The Info List - Benjamin Franklin Keith

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Benjamin Franklin Keith
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][2]


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

Biography[edit] Early years[edit] 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
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.[3] Moving pictures[edit] 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 with Biograph Studios
Biograph Studios
in 1896 which lasted until July 1905 when they switched to Edison Studios
Edison Studios
as their supplier of motion pictures. Keith and Albee merged their theatre circuit with Frederick Freeman Proctor in June 1906. Death[edit] 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.[4] Keith died at the Breakers Hotel
Breakers Hotel
in Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida
in 1914.[1] After his son, Andrew Keith, died in 1918, control of the company went to Albee. Legacy[edit] In 1928, the B. F. Keith Circuit
B. F. Keith Circuit
merged with the Orpheum Circuit
Orpheum Circuit
to form the 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.[5] Timeline[edit]

1846 Birth in Hillsboro Bridge, New Hampshire
New Hampshire
on January 26 1883 Partnered with Colonel William Austin in Boston 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.
Orpheum Circuit, Inc.
on January 28


^ a b "B.F. Keith Dies at Palm Beach". 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. 

Further reading[edit]

Strausbaugh, John (2006). Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture. Penguin. ISBN 1-58542-498-6. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to B.F. Keith.

Benjamin Franklin Keith
Benjamin Franklin Keith

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 68507171 LCCN: no94025