Copyright
Alfred Henry Nolle.

The German drama on the St. Louis stage online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryAlfred Henry NolleThe German drama on the St. Louis stage → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA



THE GERMAN DRAMA ON THE
ST. LOUIS STAGE



BY



ALFRED HENRY NOLLE



A THESIS

PRESENTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL IN

PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR

THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY



(Smtumint

NUMBER 32






PUBLICATIONS OF THE

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
1917



EXCHANGE







PUBLICATIONS

OF THE

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA



AMERICANA GERMANICA

MONOGRAPHS DEVOTED TO THE COMPARATIVE
STUDY OF THE

Literary, Linguistic and Other Cultural Relations



OF



Germany and America

EDITOR

MARION DEXTER LEARNED

University of Pennsylvania
(See List at the End of the Book}



UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA



THE GERMAN DRAMA ON THE
ST. LOUIS STAGE



BY
ALFRED HENRY NOLLE



A THESIS

PRESENTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL IN

PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR

THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY



Ammratra (fermattini

NUMBER 32



PUBLICATIONS OF THE

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
1917



COPYRIGHT 1917

BY
ALFRED HENRY NOLLE



The author wishes to acknowledge with gratitude his in
debtedness to Professor M. D. Learned, of the University of
Pennsylvania, for the encouragement and valuable assistance ren
dered by him in the preparation of this work, and to Dr. E. M.
Fogel, of the University of Pennsylvania, for aid in reading the
proof. He further wishes to express his gratitude for the cour
teous treatment extended by the St. Louis Public Library, the
library of the State Historical Society of Missouri, and the
library of the Missouri Historical Society, in giving free use of
source material found in their respective archives.

Alfred H. Nolle.
Columbia, Missouri, July 7, 1917.



381615



THE GERMAN DRAMA ON THE ST. LOUIS

STAGE.



PREFACE.

This account of the German drama on the St. Louis stage
is intended to form a contribution to the history of Americana
Germanica. It is based essentially on material gathered at first
hand from the files of the German newspapers published in St.
Louis contemporaneous with the stage in the various phases of
its existence. For the period 1835-1898 the Anzeiger des IV e-
stens was used as the primary source; from 1890-1914, the Wcst-
liche Post and its Sunday edition, the Mississippi Blatter. These
were supplemented by other contemporaneous German and
English papers of St. Louis and in several instances by the
Deutsche Pionier of Cincinnati and the New Yorker Staats-
Zeitung. The files of the newspapers are in most instances com
plete. They present gaps from October 21, 1838, to October 29,
1841 ; October n, 1843, to October 18, 1844; October 23, 1848,
to October 20, 1849; October 20, 1851, to April 19, 1852; Octo
ber 20, 1852, to April 1 8, 1853; April 21 to October 19, 1860;
October 20, 1861, to April 22, 1862; October 21, 1862, to July
20, 1863, and in several isolated instances individual issues are
missing. The narrative history of the stage for the periods repre
sented in these gaps has been gleaned from other sources, but
statistical material as to the repertories for the period cannot be
collected. If records for the period represented by the several
gaps are extant, diligent search has failed to locate them. They
are not to be found in the several libraries in and about St. Louis,
including the library of the State Historical Society of Missouri
in Columbia, Missouri, and the excellent German library in Belle
ville, Illinois, nor in the Library of Congress.

Heinrich Bornstein in his memoirs l treats in some detail the
period of his activity on the St. Louis stage and to a certain

1 Funfundsiebsig Jahre in dcr alien und neucn Welt, Memoiren eines Un-
bedeutenden. Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1881.

" St. Louis in friihcrcn Jahrcn. Ein Gcdcnkbuch fur das Deutschtum,
St. Louis : A. Wiebusch und Sohn Printing Company, 1893.



8 German Drama on the St. Louis Stage

extent the period preceding his activity. E. D. Kargau in his
St. Louis in friiheren Jahren 2 devotes fifteen pages to a sketch
of the German stage prior to 1893. At the time of the opening
of the Germania Theater the souvenir programs for the initial
performance contained a brief account of the stage, which was
substantially reprinted in the St. Louis Tribune for September i,
1892. The Anzciger des Wcstens for July 12, 1897, reprinted
that part of an address on "Die deutsche Biihne in Amerika,"
which dealt with the St. Louis stage, made by Ferdinand Welb
before the "Deutsch-Amerikanischer Lehrerbund" convened in
Milwaukee. This account, as Welb professed, is taken almost
verbally from Bornstein s Memoirs. Subsequently the Missis
sippi Blatter for July 2, 1899, and March 14, 1909, printed his
torical sketches of the German stage in St. Louis. These, the last
of which was compiled by Welb, are based upon Bornstein s
Memoirs and Kargau s account, supplemented by a brief account
of the occurrences postdating the appearance of Kargau s book.
They are popular articles full of inaccuracies. They give no idea
as to what was actually performed on the stage. The New Yorker
Staats-Zeitung for October 5 and 12, 1902, contains an account
of "Die deutsche Biihne im Western," by Carl Pletz, which takes
into account the St. Louis stage, but, necessarily, considering the
wide field the article covers, in very brief compass. Of these
several accounts of the stage only one, the Memoirs of Bornstein,
was a real help; the others were suggestive and helpful in out
lining the history of the stage, but, due to their inaccurate or
sketchy nature, had to be used with caution.

All values are in the last analysis relative values. To gain a
conception of the literary value of the St. Louis stage during
the various phases of its existence, its history has, therefore, been
divided into five periods. On the basis of these a statistical
survey of the literary complexion of the several stages has been
made. The statistical material on which such estimates are based
is added in the Appendix. The division of the history of the
stage as a basis for establishing comparative values is not, how
ever, an arbitrary division. The divisions represent natural and
logical periods in its development.



German Drama on the St. Louis Stage 9

I. 1842-1859.

THE BEGINNINGS.

The first German theatre in St. Louis dates from the year
1842. In the summer of 1842 Rudolf Riese, an actor of ability,
originally from Berlin, in the course of a variegated existence,
became stranded in St. Louis. A number of young Germans, on
becoming acquainted with the man and his plight, sympathized
with him in his embarrassment. Money these for the most part
poor clerks and business apprentices did not have to offer the
stranded actor. But out of a desire to aid him they encouraged
him to arrange a series of theatrical performances for his benefit.
To this end they offered their assistance as dilettantes. The
result was the first performance of a German drama in St. Louis. :{
For a record of this first performance we are indebted to the
facile pen of Heinrich Bernstein.

"Die jungen Leute gingen zu einem deutschen Wirte,
dessen Gasthaus an der dritten Strasse zwischen Pine und
Olive den Schild : Zum Bremer Schliissel trug, und mie-
teten dessen oberes Lokal, einen langen Saal, der als Speise-
zimmer bei Hochzeiten oder anderen festlichen Gelegen-
heiten benutzt wurde; aus Zimmermannsbocken und Bret-
tern wurde eine Noth-Buhne improvosirt, und so weit diese
reichte, wurden die weissgetimchten Wande des Saales von
einem Zimmermaler zu einem Walde umgepinselt fiir die
Scenen, die im Zimmer spielten, wurden billige Tapeten zu
Coulissen und einer Hinterwand zusammengeklebt und der
Vorhang bestand aus zwei zusammengenahten Bettdecken;
ein paar Holzstiihle und ein Tisch bildeten das Ameuble-
ment der Zimmer-Dekoration. Mit diesen Dekorationen



3 Historically authenticated interest in the German drama on the St. Louis
stage dates from the year 1838. "Am 21, September 38 trat der erste
Schauspieler in St. Louis, Icks (vom Konigsstadter-Theater in Berlin), auf
und declamirte wiihrend der Zwischenacte den Monolog aus Wallenstein s
Tod. Da noch kein deutsches Theater existirte, so fand dieses Ereigniss auf
den Brettern des alten St. Louis Theaters (amerikanisch) statt und scheint
von Erfolg gekront gewesen zu sein ; wenigstens trat der Kunstler noch an
verschiedenen Abenden auf." Der deutsche Pionier (Cincinnati, 1871), III.
275. The innovation had, however, no immediate consequences in introducing
German drama permanently on the St. Louis stage.



