Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 194 – Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, first half of third part

Part 194: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, first half of third part

The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 4, April 1928. Tom Moses’ Trips, Breckenridge, Col.  Continued

“The town characters began to climb up to our camp about eight o’clock, wanting to know all about us, where we came from is interesting to them. Chicago was a “tough burg” from what they had heard. They could not understand why we had come all the way to paint picture of barren piles of rock. They were kind enough to not class us with “regular tenderfoot.” They couldn’t resist telling us of the ferocious wild animals that we would hear prowling around our camp after midnight. All we would have to do was fire a shot, and the town marshal would come to our assistance. We were good listeners, and when they departed I could see by their actions they were satisfied the stories had all sunk in. We knew enough to keep our small camp lantern burning, and we slept pretty well, as we were rather tired. We heard no animals so our arsenal was not called upon for action. We missed nothing.

As I was the fat one in my party I had more grooves in my back and arms, from the so-called pine twigs that composed our springs, than anyone in the party. As the sun kissed the snow peaks above us, we were supplied with cold water in the numerous small streams near our camp. We enjoyed the toilet making, as a cold dash and rough towel got our blood into good circulation. An early breakfast was enjoyed by everyone; our boiled ham was fine. We were instructed not to leave any money or tobacco outside of the tent.

Trail to French Gulch. In 1884, Thomas G. Moses and Hardesty Maratta hiked to French Gulch for a day of sketching.
View from French Gulch where Thomas G. Moses and Hardesty Maratta hiked to sketch scenery in 1884.

Maratta and I started for French Gulch to make our first sketch. We found some very good motifs. After a lot of hard climbing, we ran across a placer mine outfit and found it interesting. The miners were just “cleaning up.” Their hard-earned gold looked good to us. The method is very simple. A long box, about three feet wide, twenty feet long and about two feet deep, is built of heavy timber, and round blocks, similar to our cedar paving blocks, are planted in the bottom which is water-tight, and a partition is built at the lower end about the height of the blocs.

Picture of Cap Harmon’s Gold Mining Sluice in Colorado.

Quicksilver is placed between the blocks on the bottom of the box. The gold-bearing sand is shoveled into the box, or further up the valley into the lower flum, which is fed by the water that has been harnessed in a sluice and turned into this box. As the water usually has a heavy fall, it rushes over the blocks, washing the dirt and sand across them out of the box. The quicksilver attracts the small particles of gold which drop between the blocks to the bottom, and remain there until the “clean-up” day, which happens twice a month. Some little excitement when clean up day arrives, for it is hard to tell whether there is a hundred or a thousand dollars worth of gold between the blocks, which all have to be removed before removing the sand and gold. In the refuse, or “tailings” of a gold mine, that miners will not work, a Chinaman can work over and get fully two or three dollars a day. The white man will not waste his time for such a small amount.”

(Second half of the third part to be continued tomorrow)

Historical note about French Gulch: Gold was discovered in French Gulch in 1860 by French Pete. This valley proved to be wildly rich in gold, silver, lead and zinc. You can still see the remains of many mines in this area, as well as the rounded rock piles left by dredge boats. In the White River National Forest, there is a 4.3-mile trail to French Gulch that starts at an elevation of 10,315 and ends 12,055 feet. On the trail, Mt. Guyot will come into view as the road traverses Humbug Hill. You will pass several privately owned cabins, then continue southeast on a pleasant rolling run with a spectacular view of Bald Mountain. The trails pass through Breckenridge’s fabled Golden Horseshoe, one of Colorado’s most fertile mining regions. Here is the link for information about the French Gulch hiking trail: http://fdrd.org/files/3014/0561/2197/French_Gulch.pdf

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 193 – Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, second part

Part 193: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, second part 

The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 3, March 1928. Tom Moses’ Trips. Breckenridge, Col.         Continued

As we passed Pueblo we left behind us a very hot, dusty and uninteresting town; the odd-shaped smelter stacks, and tons of ore on all sides awaiting the refining process.

On reaching Colorado City we found a real city. Lots of wealth had settled here, and beautiful homes had sprung up. We felt that we ere in the mountains, as Pike’s Peak appeared to be within a few miles. There was plenty of snow to be seen on the Peak. The trip from the Springs to Denver was interesting; quite a number of small lakes and pretty summer homes, and the grand old Peak always in sight.

Arriving in Denver we saw Pikes Peak in all its glory. The foothills were only fifteen miles away, but we thought we could walk to them in half an hour. We changed our minds about going to Georgetown, deciding on Breckenridge. As we had checked our tent and equipment to Georgetown we had to wait in Denver until we could have returned it. In the meantime we saw Denver – all of it. I met an old friend from Sterling, and had a nice visit with him. He had lived in Denver a number of years. We all fell in love with the city. It is beautifully situated, rather hilly but well laid out; fine buildings, very ornate homes, built by men who had more money than taste. We all attended the theatre, the famous Tabor Grand, and we found it all we had expected it would be, nicely decorated and fine woodwork. The Drop Curtain was very good: an old ruin with some poetical feeling that pleased everyone. It was painted by an old friend of mine, Mr. Robert Hopkins, of Detroit, Michigan. This is a favorite subject of his, he having done a similar one in Detroit.

Image of Tabor Grand Opera House drop curtain in Denver, Colorado. Undated image pasted in Thomas G. Moses’ scrapbook. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.
Interior of Tabor Grand Opera House, Denver, Colorado.

An early start the following day, with all our camp equipment, which had returned from Georgetown in good condition. We crept along toward the foothills by the way of the fertile valley southwest of Denver. We soon entered the canyon, and our real mountain climbing began. Up through the Royal Gorge we hurried while the track was level, the raging torrent that swept past us a sight, and Young wanted to bet that he could swim across it. No one took his bet, so his bluff stood.

The wonderful rock formation was beyond our wildest imagination. While we had seen many photos and magazine cuts of this exact spot, we were very much surprised by the color. Even through this wild gorge there were many pretty little cottages perched high on the rocks in the small canyons that cut into the big canyon. The railroad company was very good to the hardy settlers by placing stations every few miles, where they stopped on signal. We were steadily climbing until we reached Como for a rest and dinner, which was relished by us all. After a brief rest the engine again started with only two cars; the rest of the train went another direction.

A railroad cut on Boreas pass created passage for The Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge railroads to connect the bustling gold rush towns of Breckenridge and Como.
Current remains of the now unused track running to Boreas Pass.

We soon found ourselves creeping slowly up the steep grade. We could see three tracks below us; over each one we had traveled in reaching the height of two thousand feet above Como. On reaching Boreas, the top of the Divide, the water-shed between the East and West, we found plenty of snow, a small yellow flower, growing through the snow, and a good supply of mosquitos. The sun was very hot. We four gathered a lot of snow-balls, went into the coach and started to “pelt” the passengers. Everyone thought it was good fun excepting a crazy fool, who drew a gun, and threatened to use it, until he was hooted at and hissed by the passengers. He was an old crab who never had any pleasure in life, and was dead sore at the world in general.

At this point we could see a hundred miles north and the same distance south, and it was certainly some sight. A beautiful blue haze spread over the whole picture.

