but -- I suspect largely due to Hiram -- they were all seen off, and Clara as his only surviving legitimate child, and her younger (pre-marital) half-sister, Anita, got the lot. And it was a lot. The two girls split over twenty million dollars.  In 2023-speak ... how many billions is that?  Clara was 'one of the wealthiest women in the United States' spoken of as 'California's diamond Queen' ...

Harry had a decade of being a billionaire. He died after a stroke in 1918. Hiram had died in 1916 and Clara's son (by Snyder) immediately went to court to gain control of his 'incapable' mother's fortune. He didn't get it. Until she died. All of which family history would make (and probably has already) a book of its own. And in which Harry Stocker is largely a marginal character. 

But this is D'Oyly Cartesian article and therefore Harry is the central figure.

No comments: