INDEX OF ARTISTS & STUDIOS
Click on an Artist
These are scenic artists whose work we have come across so far. They are a small portion of the number of men and women who created historic stage scenery between the 1880's and the 1950's. We are very grateful to all the artists' relatives and friends for helping with this research. Some artists have children, grand-children and even great-grandchildren who have contributed photographs and information. Other artists are still a complete mystery. Judith Kushner of Canaan, NH, has been invaluable in researching and organizing what we know. We will add to this list as we search for more historic stage scenery nationwide.
Harry Charles Aiken (1866- ?)
H.C. Aiken was born in Concord, NH, and worked in Boston, at least through the 1890's. In 1900, he painted the wall and ceiling murals in the Gerald Hotel in Fairfield, ME, which in 2015 was restored and turned into apartments. The decorative work at the hotel took several years, and perhaps it was during that time that Aiken also painted the grand drapes at near-by Cornville, ME, Town Hall (where the Grange also met), the North Anson, ME, Grange Hall and the Skowhegan Grange Hall. These three curtains all feature one of the goddesses of agriculture - Ceres, Pomona, and Flora - and lots of heavy gold or silver drapery.
There is some confusion about whether this Harry Aiken is the same painter who was a member of Local Union 261 in New York City and who died in 1912. If it was the same person, the New York Times got his age wrong by a decade. There are references in a brochure to Harry C. Aiken paintings as late as 1929, but no real evidence about whether this was "our" Harry C. Aiken or when he died.
Research thanks to Scott Hanson, Sutherland Conservation & Consulting, Augusta, ME
Vivian Akers (1886-1966)
Vivian Akers was a painter, photographer, and woodcarver in Norway, ME. His one curtain is at the Norway Grange.
Aladdin Scenic Company
was owned by Joseph W. Murphy of South Boston, MA. The only curtain we know of is in the town hall at Hancock, NH.
Percy F. Albee (1883 – 1959)
Percy Albee studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI. In his early career he was primarily a muralist and printmaker. Albee painted murals for Brown University’s Memorial Hall and St. Paul’s Chapel as well as The Roger Williams Park Museum. In the 1920s, Percy and his wife Grace, a highly respected printmaker, studied in Paris. They returned to live and work in New York City and eventually settled in Bucks Co., PA. His canvases, prints and drawings are in several collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Albee was prominent as a muralist in Providence in around 1915 when the new Goff Memorial Hall in nearby Rehoboth, MA, was constructed. It is likely that the curtain there is his only painted theatre curtain. He was not known as a scenic artist, although he had a strong connection to the theatre world through his uncle, Edward F. Albee, who was a partner with Benjamin Keith in what eventually became the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Vaudeville circuit.
Maxwell S. Alexander (1866-1933)
Maxwell Soutar Alexander was born in England and immigrated with his mother and his siblings to New York City in 1884 when he was about 17 years old. By 1900 Alexander was living and working as a scenic artist in Boston. Over the next few years he provided scenery for at least two Providence, RI, theatres (The Empire and The Olympic) and for the Claremont Opera House in Claremont, NH. His association as a scenic artist with the Belasco Theatre Stock prompted his move to California in around 1904. He lived and worked in San Francisco and in Los Angeles until his death in 1933. His brother, James Robert Alexander, was also a scenic artist in California and his brother, Thomas, was a costumer for the growing film industry.
In 2017, the Grand Drape at the Claremont, NH, Opera House will be restored to the opera house stage, but all the other scenery will be left in storage.
Anderson Scenic Company, Buffalo, NY
Hiram T.Anderson (1855-1928)
was in business from about 1902 to 1928. His salesmen sold curtains in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine and possibly other states.
Hiram Anderson and his wife moved from their native Ontario, Canada, to Chicago, IL, in 1877 when Anderson was about 22 years old. Within a few years the young family had moved east to settle in Buffalo, NY. Anderson had been a harness maker and a blacksmith but by the early 1900s he became a traveling salesman of drop curtains for grange halls. He promoted the curtains (sometimes referred to as “Tasco” curtains) to Granges through the National Grange Monthly and the Pennsylvania Grange News, promising that there would be no cost to the Grange. Payment for the work would come from sales of advertisements to local businesses. It is likely that he drew upon the talents of the many scenic artists living and working in Buffalo during the first two decades of the 20th Century, rather than painting the scenery, himself.
Frank S. Anderson (1848-after 1912)
Frank S. Anderson was born in Monroe County, NY, and spent his early years in Potter and Yates, as the family moved around central New York State. He lived in Bath, Seneca and Geneva, NY, indicating that he moved around the state for work as a scenic artist, frescoe painter, and sign painter.
He was versatile. By 1892 when he was 44 years old, Anderson had established himself as a scenic and fresco painter. Although we know of only one existing drop curtain by Anderson (Honeoye Falls, NY) his work as a fresco artist for churches and scenic artist was noted in local papers throughout his career. Among many other places, he produced scenery for opera houses in Gorham, Hornellsville, Bath, Naples, Elmira, and Hammondsport.
Charles Andrus (1852-1924)
Charles Hardin Andrus was born in Berkshire, VT. A painter, designer, teacher and wood engraver, Andrus painted scenery for the Bakersfield Town Hall, Irasburg Town Hall, Hyde Park Opera House and the North Hyde Park Grange. Between 1901 and 1904 he was also listed as a scene painter in the programs of the Howard Opera House in Burlington. He lived and maintained studios in Richford and Enosburg Falls. Charles Andrus was married twice and had five children by his second marriage.
Although Andrus had two cousins who served in the Civil War he, himself, was too young to serve. However, he visited Civil War battlefields in Virginia and undoubtedly saw Natural Bridge while he was there. Natural Bridge is the subject of the Grand Drape in the Hyde Park Opera House.
Mathias Armbruster (1839-?)
Mathias Armbruster was born in Ebingen, Germany. At the age of 20 he moved to the United States. He initially worked as an art glass and portrait painter, but he ultimately moved on to designing and painting theatrical scenery. He opened his studio in 1875. It was located at 249 S. Front Street in Columbus, Ohio and operated with the help of his sons, Albert, Emil, and Otto. During its most successful time in the early 1900s, the studio was advertised as the second largest provider of stage scenery in the country. The studio provided designs for minstrel shows, theatre, and other stage performances across the country, particularly in the Midwest. Mathias Armbruster ran the company until his death in 1916, at which point his son, Albert, took control. The studio continued producing designs until 1958 when Albert Armbruster retired and the Armbruster Scenic Studios was closed. Designs, maquettes, source materials for designs and business records for scenic properties for theatres in the Midwest and New York are collected at Ohio State University.
Walter H. Bailey (1872 - ?) was born in Massachusetts. He operated a scenic studio in Troy, NY, between 1915 and 1922. At some point he moved to Cavendish, VT, where there was an opera house.
The only curtain we know of from his Troy period is a grand drape titled "Spring" at Pierce Hall, Rochester, VT. It is an odd mixture of primitively painted drapery and a much more sophisticated central scene. It is possible that Bailey was responsible for the construction of the curtain and the drapery, but he used one of the more talented scenic artists living in Troy at the time to paint the central scene.
Walter Bailey is listed in the Troy City Directory in 1917, 1918, 1919 and 1922 with addresses that included Troy and neighboring towns of Watervliet, Green Island, Cohoes, and Waterford, NY. There are many Bailey Studios (variously listed as Bailey Studios, Bailey Scenic Studios or W. Bailey) advertisements in The Billboard from 1915 through 1917. These advertisements are especially interesting because prices are quoted. The company also sold second-hand (some repainted) scenery with warehouses to store stage drops in Boston, Worcester, MA, Troy, NY, and Cavendish, VT. Their inventory included photographers’ backdrops and movie screens.
One ad says: " HOUSE SCENERY—We have a lot of house sets that are in fine shape, but need repainting. We will give you the sets if you pay for the repainting; they are real stuff and not amateur botches. BAILEY SCENIC STUDIOS, Troy, New York."
Once in Cavendish, Bailey produced curtains that were simpler and less sophisticated. There is a full set of curtains at the Whallonsburg Grange in Whallonsburg, NY, signed W.H. Bailey, Cavendish, VT, and a very similar grand drape at Lyme, NH, signed Musical Bailey, Artist, Cavendish, VT. Both grand drapes show a ship at sea. Whallonsburg is titled "Off Shore" and Lyme is titled "Off Boston Light."
Only part of the Cavendish Opera House remains: a grand staircase connects a pizza parlor downstairs and a yoga studio in what must have been the foyer upstairs. The hall, stage and all traces of Mr. Bailey have disappeared.
Charles J. Bainbridge (1863-1942)
Charles Bainbridge was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. His first job was as a printer. His membership in many fraternal organizations led to his life’s business – producing badges, buttons and other paraphernalia for these groups. Bainbridge traveled widely to supply their needs. We have not found any indication that he was an artist or painter. His sister, Helen R. Bainbridge, however, is listed as an Art Director in the 1900 Census for Syracuse. Helen was an 1891 graduate of Syracuse University and was a teacher later in life. It is possible that the two worked together to produce and sell the banners found at the former Merriconeag Grange Hall in Harpswell, Maine. The company may have hired other artists as well.
Robert Blechstein (1889-1966)
Robert F. Blechstein was a lifelong resident of Averill Park (near Troy) where he had his own sign painting and house painting business. For a while he was a traveling or wandering sign painter. The only curtain of his we know of is in Gallupville, NY.
Franklin Carpenter (1852 -1914)
Franklin Carpenter was a Boston native who worked most of his adult life as a painter in Boston and suburbs. He and his wife moved to Londonderry, NH, in 1906 and opened a summer boarding house there. There is only one known theater curtain by Carpenter, a grand drape featuring Chief Passaconaway, the famous Pequauket Chief who lived in the Conway, New Hampshire, area. The curtain was originally painted for the Naumkeag Grange #241 in Litchfield, in a building that burned in 1981. Fortunately, the curtain had been removed for storage in a local barn.