View from Boreas Pass.
Boreas Pass in Colorado.
Boreas Pass, otherwise known as the Continental Divide. Thomas G. Moses traveled here in 1884 on a sketching trip.

On leaving Boreas we proceeded to descend very rapidly. Going up we only crept, so slowly that Young got off the rear end, and ran along side of the train ahead of the engine, crossed in front of it, and waited until the rear had caught up to him, then jumped on, only to get a good line of talk from the conductor, who informed us that he thought we were all crazy. We were out for a good time, and we were having it.

We didn’t have to go down as far as we were at Como, for we found Breckenridge nestled in a beautiful valley, with a small river running through the centre of it. On our arrival we got busy very quickly, as it was well along in the day and we had to get our tent pitched before dark. We took the tent poles, tied everything to them, and the four of us started for a spot several hundred feet above the town. We should have gotten a couple of burros for this work, but we had to be careful with our money. We had the tent pitched very quickly, some pine boughs cut and laid for our spring bed, over which we laid our four army blankets, two over and two under us. The delicate odor from the pine was very refreshing. We must have made a mistake in cutting the boughs and twigs, for they were more like branches and trunks. We enjoyed a good supper. All we had to get in town was fresh bread and butter, and milk.                                            To be continued

Tabor Grand Opera House exterior in Denver, Colorado.

Historical note about the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver: Located at 16th and Curtis Streets, the Tabor Grand Opera House opened in 1881 by Horace A. W. Tabor, who made his fortune in silver mines in Leadville, where he opened his first opera house. It survived the emergence of movies with a remodel in 1921 when it was renamed the Colorado Theatre. The name didn’t stick and by 1930, the name returned to the Tabor Theatre. In 1945, talk began of demolishing the opera house, but it lasted until its final demolition in 1964. The theater’s famous drop curtain went into storage with the Central City Opera House Association because it was too large to display. It eventually disintegrated and was thrown out.

The High Line railroad that went to the Boreas Pass.
Image from to 1880s of the railroad that Thomas G. Moses would have traveled to Boreas Pass.

Historical note about Railroad to Breckenridge, Colorado: Known as the High Line, the Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad first chugged over Boreas Pass and into Breckenridge during 1882. The train to Breckenridge hauled mail over the pass, transported mining products, and introduced luxury items such as fresh ice cream, oysters and wine from Denver. Passengers like Moses also arrived in Pullman cars, with their posh interiors and gas lighting. However, the Boreas Pass was one of the highest and most foreboding railways in the nation at an elevation of 11,481 feet. The steep grade, winding track, and unpredictable weather required expensive track and train maintenance. It was a significant contributor to the area’s growth as it opened up this remote area to many visitors, such as Moses, Maratta, Young, and Morange. At the time the town was home to three newspapers and a cemetery. The town also managed three fire companies to protect the numerous, and vulnerable wooden buildings. How ever they were not enough to prevent tragedy. In 1884 a major fire destroyed a number of buildings along Main Street and Ridge Street. The line eventually closed and only glimpses of the journey remain to travelers.


Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 192 – Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, first part

Part 192: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, first part

In 1884, Thomas G. Moses accepted quite a bit of “night work” that subsequently funded a sketching trip to Colorado. At the time he was twenty-eight years old and had never seen the mountains. His traveling companions were John H. Young (26 yrs.), Edward A. Morange (19 yrs.), and Hardy C. Maratta (20 yrs.). The four artists travelled to Breckenridge and Moses recalled, “On our return trip we looked like a bunch of tramps, happy and ready for our old work.”

Fortunately for us, Moses recorded this adventure in a series of articles submitted to the Palette & Chisel Club Newsletter when he was seventy-one years old. Beginning in February, 1928, his series “Tom Moses’ Trips: Breckenridge, Col.” began and continued for five consecutive installments until June of that same year. I am going to share this delightful tale as it gives great insight into the each of the four artists. These remarkable individuals would later all have a lasting affect on both the performing arts and fine art world. Here is his first installment:

The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 2, February 1928. Tom Moses’ Trips, Breckenridge, Col.

Thomas G. Moses’ work as scenic artist has taken him to many strange places. Sometimes he has gone to gather material and at other times to execute commissions. As he is a careful observer of men, customs and local scenes, this series of accounts of his sketching trips contains much of unusual interest.

John H. Young, Edward Morange, Hardesty Maratta and myself talked and planned for over a year regarding a trip to the mountains of Colorado. In our every day work of Scenic Painting we were called upon to paint all kinds of mountain scenes, and, as we had never seen a real mountain, we had to rely upon photographs or magazine cuts for our ideas. So we were, naturally, anxious to see the wonderful piles of rock and earth.

We started on the 15th of June, 1884, at one o’clock P. M. We also started out to be very economical. Instead of a Pullman we tried the chair car on the Wabash Railroad, and after a very sleepless night we arrived in Kansas City at 9 A. M. and found a very dirty and wild looking city. To an artist’s eye it was picturesque, with its many hills and smoking factories. An awful mob of people were at the depot, going and coming, hurrying like a lot of ants.

It appeared to me as if Kansas City were the melting pot of America. Quite a number of invalids were being hustled on their way to Arizona or California, as the last resort to regain their health, or they were returning home to die, after fruitless search for health, in the West, and having waited too long before taking the trip.

Our experience with the chair car was not satisfactory, so we secured four lower berths from Kansas City to Denver.

We stopped at noon at Ellis, where there was a good station dining-room. The passengers were given ample time to eat, and everyone enjoyed the meal. The train carried two buffet sleepers, but could not furnish a full meal.

We had dressed ourselves for a rough trip, and had on old clothes and flannel shirts. We certainly looked like tramps, excepting that our clothes were clean. We didn’t want to be loaded down with a lot of clothing, for we had enough to look after in our sketching outfit, a big tent, complete, cooking utensils, and a big sailor’s bag, loaded down with canned gods, sausages and a boiled ham. The passengers were very much interested in us. They made up their minds that we were going to Colorado to prospect for gold.

I was made treasurer, all of the money was turned to me, and knowing we would have some expenses that we hadn’t figured on, I made up my mind that we would go a little slow until we had reached our camping place.

We had quite a day traveling through the eastern part of Kansas. It was rather desolate, very few trees, and only a few real farm houses scattered along the road between the small stations. A jack-rabbit looked as large as a small deer. It did not seem as though we would ever reach any high ground, and, as I had never seen so much prairie before, it was interesting, in a way, for we felt it was being worked up to a big climax for the next day.

About six o’clock the boys were all hungry. As our car was a buffet affair, I ordered tea and toast. The porter had a fine linen tablecloth, and when he brought in the tea and toast there were three very disgusted boys. Young said nothing but left the car and was gone about ten minutes, and then returned with a can of corn and a large link of Summer Sausage. It was fully two feet long. He flourished it over his head and said, loud enough for the whole car to hear, “Live and let live, that’s our motto.” Of course, the passengers were amused, but the porter and cook was not. He rushed out for some paper, which he spread over his damask tablecloth to save it from the sausage grease. He warmed up our corn, so we finally got a meal. Our bag of canned goods was in the baggage car, so there was no chance of our suffering from hunger so long as Young stood in with the baggage man.

