Tuesday, February 27, 2018

James H. Wallick, the Bandit and Cattle King – An Owner of Hollyrood Farm (Part 2)

Poster advertising James H. Wallick’s production of The New Bandit King, probably from about 1902-1903. Posed in the image are Wallick and his famous acting horses.

James Henry Wallick & his wife Mary (McInnis) Wallick  

(Owners of Hollyrood Farm for 7+ Years, 1888-1895, 1897, 1903)

Continued from PART 1

The Wallack/Wallick Combination, James group of traveling actors, existed at least between the years 1874 and 1879. Combination groups differed from repertory groups in that they only offered one play, not several and they generally included a famous, headline actor/actress and more elaborate scenery than a repertory company. [26] James Wallick’s troupe performed plays in small and large cities across the country to generally favorable reviews. In 1878, his company, with Charlotte Thompson playing the lead, performed the classic Jane Eyre and received rave reviews. The Atchison Daily Champion reported, “Notwithstanding the inclemency of the evening, and the steady, drizzling rain that prevailed all day, Corinthian hall was almost packed to see and hear Charlotte Thompson’s rendition of Jane Eyre, in the drama of that name, supported by Wallack’s splendid theatrical combination. Never, in the theatrical history of Atchison, has such homage been paid a star as was bestowed upon Miss Thompson last evening. Many of the finer emotional parts of the drama were lost to the audience by the continued applause that met her better efforts, and when she assayed her strongest dramatic powers, the death like stillness that immediately proceeded the prolonged and enthusiastic applause told how acutely the audience were moved by her superb acting. It was a treat which our amusement lovers ever remember, and Mr. Wallack has the thanks of our Atchison people for his enterprise in bringing so brilliant a theatrical star to our city...Of Mr. James Wallack as a manager we cannot say too much. His companies have invariably been the best that have ever visited Atchison. It is a favorite scheme with many combination managers to bolster up a season’s business on the name of a popular star with a low salaried and inferior company to get the rag tail of the profession, which could be had for a song, fill in with anything, and come through the west, with what he calls a money making snap. It is such managers that bring the show business into bad repute. Mr. Wallack has never yet deceived our people. Only the strongest professional people are employed by him, and when his name heads a combination, it is sufficient guarantee that his people are actors and actresses. [27]

Advertisement published in the Daily Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Arkansas on Thursday, September 10, 1874.

In late 1879 and early 1880, however, while performing in the Midwest, the group began to fall apart, due most likely to financial troubles. [28] James and his company were disbanded by May 1880 and he took employment with Sells Brothers Circus as a “business manager.” [29] His stint with Sells Brothers was a short one for by March of 1881 he was working for Hilliard and Demott’s Great Pacific Circus and Menagerie as a “newspaper man.” [30] In this position it was likely that his duties included producing the advertisements for the circus and getting them into the appropriate newspapers as the company traveled.

But life was about to change for James H. Wallick. A playwright by the name of James J. McCloskey had written a play called the “Bandit King” about the exploits of Jesse and Frank James and in March of 1882 he sold the play to Wallick and a prominent, but unnamed, circus manager, likely Sheldon Hopkins Barrett, brother-in-law to the Sells brothers and manager of their No. 2 show that became known as Barrett’s Circus. [31] The New York Clipper reported:

J. J. McCluskey [sic.] has sold to Jas. H. Wallick and a prominent circus manager the entire rights of his sensational equestrian drama entitled “Jesse James, the Bandit King,” founded upon incidents in the lives of the noted James Brothers. The horses introduced in it will be, it is said, the best ever trained by George Bartholomew. There are fifteen strongly-drawn characters, and the scenery and mechanical effects will be new. It will receive its first representation in September next, and J. H. Wallick will be the general business manager. [32]

The timing of this purchase could not have been better. The James gang and their associates had been successfully terrorizing banks and trains for more than a decade and had become national icons. But about a month after the purchase of McCloskey’s play by Wallick, on the 3 April 1882, Jesse James was shot and killed by one of his own gang members, Robert Ford. [33] The nation was primed for the release of the play. Almost immediately Wallick tried to obtain the horses, garments, and firearms used by the outlaw. [34] He also inquired of the local press in Missouri for additional details on the life and character Jesse James. [35] In June, the press reported that Wallick had completed the purchase of two horses from the estate of Jesse James and that these horses would appear in the play. [36] The horses were shipped to New York in July where they were put into training under the direction of Barrett’s Circus (a subsidiary of Sells Brothers) equestrian trainer. [37]