Research by Dan Ferguson, Litchfield, NH
Edgar Searns Caswell (1854-1925)
When Edgar Caswell was a small child, his father was suddenly struck down by ‘the Gangreene or mortification’ and his mother was left destitute. She arranged for her son to ‘bound out’ to a gentleman of some means in Boston. Apparently Edgar was treated well and sent to school where he learned some painting skills and possibly the rudiments of the stone cutting trade. At 18 years old, he returned to Gray and lived out the rest of his life there. He carved many of the headstones in the Gray cemetery and painted several landscapes, including the stage curtain at the Town Hall.
Archelaus (Arch) D. Chadwick (1871-1939)
Arch Chadwick was born into a family of musicians and music teachers in Ovid (Avon), NY. The family moved to Rochester when he was a boy. He was a visual artist and built his own photographic studio in 1889 and made thousands of glass plate portrait and landscape photographs of the Seneca County area (many plates were rescued and printed by the Interlaken Historical Society years later). Chadwick was also an able landscape and mural painter. He partnered with another artist, Fred Haskens, to create backdrops for theatres and eventually opened his own studio in Farmer, NY.
From about 1914 to the early 1920s, Chadwick was involved in Ithaca’s burgeoning cinema industry. He became the production and set designer for the Essanay/Wharton motion picture studio creating scenes for movies such as “The Perils of Pauline.” When the movie industry moved to California, Chadwick became a faculty member of the Ithaca Conservatory, which became the scenic department at Ithaca College. The only curtain we have seen is at Lodi, NY.
R.H. Chappell painted the Grange curtain in Westport, MA in 1933. He was probably a local sign painter. The ads were later over painted by another local sign painter.
Clark & Heath, Cabot, VT The curtain at the Cabot, VT, Town Hall is a copy of a print by Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1821-1888) called “Emigrants on the Plains”, created in 1869. It is a western scene showing a team of oxen pulling a covered wagon with a pioneer on horseback in the foreground. The scene is framed with trompe l’oile architecture and drapery. Clark and Heath were painters who worked for the Cabot Carriage Company.
Harry Cochrane (1860-1946)
Harry Hayman Cochrane was born in Augusta, ME but raised in Monmouth, ME. He was an artist, architect, composer, conductor, musician, singer, writer and poet. In 1927, he painted the murals in the Kora Temple building in Lewiston. He was the designer, architect and interior artist of the celebrated Cumston Hall in Monmouth, 1900, and the writer of the two-volume History of Monmouth and Wales, 1894.
Levi J. Couch (1838 – 1909)
Levi J. Couch was born in New Milford, CT. As a 23 year-old carpenter, he enlisted in the Navy in May, 1861, and served as a landsman before he was mustered out in September, 1862. In the 1880 Census for Providence, RI, Couch is listed as a master machinist.
By 1890, Couch had moved to Boston and is listed in the Boston City Directory as stage carpenter for the Bijou Theater. Combining enterprise with skill as a carpenter, he developed the L. J. Couch & Co. Scenic Studio to offer theatrical hardware and general stage equipment. One of his advertisements says, “No better Studio in the United States Covering 15,000 feet of Ground.” As of 1891, he was in business with another scenic artist, David Richards, and from 1893 to 1895, Couch partnered with Lemuel L. Graham but this partnership was petitioned into insolvency in 1896. After that, Couch moved to Providence, RI. He continued to work in the theatrical field but moved between Connecticut and Massachusetts. In 1903 he had a business in Springfield, MA, that offered theatrical hardware and general supplies. He filed at least two patents to improve the handling of stage scenery: one is for “an apparatus for manipulating the curtains, drops, flies, lights, and similar scenic paraphernalia hung above the stage of a theater.” The other is for a drop curtain “block” improvement to operate the curtains more easily and quietly.
Clark Cox (1861-1936) Dallas Scenic Studio
Clark Cox has several curtains in country school houses in Gillespie County, TX. He had several brothers who were also theater architects and artists. They worked together for a while in New Orleans, but Clark then struck out on his own and moved to Houston.
Jesse Cox (1878-1961)
Jesse Cox was born in Illinois but moved to Estherville in 1891. He performed with travelling shows for several years before settling into the scenic business. He adopted Diamond Dyes as his preferred "paint" as they allowed him to produce much lighter canvasses that could be folded as well as rolled. The Old Threshers Museum in Pleasantville, Iowa has on display his brushes, paint bench, and other tools of the trade, as well as Diamond Dyes.
Benjamin W. Craig (1869-1931), Boston, MA
Benjamin W. Craig was born in Middletown, CT. By the late 1890s he was living and working in Boston, MA. He is listed as a stage carpenter in the Boston City Directories from 1898 to 1911. In the mid 1900s, he was the stage carpenter for John Craig and his highly respected stock company at the Castle Square Theatre in Boston. From the early 1920s into the early 1930s he managed his own business, the Ben W. Craig Scenic Company, at 80 Boylston Street.
The only curtains we have identified by him are in storage at the Westminster Institute, Westminster, VT.
Eugene Cramer (1838/39-1901)
Cramer was born in northern NY, fought in the NY Volunteer Infantry Duryee Zouaves regiment during the Civil War, then moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he worked as an actor, singer, and scene painter. In March of 1899 the Columbia Opera House burned to the ground and Cramer's life's work was lost in the fire. So it may be that the curtain in Laconia is the only remaining piece.
Else Crosby & Lura Wells, North Wayne, ME
Lura E. Wells (1869-1959) and E.L. “Else” Crosby (1861-1946) were both born in North Wayne, ME. Lura’s talent as an artist developed when she traveled to New York City in her late 20’s to attend the New York School of Applied Design for Women, founded to “educate women of natural taste and ability.” Her practical training at a low cost was meant to provide a means of employment. Clearly, her promise proved out. In 1897, Lura’s work was entered in an annual competition where one of the judges was Charles Dana Gibson, known for his creation of “the Gibson Girl.” She won second prize in Illustration. She and a friend then ran a decorative arts shop on East 23rd Street in New York City called the Green Dragon. But by the early 1900’s, Lura had returned to North Wayne, where she continued to produce decorative arts and where Else and she lived on what is now the Kent’s Hill Road, uphill from the North Wayne Schoolhouse.
William Wirt Culver (1834-1927)
William W. Culver painted a set of signed stage scenery at the Enfield Town Hall and he painted a set of scenery in Hartland, VT. He may also have painted a curtain in South Royalton, VT, where he was born. Culver moved to Boston in 1855, studied art with Alexander Ransom, and worked in a portrait painter’s studio detailing still life, draperies and jewels. He waited on tables to earn his board and supplement his painter’s wages.
In 1860, he moved to Montgomery, Alabama to work in a gallery. The South was agitated about secession – not an ideal time for a Northerner to take up residence. Before his return back to Vermont, he photographed the inauguration of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Culver wrote memoirs in his old age in an attempt to capture his impressions of that turbulent time.
Culver became a partner in a Woodstock, VT photographic studio. He and his family lived in West Lebanon for about 30 years. He did a variety of work, including photographic enlargements and photo coloring, house painting and decorating. In the 1910 Census, his occupation is clearly stated as “Artist, sign and scenery painter.” According to Mary Lovejoy’s “The History of Royalton, Vermont,” published in 1911, he had “written and staged several plays, which have been well received.”
James Bartholomew Duffy (1872-1953)
James Duffy was born in Boston, MA, but lived in Derry, New Hampshire, for 70 years. He was a sign painter and interior decorator for most of his adult life, but he was also employed by the Gulf Oil Refining Company as a master painter for 20 years. He designed the orange Gulf logo we still see today.
The scene shown on the grand drape at the Alexandria Town Hall is a copy of his painting that now hangs at the Derry Historical Society. There are records that he painted theater scenery or murals in Derry and Bristol, but those pieces have been lost.
F.L. Edgecomb, Poland, ME
This is all we know about F.L. Edgecomb - that he signed a curtain in Poland, ME.
Enkeboll Scenic Company, Omaha, NE
John Enkeboll, Owner (1867-1947)
John (Johannes) Enkeboll was 22 years old in 1890 and working as photographer when he immigrated to the United States from Bogense, Denmark. He settled in Iowa and by 1893 was the editor and business manager of a Danish language newspaper. By the late 1890s, he lived in Omaha and owned an engraving company for a short time before focusing on commercial art as a scenery painter, church decorator and businessman, offering mail order lessons in the art of scenic painting.
Enkeboll advertised his scenic work and his school nationally in The Billboard and The NY Clipper. A 1906 ad for show paintings offered ‘first-class Scenery for 5 cts. per sq. ft.” His 1914 Enkeboll Art School advertisement claimed “we can teach you theatrical scene painting… everybody can learn this exclusive profession in their spare time and make big money.” Enkeboll’s studio offered “dye drops” around 1914, one of a number of scenic studios offering curtains using this medium. John Enkeboll died at 80 years in December, 1947, but his studio continued to produce show banners, church paintings, murals, sketches, tavern paintings and dioramas into the early 1950s.
Jens Erickson (1866-1920)
Jens Erickson was a native of Denmark who immigrated to the United States in 1888. He settled in Denver, CO, as a muralist, fresco artist and interior decorator. An example of his scenic art remains at the restored Sheridan Opera House in Telluride, CO, where he painted the grand drape in 1913.
Egbert L. Foster (1866-1947)
Arthur Egbert L. Foster produced an outstanding set of theatrical scenery still on stage at the Blazing Star Grange in Danbury, NH. This set, signed and dated in 1921 and 1922, includes a grand drape titled “Springtime”, a garden scene and a landscape. There is also a set of flats featuring an elegant interior on one side and a rustic interior on the other. A second Foster set of scenery is at the Deerfield, NH, Town Hall, but only the grand drape and a pair of woodland flats remain.