io German Drama on the St. Louis Stage

wurden als erste Vorstellung Schiller s Riiuber aufgefiihrt;
den Thurm, in welchem der alte Moor gefangen sitzt,
hatte der kunstsinnige Zimmermaler so tauschend herge-
stellt, dass er aussah wie ein riesiger Gugelhupf ; da kein
Lehnstuhl fiir den alten Moor aufzutreiben war, so wurde
eine alte Waarenkiste genommen und eine Wand derselben
bis zur Sitzhohle. herausgesagt, die dadurch gewonnenen
Brettchen dann als Sitz auf Leisten genagelt, das ganze mit
einem Bettuche iiberzogen und der Lehnstuhl des alten
Grafen war fertig. Hatte sich nun irgend ein Muthwilliger
den Spass gemacht, oder was es Zufall, genug, ein Zipfel des
Bettuches hatte sich in den Strick des Verhangs verschlun-
gen, die Vorstellung ging los, die vier Mann im Orches-
ter hatten eine Ouverture herungtergestrichen, der Souffleur
gab das Glockenzeichen und der Vorhang rollte in die Hohe.
Aber mit ihm ging ztigleich das Bettuch hinauf, der Lehn
stuhl, in dem der alte Moor sass, wurde dadurch riicklings
umgeworfen und ein heilloses Gelachter begriisste diesen
tragi-komischen An fang. Der Vorhang musste unter stiir-
mischer Heiterkeit wieder heruntergelassen werden und erst
als.Alles auf der Biihne wieder in Ordnung war, nahm die
Vorstellung ihren Verlauf; da keine Schauspielerin auf
zutreiben gewesen war, so wurde die Amalie ganz heraus-
gestricken; es wurde nur von ihr gesprochen, aber sehen
bekam man sie nicht. Die Rauber-Statisten, lauter junge
Volontars, waren viel zahlreicher als die Darsteller, sie hatten
alle ihre Revolver und Jagdgewehre mitgebracht und bei der
Rauberscene im dritten Akt wurde so furchtbar drin geschos-
sen, dass der ganze Saal dick mit Pulverdampf angefiillt war
und ein undnrchdringlicher Nebel herrschte, durch welchen
die Talg-Lichter der Beleuchtung wie rothe Pimktchen
schimmerten. Den fiinften Akt wollte aber Riese nicht
spielen, wenn er nicht eine Amalie, wenigstens zum Tod-
stechen, habe ; endlich musste die Kochin des Wirths ein
weisses Kleid anziehen, sich die Haare auflosen und in den
dichten Pulvernebel auf Riese zustiirzen, worauf dieser mit
den betreffenden Worten seiner Rolle sie erstach und als die
arme Kochin nicht gleich umfiel, sie mit der Faust nieder-
schlug. Von den letzten Akten hatte man des Rauchs wegen
fast nichts mehr gesehen und anch, da das ganze Publikum
fiirchterlich hustete, wenig gehort ; am Schlusse jedoch
wurden alle Mitwirkenden mehreremale stiirmisch gerufen,