Pike’s Peak and the Rocky Mountain range in the distance.

Early next morning, as soon as the sun was up, I had my berth made up, and the same old prairie, a little more rolling, met my anxious gaze. I fully expected to be in the foothills by this time. We were all up and dressed before six o’clock. We discovered a bright golden and pink object on the horizon away to the northwest. The porter informed us with a hearty laugh at our ignorance, that that was the snowcapped Pike’s Peak, one hundred and twenty-five miles away. We thought he was joking; it was simply wonderful and resembled a dish of strawberry ice-cream.

Pike’s Peak.

The day was bright and hot, but we kept our eyes on that ice-cream. In the meantime, we introduced the porter to set the table for our breakfast, the canned goods were added to what the porter could furnish, and we feasted again. The passengers had learned by this time we were a quartet of temperamental artists. We only lacked the accepted gaunt and hungry features of the comic paper versions.

As we drew nearer to the foothills the outlook became more interesting; the ice-cream cone was becoming more blue, and the richer blues and purples were creeping in between the great opalescent distance and the golden brown of our foreground, framing a picture that was far beyond our wildest dreams of what was in store for us. We sat as the window or stood on the platform every moment we could, afraid that we would miss some of it.

Pike’s Peak, painting by Thomas Moses. Image discovered online at www.media.mutualart.com.

To be continued

(The “To be continued” was at the end of each installment – not me this time!)

Historical Excerpt – “Staging a Sandstorm” by Wendell Phillips, 1912

Today, I included a small excerpt from “Staging a Sandstorm” by Wendell Phillips Dodge in installment #191 of “Tales of a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott scenery collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center.” However, this really needs to be read in its entirety as just it made me laugh out loud again. The following article is from The Theatre, Volume 15, 1912 and was posted in Mrs. Daffodil Digresses, “a blog about costume, history and social ephemera.”


“The busiest actor on the stage of the Century Theatre, where Robert Hichens’ drama, ”The Garden of Allah,” is still attracting large crowds, is the sand man. Though he occupies the centre of the stage only about one-fifth of the time that it takes Lewis Waller to give Boris Androvsky’s long soliloquy, he nevertheless grips the audience more than any other incident in the play.

While the sand man does not appear in the cast, still he is very much in evidence behind the scenes. For his one big scene he requires the entire stage from the foots to the back drop, from wings to wings and from the boards to the flies; and for his quick-change dressing-room he must have the great thirty-foot deep pit, the breadth and depth of the stage itself, which extends under the stage. For his “make-up” he requires almost a ton of dry colors for the ground alone, and no less than three hundred pounds of powder for the high lights. In making up he has to use eight tables, and is assisted by thirty dressers in putting on his costume. His “make-up” is put on with the aid of a dozen powerful electrical blowers, in order to give the right blend, and his costume is made to fly before the breeze by an electrically-driven stage gale that would make the winds of Chicago’s lake front seem like a gentle summer’s night air ripple. He makes his entrance at top speed and keeps on moving in a whirling-dervish sort of a way throughout the scene, occupying the centre and every other part of the stage at once and all the time until the close of his speech, which is the most heart-body and-soul-rending in the whole play, filling the minds and hearts of the audience with all the emotions that exist between earth and sky.

In order to stage the sandstorm in “The Garden of Allah.” in spirit and in truth, George C. Tyler, of the firm of Liebler and Company, went into the heart of the great Sahara Desert, accompanied by Hugh Ford, general stage director, and Edward A. Morange, of the firm of Gates and Morange, scenic artists, and laid siege to an actual and ferocious sandstorm which they captured and have transported in all its fiery temper to the Century Theatre, New York.

Mr. Tyler sent his automobile to Cherbourg, and from there the motor trip into the desert began. At Marseilles, they embarked on the Ville d Oran, a small boat, to the African coast. After a rough passage the party reached Philippeville, from which point they put out for the Sahara. On the road between El-Arrouch and Le Hamma the sight of the “devil wagon” spread consternation, once entirely demoralizing a caravan, causing a stampede of camels. After some hours of speeding over the sands of time, the party passed El Kantara. Another hour and they arrived at an oasis in the centre of which lies the city of Biskra. Here they met Mr. Hichens, and after a reading of the dramatization of his novel amid the true atmosphere suggested in the book, they started out to reach the heart of the desert. Their’s was the first automobile that had ever penetrated the sands of the Sahara, and this it did to such an extent that on one occasion it sank so deep it took six donkeys and a camel to pull it out of the hole it dug as it plowed through the sand, embedding itself deeper and deeper with each drive. They were no sooner out of this difficulty than they ran into a real sandstorm.

“We had been gone from Biskra a short three hours,” said Mr. Morange, “when we began to find it necessary to put on our goggles and raincoats to protect our bodies from the sand, lifted and swirled around by intermittent, playful gusts of wind. Looking at” a herd of camels, probably an eighth of a mile away, we noticed that different groups of them would suddenly be veiled to our view while others to both sides would be perfectly visible. Turning to look at the low hills that stand out dark against the sands in front of them and darker still against the sky beyond, we saw faintly what appeared to be steam, along the surface in various shapes, rising from the sands as they approached the dark hills, and veiling them until they, the sky above and the sands in front melted into one even tone of light, misty, yellowish gray. Around the veiled mass the sun was shining. A feeling of discomfort, not unmixed with anxiety, possessed our party as the bright sun, with which we started out, disappeared. To move our jaws but slightly found us grinding sand with our teeth, and we instinctively tied our handkerchiefs around our heads, covering our nostrils and securing some protection for the mouth. We could no longer pick out the road that but a few moments before was well defined by the ruts made by the mail diligence that regularly struggles between Biskra and Touggourt. The shifting sand had been blown over the road as snow might obscure a highway. We had gone to the desert for ‘atmosphere’ and we were getting it with a vengeance.

We stopped the car, as we all agreed that it would be dangerous to proceed. From the direction from which we had noticed many little whirling steam-like gusts appear, we were now startled by the appearance of a huge irregular cloud, probably a hundred feet in width, moving rapidly toward us. A curious feature of it was that the bottom of it seemed to clear the ground, often rising and sinking alternatively. The color of the cloud was much darker than that of the sands around it. It was of a rather dirty yellowish red, but very luminous in quality. A half dozen camels that we could dimly distinguish, crouched or knelt, huddled together, stretching their necks close to the ground, their heads turned toward the approaching cloud. “The edge of this cloud, nearest to us, seemed entirely independent of the surrounding atmosphere, but as we were directly in its path, we instinctively closed our eyes, crouched in the automobile and turned our backs on it, as one would a blinding onslaught of snow and sleet. We were conscious of a hot, stinging sensation in the parts of our flesh exposed and a peculiar whistling, swirling rush of something passing over us for a few seconds. When I partially opened my eyes. I realized that it was almost as dark as night. When it grew lighter, we found ourselves in a yellowish, smoky fog of fine sand. We had to wait for probably fifteen minutes before the air cleared sufficiently for us to distinguish objects fifty feet away. Protected in the car as well as we were, we were still half-choked with sand. Little piles of sand were heaped up in front of the wheels and in all places that would allow them to form, as drifts of snow might pile. At this moment, we fully realized the oppressiveness of this dreary waste, this awful ocean of seemingly boundless sand.”