James H. Wallick set about vigorously organizing a company of actors and preparing to debut the play. [38] However, while he and his circus partners were preparing to launch the play, other enterprising individuals also saw the possible financial advantage of cashing in on Jesse James and began to put on McCloskey’s play or something like it using a similar name. Wallick, supported by the playwright McCloskey took these as serious infractions of their ownership of the work and let it be known that such infractions would not be tolerated. [39]

By September the play was ready. Wallick kicked off the inaugural tour by linking up with the Ford brothers––one of whom it will be remembered killed Jesse James––for a showcase at Bunnell’s Broadway Museum in New York City from September 18th to the 23rd. [40] Although it does not appear that the play was performed at the museum during this week, part of the attraction for people to come to the museum was to see Jesse James’ horses, called in the museum advertisement Roan Raider and Light Bay (later renamed Bay Raider and Roan Charger). Even though questions were raised about the authenticity of the horses, Wallick had from the Ford brothers a signed affidavit stating that these were indeed the steeds that had belonged to Jesse James [41], and Wallick advertised them as such across the country. [42]

Jesse (25y) and Frank James (29y) taken in 1872 at Carolinda, Illinois. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library.
Jesse James in April 1882 after he was shot and killed by his own gang member, Bob Ford. Photo by R. Uhlman, St. Joseph, Mo. reproduced courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.
After the closure of this grand opening show at the museum, Wallick and his company embarked on a whirlwind tour of at least 37 cities throughout the Midwest over the last three months of 1882. During the one month stretch between November 13th and December 12th, they appeared in at least nineteen cities with no performance stop lasting longer than two days. Reviews of the play were generally negative, sometimes strongly negative. The Chicago Daily Tribune in a lengthy review called the play a “hot and highly-spiced dish,” but noted that the Olympic Theater was packed every night and police had to be called in to keep the “eager crowds” from breaking down the doors. [43] The review goes on to lament that the “managers will probably make a barrel of money with it, while first-class attractions are forced to the wall for want of public support.” In Milwaukee, the play again drew an overflowing audience, but the critics viewed it as “idiotic slush” attracting the “cattle-yard critics, who when they indulge in the slow and laborious pastime of reading, tackle flashy literature of the dime novel or “penny-dreadful’ order.” [44] In Des Moines, Iowa the play was labeled as immoral and “respectable people” were advised to refuse to patronize it and particularly to keep their youth from attending. [45] The play was also panned by the Cleveland Leader as being trash put on as “a succession of scenes from the life of the outlaw strung together in a bungling way, so utterly bad that they could not save it.” [46] Nonetheless, the theater in Cleveland was full, with only a few empty seats. The Cleveland Herald commenting on the production stated that, “It matters very little whether newspapers do all in their power to discourage the production of such plays as Jesse James, the Bandit King...there will always be found in every large city a certain element who gloat in plays of that description, people so imbued with hero-worship that they will not stop at anything, and even go so far as to applaud and approvingly shout at a stage reproduction of the dastardly deeds that Jesse James was noted for.” The review goes on to say that, “...the character of James is drawn in such a heroic light, train robbery and thieving is put in such a tempting form before the eyes and minds of the young, that we consider it dangerous.” [47]

Show cities for the “Bandit King” after it first opened in September of 1882. The tour cites have been reconstructed here from reports in newspapers found on several websites, including: Genealogy Bank, Newspapers.com, Chronicling America (Library of Congress), and Newspaper Archive. Some cities may have been missed in this search.
The play was banned from being performed in late November in Battle Creek, Michigan because of its perceived immoral character. [48] But on November 29th, it was performed anyway under the name of “Old Kentuck.” The Marshall Daily Chronicle reported that, “On the evening of the play, the manager (James Wallick) simply changed the name to “Old Kentuck” and altered the names of some of the characters. The mayor and a squad of 20 extra policemen sworn in for the special occasion were promptly on hand to squelch the immoral ‘Jesse James,’ but were powerless against ‘Old Kentuck.’ They therefore made the best of it, and the mayor found an excuse for sitting through the play.” [49]