German Drama on the St. Louis Stage 1 1

worauf die ganze Einnahme unten in der Wirthsstube ver-
kneipt wurde. Die Zeitungen jener Zeit haben uns die
Namen jener Manner aufbewahrt, die damals die erste
deutsche Theatervorstellung in St. Louis ermoglichten,
den Karl Moor spielte Riese; den Franz John D. Hill, ein
bekannter Holzhandler ; den alten Moor Heinrich Fischer ;
Hippo Krug, spater einer der popularsten Wirthe der Stadt,
spielte den Schweizer und den Hermann dazu ; Georg
Bressler von Belleville den Schufterle und Block, von der
spateren sehr geachteten Firma Block und Evers den Spie-
gelberg. Die Vorstellung, die im vollsten Sinne des Wortes
Sensation machte, musste nicht nur in St. Louis wiederholt
werden, sondern der Ruf derselben war auch nach dem
benachbarten Belleville gedrungen und Riese wurde einge-
laden, mit seiner Gesellschaft hiniiber zu kommen und die
Rauber aufzufiihren. So wurden denn die Rauber mit
derselben Besetztmg auch in Belleville aufgefiihrt, und da
kein Orchester aufzutreiben war, so zog Hippo Krug, wenn
er auf der Buhne seinen Schweizer und Hermann verar-
beitet hatte, einen Domino uber sein Costume, lief ins Pub-
likum, wo vor der Buhne ein Klavier stand, und spielte
darauf die Zwischenakts-Musik, wobei ein Herr Ochs mit
Es-Clarinette und ein Herr Daun mit der Violine ihn accom-
pagnirten. Nach der Vorstellung wurde wieder die Nacht
hindurch die Einnahme verkneipt und als es Tag wurde,
hatte keiner der Darsteller auch nur einen Heller, um nach
St. Louis zuriickfahren zu konnen ; da erbarmte sich ihrer
der Bierbrauer Gottfried Busch, Hess seinen grossen Bier-
wagen anspannen, lud die ganze Gesellschaft hinauf und
fiihrte sie unentgeltlich nach St. Louis zurikk." 4

Encouraged by the success of his venture, Riese, who, in the
newspaper advertisements announcing his performances, styled
himself "friiherer Direktor der deutschen Oper zu Philadelphia
und Direktor des deutschen Theaters in New Orleans," announced
a series of performances under his directorship in "Rankens
Lokal," at irregular intervals dating from July 2 to October 29,
1842. The exact date of the memorable Rauber performance is
not recorded. The programs of these half dozen performances,



4 Memoir en II, 240 ff.



12 German Drama on the St. Louis Stage

including the initial R duber performance, were made up of the
following plays: Die Raubcr und Dcr Eckensteher Nante im
Verhor each three times, Die Braut and Die Himmelfahrt ernes
Saufers twice each, and Der Nachtwdchter and Die Seelenwan-
dentng once each. These plays were announced anonymously.
Usually two or three of the shorter plays were given at one per
formance, as was regularly the custom followed in the numerous
Volkstheater, which made their appearance a decade and a half
later, and in the Liebhabertheater, which occupied the intervening
period.

The theatre established by Riese r> was short-lived. It could
lay little claim to artistic or dramaturgical excellency. But it
deserves recognition because it was epoch-making in the cultural
history of the German element of St. Louis. From it may be
traced the history of the institution, which, thru the vicissitudes
of more than seven decades, has without serious interruption, but
with varying degrees of fortune continued to the present day to
fulfill a cultural mission.

The period in the history of the German stage in St. Louis
beginning with Riese s venture in 1842 till the establishment of
the St. Louis Opernhaus, the first permanent theatre, in 1859,
constitutes the period of the beginnings. Attempts to establish
a German theatre on a professional basis during the period proved
ineffectual and short-lived. German theatricals during the greater
part of this period rested in the hands of amateur or semi-profes
sional organizations, in which one or several professional actors
usually formed the nucleus, around which 1 a group of dilettantes
concentrated their efforts. The number of dilettantes who in the
midst of their work-a-day activities could find leisure to study
roles and take part in theatricals was not a large one, yet among
the young men of that day there was a -sufficient number of ade
quate talent to meet the requirements of a Liebhabertheater, who



5 Ricsc imposed upon his St. Louis friends to such an extent that they
were glad to rid themselves of him. They collected money with which to
send him to Philadelphia where he was engaged as haritone in an Italian
opera company. Under the name of Hcnedetti he sang in Italian opera for
several years in Xew York, Philadelphia, P.oston, and other cities, until he
lost his voice. He died in 18^9 in the Poor House on Blackwells Island, New
York.



German Drama on the St. Louis Stage 13

showed willingness to take part. In consequence it was always
possible for a professional actor or director coining to the city
to find ample support to enable him to engage in his profession.