The question now was how to transfer the real, living sandstorm to the stage of the Century Theatre. Stage sandstorms date back more than twenty years, when one was introduced in Fanny Davenport’s production of “Gismonda.” This sandstorm, naturally, was very crude, since in those days there was no such thing as light effects nor stage mechanism. The players themselves created the sandstorm by tossing handsful of Fuller’s earth over their heads to the accompaniment of the rubbing of sandpaper in the wings to give the suggestion of wind blowing. Belasco put over the first realistic sandstorm in “Under Two Flags,” causing Fuller’s earth to be blown through funnel-like machines from the wings, while at the same time stereopticon cloud storm effects were played on gauze drops. Mr. Belasco also introduced the now famous bending palm to stage sandstorms, to convey the idea of motion. Once when “Under Two Flags” was produced in San Francisco the local stage manager told the property man to get something that could be blown across the stage, to be used in the sandstorm scene. There was not time for a scene rehearsal, but the property man connected a “blower” made out of a soap box with the ventilating system, and as the cue was given, tossed heaps of flour into the box to be blown over the stage. The play ended right there, with scenery and everything covered as if a blizzard had struck the place! It required weeks to get the flour off of the scenery, to which it stuck and hardened. Last year Frederic Thompson introduced a sandstorm in a scene showing the Western Bad Lands, sawdust being blown from the wings. But the sawdust scattered everywhere, even into the orchestra.

Messrs. Tyler and Ford found no bending palms in the storm they witnessed and encountered on the Sahara, so no bending palms appear in “The Garden of Allah” sandstorm. Yet motion is suggested by other means—the robes of an Arab going across the stage waving, the sides of the Arab tent flapping in the wind, the garment of Batouch, Domini’s servant, fluttering when he emerges from the tent to tighten the anchorage rope to the windward. Besides these things, there is the whirling swirling sand forming real sandspouts, such as have never before found their way on the stage.

To create the actual whirlwind that blows the sand at the Century Mr. Ford installed under the stage a series of powerful electric blowers, and connected these with pipes leading up through the stage flooring at carefully planned points of vantage. One set of pipes is located by the left-stage tormentor near the front of the tent, and another on the other side of the proscenium by the right-stage tormentor. There is another set of these pipes hidden behind the tent towards the centre of the stage, and still another set back stage. The pipe sets consist of four pipes such as are used for drain-pipes on houses, of different heights and with the openings placed at slightly different angles. Under the stage alongside of the electric blowers are two rows of troughs, one on either side of the stage, into which a dozen men feed the “sand,” which is forced up the pipes and blown at a rate far exceeding that of any windstorm ever experienced on land or sea! In all there are twenty blowers, arranged in four series of five each. Another single blower is placed in the left-stage tormentor and blows only air, to dispel the continuous streams of sand blown through the pipes by the other blowers. The pipes are so placed and arranged on the stage as to provide a continuous whirling swirl of sand, never ending, never-ceasing, ever increasing in its fiery fury, until the storm quiets down and the light of day brightens the scene.

Mr. Ford placed the pipes at different angles so that each one would send a stream of sand that would cut and dispel the stream from another pipe, thus obtaining a continuous spiral sandspout instead of a streak of sand like the tail of a comet from each pipe. Also, the three sets of pipes used for creating the sandstorm are started and worked alternately, beginning with the set in front of the tent, then the set at the right side of the proscenium, and finally the set beside the tent, towards the centre of the stage. This alternate movement gives the swirling effect that makes the storm real. The one set of pipes placed back stage behind the tent, however, shoots straight across the stage in order to give a cloud of mystery and add density to the scene.

About three hundred pounds of sand is blown through the four sets of pipes at each performance. This is kept from blowing into the auditorium by means of an “air curtain” at the foot lights and at the first entrances, enough pressure of compressed air to keep the “sand” back. The sand used is nothing more nor less than good old cornmeal! Three hundred pounds is wasted at each performance—enough to feed a whole ranch!

Cornmeal was resorted to after everything else, including sand itself, had failed to blow and act like sand on the stage. Real sand from Fire Island beach was first tried, but besides being too heavy to be kept swirling in the air, it did not look like sand when the lights were thrown on it. Real sand on the stage when the lights were thrown on it as it was blown across the stage looked like so much soft coal soot.

The heaps of sand on the stage, forming the minor sand dunes, and also the ground of the desert, are composed of ground cork, painted an orange yellow. Cork is used because it is clean and dustless and easily handled.

To light the sandstorm, Mr. Ford uses only the footlights, the central portion being a deep orange with a deep blue on either side. This keeps the heart of the storm, so to speak, in the light, and the edges are blended away into the darkness at the sides of the stage, providing not only absolute realism, but shadings that suggest the most delicate of pastels. The wonderful lighting of this scene shows the varying color emotions of the desert, with its sand dunes of the palest primrose, and the purple fury of the desert storm.

Stereopticon storm cloud effects are thrown on the sand curtain formed by the cornmeal slung across the back of the stage by the pipes put there for that purpose, and on a gauze curtain just behind, from arc-lights placed on two lighting tops built on either side of the proscenium.

To obtain the delicate pastel light effects of the sandstorm and of the other desert scenes in “The Garden of Allah,” Mr. Ford first painted the scenes with stage lights using the remarkable switchboard of the former New Theatre for his palette, and the clouds of cornmeal as his canvas. In that way, having the true picture of the sandstorm, which he had himself seen in the Sahara in his mind, he achieved what no one else ever has done before—he has, “in spirit and in truth,” transported the sandstorm of the desert, with all its multitudinous shades and shadows, feelings and emotions, to the stage.

I stumbled across this article in another post while doing research: https://mrsdaffodildigresses.wordpress.com/tag/sahara-desert/




Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 191 – The Sandstorm Scene for the “The Garden of Allah” by Gates & Morange

Part 191: The Sandstorm Scene for the “The Garden of Allah” by Gates & Morange

I encountered a wonderful historical article while researching Edward A. Morange. It was posted in a blog about costumes, history, and social ephemera, called “Miss Daffodil Digresses.”

“Staging a Sandstorm” by Wendell Phillips Dodge (1912) explores onsite research for Gates & Morange’s “The Garden of Allah” designs. The stage version of Robert Hichens’ drama, “The Garden of Allah,” opened at the Century Theatre in 1912. To stage the sandstorm in “spirit and in truth,” George C. Tyler, of the firm of Liebler and Company, went into the heart of the great Sahara Desert, accompanied by Hugh Ford, general stage director, and Edward A. Morange, of the firm of Gates and Morange, scenic artists. The article provides some interesting descriptions for nineteenth-century sandstorm effects on stage.

The Century Theatre.