Census documents and city directories reveal an outline of his life from childhood with his grandparents in Stoddard, NH, to employment with a printer as a teenager, and then his emergence as a fresco painter and decorator. He was born in Stoddard, NH, the son of two Stoddard natives – Joseph E. Foster, glassmaker, and Martha Stevens Foster, a Manchester mill worker. Egbert Foster spent most of his life in Manchester, except for a brief stay in Newport, RI.
Foster was a prolific decorative painter with a long and active career. His highly skilled work as a muralist was sought after for private and public buildings, including a private mansion in Franklin (as well stage scenery for the Franklin Opera House), the Goodwin Funeral Home in Manchester, and elaborate work at French’s Opera House in Hyde Park, a suburb of Boston.
A brief obituary in the “Box Office” publication for 1947 notes that Foster was a well-known scenic painter who also produced murals for movie theaters and school auditoriums in Manchester. His decorative work at Manchester’s Goodwin’s Funeral Home and an atmospheric landscape over the baptismal font at Manchester’s First Baptist Church are still intact.
Marion Fracher (1911-1972)
Bertha Marion Rhoades Fracher was born at Fort Monroe, VA, the youngest of three sisters. Her niece says that Marion was exposed to art as a child, because her mother painted in oils, and that Marion’s early life and travels informed her later work.
Marion’s parents had family ties to Wentworth and Nashua, but since her father was a Colonel in the US Army, the family lived on various bases, including tours of duty in Kansas and Hawaii. In the early 1920s, Marion learned to ride horses from staff sergeants at Fort Levenworth, Kansas. Then Colonel Fracher was stationed in Honolulu in 1926, where Marion led her older sisters in high jinx by dressing as native Hawaiians to greet incoming tourist ships – fun that was curtailed by their mother. Marion was an accomplished swimmer, and was a pacing partner for Johnny Weismuller as he prepared for the 1930 Olympics. She was fun loving, outgoing, athletic and impulsive.
Marion attended college in New Hampshire and later studied art and scenic painting in Chicago. After her mother died, the family moved to Illinois where Col. Rhoades taught at the University of Illinois. In the mid-1930s, after her father died, Marion invested and then lost most of her inheritance in a theater production when the producer abandoned the project and disappeared with her money. In order to recoup, Marion moved to Pine Gables, the family home in Wentworth, NH, where she set up a scenic studio.
Marion married Harry Fracher on December 24, 1935 in Warren, NH. He was related to the Fracher families who variously owned a diner, a hardware store and a beauty parlor in Plymouth, NH. Some of these businesses show up on advertising stage curtains Marion painted for Plymouth area towns. Harry was a great help to Marion in the production and rigging of painted curtains and he had skill as a sign painter, too.
Fracher curtains are located in Sutton, Perkinsville, and Brownington (attributed), VT; Chichester, Dorchester, Lyman, South Tamworth, NH; and Porter, ME
Louis Peter Galanis (1903-1977)
The Galanis family came from Greece in 1909 and became naturalized in 1940. At the age of 14, Galanis became an apprentice paint boy at the studio of Ben W. Craig, a scenic artist with a studio in Boston. For many years, he also taught in the theater department of Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. He established his own studio business which is still run by his son and daughter-in-law as "Studio Arts Studio" in East Bridgewater, MA. Their rentals include about 400 full-size dye drops that Galanis created, along with costumes and other props. The few painted drops we have found are at West Alton and Wolfeboro, NH; Lyman, ME; Foxborough and Attleboro, MA; and a small curtain painted with dyes in storage at the Westboro Grange Hall, Westboro, MA.
John L. Gannon (1850-1934) lived in the Boston area. He is listed in various directories as a sign painter. The only curtain we know of by him is the Lakeport Opera House grand drape, now in storage, but (we hope) with a future as the Colonial Opera House is restored in Laconia, NH.
Philip W. Goatcher (1851-1931)
Designer, scene painter and decorator Philip Goatcher was the son of a scene painter, first apprenticed to his father. As a youth, from around 1866, he travelled extensively, including a visit to Australia in 1867 when he became a student of scenic artist John Hennings in Ballarat, Victoria. His travels then took him to the United States and an association with Niblo's Garden (a New York theatre on Broadway). His experience there established his status as a designer and, after briefly returning to London, he became principal designer at Wallack's Theatre in New York from 1875 to 1885. His work included designs for companies led by David Belasco, Edwin Booth, Dion Boucicault and Lillie Langtry.
Goatcher married while in America and the couple had four children. They divorced in 1890, after which Goatcher returned to England with his two elder sons. While there, in 1890–91 he worked both for Henry Irving and Richard D'Oyly Carte. It is probable that this association with the successful Savoy operas influenced the offer made to him a year later to work for Williamson's in Australia. On his acceptance, Goatcher became the highest paid theatrical designer in the world.
During his years with the Williamson company, Goatcher created many stage designs in addition to the settings for the expanding repertoire of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He was often privately commissioned to decorate both public and private buildings. Although he continued to design for Williamson's he also ventured into theatrical management.
Goatcher has been described as one of the finest designers of the late Victorian style. His preference in stage design was for painting the 'cloths', that is the pictures at the back of set pieces, because in that work 'nothing is left to mechanical effect. It is all art…', but his forte was the trompe l'œil style, particularly in creating illusions of fabrics and drapes. It was a skill which gained him the nickname of 'Satin and Velvet' Goatcher. At an exhibition of the Society of Artists in 1895 it was noted that his 'graceful design for a drop curtain [was] painted with the utmost delicacy and feeling for colour…'
Goatcher was a popular man, well read, a good raconteur and a practical joker. He also suffered from chronic bronchitis. In 1906 he moved to Western Australia for reasons of health and, with his second wife and surviving son James, set up a successful painting and decorating business in Perth, where died on 8 October 1931. Now his only known surviving theatre work is in Western Australia, with a piece in each of Kalgoorlie, Collie and New Norcia.
by Ailsa McPherson, 2010
Gerald Boardman, The Oxford Companion to American Theatre, Oxford University Press, New York, 1984
Anita Callaway, Visual Ephemera, University of New South Wales Press, Kensington, 2000
David Hough, 'Remembrance of scenes past', Bulletin, 15 October 1991, pp 98–99
Note: The writer of this piece doesn't seem to have known about the curtain in Swanzey, NH.
L.L. Graham Scenic Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Lemuel Laken Graham (1846-1914) was described in his obituary in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle as “one of the best-known scenic artists of this country…He was known from coast to coast among theatrical men and had traveled through every State in the Union in his time, and his work was known in all of the principal cities.” This may be a bit of exaggeration, but Graham was for a time associated with Sosman & Landis of Chicago, which was a large studio that employed 25 painters. He also spent some years in Kansas City, where he was in charge of a “great yearly event there, the Priest of Pallas parade, and he created all of the floats and scenes used in the carnival.” The obituary adds, “Mr. Graham taught scenic painting for years, and some of the most skillful scenic artists in the country were his pupils.”
In New York, he worked with another scenic artist, P. Todd Ackerman, at the Broadway Theater in Brooklyn and after several unsuccessful years of working with Levi Couch in Boston, Graham set up his own studio on Crosby Avenue, Brooklyn. All the curtains we know of were painted after 1900 in Brooklyn.
Graham’s work is very accomplished: his central scenes incorporate a lot of activity, whether it is fishermen reeling in their nets or tourists in boats sightseeing at Chillon Castle. In Starksboro, Vermont, the scene of “Cape Wrath” (the northern most point of land on the Scottish mainland) is notable not only for the craggy mountains in the background, but also for the rows of footprints left in the sand by the Wellington boots worn by the fishermen. One distinctive feature of Graham’s grand drapes is the way he flares out the drapery as it hits the floor.
Horace F. Grant (1847- 1920s?)
Not much is known about H.F. Grant. He may have come from Dexter, ME and then moved to Salisbury, MA, and on to Amesbury, MA. The census for Amesbury in 1920 lists him as Foreman, Painter, in automobile factory. The only curtain we know of is the grand drape at Newton Town Hall, Newton, NH. It shows the local chain bridge.
Al Hainsworth, Boothbay Harbor, ME
Our guess is that Hainsworth was a sign painter who worked in the 1930s and perhaps later. His one curtain at the former Boothbay Harbor Town Hall (now part of a railroad museum) looks like a collection of license plates.
Raymond Hefflon (1881-1966)
Ray Hefflon was born in Franklin, VT. He was a Jack-of-all-trades: at the age of 19 he was a taxidermist, at 29 he was a house painter, at 39 a farm laborer, and at 49 a general worker. According to the History of Franklin, “Ray Hefflon was a gifted man and artist. He could direct a play, make up the actors, paint a picture, build a beautiful fieldstone fireplace in your house, and do any work that required artistic ability. He was the person for the task.”
In 1959 he organized and produced programs for the Franklin Fenian Raid Days at the Champlain Festival. He made the costumes and even fabricated the cannon that was used in the festivities. He was known for putting on Home Talent Plays at the Franklin Grange and as a result of one of these talent shows, enough money was raised for the Ladies Village Improvement Society to create sidewalks for the town.
The only example of Ray Hefflon’s talent as a scenic artist is his Grand Drape in the Franklin Town Hall. No one knows what inspired him to feature a Dutch windmill as seen from an ornate Italian-style balcony. He died in St. Albans in 1966 and is buried at the Franklin Town Cemetery.