Of the Liebhabertheater to follow in the wake of Riese s
venture the first to be organized was opened September 16, 1843,
under the directorate of Christian and Louise Thielemann.
Thielemann and his wife were both experienced actors. Mme.
Thielemann (Louise Ehlers), prior to her marriage, had been
engaged at the royal theatre in Kassel. Both had played in New
York and New Orleans. They subsequently became theatre di
rectors in Chicago. The principal amateurs cooperating with
them were Christian Kribben, a well-known lawyer; his brother
Wilhelm, a Mississippi River pilot; Benkendorf, a journalist;
Herman Aschenbach, Julius Buchel, A. U. Ross (Post-Ross),
Henry Lischer, Wilhelm Mackwitz, Hippo Krug, and Georg
Reichard and wife. The Thielemanns .played with this organiza
tion for three successive winter seasons, with occasional perform
ances in the summer of 1845. The directorship of the society,
with the second season, however, passed into the hands of John
D. Hill, a dilettante who had played under Riese. The season
1845-1846 closed May n. A season of post-season perform
ances followed, for charitable purposes, at irregular intervals,
ending December 12, 1846. Performances during the three
years of the existence of this Liebhabertheater had been bi
weekly. During the first season of its existence performances
were held "im Salon der Hrn. Angelbeck und Linkemeier," at
Third and Walnut Streets; during the last two seasons in the
Vaudeville Theatre at 24 North Main Street. The price of ad
mission was fifty cents for single performances, one dollar and
fifty cents for six performances by subscription.

Following the last of these performances there was a lull
in German theatricals for more than a year, until this same group
of amateurs reorganized December 7, 1847, under the presidency
of Adolph Abels, into the Thalia Gesellschaft The purpose of
the new society was not only to institute amateur theatrical per-
formances, but also to arrange balls and other social gatherings
for the benefit of its members and friends. Its theatrical per-



14 German Drama on the St. Louis Stage

formances differed from those of the Liebhabertheater which
had preceded it in that only amateurs were to take part and that
only members of the society and their friends were to be ad
mitted to the performances, tho exception was made to the latter
rule on evenings especially set aside for the entertainment of the
public. The Kribben brothers continued to be the spirit and soul
of the new organization. It opened its first season January 5,
1848, in a building at the corner of Main and Pine Streets. Per
formances were usually given weekly on Wednesday evenings.
The price of admission for non-members varied between twenty-
five and fifty cents.

With the second year of its existence the Thalia Gesellschaft
was reorganized as the St. Louis Sangerbund. With the reorgan
ization of the society debates and declamatory exercises became
its chief activity, to the exclusion of German theatricals, for sev
eral years to follow.

In the spring of 1851 Xaver Strasser, accompanied by his
wife, two daughters and stepson, all actors by profession, came
to St. Louis. Supported by local amateurs, among whom Adal
bert Lohr especially distinguished himself, Strasser on the 7th
of April opened a Liebhabertheater in the "Tontine," on Second
Street near Elm. After several performances there he built and
moved into a summer theatre in what was then Arsenal Park.
Strasser proved a failure as a director. His theatre in the "Ton
tine" had promised well. But his summer theatre "eine grosse
dunkle, nur mit wenigen Luftlochern versehene Bretterbude"-
proved a fiasco from the start. It came to an abrupt close August
24, whereupon the Strasser family at once left the city.

Strasser s ill-fated attempt as director was followed by
another lull which lasted until the dramatic talent of the St. Louis
Sangerbund again became active. From February till May, 1852,
the Sangerbund gave biweekly performances in the old Wash
ington Hall. From December, 1852, till the spring of 1853 it
performed occasionally in the Varieties Theatre, in the People s
Theatre and in the Bates Theatre.

