BENJAMIN FRANKLIN KEITH (January 26, 1846 – March 26, 1914) was an
American vaudeville theater owner, highly influential in the evolution
of variety theater into vaudeville.
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early years
* 1.2 Moving pictures
* 1.3 Death
* 2 Legacy
* 3 Timeline
* 4 References
* 5 Further reading
* 6 External links
Keith was born in Hillsboro Bridge ,
New Hampshire . He joined the
circus after attending Van Amburg's Circus and then worked at
Bunnell's Museum in New York City in the early 1860s. He later joined
P.T. Barnum and then joined the Forepaugh Circus, before he opened a
curio museum in
Boston , in 1883, with Colonel William Austin . In
1885 he joined
Edward Franklin Albee II , who was selling circus
tickets and operating the
Boston Bijou Theatre . Their opening show
was on July 6, 1885. The theatre was one of the early adopters of the
continuous variety show which ran from 10:00 in the morning until
11:00 at night, every day. Previously, shows ran at fixed intervals
with several hours of downtime between shows. With the continuous
show, you could enter the theatre at any time, and stay until you
reached the point in the show where you arrived.
Albee and Keith opened the Union Square Theatre in New York City, and
it was the site of the first American exhibition of the Lumière
Cinématographe. They had obtained the exclusive American rights to
the Lumière apparatus and their film output, and the first showing
was on June 29, 1896. They then opened theatres in
Philadelphia , and
Boston , and then smaller theatres in the East and Midwest of the
United States, buying out rival smaller chains. They signed a contract
Biograph Studios in 1896 which lasted until July 1905 when they
Edison Studios as their supplier of motion pictures .
Keith and Albee merged their theatre circuit with Frederick Freeman
Proctor in June 1906.
Keith withdrew from business in 1909 and married for a second time on
October 29, 1913, to Ethel Bird Chase (1887-1971). She was 26 years
old and Keith was 67. Her father was P. B. Chase .
Keith died at the
Breakers Hotel in
Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida in 1914.
After his son, Andrew Keith, died in 1918, control of the company went
In 1928, the
B. F. Keith Circuit merged with the
Orpheum Circuit to
Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO) corporation in Marysville,
Washington . In a few months, this organization became the major
motion picture studio
Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO). Also in 1928 the B.F.
Keith Memorial Theatre opened in Boston.
* 1846 Birth in Hillsboro Bridge,
New Hampshire on January 26
* 1883 Partnered with Colonel William Austin in
* 1885 Partnered with
Edward Franklin Albee II
* 1894 Opens Keith\'s Theatre in Boston
* 1896 Opens Union Square Theatre in New York City
* 1906 Partnered with
Frederick Freeman Proctor
* 1909 Retires
* 1913 Marriage to Ethel Bird Chase (1887-1971)
* 1914 Death in
Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida on March 26
* 1918 Death of his son Andrew Keith (c1870-1918)
* 1928 His company merges with
Orpheum Circuit, Inc. on January 28
* ^ A B "B.F. Keith Dies at Palm Beach".
The New York Times
The New York Times . March
26, 1914. Retrieved 2008-04-05. (Subscription required (help)). Palm
Beach, Florida , March 26, 1914.
Vaudeville Manager Stricken on 25th
Anniversary of Opening of His
Boston Theatre. On the twenty-fifth
anniversary of the opening of his
Boston house, which was being
celebrated today in that city, B.F. Keith, owner of the theatre
circuit bearing his name, dropped dead at midnight tonight in the
Breakers Hotel, where he was stopping with his wife and Paul Keith,
his son. ...
* ^ Strausbaugh 2006 , p. 127
* ^ "
Vaudeville to Pay Honors to Keith". The New York Times.
November 30, 1913.
* ^ "B.F. Keith Weds On Yacht.
Vaudeville Manager, 67, Marries Miss
Chase, 26. Bride\'s Brother Weds.". The New York Times. October 30,
1913. Retrieved 2015-01-25. (Subscription required (help)). Benjamin
F. Keith of New York, owner of Keith's vaudeville circuit, and Miss
Ethel Bird Chase of this city were married at 6 o'clock this evening
on Mr. Keith's yacht Nahmeyoka, anchored in the Potomac River. The
bride is 26 years old and the bridegroom 67. ...
* ^ "History".
Boston Opera House. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
* Strausbaugh, John (2006). Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface,
Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture. Penguin . ISBN