David Elias Heminger (1888-1945)
David Heminger was born and raised in Findlay, Ohio, which remained his home base throughout his adult life. By his 20s, he was working as an actor in touring shows, including stage acting in Boston. He worked with the Madge Kinsey Players, a tent show, for many years both as a "character actor, extoller of the virtues of business places which advertise, and chief spieler in the prize package sales, (he) is also the scenic artist. He paints the scenes, sees they are properly in place and finds it a matter of concern when such a detail as lack of keyhole in a door prop is discovered. He's a capable actor, too.” His grand drape at Enfield Grange # 2951, Enfield, NY, shows a local waterfall.
Charles A. Henry (1845- c.1920?)
Charles Henry, not to be confused with Charles W. Henry of Vermont, had a small scenic studio in Boston. His curtains are found in Moretown, VT, and Paris Hill, ME.
An advertisement in the Boston City Directory of 1905 says that his studio “Designs, Manufactures and Decorates all kinds of Theatrical Work. Theaters and Halls Fitted Up. Scenery and Stage Properties To Let.”
Charles Washington Henry (1850-1917)
Charles W. Henry was Vermont’s most prolific and accomplished scenic artist. As well as painting at least 60 theater curtains (38 of which remain) he wrote songs and plays, produced vaudeville skits, painted small landscapes, played several instruments and often took the leading role, as well as managing the Henry Family traveling troupe.
Charles Henry was born in Guilford, VT, a small hill town a few miles north of the Massachusetts border. The family moved from Guilford to Brattleboro where he wanted to go to art school, but his father made him apprentice at a sewing machine shop. However, his passions were music and dramatics and he joined a Dramatic Club where he met Martha Fisk, a doctor’s daughter, whom he married in 1873. Henry and Martha had four children, Arthur, Percy, Florence, and Grace, who died in 1987.
In the early days of trying to make a living by acting and painting theater scenery, Charles and Martha almost starved to death, but after the turn of the century, Charles found that he could make a passable living by also providing the entertainment. Martha stitched pieces of muslin together to form rolldrops and sewed the costumes. Henry wrote a play called “Darkness and Daylight” that was apparently very popular, and as the children grew older, they were all taught to perform. From about 1900, all the children used their dramatic and musical capabilities: Percy played the flute and horns, Arthur played the violin, French horn and trumpet, Florence had a fine soprano voice and “Baby” Grace learned song and dance numbers.
The Henry Family Company produced theater curtains and booked shows at Town Halls, and Grange Halls throughout Vermont. They traveled in a caravan of horse-drawn wagons and then Model T Fords. They carried with them the costumes, paints, play scripts, musical instruments and all their personal belongings. They would stay in boarding houses while they traveled and take summer breaks at a camp in Ferrisburgh. Charles even developed a “painting act” in which he told a funny story as he painted a small landscape while Florence and Grace sang. The picture would then be “auctioned” to the audience.
In 1915, the Henrys got off the road and settled down. The family had begun to break up as the children got married, and Martha developed gout. For a couple of years he was the director of the Vergennes Opera House.
Charles Henry developed a distinctive style for his grand drapes. The drapery is always red with gold highlights and gold cords, and with underskirts in white and blue. They often feature European-style visions of castles, mountains, lakes and a stage coach with galloping horses. Two grand drapes feature Ben Hur's chariot race and several more show the romantic cliché of the noble stag. His street scenes have a strong focal point, and often feature a church steeple to help provide perspective. His seascapes invariably include a lighthouse located much too close to shore!
Henry curtains are found on stage or hung as displays in Huntington, Sudbury, Saxtons River, Albany, Hardwick, Westminster, West Fairlee, and Guilford. Those in Westford and Shelburne are in storage. The Main Street Arts stage in Saxtons River is home to the largest collection of Henry scenery, boasting 10 curtains with about 24 complimentary side ears, teasers and even signed painted rocks. There is one curtain in Bradford, NH, and we know he painted others along the "coasts" of the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain.
Ron Hill (Charles Smith/Mary Smith/Ron Clymer) (1934- ) Loveland, CO
In the mid-1940's, Charles Hall Smith (1897-1969) and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Smith (1902-1996) engaged in the "stage curtain business." Mary sewed the muslin strips together and Charles did all the art work and installed the curtains. They were all advertising curtains that were produced in three locations. In the fall they worked out of Loveland, Colorado. In the winter the shop was at Kearney, Nebraska, and lastly the summer shop was located at Lake Okoboj, Iowa. The territory for sales included Colorado, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. Later on, Montana and California were added to the list.
The business thrived and in the mid-1950's another couple, Hal and Juanita Clymer, joined with Mary and Charles and shared in the painting. Hal was an accomplished artist who moved to the various shop locations along with the Smiths. After about three years, he and his wife left to do other work.
In 1957, Charles and Mary's daughter, Shirley, married Ron Hill who joined his father-in-law in the business. Shirley already had experience selling advertising and Ron soon "found he had the knack" to learn the painting of both signs and the scenery. He started with the simple tasks of sizing the material and laying out spaces for the ads.
By 1963, advertising was changing over to radio and television. The rural schools were also consolidating and kids were being bused to town. Community halls were not used as much. Ron's children were in grade school, so travel was difficult to arrange. The stage curtain business slowed down, but before they quit for good, Ron started bringing replacement curtains home. Replacement curtains were made when certain halls or schools wanted a new one after several years. Merchants came and went, so the ads got out of date. The nine curtains still in the possession of the family are these replacement curtains.
There was no set cost for an advertising space on a curtain. Each sales person used their own judgment in pricing. The average cost for the billboard in the middle of the mountain scenery was $45. The larger spaces and the circles cost $25 to $35, and it was $15 to $20 for the smaller boxed ads.
Charles Smith, Ron Hill and Hal Clymer painted and installed hundreds of curtains. Most have probably been destroyed. The stage curtain business was a very good way to meet lots of people and travel to different places.
We know nothing about her except that she was associated with the Otego Valley Grange in Mt. Vision, NY (now gone) and the grand drape with her signature now hangs at the Hartwick Historical Society, NY
Edmund R. Horak (1897-1976)
Edmund Horak immigrated to Texas from Czechoslovakia. His work was popular in schools, churches, and town halls. A grand drape at the Schulenberg Dance Hall has recently been restored. In 1922, he moved to San Antonio.
Hubert Scenic Studio, Buffalo, NY
The Hubert brothers were Joseph (1878-1938) and Cornelius(1869-1922), both lithographers and photographers. They had a photography studio in Buffalo and there is one reference that a Hubert (no first name) worked for Anderson Scenic Studio, at least for a while. Both brothers were artists, but was one of them also a salesman? Stylistically, Hubert and Anderson curtains are very alike. They use the same palette, the same minimal drapery, and very similar lettering in the ads. Hubert curtains sometimes have an arch over the central image, rather than a straight line of ads.
Charles H. Huiest (1854-1910)
Charles H. Huiest was born in New York City in 1854 of Franco-Germanic parentage. He moved to Troy, NY, in 1885 and painted scenery at Rand’s Hall and the Griswold Opera House. He also painted large scenic billboards, which were a new advertising venue at the time. He produced scenery in Albany, Brainbridge and Peterburgh, NY; Bridport, Cambridge, South Londonderry, and Wardsboro VT (curtains moved from West Paris, ME); Wilmot, NH and Columbia, ME.
His work is considered as good as the larger scenic studios in Boston, New York, or Chicago. The “View of the Rhine” was one of his favorite subjects, along with Dunluce Castle in Ireland and more generic rural scenes, such as "November Twilight."
Arthur S. Ives (1896-1955)
Arthur Stratton Ives was born near Scranton, Pennsylvania. He left home at an early age and seems to have lived on the road until he joined the US Marine Corps in 1916. Four years later, he returned to Scranton where he is listed as a salesman in the City Directory from 1929 to 1933. He married a North Woodstock, New Hampshire, native in the early 1930s and they settled there, opening a scenic studio in the basement of a movie theater, where there was plenty of ceiling height.
Ives was very skilled at all the aspects of the production of painted scenery. He was good at lettering, perspective, and the rendering of light and fabric. He enjoyed painting human figures and added cherubs to one curtain and winged nymphs to another. He also produced many advertising curtains featuring buildings made up of blocks of ads.
In the early 1940’s, he and his family moved to Trenton, NJ, where he headed the art division of a large department store. After about 10 years of city life, the family returned to North Woodstock. By this time, livelihood as a scenic artist had disappeared.
Ives turned to designing and painting signs for restaurants and roadside resorts. These were true production numbers, beautifully painted and representative of the 1950’s, when Americans took to the road for vacations. His daughter remembers, “He was a hard worker all summer in the hot sun beating down on him, and never taking a break. He worked in the mill in the winter when times were tough. One year, he finally built himself his own paint shop, a neat little place where he had all his life's collection of tools, paints, trains--everything. It burned to the ground in October of that year and he lost everything.” Ives began to rebuild his shop, but he died in the following January.
George J. Kaufman (1889-1958)
George Kaufman is best known for his large scale murals. The Heritage Hall Museum in Freeman, SD, holds several painting that are possibly by Kaufman and others that are confirmed, dated between 1924 and 1940. Kaufman worked in his father's jewelry shop in Freeman until about 1925. Later, he spent time painting movie sets in Hollywood before returning home. Kaufman struggled with alcoholism, which led to his reputation as the town drunk. It was said that he sometimes wasn't paid for a commission until he had finished it for fear that he would begin drinking and fail to finish the work. Some of the paintings given to Heritage Hall were in payment of a loan.
(Notes by S. Roy Kaufman based on conversations with the extended family.)
Erwin LaMoss (1854-1910)
The elegant stage sets at the Haskell Opera House in Derby Line are the only remaining examples of the work of scenic artist Erwin LaMoss. LaMoss was born in Starksboro, VT, but at the age of 15, he went to Boston, where he studied the art of scenery painting. Over the next 40 years, he became a well-known artist who worked with T.B. Glessing at the Boston Museum (which was originally a theater) and at the Tremont, the Colonial, the Gaiety, the Bijou, the Howard Atheneum, and the Hallis Street Theaters. Unfortunately, all of this work has been lost.