Here is a small excerpt as it is just delightful to read. I will post the full article in its entirety at www.drypigment.net

The Theatre, Volume 15, 1912

“The question now was how to transfer the real, living sandstorm to the stage of the Century Theatre. Stage sandstorms date back more than twenty years, when one was introduced in Fanny Davenport’s production of “Gismonda.” This sandstorm, naturally, was very crude, since in those days there was no such thing as light effects nor stage mechanism. The players themselves created the sandstorm by tossing handsful of Fuller’s earth over their heads to the accompaniment of the rubbing of sandpaper in the wings to give the suggestion of wind blowing. Belasco put over the first realistic sandstorm in “Under Two Flags,” causing Fuller’s earth to be blown through funnel-like machines from the wings, while at the same time stereopticon cloud storm effects were played on gauze drops. Mr. Belasco also introduced the now famous bending palm to stage sandstorms, to convey the idea of motion. Once when “Under Two Flags” was produced in San Francisco the local stage manager told the property man to get something that could be blown across the stage, to be used in the sandstorm scene. There was not time for a scene rehearsal, but the property man connected a “blower” made out of a soap box with the ventilating system, and as the cue was given, tossed heaps of flour into the box to be blown over the stage. The play ended right there, with scenery and everything covered as if a blizzard had struck the place! It required weeks to get the flour off of the scenery, to which it stuck and hardened. Last year Frederic Thompson introduced a sandstorm in a scene showing the Western Bad Lands, sawdust being blown from the wings. But the sawdust scattered everywhere, even into the orchestra.”

Ah, the trials and failures of show business. “The Garden of Allah” would use cornmeal for their sandstorm scene.

Souvenir book from the production designed by Gates & Morange in 1912.

I did locate another article New York Times on July 13, 1911 (page 9) called “Return From The Desert.” It was titled “Ford and Morange Visited Scenes of ‘The Garden of Allah.’”

Here is the article: “Hugh Ford, general stage director for Liebler & Co., and Edward Morange, scenic artist for the same firm, returned to New York yesterday on the Minnetonka, after spending some time in the Desert of Sahara with George C. Tyler, general manager of the firm. They, with Mr. Tyler, made a trip to visit the scenes of Robert Hichins story, “The Garden of Allah,” a dramatization of which is to be the first Liebler production next season at the Century Theatre. The party made its headquarter at Biskra, the Beni-Mora of the novel, and made many expeditions into the desert. Several Arabs were engaged to come to America to take part in the production. After leaving Algiers Mr. Ford and Mr. Morange visited Berlin to obtain material for “The Affair in the Barracks,” an adaptation of “Barrackenpluft,” which is to be another Leibler production next year. While in Paris the party spent several days in consultation with Mme. Simone, who will begin her first American tour next Fall, appearing in English in Louis N. Parker’s adaptation of Rostand’s “The Lady of Dreams.”

A Scene from the Gates & Morange design for “Garden of Allah.”
A Scene from the Gates & Morange design for “Garden of Allah.”
A Scene from the Gates & Morange design for “Garden of Allah.”

Finally, the scenic designs for “The Garden of Allah” (Sketch of North African Expedition), 1912, are located in the Gates and Morange Collection (Billy Rose Division) of the New York Public Library. The designs for the production include a color sketch on stock depicting an exterior scene with camels.

To be continued…

Here is Mrs. Daffodil’s link: https://mrsdaffodildigresses.wordpress.com She has covered several interesting topics, including “How to Make Stage Thunder and Lighting: 1829-1900” and “The Great Grampus Bath-house Tragedy: 1875.” According to the site, it is a blog where “you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.”

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 190 – Gates & Morange – Creators of Things Novel and Beautifully Interesting

Part 190: Gates & Morange – Creators of Things Novel and Beautifully Interesting

It was in Chicago during 1894 that Edward A. Morange would meet his eventual business partner, Francis “Frank” Edgar Gates. During the day, they would study fine art and in the evenings they would paint theatrical shows. Later, his brother Richard Henry Gates would join the team. Frank and Richard Gates received their academic training at the School of Fine Arts, Washington University, St. Louis. “The Scenic Artist,” Vol. 1, No. 8 (December 1927, page 8), noted “they were practically brought up on theatre from almost infancy, being in a family of theatrical managers, musicians and actors, it was natural that the stage should appeal to them.”

This is an image from a website that is no longer accessible. The creators suggest that they have many designs created by the brothers, Richard and Francis Gates. These are the only two images that I have found of the pair.

By 1897, Frank, Richard, and Morange, founded Gates and Morange Studio. Although Gates and Morange had worked on many projects together, their first Broadway credits date from 1897. Thhe scenic studio of Gates & Morange was to become one of the premiere scenic studios during the early twentieth century. Although starting in Chicago, they soon moved their company to New York to produce settings for dozens of Broadway shows. Their first Broadway credit in 1897 was “Straight from the Heart” by Sutton Vane and Arthur Shirley. Other clients included Liebler Co., Florenz Ziegfeld and George C. Tyler. Artists that worked for their firm included Thomas Benrimo, William E. Castle, Charles Graham, Alexander Grainger, Arne Lundberg, and Orestes Raineiri. The New York Public Library holds the Gates & Morange Design Collection (1894-1953), containing original set designs, curtain designs, olio designs, trade show designs, and several exhibitions.

Gates and Morange Design Collection (1894-1953) at the New York Public Library. Here is the link: http://archives.nypl.org/the/22927

Although many of the designs are undated, the bulk of the collection appears to be from the 1920s. Among the more than seventy-five production designs are “The Daughter of Heaven” by Pierre Loti (c. 1912); “Dolci Napoli” (c. 1913), “Earl Carroll Vanities” (1923), “For Valor” by Martha Hedman and H. A. House (1935), Gridiron Club productions (1935), “An International Marriage” by George Broadhurst (c. 1909), “The Lady of the Lamp” by Earl Carroll (1920), “Music in the Air” with music by Jerome Kern and Designs by Joseph Urban (1932), “Nancy Brown” (c. 1903), “Song of the Flame” by Herbert Stothart ad George Gershwin, with designs by Joseph Urban (1926), and a number of Ziegfeld productions. Of particular note is “Rose-Marie” by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II (1924), which includes three photographs, showing development from an initial concept to the scenery in place on the stage (1924).

Program for “Rose-Marie” listing Gates & Morange as the scenic artists for the production.

There are also a few studio plans and research materials in the collection. The collection is located in the Billy Rose Division on the third floor at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. Here is the link for the collection overview: http://archives.nypl.org/the/22927

Gates & Morange’s non-theatrical projects included reproductions for the United States Government of Yosemite, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Alaska, Kilauea and many other National Parks.

Design and reference library for Gates & Morange. This shows their research files that were a result of countless sketching trips. Undated image pasted in Thomas G. Moses’ scrap book, Harry Ranson Center, University Texas, Austin.

