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Drake, Samuel (15 November 1768–16 October 1854), actor, theatrical manager, and pioneer of professional theater in the West, was born in England of unknown parentage. Very little is known of his early life. It is said that he was born Samuel Drake Bryant but later adopted Drake as a stage name. He was apprenticed as a printer but broke his apprenticeship and joined an acting troupe. He became a manager of a small provincial theater in the west of England and married Alexina Fisher (date unknown), sister of the manager of the theater in Exeter. They had five children and, in the tradition of great English stage families, founded a theatrical dynasty. Martha Drake, their eldest child, was an actress who married a Frankfort, Kentucky, businessman and returned to England. Samuel Drake, Jr., was a talented musician but an average actor. Alexander Drake, who suffered from deafness but was an excellent singer and low-comedy actor, married the celebrated actress Frances Ann Denny ( ...

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Durang, John (06 January 1768–29 March 1822), dancer, choreographer, and theatrical entrepreneur, was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob Durang, a physician, and Joeann Catharine Arter, who had emigrated from Strasbourg, France, in 1767. Settling first in York, the family moved to Philadelphia in 1778. America’s first native-born theatrical dancer of prominence, Durang was influenced in his youth by Louis Roussell, a French dancer and teacher. In his memoirs he states that he emulated Roussell’s “pigeon wing” and learned the correct way of dancing a hornpipe “in the French stile [ ...

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See Kiralfy, Imre

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Kiralfy, Imre (01 January 1845–27 April 1919), and Bolossy Kiralfy (01 January 1848– March 1932), dancers and producers of realistic-pictorial theater, were born in Pest, Hungary, the sons of Jacob Königsbaum, a cloth manufacturer, and Anna (maiden name unknown). The brothers were born shortly before the unsuccessful Hungarian Revolution of 1848. When Königsbaum, a nationalist, lost his fortune during the revolution, the young boys supported the family as child performers. First Imre, at age five, joined two years later by Bolossy, earned a living for the family by performing traditional folk dances in theaters and at private performances throughout the Austrian Empire. By virtue of their youth the children escaped official censure against public shows of nationalism for performing dances of the Hussars, Hungarian cavalry, and Cossacks. They changed their name from Königsbaum (king’s tree) to Kiralfy, a shortening of ...

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Klaw, Marc Alonzo (29 May 1858–14 June 1936), theatrical entrepreneur and producer, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, the son of Leopold Klaw and Caroline K. Blumgart. He moved with his widowed mother to Louisville when he was five. There he attended both elementary and public high school, after which he received his law degree from Louisville Law School in 1879. Although he practiced law for a while, his primary interest was in theater; he was for a time the dramatic editor of the Louisville ...

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Palmer, Albert Marshman (27 July 1838–07 March 1905), theater manager and entrepreneur, was born in North Stonington, Connecticut, the son of Reverend Dr. Albert Gallatin Palmer, a Baptist minister, and Sarah Amelia Langworthy. He was educated at the Suffield Institute and graduated in 1860 from the New York University Law School but soon turned his attention to politics....

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Rothafel, Roxy (09 July 1881–13 January 1936), movie theater impresario and early radio host, was born Samuel Lionel Rothapfel in Stillwater, Minnesota, the son of Gustav Rothapfel, a shoemaker, and Cecelia Schwerzens. The younger Rothafel dropped the “p” from his family name at the end of World War I when names of Germanic origin were in disfavor. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1894, and his education ended with grammar school. At age fourteen, Rothafel began drifting from one temporary job to another. He joined the Marine Corps in 1902, saw action in China’s Boxer Rebellion, and ended military service as a sergeant in 1905. He remained a believer in military discipline, and later uniformed ushers in his theaters drilled and saluted....