The scenery at the Haskell Opera House was created in 1902-03 at a total cost of $800. It was all delivered by train from Boston. The overall décor, stage machinery and other opera house furnishings present one of the most complete sets of its kind in the country. In the original document listing the scenery specifications, LaMoss agreed that “This job calls for everything first-class, to be done, and set up, in a thorough, practical and workmanlike manner.”
Erwin LaMoss is buried near Longfellow at the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA
Lee Lash (1864-1935)
Lee Lash was a landscape and townscape painter as well as a designer. He was born in Vancouver, BC in 1864, and from 1865 onwards was brought up in San Francisco where he attended public schools. In his teens he studied art with Juan B. Wandesforde and Domenico Tojetti. He then traveled to Paris where he studied with Boulange and Lefebvre.
At the Paris Salons his work was acclaimed and after eight years in Paris, he established a studio in San Francisco and taught at the School of Design from 1891-1893.
Lash also began a theater curtain advertising business in 1893 backed by financier, William Chambliss. According to the Chambliss diary, Lash said, “I am in a position which I cannot risk by going into trade. Sign painting is trade you know, and I am an artist.” Subsequently Lash began a family business called “Art Advertising Company.” Apparently he got over the idea that the advertising business was vulgar “trade,” because it is said that he even got up on a scaffold to add some finishing touches to a bicycle advertisement, and the scaffolding fell down and almost killed him.
By 1895 he had moved to New York City and had two “curtain advertising enterprises” called Lee Lash Studios, –one in New York, and the other in Philadelphia. We know that this business continued until at least 1922, because the Townshend Lash Studio curtain bears that date. We have evidence that Lash remained in New York and also continued to create fine art until at least 1935 when he would have been about 70 years old. Many of his paintings of New York and elsewhere are now offered for auction on the AskArt website.
Maxwell Leland (1896-1983)
Augustus Maxwell Leland was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, on Mount Desert Island. He was a self-taught painter and is believed to have numbered all his paintings on the back. Traveling as far afield as Alaska and California, he made his living as a carpenter. Later in life, he returned to Mount Desert and had a painting studio from which he sold his paintings. Leland painted at least three grand drapes for Grange Halls in northeastern Maine. They all contain local landscapes surrounded by a minimal amount of red drapery. He died in Los Angeles, California, but the exact date is unknown.
Fred E. Libby (1859-1921) Portland, ME
Entries in the Portland City Directory list him first as a cigar manufacturer (his grandparent’s
business in the mid 1880s), then a card and sign painter and from 1896 on as a scenic painter. One of his curtains is at the Paugus Grange Hall in Fryeburg.
John Venable Lobdell (1892-1949)
John Lobdell had a studio that opened in 1922 in Rosedale, MS. He was a veteran of WWI and had a degree in Electrical Engineering, worked for General Electric in New York, and studied art in New York before opening his scenic studio in Mississippi. One of his curtains is in Abbeville, LA (privately owned) and another is in Estherwood, LA.
Lyon & Rommel, Troy, NY
Colbert (Bert) E. Lyon (1858 –1934) and Charles Rommel (1869 - 1943)
Bert Lyon, a sign painter, and Charles Rommel, a house painter ("roof to floor and in-between"), fresco artist and decorator began a partnership in Troy, NY, in 1900. Lyon had been a sign painter for about 20 years at that point and Rommel was known as a fresco and decorative artist. In 1907 Lyon retired from the business to work as an advertising representative for the Manufacturer’s National Bank. The business was then incorporated as The Rommel Company.
Marto is a complete mystery, including what "J" stands for. His curtain in Bristol, VT, was found folded in a closet at the drama department of the University of Vermont. There is no record of where it came from, but it fits nicely as a backdrop in Bristol. The Ben Hur chariot race is a copied from a painting by Ulpiano Checa.
Alonso McKusick (1868-1945)
McKusick was born in Biddeford, ME, and lived on the 3rd floor of a house at Oak at S. Main St, Guilford. He was a professional wagon striper (painter of stripes). His curtain in the Guilford Valley Grange was dedicated October 10, 1936. Cost $35. Another curtain in storage at the East Sangerville Grange shows a moose.
Frederick Wesley Morse (1870-1929)
Frederick Morse was primarily a photographer who was also involved in plays at the Neighborhood House at Islesford, Maine. He was born on Isle Au Haut and came to Islesford to be a fish skinner in the cod factory. He developed an interest in photography and moved away to study. He ended up with a studio in San Francisco and lost everything but one lens in the big earthquake of 1906. He sold that lens to pay for the train fare home, where he worked in the general store, painted, and took photographs.
Thomas Gibbs Moses (1856-1934)
Thomas Moses was born to an American sea captain in Liverpool, England. Although his primary work was as a scenic artist for the theater, he also worked in churches, amusement parks and expositions. He worked off-and-on for Sosman & Landis in Chicago for 50 years, from 1880 to 1931. He was also associated with several other scenic studios: Moses & Hamilton, Burridge, Moses & Lauderback, and the New York Scenic Studio which was an extension of Sosman & Landis. Moses' best work was created for Masonic Temples in the Midwest and West. He produced hundreds of theatrical drops for the degree ceremonies of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
Moses' obituary said, "Thomas Gibbs Moses, veteran artist who painted stage scenery for Edwin Booth, Lawrence Barrett, Mme. Modjeska and other stars of the stage, died at his home...Shortly after the fire of 1871, he was employed as a scene painter in the old McVickers theater. He is credited with making the first diorama that Chicago ever saw. It was displayed at the World's Fair of 1893...."
(Information from Wendy Wazut-Barrett: www.bellascena.com For much more information about Moses and Masonic drops, go to www.drypigment.net )
Thomas Munson (1906-1998), Greenfield, MA
Thomas Munson's interests and skills were varied, and although his life generally centered around the arts, he had other interests such as boxing and teaching....Besides being well-known for his murals, portrait painting and poetry, he is recognized for his work with mosaics, metals, glass, and stone. He designed churches and large commercial buildings, and worked as a city planner for Springfield (MA) new metropolitan center. He was a landscape designer, and designed stage sets for theaters in Boston, the Berkshires, and New York.
In his twenties, he spent time in Paris where he opened his first studio. He was a member of the Cafe du Dome's breakfast group where, in the 1920s, he enjoyed the company of artists and writers including Picasso, Wilder, Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. He hiked through India and Africa supporting himself with sketches of street children and commissions for portraits of notables....
In the 1930s, he and his brother Claude painted stage curtains with pastoral landscapes and advertisements around the borders. He later served as the National President of the American Registered Architects; he was a Governor of the Copley Society, and served as Commissioner of Art for the City of Boston. In the 1990s, he finished 2,000 feet of historic murals in the town of Greenfield. His two curtains we know of are in Wendell and Leverett, MA.
Information from "Wendell's Stage Curtain" by Molly Kaynor
Mutual Studios, Nashua, NH
Mutual Studios curtains are in Hampstead, NH; Wilder, VT; and Shapleigh, ME. We do not know who owned this studio.
Robert Wills Naves (1916-1944)
Robert Naves was born in Exeter, NH. He did much of his work as one of a stable of artists associated with Crystal Arts Studio run by Paul Brigham of Springfield, MA. Brigham’s primary work was with the Grange, selling the ads to local funeral homes, coal dealers, piano movers, beauty parlors, etc. Naves and Brigham would travel together and then Naves would paint the curtains back in his barn studio.
The template used by Naves formed the basis for his advertising street scenes. It could be modified to include a truck or tractor or other central item that would cost extra for a lead customer. The ads cost between $5 and $25, for a total revenue between $150 and $200. Naves also painted country scenes and grand drapes, including Shadow Lake in Concord, VT, Parker Pond in Glover, VT, the floating bridge in Brookfield, VT, and Lake Willoughby in Wheelock, VT. In New Hampshire, his advertising street scenes survive in Orford, Hopkinton, and Newton. There is also one in Dunstable, MA.
In the mid-1930’s, Naves and his wife opened a commercial art studio in a barn at their home in Hampton, NH. In early 1941, he accidentally started a fire by dropping paint onto an oil heater. His barn was destroyed and his face and hands were severely burned. However, by 1942, he had healed enough to enter the US Army where he served as a member of the Fourteenth Air Force Flying Tigers, operating primarily in Burma and China. Naves produced the Flying Tigers logo used by his unit. He died in China after his vehicle accidentally drove over a cliff.
Benjamin Tupper Newman (1858-1940)
Benjamin Newman was born in Bath, Maine. He studied at the Boston Museum School of Art, the National Academy of Art, Julian's Art School in New York City, and at the Beaux Arts in Paris. He painted in southern France, Italy, and throughout the United States. His art was exhibited at the Paris Salon and most of the major cities of the United States. One of his paintings was exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair and another at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1903. For many years, he taught art at the Fryeburg Academy in Maine. He was also a poet, archaeologist, Indian arrow-maker and boat builder. His only known stage curtain is in Hiram, ME.
(Information from Charles Vogel, Edan Hughes " Artists in California 1786-1940), the American Art Manual 1910, and an obituary in the New York Times in 1940.)
Kusti Nuppola (1890-1990)
Kusti arrived in the US in 1914 for a visit to see whether he liked it and ended up staying the rest of his life. He had a sponsor in Fitchburg, MA. He hopped trains to go see other places, including one trip to Detroit when he had $4 in his pocket. After that trip, he returned to Fitchburg with the same $4 and met his future wife, whose family had also come from Finland in 1910. They moved to Union, ME, where he farmed, and worked as a mason and house painter. He was also known as a long-distance runner and had medals from marathons in Finland and the US. He painted landscapes and stage scenery for several halls in the area, but the only piece of scenery that survives is in East Union Grange.