The studio’s artists constantly took advantage of painting from nature, to attain primary information for various commissions. They had research files from trips throughout the United States, Alaska, Europe and Africa. This provided the artists opportunities to observe various landscapes, customs, and people. They made colored studies and sketches to collect valuable data that was used for their theatrical productions. In 1912, Gates and Morange traveled to the Sahara Desert, accompanied by Hugh Ford, general stage director, to research an actual and ferocious sandstorm for their upcoming show at the Century Theatre in New York.

Advertisement for Gates & Morange, Scenic Artists, in Julius Cahn’s Theatrical Guide (1902-1903).

The 1927 “Scenic Artist” article about Gates & Morange concluded with, “It is refreshing to know that here is one studio housing a large staff of academically trained artists that has kept pace with the insurgent movement with its radical and liberal tendencies, which has been at work in recent years in the theatres of Europe and America. That Gates & Morange have accepted what is sane and beneficial of this movement is readily seen by the numerous beautiful compositions covering the walls of their design rooms and bulging out their portfolios. Through them all is seen the sureness and artistic simplicity that only an artist of thorough and correct draughtsmanship, with a fine decorative feeling, a profound knowledge and delicate sense of color and imagination could create. The present possibilities of producing pleasing or bizarre effects with the highly perfected and easily operated electric equipment of the modern stage, has opened the theatre to the many experiments and fadist illusions that none but an experienced scenic artist could endow with poetical beauty and mystery they exhibit. With all these the stage has not lost its glamour for these artists as the many new ideas and effects around which authors and composers may write plays or revues, upon the initiative of these creators of things novel and beautifully interesting.”

To be continued…

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 189 – Thomas G. Moses with Edward A. Morange

Part 189: Thomas G. Moses with Edward A. Morange

The final artist that accompanied Thomas G. Moses, John H. Young and Hardesty Maratta on their sketching trips in 1883 was Edward A. Morange. At the time, Morange was working as the scenic artist for the Grand Opera House in Chicago. He would later work as a scenic artist for the Academy of Music and New National Theatre in Washington D. C., as well as, the National Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland, prior to establishing the studio Gates & Morange.

Born in Cold Springs, New York during 1865, Morange was trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Corcoran School of Fine Arts in Washington. D.C. His early leanings and ambitions toward architecture and civil engineering were set aside for a career in scenic art and design. Fortunately, he had an opportunity to secure a position in a scenic studio and later with the Grand Opera House in Chicago. The pictorial appeal of scenic art called to him and he remained with this theatrical profession.

However, his involvement in the performing arts would not solely focus on scenery production. In 1914 Edward A. Morange was be listed as the Director for a silent movie, “The Great Diamond Robbery, “ a six-reel film was assembled by the Playgoer’s Film Company of New York City. Wallace Eddinger starred as detective Dick Brummage in a case involving a Brazilian adventurous (Gail Kane) and the theft of the fabulous Romanoff diamonds. When Detective Brummage proved Kane’s guilt, she took poison. The film was based on the play by Edward M. Alfriend and A. C. Wheeler.

Article about “The Great Diamond Robbery” that Edward A. Morange directed in 1914. Published in the New York Tribune, March 20, 1914. Morange was an artist who worked in the scenic studio and went on sketching trips with Thomas G. Moses.

On March 20, 1914, the New York Tribune published, “At last a theatrical manager has put on a legitimate drama, with a cast composed entirely of screen novices, but stage veterans. The resulting motion picture more than justifies the effort…’The Great Diamond Robbery’ is a melodrama which was produced in New York about twenty years ago, when it ran for about a year in the American Theatre. It is adorned with regular melodrama features, such as a beautiful villainess, a working girl heroine and gallant detective, who foils assorted criminals and marries the working girl. But the story is nevertheless one that holds attention.”

Article about “The Great Diamond Robbery” that Edward A. Morange directed in 1914. Published in the New York Tribune, March 20, 1914.

Morange had an extremely interesting life, but little is available in terms of his family and private affairs. He married in the 1890s and had two children, Julia and Leonard. Only five years after the debut of his movie, Morange would lose his son, Leonard Sowersby Morange, to the war. A WWI aviator, Leonard would be the first Bronxville resident who died during WWI. Leonard was noted as an expert piano player who could hear a song once and repeat it. His obituary noted that Leonard was inspired by Jerome Kern, a fellow Bronxville resident and longtime friend of his father Edward A, Morange. It is recorded that Kern wrote “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in the Morange home and had hoped that Leonard would return home from the war and possibly join him in musical venues. This interesting fact was recently reprinted in the “Journal Sentinel” on May 24, 2014 (“RAF pilot was 1st Bronxville resident killed in WWI.” May 24, 2014).

Leonard Sowersby Morange, sone of Edward A. Morange, the scenic artist and film director. Reprinted in the “Journal Sentinel” on May 24, 2014 (“RAF Pilot was 1st Bronxville Resident Killed in WWI”).
WWI aviator Leonard Morange, son of Edward A. Morange the scenic artist.

In 1930, Edward Morange was still listed in the census as an artist, working in the scene painting industry. At the time, he was sixty-five years old and living with his wife Julia (b. 1867) in Bronxville, New York. The census listed that they also had a maid who lived with them. By 1940 Morange was living at 80 Sagamore Rd. in Eastchester Town, Westchester County, New York.   He was now with his daughter Leila (b. 1904), her husband Leland Hanson (b. 1899), their two children Joan (1930) and Lealand Jr. (b. 1931), and two servants. In 1955, Morange died on the even of his ninetieth birthday.

To be continued…

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 188 –  Hardesty G. Maratta and Frank C. Peyraud in Peoria, Illinois

Part 188: Hardesty G. Maratta and Frank C. Peyraud in Peoria, Illinois

After the failure to complete the Spectatorium for the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, Hardesty G. Maratta was released from his contract with Steele MacKaye. He traveled with Frank C. Peyraud (1858-1948) to Peoria, Illinois, where they completed two public painting projects and several private commissions. They were contracted to paint murals and decorate the interiors of both the pubic library and City Hall. One of the library murals was titled “View from Prospect Heights.” The 20-foot by 11-foot mural painted for Peoria’s library presently is stored in the vault of the Lakeview Museum.

Mural by Hardesty G. Maratta and Frank C. Peyraud, celebrating the founding of the town in 1831.

The landscape depicts a meandering river and Peoria Lake with marshlands and a few islands. The composition shows the landscape before the construction of levees, a lock, and a dam in 1939. One of the Peoria City Hall murals was titled “Peoria, August 29, 1831” to commemorate the founding of the town. They also created fine art works for the library, some that still hang in the current boardroom. Here is a link to two paintings: http://old.library.eiu.edu/artarch/displayall.asp?LibraryID=749

Frank C. Peyraud. Painting by Antonin Sterba, Brauer Museum of Art, gift of Percy H. Sloan.

Peoria newspapers hailed Peyraud as “Illinois’ foremost landscape painter” who had produced artworks for the Union League Club, the Flanagan House, and the Peoria Women’s Club. Unlike Maratta, Peyraud stayed in Peoria for three years and offered art lessons for young aspiring artists. He stayed until his wife (also a fellow immigrant from Switzerland) passed away in 1899. Peyraud he found love again in 1906 with fellow artist Elizabeth Krysher. Kyysher was a children’s portrait painter and illustrator. Early on in their marriage, the couple traveled from California to the East Coast. In Old Lyme, Connecticut, they even stayed with a colony of impressionist landscape painters. The couple eventually settled in north-suburban Ravinia, Illinois (a section of Highland Park) in 1919. In 1921, Peyraud traveled back to Switzerland for three years.