In 1850 there was called to editorial leadership of the
Anzcigcr dcs West ens a man who more than any other one man



German Drama on the St. Louis Stage 15

of his day was instrumental in the cultural and educational uplift
of the German clement of St. Louis. "Bildung ist Macht" was
his watchword. He was instrumental in organizing the Freie-
Manner-Verein which established German schools for boys, and
evening and Sunday classes for grown people. In connection
with Franz Schmidt he established a school for girls. He lectured
extensively on a variety of topics and even taught, for a time, in
the girls school he had helped to establish. Thru the fcuilleton
columns of the Anzeiger, of which he became sole proprietor
in May, 1851, and thru his aggressive and somewhat sensational
policy made the most widely circulating German newspaper in
the West, especially in the Sunday edition, the Westlichc Blatter,
and thru the publication in book form of a library of German
belles lettres he disseminated much wholesome literature among
his fellow-countrymen. This man, Dr. Heinrich Bornstein, 6 had
come to America with a varied and rich experience, not only as
a journalist, but more especially as an actor and impressario and
playwright. In the course of his long and busy life of four score
and seven years his varied career launched him into diverse fields
of activity, but the lure of the stage constantly attracted him in
one capacity or the other. His old friend and journalistic col
league, Emil Klauprecht, writing his necrolog from Vienna, says
of him, "Wer Bornstein s Charakter, seine Naturanlagen, geistige
Eigenschaften und Temperament mit einem Wort bezeichnen
soil, wird ihn ein Theaterkind in der vollsten Bedeutung des

* Bornstein, whose father, prior to his marriage, had been a successful
actor, was born in Hamburg, November 4, 1805. At the age of ten he was
taken to Lemberg, in Austrian Poland. After having studied for a year at
the University of Lemberg he, in 1821, entered the Austrian army, in which
he served for five years. In 1826 he studied medicine in Vienna, and at the
same time did editorial work for Carl Eduard Reinold. From 1826-1827
he worked for Bauerle on the Theaterzeitung." From 1827-1828 he was
secretary of the combined Josephstadt Theater and the Theater an der Wien,
under Carl. For several years following he served as stage manager in sev
eral of the leading cities of Germany and Italy. In 1841, with his wife,
whom he married in 1829, he performed with success in star engagements in
the leading German cities. The following year he went to Paris, where he
became manager first of the German Opera, later of the Italian Opera. Dur
ing the revolutionary days of 1848 he was engaged in journalistic and literary
pursuits in Paris. With the return of Bonaparte to power as dictator, Born
stein, the enthusiastic advocate of political freedom, early in 1849 emigrated
to America. A.fter a short stay in Highlands, Illinois, where he did efficient
service as physician during an epidemic of cholera, he accepted the editorship
of the Anzeiger des West ens, March 8, 1850.



1 6 German Drama on the St. Louis Stage

Wortes nennen. Bis zum Ende 1st er ein solches geblieben, es lag
in seinem Blutc, seiner Erziehung und den Umgcbungen seiner
Jugend." 7 Bornstein believed in the stage as a great cultural
and educational and moral force. He writes in his Memoircn,
"Die beste Schule der Erwachsenen, die wahre Bildung fur das
Volk, bietet inimer die Schaubuhne und Wahrheiten, die in
Biichern nur zur Kenntniss von Wenigen gelangen, dringen von
dem Podium dcs Theaters aus, schnell und tiei in die Massen
und fassen feste Wnrzcln. Die beste Schule des Volkes ist und
bleibt eine gute Biihne und die Auffiihrung von Lessings Nathan
der Weise/ von Schillers Don Carlos, von Goethes Faust und
Eginont verbreitet nichr genialle Ideen und hebt und veredelt
die Massen mehr als alle Biicher- und Kathedcr- \Veisheit und
alle Kanzelberedsamkeit." He had early entertained the desire
of giving to St. Louis a German stage that should take rank with
the best in Germany, but wisely realized the necessity of making
a small beginning and gradually working up to the desired goal.
"Es war mein heissester Wunsch, in St. Louis ein deutsches Thea
ter zu griinden, aber die . . . Schwierigkeiten, besonders der
Mangel an guten deutschen Schauspielern stclltcn meinen
Wiinschen uniibersteigliche Hindernisse entgegen; ja es mussten
noch viele Jahre vergehen, ehe ich an die Realisirung eines wirk-


1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryAlfred Henry NolleThe German drama on the St. Louis stage → online text (page 1 of 8)