Oklahoma Scenic Company
We know nothing about this company except there is an advertising curtain from the Church Point, LA, School that is now in a local museum
Don Owens, Waco, TX
An Owens signed curtain is at the Twin Sisters Dance Hall, Blanco, TX. Another one at a nearby historic school house is also probably his. Records in Waco were destroyed by a tornado.
William A. Oktavec
In the summer of 1913, a Bohemian immigrant grocer came up with the idea of painting the screen door to his shop to help protect his vegetables from the sun. Since painted screen doors also offered privacy, they soon became very popular throughout his Baltimore neighborhood.
In 1922, Oktavec opened The Art Shop, where he sold painted screens by the thousand. He taught art classes, worked on restoring his church and sold art supplies. In 1922 he also painted the large grand drape at the Lithuanian Hall. Three generations of Oktavecs sold painted screens through the heyday of their popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Eventually, air conditioning and more modern windows and doors replaced the use of screens in most homes, but their popularity has never entirely disappeared.
Information from the Painted Screen Society of Baltimore
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)
Maxfield Parrish was one of the foremost American artists and illustrators of the early twentieth century. He is particularly well known for his mystical paintings filled with fantastic scenery and vivid colors - which didn’t fit into a particular artistic school or movement - and for his signature “Parrish blue.”
Frederick Maxfield Parrish was born in Philadelphia. He began drawing at a young age, and archived letters written by Parrish often show elaborate pictures sketched on their backs. Parrish went to school at Haverford College and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. While he was studying at Drexel Institute, he sought out instruction from Howard Pyle, but Pyle said that there wasn’t anything he could teach Parrish. After taking a few classes from Pyle, Parrish agreed.
In the early 1900s, Parrish worked on many illustrations and murals, and his work was seen in magazines, children’s books, department store windows, and hotel lobbies. He was the highest paid commercial artist in the US during the 1920s. The National Museum of American Illustration claims that, in 1925, one of every four households had a Parrish print.
Parrish was a resident of Plainfield, New Hampshire, for sixty-eight years and was a leading member of the nearby Cornish Art Colony. The scenic backdrop, teasers, and wings in the Plainfield Town Hall were commissioned in 1916. The scene (a view of Mt. Ascutney, Vermont, across the Connecticut River from Plainfield) is illuminated by dozens of colored light bulbs that line the back side of the proscenium arch. The lights can be controlled so that the scene appears quite different according to the time of day.
Charles Perkins (1874-1950)
From 1916 to 1949, Charles Perkins was the scenic artist and designer at Lakewood, one of America’s oldest and most famous summer theaters. During the early 1900’s, he painted houses by day and studied art at night at the Fox Art School in Portland, Maine. He painted billboards and murals and decorations on trolley cars before being ask to create some backdrops for the Lakewood theater, only a few miles from Madison, Maine, where he was born. Throughout his career as a scenic artist, “in order to determine the appearance of a particular building or section of the country, Perkins studied pictures found in books which he obtained from the Skowhegan Public Library or pictures found in his favorite magazine, National Geographic.” His mind would become “crammed full” with information. He defended his own lack of travel by saying “some people travel all over the world and see nothing while some are able to stay home and see everything.” The large seascape at North New Portland seems to be the only example of his scenic art.
Sinai Richer (1986-1945)
Richer was born in 1865 at Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec. He studied first with painter-decorator Joseph-Thomas Rousseau and then with Abbe Chabert in Montreal. Richer took the name “Sinaï” to distinguish himself from his brother and father, all three artists with the first name “Joseph.” He traveled to Europe in 1887 to study under Gerome at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and then with Bouguereau at L’Academie Julian. Richer returned to Quebec in 1891 and became known for his copies of famous paintings (the Musee du Quebec has one of his paintings) and for his work as a painter-decorator for churches, cathedrals, businesses and private homes. This work continued in the U.S. He worked in Troy and later settled in Whitehall, NY. Richer painted at the home of Dr. Webb, Shelburne, VT, and was the primary decorator for St. Joseph’s in Burlington and Sacred Heart in Burlington, VT, where his copy (21’ x 10’) of DaVinci’s Last Supper still hangs over the alter. He is buried in Whitehall, NY, where these curtains came from before they ended up in VT.
Fred George Quimby (1863-1923)
Fred Quimby was born and raised in North Sandwich, NH, where his elegantly painted grand drape hangs in the former Grange Hall. His father was a farmer and in 1867, his parents began to take in summer boarders to supplement the family income. The guests would often take day trips led by Fred’s father to Mt. Chocorua, Whiteface and Mt. Israel. Quimby’s early interest in drawing was noticed and encouraged by some of the summer guests.
Quimby was good at calligraphy and received training from a distant cousin, Christopher Columbus Fellows (a noted calligrapher) in Center Sandwich. In 1884, he taught a year of reading, spelling, arithmetic, geography, and penmanship for a wage of $21 in the Sandwich schools. He soon moved to West Sommerville, MA, to work for Sprague Hathaway, a wholesale picture frame business that remains to this day. At that time, Sprague Hathaway employed artists to create memorial (post-mortem) portraits and other paintings for color reproduction. During this time, the landscapes he painted seem to have been solely for his own satisfaction.
In 1908, Quimby painted his own self-portrait and by 1909 he had his own studio in Boston. He entered exhibitions, and produced a number of watercolors, portraits and landscapes. He also joined an artist colony on Monhegan Island, ME, where he could find inspiration from fellow artists. His technique evolved from tightly-controlled brush strokes to a more Impressionist style during his successful 35-year artistic career. Only a small fraction of his work is known today because almost all of it went directly into private hands.
Mt. Israel is the subject of the Sandwich grand drape, one of a small number that doesn’t have simulated drapery painted on each side. Instead, there is a complicated stenciled picture frame. These stencils would have been difficult to make by someone outside a scenic studio. One suspects he ordered the canvas with the picture frame already in place, perhaps from O.L. Story Scenic Company, which was located near where he lived.
Lucretia Rogers (1910-1977)
Granite State Scenic Studio
Lucretia Rogers, known as “Cre,” was a free spirit willing to try new ventures, as well as an adept businesswoman. She was born in Rhode Island, the daughter of Karl and Elena Spiller. The family lived in Wentworth, NH, and then moved to Kenosha, WI, where Cre attended school and married. In the early 1930s, the Spillers moved to Wentworth, NH, to farm and Cre and her young daughter soon followed.
Cre and Marion Fracher became good friends in Wentworth and Marion may have introduced the business of scenic painting to her. Eventually, Cre and her daughters moved to Plymouth, NH, where she set up the Granite State Scenic Studio in the basement of the movie theater.
Her daughter remembers that Cre painted curtains all over New England, including the coast of Maine, where they usually spend their summers. Her uncle, a retired minister, traveled with them and sold advertising for the Grange curtains.
Cre painted at least two "party" curtains - unusual for their design of silhouetted musicians draped over a full-color rainbow, with a background of colorful balloons containing local advertising. These particular curtains (one in Lisbon, NH, the other in Canaan, VT) look particularly suited to 1930’s dance halls.
In 1939, Cre married Irving Rogers and the family moved to Cape Cod. At different times in her life, Cre worked for a well-known Provincetown folk artist named Peter Hunt, and owned a Cape newspaper and a clothing shop. In the 1960’s, she revitalized a depressed Alabama golf course and club house (subsequently destroyed by the Klu Klux Klan) and in her late 60s, she taught batik to students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Schell Scenic Company, Columbus, OH
Gustav G. Schell (1877 – 1941)
Gustav G. Schell’s family moved from Germany to Columbus, Ohio in 1884 when Gus was 6 years old. As a young man, Gus worked for the Armbruster Scenic Studios in Columbus. In 1904 he opened his own scenic studio at the Empire Theatre on East Gay Street. When the studio opened, its inventory was primarily backdrops, draperies, and advertising curtains. Gus was a charter member of IATSE Local 12. When he was not working in the studio, he was employed on various stages in Columbus as a stagehand. Schell Scenic acquired much of Armbruster’s stock when that company closed in the 1960s. Gus and his wife Flora had seven children, several of whom worked with their father in his shop. Their sons, Gustav Jr. (Gus) and Herbert, were most actively involved in the business that continues today under the direction of Philip Schell.
Servas Scenic Studio, Rochester, NY
John Anthony Servas (1885-1953)
John A. Servas emigrated from Germany to the United States with his mother and brothers in 1892 when he was about 8 years old. The family settled in Rochester, NY. By the age of 15 Servas was earning his living as a sign painter and in his early 20s he opened a scenic studio, painting sets for Rochester area theatres. His brother Louis assisted him. In a 1913 advertisement for scenery he used a drawing of his new theatrical scenic studio (designed by Rochester architect Frank G. Frey) as an illustration. Servas used Diamond Dyes in his work and advertised that his scenery was especially suitable and durable for travelling productions. Servas published a pamphlet to promote his company’s scenery and store displays. He also worked on canvas, painting original pieces and copying European masters.
Servas moved to Evanston, Illinois in the early 1930s and pursued a career in exposition and trade show design. He was the executive director of the horticultural exhibit in Chicago’s 1933-34 “A Century of Progress” fair.
Louis W. Sherwood (1871 - 1942) spent much of his early adult life as an actor with traveling dramatic troupes that played along the east coast. His skills included scenic painting, band leading, and managing and directing home-talent shows. An outgoing citizen of the Cooperstown area, Sherwood played Santa Claus in local stores and churches for 18 years. Between 1906-1912, he worked with Legrand Abbott Brainard in the sign and scene painting business and also co-managed many talent shows and amateur plays in Cooperstown. Sherwood spent his later years in Unadilla and worked as a scenic artist for the William Smalley chain of movie theatres. Brainard and Sherwood scenery exists at the Weiting Theater, Worcester, NY, and possibly in Hancock, Roscoe, Otsego, and Ilion, NY. Sherwood, on his own, has curtains in Gilbertsville (restored by Curtains Without Borders), Sidney and Hartwick. The Hartwick curtain is not signed, but it is most likely the Sherwood curtain referred to in newspaper articles.