I have previously touched on Maratta’s partnership with Peyraud in Peoria in the February 2, 2017 www.dry pigment.net post. In light of Maratta’s and Peyraud’s scenic art connection with Thomas G. Moses’ it is worth recapping a little information about this fascinating Swiss immigrant. Peyraud was a notable Impressionist landscape artist who would also work as a scenic artist with Thomas G. Moses during the 1890s.

François “Frank” Charles Peynaud was born in Bulle, Switzerland and received some early artistic training at the l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He traveled to the United States in 1881 and soon decided to stay, settling in the Chicago area. He would remain in this region for the majority of his life. Peyraud first applied for work as a draftsman at the architectural firm of William Le Baron Jenney. Historians have suggested that he did not receive any work due to his poor English. However, he started working as both a scenic artist, on cycloramas and panoramas. Very little is known of his early years in Chicago, but in 1891, Peyraud touched up Paul Philippoteaux’s panoramic painting depicting the Battle of Gettysburg.

It was Peyraud, Maratta, A. J. Rupert, Harry Vincent, Thomas G. Moses, and a number of others artists painted who William Hawoth’s “Flag of Truce” in 1892. By the way, the original script is still available at the University of Chicago (in the Charles Morton Agency Collection of American Popular Drama 1842-1950, Box 35, folder 2). Peyraud worked with Moses in the theatre during 1892 and 1893.

By the mid-1890s Peyraud was noted for his impressionist style, often depicting dramatic skies at dawn, sunset, or moonlight.

Yellow Moon Over Setting Sea, Frank C. Peyraud. Currently held in the Peoria Historical Society Painting Collection.

His fine art was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design (NY), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia), the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Pan-Pacific Exposition (San Francisco) and many other exhibits too numerous to mention. His paintings remain in a variety of collections worldwide, including the Art Institute and Union League Club of Chicago, the Municipal Collection of Phoenix and the Art Museum of Bulle, Switzerland. In 1935 the conservative Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors awarded Peyraud a gold medal and he was widely regarded as the dean of Chicago landscape painters.

Frank C. Payraud, Autumn on Desplaines, 1925. Richard Norton Gallery.

Peyraud won the Young Fortnightly Prize for the best painting in the Chicago Art Institute’s 1899 annual show. It was the first of many awards he would receive over the course of his career. Other awards included a Municipal Art League p prize in 1912 and the Art Institute’s Martin B. Cahn Prize in 1921. In 1948, Peyraud exhibited for a final time at the Chicago Galleries Association. He died later that year, on the eve of his ninetieth birthday.

Frank C. Peyraud, In the Shade, Worlds Fair 1933. Richard Norton Gallery.

It is Moses’ mention of Peyraud, Maratta and other notable artists that causes me to ponder the significance of Moses writings, scenery, and fine art. His typed manuscript, handwritten diaries and scrapbook are much more significant than the interesting details that provide a glimpse into theatre history. Moses provides eyewitness accounts and context for his contemporaries in an ever-shifting art world.

These artists from a variety of backgrounds worked, traveled, dreamed, and planned together. They were working towards a much bigger picture in the world of arts and sciences. One gets a sense of their personalities, the industries that they worked for, and how fluid their talents were during this golden age of scenic art. Their friendships, social exchanges, moral support, and partnerships went far beyond the realms of mere work or artistic study for the stage. They played and brainstormed together about future possibilities for not only themselves, but also later generations.

To look at Moses’ creation of the Fort Scott scenery collection as simply a small moment in Masonic or theatre history is shortsighted! It was the culmination of decades of training after interacting with international visionaries. He was part of a patchwork quilt that transcended our own country’s borders.

To be continued…

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 187 – Hardesty G. Maratta and the Spectatorium

Part 187: Hardesty G. Maratta and the Spectatorium

Hardesty C. Maratta and Frank C. Peyraud were actively involved with Steele MacKaye (1842–1894) and his Spectatorium project for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Maratta had committed to a fifteen-year contract with MacKaye during the planning stage of the Spectatorium. He was hired to head MacKaye’s scenic department.

Proposed Spectatorium. Image posted in: https://chicagology.com/
Traverse section of proposed Spectatorium. Image posted in: https://chicagology.com/
Proposed Spectatorium. Image posted in: https://chicagology.com/

The Spectatorium was to be the largest auditorium in the world and part of the 1893 Chicago World Fair. On September 25, 1892, the “Chicago Herald” described the much-anticipated venture: “After months of preliminary work, the initiatory steps for the construction of the biggest auditorium of the world were taken yesterday. A building permit was issued to the Columbus Celebration Company to erect a “Spectatorium” at numbers 1 to 27 on Fifty-sixth Street. The structure is to be six stories in height, 480 by 240 feet in dimensions and of frame and staff construction.” William LeBaron Jenney and W. B. Mundie were the architects of this endeavor, costing over $350,000 for the structure alone. This price did not include furniture, scenery or machinery. In the article, MacKaye was quoted that the undertaking was “the realization of full twenty years of fond dreams and much study in the realm of the spectacular.”

Steel MacKaye

The Spanish Renaissance style building more ground than any other building planned for the fairgrounds. The front extended over 480 feet with a depth averaging 311 feet. The height was 100 feet and included a large dome in the center will be surmounted by a statue of Fame. Tbe theatre would seat 9,200, with ample exits that could empty the house in about half the time of an ordinary theater. The stage proscenium was 150 feet wide with a proportionate depth. The stage was arranged so it could accommodate its flooding with real water at a depth of four feet. The scenery was planned run with wheels on railroad irons, placed under the water. Each piece would be separately controlled from the prompter’s desk. The prompter will only have to push a button and the electric motor would do the work of 250 men. The overall intent was to prevent any mistakes in the shifting of scenes.


Investors included George M. Pullman. E. L Browster, Edson Keith, John Cuday, F. W. Peck, H. E. Bucklene Lyman J. Gage, Murry Nelson, Benjamin Butterworth, C. H. Deere, Arthur Dixon, J. J. Mitchell, Andrew McNally, Franklin H. Head, Ferdinand W. Peck, E. H. Phelps, F. G. Logan, N. B. Ream David Henderson, A. C. McClurg, Andrew McNally, Ben Butterworth, F. E. Studebaker, and other well-known citizens. Newspaper articles published that the gentlemen claimed, “It will be a more pleasing and more talked of novelty than the Eiffel Tower.”