St. Louis was one of the few places where the play received a favorable review. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that:

"The largest audience that has ever assembled in the People’s Theater was there last night to witness the opening representation of Jesse James, the Bandit King, a red-hot, blood-and-thunder drama from the pen of J. J. McCloskey, the author of Across the Continent and other extraordinary romantic plays. There were fully 2,400 persons in the house, which was crowded up and down stairs to the very last inch of standing room. The play was found to be all that the hearts of its patrons could desire. Nearly everybody in it, except the females and an inoffensive barkeeper, was a walking arsenal, and every act teemed with thrilling incidents beside which the works of recent English melodramatists...grow absolutely pale. There was the wildest enthusiasm from beginning to end of the performance, and the demonstration was perfectly justified by the situations, which were base upon the bloodiest and most daring events in the career of the James boys.” [50]

Advertisement from the Daily Gazette, Xenia, Ohio (Friday, 28 November 1884, p. 3).
The cast of the play in this inaugural season consisted of about thirteen male actors and three females, including both James H. Wallick, as Jesse James, and his wife Mary Wallick, in a minor role as a character named Sarah Jane. [51] In addition, there were approximately fifty others in supporting roles as highwaymen, railroad men, stage drivers, passengers, soldiers, and guards, as well as the two trained horses.

The success of the play, notwithstanding the negative reviews, attracted the attention of playwright Frank Lavarnie and his partner Sidney C. France. Lavarnie and France filed a lawsuit in November in the U.S. Circuit Court of Philadelphia asking that James H. Wallack, S. H. Barrett, and James J. McCloskey be restrained from continuing to produce Jesse James, the Bandit King because the play was plagiarized from their play entitled The James Boys, Jesse and Frank, the Missouri Outlaws. [52] However, the similarities between the two plays were not compelling enough for Judge Ludlow who heard the complaint; he dismissed the suit. [53]

The problem of negative reviews and perceptions of portraying immoral behavior as heroic continued to follow the traveling company into 1883. In March, after a performance in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the “Rev. Melville Smith, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church caused the arrest of James H. Wallick, W. H. Hamilton, F. H. Quick, and Hewitt Smith, members of the troupe, for corrupting the morals of the young by making vice attractive.” [54] Wallick was held over for Grand Jury trial and a performance that was scheduled for  March 22 in Lowell, Massachusetts, two days after the arrest of the actors, was apparently cancelled. But these disruptions did not substantially slow down performances of the play. By early April, the decision on the immorality of the play was still undecided in the Massachusetts courts [55], but the show was again on the road with performances in towns and cities across New York and Pennsylvania. [56]

Even though ticket sales were brisk and Wallick was making money on the play, he may have been concerned by these accusations of immorality. So in new advertisements that appeared in 1883, he and his partners began to claim that the play was good, wholesome, family entertainment. “A play you can take your family to without the least hesitation. Not an immoral sentiment or action,” proclaimed the new ads. This may have helped some, but on through the rest of 1883 and into 1884, the play was still not welcomed in a number of communities. For example, it was not allowed to play or was performed under protest in Madison, Wisconsin [57], Jacksonville, Illinois [58], Rockford, Illinois [59], Leavenworth, Kansas [60], Huntington, Indiana [61], Emporia, Kansas [62], Mansfield, Ohio, and undoubtedly other communities. The Mansfield, Ohio Herald on 27 March 1884 reported:

The equestrian drama of the Bandit King, in which J. H. Wallick personated the character of the murderer and cut-throat, Jesse James, was advertised to be produced at Miller’s Opera House on Thursday evening last. That the tendency of such performances, by familiarizing the youth of the city with scenes of bloodshed, robbery and other crimes, and by making heroes out of outlaw and desperadoes, was corrupting to their morals, was the feeling of a number of people, and that the city might be saved from the disgrace of an exhibition so injurious to the minds of the rising generation, the following remonstrance, as signed, was placed in the hands of the Mayor on the morning of that day:

March 20, 1884 -- To His Honor, Mayor Stough: SIR: The undersigned respectfully request you to exercise your authority as Mayor, by suppressing the intended exhibition of the Jesse James Co. to-night and by directing further that hereafter all minstrel shows composed of women performers shall not be permitted at Mansfield. We ask you to do this, not because we object to any reasonable or proper form of amusement, but to prevent indecent and demoralizing exhibitions. We want to protect the young, and the old for that matter, from all shows, exhibitions or performances which are vicious or which present crime in a romantic and attractive form.