Shoots Scenic Co., Cuba, NY
James Danton Shoots (1879-1958)
James D. Shoots was a native of Horseheads, NY, who later settled in Cuba, NY. His early training and employment was as a designer for printing and engraving firms. In Cuba he opened Shoots Scenic Studios to sell stage equipment (velvet curtains to stage lighting) to schools and Granges in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Steuben counties. This work included painted signs, advertising curtains and backdrops. A favorite subject of his was a moonlight scene of Cuba Lake. He was an ardent angler and was known for his piscatorial paintings.
Edward Simmons (1838-before 1930)
Records about Edward Simmons are scarce. Simmons was born in New York State in 1838 and lived in NY City as a young man with his first wife, a dancer. At some point after 1870 he settled in Jersey City, New Jersey, and managed his own scenic company at the corner of Baldwin Avenue and Prospect Street for many years. He built a three-story studio, a work in progress that made the local newspaper when the front blew in during a February gale in 1887.
In 1890 Simmons painted new scenery and curtain for the opera house in Flushing, NY, at a cost of $300. That year he also furnished scenery for the Griswold opera house in Troy, NY. Simmons decorated Tony Pastor’s ‘new house’ at Tammany Hall in NY City with a drop curtain that featured an Italian landscape within a central medallion. The Patchogue Lyceum on Long Island opened in 1896 and was stocked with his scenery and a drop curtain featuring a scene on Great South Bay with the Clifton House (a summer hotel) in the foreground.
Claude William Slader (1870-1959)
Slader was born in Boston, MA, but his mother was from Sutton, NH. He was class of 1884 at Boston Public Latin School. At age 17 he married Ida Blake, also 17. He is listed on the 1900 federal census as divorced and his occupation as sign painter. In 1908 he is married to Grace Thomas, who is from Waldo, Maine; and they are living in Quincy, MA. He moved from Quincy in 1920, died in 1959 and is buried in the Hillside East Cemetery in Shrewsbury, MA.
This ad appeared in the New York Clipper, Dec. 7 edition (1894-1896)
“Scenic Artist and Up To Date Sign Painter Desires position in or near New York City. Am competent Vaudeville Stage Manager, Sober, Reliable and a great Hustler, with experience and references. Address quick, C. W. SLADER, Stage Manager, Front Street Opera House, Worcester. Mass.”
The only curtain we know of is a grand drape in Newbury, NH.
Russell Smith (1812-1896)
Russell Smith achieved success as a landscape painter, theatrical designer, and illustrator of scientific works. Born in Glasgow, he emigrated with his family to western Pennsylvania in 1819. In 1827, he took up acting and scenery painting for a local theater group in Pittsburgh. In the 1830s, he became inspired by various Hudson River School painters and began painting small landscapes. He took pains to record exact weather conditions. He painted plein air during the summer months and then finished paintings in his studio.
The only known theater curtain of his is the original grand drape at Thalia Hall in Wilmington, NC. That curtain is displayed in the lobby.
Sosman and Landis Scenic Studio, Chicago, IL
Between 1879 and 1924, Sosman and Landis was one of the busiest scenic studios in the United States. Joseph Sosman, one of the founders, was its President, as well as bookkeeper and salesman. He was a 33 degree Mason, which explains why the company was one of the first to paint Masonic scenery. Even less is known about Mr. Landis, not even his first name. He died between 1896-1903. After Mr. Sosman died c. 1917, Thomas Moses took his place as President of the company. Thomas Moses ran the studio until 1924, after which time it changed hands and names several times. He continued to produce scenery using the same premises off and on but the company finally fizzed out by 1938.
The technique of painting at Sosman and Landis went back several hundred years; Thomas Moses was an Englishman who brought with him the tradition of drops painted on vertically hung frames, rather than using a floor painting technique.
By 1915, the heyday of Sosman and Landis production, they employed 20 full-time artists, making it the largest production company in the country. In contrast, the largest studio in New York, the Lee Lash Studio, only had 12 painters at the time. It was common for artists to move between the studios and the two cities and it didn't matter whether they were painting for theatres or Masonic lodges because they use the same materials and techniques. Sosman and Landis customers were schools, Scottish Rite temples and vaudeville halls.
The scenery was sold all over the country through their own brochures and advertisements in theatrical publications and business directories. Their standard set of scenery was the same as that of other studios - a front grand drape with two matching wings and teaser, followed by a street scene or olio curtain hung just a few feet from the grand drape, then a cluster of drops near the back of the stage that included a heavily ornate parlor scene, often with an open door, and its four matching wings, a kitchen or rustic scene with matching wings that were often painted on the reverse side of the parlor wings, two plain sky teasers, and a mountainous or woodland scene with four matching wings.
As for the front drop or grand drape, "it will be criticized and scrutinized more closely than the rest of the scenery, and therefore must be executed with more care and closer attention to details than is necessary when painting a mountain scene or a cabin interior."
A Sosman and Landis brochure assured the buyer that "The above set of scenery will meet the needs of the usual small theatre or hall. More may be added later as needed."
Information about Sosman and Landis from "The Sosman and Landis Studio, A Study of Scene Painting in Chicago, 1900-1925" Thesis by Randi Givercer Frank, University of Texas at Austin, 1979.
Southern Scenic Studio, Waco, TX
It is possible that this is the same outfit as Owens and Sons. The only known curtain by this studio is the 1938 advertising curtain originally from the Sandy Creek School, now hanging in the Johnson City Courthouse in Johnson City, TX.
Albert Sterner (1863-1946)
Albert Sterner was born in London, England, to American citizens. He studied drawing first in England and lived and studied in Europe in the 1870s before moving to Chicago in 1879. He worked as a scene painter with Walter W. Burridge, was employed by a lithographic firm and also produced newspaper illustrations there. In the mid-1880s he moved to New York City. Sterner studied at the Academie Julien and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris (1890 - 1891). He was considered a skilled academic draftsman, illustrator, painter, portraitist, printer and teacher with a long and successful career. Sterner was active in the NY City art scene and especially supportive of the art of illustration. He was active in the western Massachusetts arts and theatre scene, exhibiting paintings, contributing plays and producing the painted curtain for the Richmond Town Hall.
O.L. Story Scenic Company, Boston, MA
Orville Lincoln Story (1861-1916)
There are more O.L. Story Scenic Company curtains in New England than from any other studio. Orville Lincoln Story (1861-1916) learned his craft as an apprentice in his father’s scenic company. He worked as a carpenter with the Boston Ideal Opera Company for a season, and in 1882 took over his father’s business providing scenery to numerous opera houses and theaters in the Boston area (none of which survive). Advertisements for his business began to appear in New Hampshire business directories in 1884. As “Dealers in all kinds of Stage Supplies,” O. L. Story offered “Decorative Panels and Friezes for Interior Decorations, Oil Portraits, Photograph Backgrounds, Theatrical Properties and Papier Mache Work.” In 1897, Story moved the business to Somerville, where his shop was conveniently located near a railroad station; delivery by train was the only logical way to transport scenery on wooden rollers that were heavy and often more than twenty feet long. After his death, the business continued into the mid-1930s under the management of his younger brother.
O.L. Story grand drapes often feature a central painting of Chillon Castle in Switzerland, although the real castle is usually transformed into a fanciful version of itself by the addition of a turret or a second storey or by being turned into a ruin. Chillon Castle was a popular, romantic tourist spot and “The Prisoner of Chillon” by Lord Byron was still one of the most popular poems of the day, almost 100 years after it was written. O.L. Story’s other trademarks include copious amounts of stenciled gold fringe and drapery painted to look like pink silk instead of the more common red velvet.
F.W. Stripp, Bethany, NY
F.W. Stripp was a local sign painter and artist who lived in or near Bethany, NY.
Thompson, Charles (1866-?)
Charles Thompson came to the United States as an emigrant in about 1878, when he was 12 years old. He worked in St. Louis as a scenic artist, then in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Scenic Studio. He had several artists working for him. We don't know whether any of his scenery survives, but a travelling box of sample scenes is in private ownership.
John Worrall (1783-1825)
John Worrall was engaged by the Boston Theater on Federal Street as a pantomime dancer and scenery painter for about 16 years. He routinely traveled with the group to Portland and to Providence. He began painting scenery at the theater in 1806 as assistant to a scene painter named Melbourne. He soon became chief scene painter and remained in that position until at least 1822. The scene of the City of Providence as it looked before 1814 was painted c.1809, making this the oldest known stage curtain in the county. It is now displayed at the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence, RI. Worrall executed a similar drop curtain for the Federal Street Theater in 1818, a view of Boston from South Boston bridge.
Information from the Rhode Island Historical Society.
William Stuart (1861-1936)
William R. Stuart was a well-known Brattleboro artist who set up an art studio shortly after 1885 for producing crayon portraits, a popular art form during that period. In addition to his portraiture and scenery painting, Stuart worked as a painter during WWI at the Navy Yard in Portsmouth, NH.
After the war, Stuart became a founding member of the Brattleboro Amateur Coronet Band, worked for Estey Organ Company for a number of years and had a sign painting studio prior to his retirement in 1933. He produced theatrical scenery at the Townshend Town Hall in the early 1920’s and made at least one other roll drop, a view of the Odd Fellows Home in Ludlow, VT.
Stuart is also remembered for building in 1896 the first “modern apartment building” in Brattleboro. “Modern” meant there was a bathroom in each apartment instead of just one per floor. The building also had gas lighting throughout. The elaborate fixtures, as well as the fine interior trim have recently been restored by the Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust.
