German Theater in Kleindeutschland and the Lower East Side, Manhattan

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German Theater

The first professional performance of a German play was in 1849 at Magner's Hall on Elizabeth Street between Broome and Grand.

One of the earliest German theaters was the Stadttheater on the Bowery. Managed by Messrs Hoym and Harman it closed in 1853 after a fire. It was later the site of the People's Theater which was on the Bowery at Spring Street in 1918. Other early theaters were the Windsor, the Thalia, Germania, the Bowery, Irving Place Theatre (Amberg's German Theatre), and Wallack's.

The upstown swells tended to look down on the German Theater.

"It is generally conceded that the German Theatre evolved from a dilettante enthusiasm displayed at the German Vereins. In these social gatherings, private theatricals were given, and talent was eagerly sought for among the members. On Sundays, plays were preformed in the different Verein hall. It was a matter of art and beer, and even though the art might be bad, the beer was unfailingly good."

"The Life of Heinrich Conried" by Montrose J Moses, 1916

A certain element of the more educated German American population were also apparently appalled by the type of theatre presented. Describing the Stadttheater on the Bowery:
"To the disgust of German intellectuals emigres it specialized in melodrama and farces"

"Women in the American Theatre: Actresses and Audiences", 1790-1870 By Faye E. Dudden, 1997

However, the German population not only loved their musicals and comedies but also where very devoted to Shakespeare. Shakespeare's plays had been very popular in Germany from as early as the beginning of the 1700s and the Germans took Shakespeare as one of their own. It has been said at various times that more Shakespeare was performed in the German speaking countries that in the English speaking countries.

The German Theater in New York City in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s presented classical drama, comedy, farce and operetta.

Germania Theatre: The Roman Catholic Church of St Annes 148 Eighth Street between Broadway and Forth Avenue was converted into a theater in 1879. It was leased to several German Speaking groups and was known during the 1890s as the Germania.

"Star Theatre, year 1900 (formerly Wallack's Theatre) at northeast corner of Broadway and Thirteenth."
The Wallack's theatre at 844 Broadway was built in 1861. It was run by the Wallack family until 1881. Subsequently it presented German language drama and opera. It was demolished in 1901.
NY Library ID 809929

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Ada Merito, A German Stage Favorite

Ada Merito was born in Tieste, Italy but trained in Vienna. For several seasons she was the leading lady at the Irving Place Theatre. In 1901 she played Margaretha (also known as Grethcen) at the Irving Place theatre to rave reviews. She also played Roxanne in Cyrano. The plays were performed in German. Irving Place Theatre was/is located at Irving Place at 15th street. It opened in 1888 and was also known as the Amberg's German Theatre.

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Leona Bergere appeared as Mary/Freddy in "A Day in Manila" by Adolph Phillip and Wegern in October 1898. (A history of the New York stage from the first performance in 1732 ..., Volume 3 By Thomas Allston Brown)

Although I cannot confirm that it is the same person, she also appeared to have acted in some early Germany movies of the 1920.

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Kathi Schratt

Kathi Schratt played Cyprienne in Divorcons at the Thalia Theatre in 1882. Katherine (Catherine) Schratt was a star of the Burg Theater in Vienna was a long time companion of the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Josie Gallmeyer, A Favorite Viennese Comedian

Josephine Gallmeyer was a popular Viennese singer of operettas and comic operas who was compared to Lillian Russell. She was born in Leipsic in 1838 to a theatrical family. She made her stage debut at age 10. She toured successfully in the United States in 1882-1883. She played the Thalia Theatre in September and October 1882. She died in 1884 in Vienna of cancer of the stomach.

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Agnes Sorma, A Celebrity of the German Stage

Agnes Sorma was born 17 May 1862 in Breslau Schlesien and died 10 February 1927 Crownend Arizona.

She appeared at the Irving Theatre in 1898 in Humberdinck's "Die Konigskinder" and at the same theatre in the same year in Ibsen's "A Doll House".

She played Juliet, Ophelia, and Desdemona in Germany. He first tour to the US was in 1897. From 1904 to 1908 she worked under Max Reinhardt.

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Franz Ebert and Adolph Zink, of the Lilliputian Company

The Lilliputian company first appeared in America in November 29, 1883 at the Thalia Theatre. They arrived by steamship from Hamburg after a successful tour of Europe where they performed in the National Theatre in Berlin, the Opera Theatre in Brussels, and the Crystal Palace in London. They also gave a private performance for Queen Victoria.

The Lilliputian Company, a popular comic opera group composed of midgets, staged "A Tip to Mars" at the Niblo Theater in September 1893 that was very well attended not only by the German community but "portions of the English element"*. The company of eight midgets including the star Franz Ebert was accompanied by dance troops, music and singing.

Franz Ebert measuring 28 inches tall was the principle comedian of the Lilliputian Company. Franz Ebert and Adolph Zink played in "The Golden Horseshoe" at the Irving Palace Theatre in September 1898.

* New York Times September 6, 1893

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Friedrich Mitterwurzer

Born 16 October 1844, died 13 February 1897 Vienna, Friedrich Mitterwurzer was a popular German speaking actor who played Faust and Mephisto. He toured Germany, Holland and America from 1886 to 1894.

He played in New York at the Star Theatre in November 1885 and at the Thalia Theatre in November 1885 to mixed reviews.

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Adolf Sonnenthal

Adolf Sonnenthal, a Hungarian Jew, was born in Budapest 21 December 1834. He played most of the leading roles of the day including Hamlet, Macbeth, Faust and more. He died in Prague in 1909. He made his first American tour in 1885.