    James Reynolds           Charles Herr           George Brinkerhoff
    L.A. Armentrout           F.J. Kalmerten         John W. Jenner
    F.E. Tracy                     Simon Grove           H.M. Weaver
    Geo. W. Blymyer           Willis M. Sturges    A.D. Knapp
    Geo. F. Carpenter         A. Kallmerten         Jos. S. Hedges
    Benj. Blair                    N.N. Leyman           R.R. Maxwell
    Hiram R. Smith             J.E. Brown             S.A. Bronson
    F.M. Iams                      R. Lean                  P. Bigelow
    Martin Hammond         W.P. Clarke            F.A. Gilbert
    Ben Hurxthal                Jacob Steinrock      Chas. M. Lain
    James White                 Albert Berno           A.J. Gilbert
    A. Anderson                 J.M. Waugh             Geo. Knofflock
    Chas. F. Harding         S.A. George             B.L. Bevington
    J.A. Anderson              A. Scattergood        Henry Schiret
    Hobart Scattergood     A.P. Seiler              M.D. Harter

Later in the day one of the most prominent petitioners sought a personal interview with the Mayor and put the question direct to him: “Do you mean to stop the performance?” The Mayor said he thought he would, but intimated at the same time that he did not wish to involve the city in any litigation that might result unless the petitioners backed up their remonstrance with a bond. This, signed by a dozen or more wealthy citizens, was forthcoming, and the gentleman left the presence of His Honor with the assurance that the play should not be allowed.

Acting under the instructions of his superior, Marshall Weil in the afternoon called upon M.L. Miller, lessee of the Opera House, and notified him verbally that should they attempt to produce the drama, he would be compelled to exercise his authority. Mr. Miller referred the Marshall to Mr. Wallick, who demanded “the papers” usual in such cases. These could not be produced, and the Marshal, having obeyed the orders of His Honor, retired.

The Mayor, in his endeavors to retain the good will of Mr. Harter (the long list of other petitioners was ignored), then hunted up and asked the advice of two or three different lawyers as to the most effective way to bring about the desired result. He was told to examine the statutes covering the case in point, and that the best plan to pursue would be to serve an injunction on the manager of the show. Near the hour for ringing up the curtain, the Mayor ran across Mr. John A. Connolly, the City Solicitor -- “my legal adviser”, as referred to by the Mayor when found in consultation with that gentleman in an uptown grocery by a HERALD reporter -- and the two proceeded to the Solicitor’s office to hunt up authorities and to get out the necessary warrants. The reporter went directly to the Opera House to await developments and tarried until the performance was well under way, but no officer armed with power to hustle Jesse James and troupe headlong down the stairway appeared, and the play proceeded to the end undisturbed.

The Mayor, after passing the greater part of the day at some saloons, finally wandered into the Opera House -- to judge for himself of the immorality of the play -- and was a deeply interested spectator of the blood and thunder scenes there depicted.

Notwithstanding the success of the play, these calls of immorality and the uproar it created, seemed to have some effect. In 1885, James H. Wallick changed the main character’s name from Jesse James to Joe Howard and dropped Jesse James from the title so that it became simply The Bandit King. [63]

Advertisement (highlights added) that includes claims of clean, family oriented drama for the Bandit King. Clipping is from the Decatur, Illinois Daily Review (Wednesday, 24 October 1883, p. 1).
Continued in PART 3

26. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combination_company.
27. The Atchison Daily Champion, Atchison, Kansas, Friday, 15 February 1878, p. 4.
28. The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, Saturday, 13 December 1879, p. 6; The Chicago Daily Tribune, Sunday, 14 December 1879; The Chicago Daily Tribune, Thursday, 25 December 1879, p. 8; New York Dramatic Mirror, Saturday, 17 January 1880, p. 3; The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, Saturday, 24 April 1880, p. 6.
29. New York Dramatic Mirror, Saturday, 8 May 1880, p. 4; Daily Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Arkansas, Saturday, 28 August 1880, p. 8.
30. Galveston Daily News, Galveston, Texas, Sunday, 27 March 1881.
31. William L. Slout, Olympians of the Sawdust Circle: A Biographical Dictionary of the Nineteenth Century American Circus: The Borgo Press, San Bernardino, California, 1998, p. 19. S. H. Barrett and his circus appear in several advertisements and news articles about James H. Wallick in 1882 and 1884. He is undoubtedly the unnamed partner mentioned in the New York Clipper article.
32. The New York Clipper, New York City, Saturday, 4 March 1882, p. 829.
33. The Saint Paul Globe, Saint Paul, Minnesota, Tuesday, 4 April 1882, p. 1.
34. Fort Wayne Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Saturday, 8 April 1882.
35. The Atchison Globe, Atchison, Kansas, Monday, 10 April 1882.
36. The Bloomington Daily Leader, Bloomington, Indiana, Saturday, 24 June 1882.
37. Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, Ohio, Saturday, 15 July 1882, p. 6.
38. The Topeka Daily Capital, Topeka, Kansas, Tuesday, 18 April 1882, p. 3; St Louis Globe-Democrat, Saint Louis, Missouri, Sunday, 9 April 1882, p. 9; The Atchison Globe, Atchison, Kansas, Monday, 10 April 1882, p. 3.
39. The Times Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday, 9 July 1882, p. 10.
40. New York Herald, New York City, Wednesday, 20 September 1882, p. 3.
41. New York Herald, New York City, Wednesday, 20 September 1882, p. 3; Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Missouri, Wednesday, 9 March 1892, p. 4.
42. Daily Republican-Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 10 October, 1882, p. 4; Globe-Democrat, Saint Louis, Missouri, 6 November 1882, p. 3; Bloomington Daily Leader, Bloomington, Indiana, Saturday, 24 June 1882.
43. Chicago Daily Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, Sunday, 8 October 1882, p. 20.
44. The Daily Republican-Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tuesday, 10 October 1882, p. 4.
45. The Daily Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Friday, 27 October 1882, p. 8.
46. The Cleveland Leader, Cleveland, Ohio, Tuesday, 19 December 1882, p. 7.
47. The Cleveland Herald, Cleveland, Ohio, Tuesday, 19 December 1882.
48. Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Michigan, Thursday, 23 November 1882, p. 4 and Thursday, 30 November 1882, p. 4.
49. Marshall Daily Chronicle, Marshall, Michigan, Friday, 1 December 1882.
50. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, St. Louis, Missouri, Monday, 6 November 1882, p. 3.
51. The Cincinnati Inquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday, 31 December 1882, p. 13.
52. The Times Philadelphia Sun, Sunday, 12 November 1882, p. 6.
53. The North American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wednesday, 15 November 1882.
54. National Republican, Washington, D.C., Monday, 26 March 1883, p. 1.
55. The Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, Sunday, 8 April 1883, p. 1.
56. See for example, The Olean Democrat, Olean, New York, Tuesday, 17 April 1883, p. 1, and The Daily City News, New Castle, Pennsylvania, Friday, 3 April 1883, p. 1. The play also performed in April in a number of other cites including Jamestown, NY, Port Jervis, NY, and Titusville, PA.
57. The Evening Gazette, Pittston, Pennsylvania, Friday, 9 October 1883, p. 1.
58. The Daily Republican, Decatur, Illinois, Wednesday, 31 October 1883, p. 3.
59. The Rockford Register, Rockford, Illinois, Monday, 15 October 1883.
60. The Holton Recorder, Holton, Kansas, Thursday, 22 November 1883, p. 2.
61. The Indiana Herald, Huntington, Indiana, Wednesday, 21 November 1883, p. 1. 
62. The Iola Register, Iola, Kansas, Friday, 23 November 1883, p. 9.
63. The Boston Herald, Boston, Massachusetts, Sunday, 12 April 1885, p. 14.

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