The anticipated production and scenic effects were described in the “Chicago Herald” (September 25, 1892):

“The character of the performances to be given are promised to equal Wagner’s most extraordinary dreams of all that a great dramatic-musical performance should be. The greatest orchestral music, especially written by the best composers, solos and choruses by eminent artists, all Illustrated by brilliant spectacular and. realistic pantomimes, will be presented. The story of the piece to be given will be the life of Columbus and the discovery of America. Ships of the actual size and appearance used by Columbus will be fully manned by sailors in exact reproduction of the characters of those times. The capture of Granada and the procession of Columbus and Isabella to the Alhambra as well as the surrender of Boabdil, last of the Moorish kings, will be especially grand and on an immense scale. The scenery costumes and music will be elaborate and picturesque, and the promoters claim that it will be the greatest of the kind ever attempted.”

MacKaye was and actor, director, playwright and inventor. He was well known for his stage technology, especially his improvements to New York’s Madison Square Theatre where he engineered the “double stage.” This included an elevator the size of a full stage that was raised and lowered by counterweights and reduced scene changes to one or two minutes. By 1885, MacKaye had established three theaters in New York City: the St. James, Madison Square, and the Lyceum Theatre.

Patent by Steele MacKaye, 1893.

Unfortunately, his “super theatre” destined for Chicago was deprived of funds during the panic of 1893. On February 27, 1894, the “San Francisco Call” reported, “The MacKaye Spectatorium has failed and will go into the hands, of a receiver. It has not paid expenses; and with the death of its originator it passes out of existence.”

The unfinished structure of the Spectatorium is visible in the background. Image posted in: https://chicagology.com/

The dismantling of the Spectatorium was covered in the Chicago Tribune on October 7, 1893. “The Spectatorium, the large pile of steel and wood at the north end of the World’s Fair grounds, which was to have housed the grandest theatrical representations in the world, is being torn down to be sold as scrap iron. The Spectatorium, as yet incomplete, cost $550,000. It was sold for $2,250. The project was that of Steele Mackaye. He broached it first last year to leading capitalists of Chicago and it met with favor. The plan was to build a structure sufficiently large to give a representation of the discovery of America on a scale larger than was ever attempted. MacKaye invented new methods of lighting which promised to revolutionize the methods of stage illumination. The life of the production was to have been a great chorus arranged on the principle of the old Greek chorus. The organization of the company proceeded well. Work was begun, hundreds of men employed, and actors and actresses contracted with and put on rehearsal. The Spectatorium failed and went into the hands of a receiver June 1.”

It was reported that MacKaye blamed the failure on “bad weather, labor troubles, a tight money market, and an article declaring the project a failure, which prevented the disposition of the company’s bonds.” Then Building Commissioner declared that the Spectatorium must be torn down as it was dangerous. It took two hundred men, thirty days, and $15,000 to clear the site and remove the 1,200 tons of iron. The lumber was repurposed for sidewalks and the building of small cottages for working people.

To be continued…

One of the best internet sites that I have encountered for information pertaining to Chicago events, structures and people is “Chicagology.” Here is the link: https://chicagology.com/ The site provided some lovely images from the planning and initial construction of Steele MacKaye’s Spectatorium.

Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 186 – Thomas G. Moses and Hardesty G. Maratta


Part 186: Thomas G. Moses and Hardesty G. Maratta

Today I look at Hardesty Gilmore Maratta (August 22, 1864-October 1924).  His birthday was yesterday, August 22 – 153 years ago. He also enters the Thomas G. Moses’ story at this point.

Thomas G. Moses and John H. Young continued to study art and go on sketching trips throughout 1883. Traveling companions and other fellow artists included Edward A. Morange and Hardesty G. Maratta (August 22, 1864-October 1924). Moses wrote “we certainly had some good trips.” He elaborated in one entry writing, “We were all working in watercolor. Most of our trips were along the river where we found good material and a lot of adventures – too numerous to mention. One Sunday we were sketching a grain schooner that was ready to leave at the Rock Island Elevator. A tug arrived to tow it from the lake. We objected as we had some work to finish on the sketch. The tug Captain was good-natured and invited us aboard the tug. We finished the sketch and rode out in the lake beyond the water crib some three miles. The Captain brought us back to Washington Street. We were profuse in our thanks and we were also satisfied. It gave the crew something to talk about.”

Maratta was born in Chicago, Illinois. A life-long resident, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago where he exhibited from 1888 to 1906. He was well known as a watercolorist, scenic artist, newspaper illustrator, color theoretician, and designer of TECO pottery at Gates Potteries in Chicago.

1904 advertisement for Teco Pottery at Gates Potteries in Chicago, Illinois.
Example of Teco sign and vases.

Maratta was one of the artists commissioned by Juan Lorenzo Hubbell, owner of the Hubbell Trading Post at Ganado, Arizona, to copy Navajo rugs, especially the classic designs, in watercolor and oil.  These designs were hung on his walls to encourage the rug weavers working during the duplication of the designs. Maratta studied the coloring of the plains of the Southwest after returning from his time abroad.

Maratta painted in California during the late 1890s. Some of his artworks remain in the Santa Fe Railroad Collection, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Fogg Museum, Harvard University; and the Hubbell Trading Post Museum, Ganado, Arizona.

Hardesty G. Maratta, “Marsh Landscape,” 1905.

Maratta also made a name for himself with the color scale. While he was while cleaning several paintings by Guido Reni, he first became convinced that color harmony was a well-known science from long ago; he just happened to rediscover these ancient Greek rhythms.

The “color scale” by Hardesty G. Maratta.

In an article titled “Color Scale,” published in Railway Master Mechanic Vol. 31, 1907 (pg. 301), Maratta was interviewed. He was quoted, “I began studying this subject when I discovered the analogy that exists between color, music, architecture, and chemistry. Music is a division of sound into harmonic ratios; architecture a division of space into harmonic ratios, and chemistry the division of elements in the same manner.” The “Color Scale” article continues, “The blending and harmonizing of shades and colors were so exact in each of these that he does not believe it could have been accidental. Examination of pictures by other old masters confirmed his belief…Harmony of color, heretofore depending solely upon the training and taste of the individual handling of pigments, has been reduced to an exact science as the harmony of music. This assertion of a great principle, forming the foundation for all art in which colors are used, is made by Hardesty G. Maratta, a Chicago artist, who has devoted the last twelve years to its solution.”

The basis of his approach was also explained in the 1920 publication, “Arts & Decoration, Vol. XIV, No. 1. The author explained the color system of Maratta, writing that any system of beauty, whether it is created or follows a system, is built upon rhythm (Nov. 1920, pg. 1).

When Maratta finally decided to devote all of his time to the study of color, he first experimented with fire-resistant colors, making many burnt clay pictures. Then he went into the factories where paints where made and studied them there. The article notes, “for a year, to demonstrate his theory, he painted stage scenery, using only three primary colors – yellow, red, and blue.” He then applied for a color system patent.

1909 Patent for the color chart by Hardesty G.Maratta.
1909 Patent for the color chart by Hardesty G.Maratta.

From a theatrical context, Hardesty C. Maratta and Frank Peyraud were actively involved with Steele MacKaye’s Spectatorium project. Maratta had a fifteen-year contract with MacKaye, which “the failure of the scheme and MacKaye’s sudden death left null and void” (The Critic, June 27, 1896, pg. 427). I’ll explore this topic tomorrow.

To be continued…