William Arthur Tandy (1887-1958)
Tandy was an artist, photographer, muralist, interior decorator and woodworker. He studied art locally and then at the Art Students League, NYC. He had a studio in Gardner, MA, where he produced backdrops for theater and photography.
George A. Thompson (1905-1983)
George Thompson was a self-taught artist and sign painter who lived for many years in Holderness, New Hampshire. He worked as a carpenter during the Depression, often walking long distances for work. He gradually gained a reputation as a sign painter and his carpentry skills were put to good use in constructing signs for stores, cabins, motels and many other businesses in New Hampshire. He is especially remembered for his work for two of the state’s best-known tourist attractions: the Mount Washington Cog Railway in the White Mountains and Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, New Hampshire. He sometimes incorporated gold-leaf in his lettering work and painted small scenes on the sides of the Cog engines, antique organs, trucks and store fronts.
In 1940, Thompson got a commission from the town of New Hampton to paint a curtain for the renovated Town House. The grand drape scene is an accurate rendition of the building surrounded by sponge painting and simply-painted drapery. It is the only theater curtain he ever painted.
William Robert Tietzsch (c.1892-1940s?)
Tietzsch was a summer visitor in Dexter, ME, which explains how he came to paint a curtain in near-by Cambridge, ME. in 1949. He was an artist/illustrator who worked for Palano Illustrating Co. in New York city. He seems to have died in Philadelphia.
Tiffin Scenic Studios, Tiffin, OH
Tiffin Scenic Studios was started in 1901 by scenic artist Daniel O'Connell. During the 1920's and 1930's, they sold painted drops and stage furnishings throughout much of the country. It shifted in focus away from scenery to stage machinery in the 1940's and they are still in business selling everything from winches to hoists. www.tiffinscenic.com
Helen Tooker (1906-1997)
Helen Tooker was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts. In the 1920’s, she studied art for a year at the Boston Museum, then married and moved to Taunton, MA, where she set up her “Bay State Studio” and taught art as part of the WPA. In the mid-1930’s, she and her sister and her best friend added theater curtains to the wide variety of art, calligraphy and sign painting that provided her with a living. Although she produced theater curtains throughout northern New England, the only known surviving examples are at the West Windsor Historical Society in VT, a former Grange in Fryeburg, ME, Lakeside Grange in Harrison, ME and Chepatchet, RI.
Once she moved to Florida in the 1940’s she turned to her preferred genre of marine painting, set up a studio there and sold many of her paintings to tourists. She became well-known for her 1948 decoration of the Island Hotel in Cedar Key, Florida, where she painted lavish murals with local nautical themes. In 1974, she also was one of the founding members of the Florida Miniature Art Society, where members adhered to a rule that “A represented subject should be no bigger than 1/6 of its original size.” Helen Tooker was notable for her flamboyant style and strong-mindedness.
Maurice Tuttle (1888-1953)
It is likely that Maurice Tuttle assisted in his father’s (Howard Tuttle) studio in Milwaukee, WI, before working on his own account as a scenic artist. In the early 1900s he traveled widely and worked for a number of companies in various states. Tuttle assisted Jess D. Bonner in Los Angeles in 1907 and worked at Elitch’s Gardens in Denver, CO in 1910. He and his family settled in Springfield, MA in the late 1920s where he produced curtains for the Calvin Theatre and The Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. By the mid-1930s the family had moved to San Diego, CA, where Tuttle continued his career as a scenic artist.
Twin Cities Scenic Company, Minneapolis, MN
Twin Cities Scenic Company was founded by employees of the Bijou Theater in Minneapolis in the late 1890's. They recruited artists from large established outfits such as Sosman & Landis, Kansas City Scenic, and various studios in New York. By 1905, the business was very successful at producing stock scenery for opera houses all over the country. In the late 1920's, the employed as many as 27 artists, along with all the other people doing carpentry and rigging. There were regional salesmen and offices in Syracuse, Milwaukee, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Fort Worth, Texas. At least half their business between 1934 and 1940 was in dye curtains. Along with scenic work for theaters, Twin Cities produced complicated sets for numerous Masonic Halls. Eventually, hard economic times, competition from a number of other studios and the rising popularity of movies led the company to close it branch studios in 1937. A spin-off company continued to offer theater equipment until 1954.
There is a comprehensive exhibit catalogue about the Twin Cities Scenic Company published by the University Art Museum, University of Minnesota, in 1987. Lance Brockman contributed a history of the company, as well as an essay "The Age of Scenic Art: The Nineteenth Century".
In New England, we have come across only one curtain by the company: a grand drape due to be restored to use in 2017 at the Orange Town Hall, Orange, MA. The colors are gorgeous, the tears are extensive, but it will be a glorious grand drape once again. The only other trace of Twin Cities is a pair of top boards stored in the catwalk of the Burlington, VT, City Hall.
United Sign Artists, Augusta, ME
United Sign Artists of Augusta was owned by Harry J. Foss and Stanley G. McCurdy. It seems to have operated only in 1937-38. Harry J. Foss, according to the 1930 US Census, was born in Greece about 1897. Both of his parents were born in Greece. He immigrated to America in 1912 when he was only 15. In the 1925 Augusta Directory, he is listed as the proprietor of Economy Sign Service at 161 Water Street in Augusta. living at the YMCA. The 1930 US Census in the 1930s list his business as Foss Signs at various addresses in Augusta. Stanley G. McCurdy was born about 1912. In the 1931 Augusta Directory, he is listed as a commercial artist. In 1933, he is also the proprietor of Sam's Sign Shop; in 1936, it is called Stan's Sign Service, located at his home on 22 Pleasant Street.
These two men apparently merged their businesses in 1937-38 to create United Sign Artists; however, this company is not found after that year. Harry J. Foss continues to operate his sign company until his death 12 July 1963. Stanley G. McCurdy is listed as a display artist with Central Maine Power Co. He died in Farmingdale 2 March 1967 at the age of 54.
Their only curtain is in Sidney, Maine.
George Henry Valerio (1889 - ?)
George Henry Valerio born in Boston. He lived and worked in Burlington, VT. We have found one advertisement for his business in which he offers scenery for Masonic lodges and vaudeville. The only curtains we know of with his signature are a set from the Masonic Lodge in Brattleboro, VT, but those curtains were sent to another Lodge out of state.
Everett Longley Warner (1877-1963)
Everett Warner was born in Iowa, but at the age of 14 he and his family moved to Washington, DC, where he enrolled at the Washington Arts Students’ League. In his 20’s, he worked for the Washington Evening Standard as an art critic, but in 1903 he moved to Paris, where he studied art and made sketching trips throughout Europe. In 1909, be began a long association with the art colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he came under the influence of Childe Hassam and other American Impressionist painters.
For 18 years, from 1924 to 1942, Warner was an associate professor of painting and design at the College of Fine Arts at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, PA. During WWI, and again during WWII, he worked for the US Navy, creating camouflage designs known as “dazzle” for ships. One composition technique that fascinated him was the use of an aerial view. The grand drape from the Westmoreland Town Hall is a fine example of this technique.
In 1945, after his discharge from the Navy and retirement from teaching at Carnegie, Warner moved to the family’s summer home in Westmoreland, NH, where he set up a studio for landscape and portrait work. He continued his interest in art and the science of camouflage and contributed journal articles on the subject.
Warner’s work is well-represented in museums and institutions (including the Corcoran and the Traveler’s Club in Washington, DC) but many paintings and sketches and writings were lost in a fire at his studio nine years after his death.
Harold Warren (1859-1934)
Harold B. Warren was a landscape painter, illustrator, and craftsman who was born in England and came to the United States in 1876. He taught watercolor from 1912 to 1930 at the School of Architecture, Harvard University. Beginning in 1907, Warren and his family spent many summers in Islesford, Maine, where he joined two other artists to form a group called the Three Islesford Painters Society, better known as TIPS. The Neighborhood House grand drape is Warren's only known stage curtain. It is unique in its presentation of an image that seems to float on a white, empty space.
Wood Brothers, Springfield, MA
Alfred J. Wood (1906 - 1983) and John Ditchfield Wood (1909- ?)
The Wood Brothers were active in providing Grange curtains throughout New England from the 1930's until about 1940. After the war, they went into the business of providing drapes for school auditoriums. Whether one brother was salesman and the other a painter, or whether they hired painters and both sold ads, we just don't know. Their curtains are characterized by a blue background for the ads, gold-colored painted drapery, and a choice of several generic rural scenes for the central picture (with some variations). They often added a back "Pomona" curtain showing a garden for certain Grange degree ceremonies.
John Worrall (1783-1825)
John Worrall was engaged by the Boston Theater on Federal Street as a pantomime dancer and scenery painter for about 16 years. He routinely traveled with the group to Portland and to Providence. He began painting scenery at the theater in 1806 as assistant to a scene painter named Melbourne. He soon became chief scene painter and remained in that position until at least 1822. The scene of the City of Providence as it looked before 1814 was painted c.1809, making this the oldest known stage curtain in the county. It is now displayed at the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence, RI. Worrall executed a similar drop curtain for the Federal Street Theater in 1818, a view of Boston from South Boston bridge.
Information from the Rhode Island Historical Society.
Frank L. Yerance (Yerance & Berry, Paul & Yerance) (1857 - 1902)
Frank L. Yerance was an actor, theatrical manager and a scenic artist who was active from the mid 1870s through the 1890s. A grand drape signed by Yerance & Berry still hangs on stage at the Edwards, NY, Opera House. In 1895 Yerance worked with a Mr. Paul to enlarge the stage of the opera hall in Barton, Vermont, and to produce a new set of scenery for it. Yerance & Berry painted a curtain for the Potsdam, NY, Opera House and a curtain for the Madrid, NY, Town Hall.