He appeared at the Thalia in March 1885 in a four-act drama by Wilbrandt, entitled "Die Tochter des Herrn Fabricius." The New York Times panned the play but praised Sonnenthal. He appeared later that same month at the Thalia in "Fromont jeune et Risler aine". Again the play was panned but Sonnenthal praised.

There are numerous reviews available in the New York Times Archives of the plays he appeared in in 1885 in New York.

He returned to the New York Stage in 1899, this time to the Irving Palace Theatre.

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Wilhelm Knaack

Wilhelm Knaack was born in Rostock Germany on 13 February 1829. He was successful in both dramatic and comic operatic roles. He completed a popular tour of the United States and Canada in 1882. He played the Thalia Theatre in November 1882 to rave reviews.

He died in Vienna 29 October 1894.

See Wilhelm Knaak und Johann Nestroy in Orpheus in der Unterwelt, Lithographie von Adolf Dauthage aus dem Jahre 1860

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Heinrich Conried

Heinrich Conried was born in 1855 in Bielitz, Silesia (now Poland). He was an actor in the Burgtheatre in Vienna. He immigrated to New York in 1878 and became the stage manager for the Germania Theatre. He held various other positions in the New York German theater including manager of the Iriving Place Theatre. In 1903 he became the director of the Metropolitan Opera. He held that position until 1908 when he retired due to poor health. He died in Merano, Tryol, Austria (now Italy) in April 1909.

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Ludwig Barnay

Ludwig Barnay was born in Budapest in 1842. He played in various cities in German and Austria. His principle roles were in tragities. In New York he played King Lear, Hamlet and Julius Ceasar. He died in 1924.

He made a successful tour of the US in 1882. He was in the US again in 1888 when he played at the Academy of Music which was then under the management of Heinrich Conried.

Ludwig Barney, Jewish Encyclopedia

Munsey's Magazine Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Adalbert Matkowsky

Adalvert Matkowsky was born in 1857 in Konigsberg.

"Matkowsky was a magnificent interpreter of shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, and other classics. His William Tell was possibly him most popular creation."

New York Times March 28, 1909

His first America appearance was in Shiller's Robbers" at the Amberg Theatre in November of 1891.

He died in Berlin 1909.

Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Marie Geistinger was born in 1836 and died in Klagenfurt, Germany in 1903. She made two tours to America one in 1880 and the other in 1897. In 1880 she played the Thalia Theatre. She was the "queen of the operetta' but she also played French Opera Bouffe as well as dramatic roles. Her father was a Russian court actor.

German American Actors and Actresses

Ada Merito, Leona Bergere, Kathi Scratt, Josie Gallmeyer, Agnes Sorma, Frank Ebert, Adolph Zink, Frederich Mitterwurzer, Adolf Sonnenthal, Wilhelm Knaack, Ludwig Barnay and Adalbert Matkowsky were all famous actors on the stage in Germany who came on tour to the United States. Heinrich Conried immigrated to the US although he was born and died in Europe and he returned to Germany frequently to search out new talent for the plays presented at the Irving Theatre.

Accordint to "The German element in the United States: with special reference to ..., Volume 2, By Albert Bernhardt Faust, 1909 some of the people he recruited were:

  • Hedwig Lange: In 1901 and 1902 she was the leading lady of the Irving Theatre.
    "If Hedwig Lange were and American she would be a "star" in about two minutes"

    The Bookman Vol 15, 1902

  • Marie Reichardt:

  • Hedwig von Ostermann: Leading lady at the Irving Theatre in 1901 and 1902. See New Notes From Recently Uncovered Articles About Actress Hedvig (or Hedwig) Von Ostermann

  • Hermine Varma:

  • Alexander Rattmann:,

  • Adolf Zimmerman: In 1902 he was listed by the New York Times as a "popular juvenile actor" at the Irving Place Theatre.

  • Gustav von Seyffertitz: Born 1862 in Bavaria and died 1943 in Los Angeles. He was a popular comedian and character actor with New York German Theatre goers. He later became a successful character actor in the movies. He appeared in 118 films between 1917 and 1939. He played with Greta Garbo in The Mysterious Lady and Mary Pickford in Soarrows. He was married multiple times. See Gustav Von Seyffertitz The True Hollywood Aristocrat. According to his passport application in 1924 he immigrated to the United States in September 1896 and was naturalized in the District Court of New York in Jan 1922. He appears to have made trips back to Europe in 1903, 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1924.

For more information on the go to Kleindeutschland The Lower East Side

For more information on the Goehles and related families go to Goehle Introduction Page

To see images of life in the tenements of lower Manhattan go to Tenement life

For more information on the Meckels and some additional great photos go to Meckel

To see images of children on the Lower East Side and for information on education, child labor and other issues see Children of the Tenements

88 and 90 Sheriff Street were addresses that were written about in the press for a number of years. My grandfather, Frank Goehle, was born at 88 sheriff Street in 1894. 88 - 90 Sheriff Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan as a Microcosm of Little Germany (Kleindeutchland)

Shopping and Street Venders

Survices and Utilities in New York City

Trollies, Cars, Subways, Buses and Boats in New York City

James Dabney McCabe Jr 1842-1883

Life in Germany

Catherine Furst, Julius Lindemann, Peter Goehle, Henry Blanck, the Erxmeyers, the Petermanns were among the millions of German American immigrants. For images of life in Germany, click on the picture of the wooden shoes

Germans in America

Catherine Furst, Julius Lindemann, Peter Goehle, Henry Blanck, the Erxmeyers, the Petermanns were among the millions of German American immigrants. For information on and images of the German American in United States click on the image of the German American Family

General Slocum Fire 1904

On June 15, 1904 the excursion boat, SS General Slocum caught fire on the East River resulting in the death of over 1,000 persons, mostly women and children. It was the biggest disaster in New York City until 9/11.


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This page was created in 2008: Latest update, December 2011