Benjamin Franklin Keith
Benjamin Franklin Keith
Keith circa 1909
|Died||March 26, 1914 (aged 68)|
|Spouse(s)||Ethel Bird Chase (1887-?)|
Keith was born in Hillsboro Bridge, New Hampshire. He joined the circus (as a "candy butcher") after attending Van Amburg's Circus and then worked at Bunnell's Museum in New York City in the early 1860s. He later joined P.T. Barnum and then joined the Forepaugh Circus, before he opened a curio museum in Boston, in 1883, with Colonel William Austin. In 1885 he joined Edward Franklin Albee II, who was selling circus tickets and operating the Boston Bijou Theatre. Their opening show was on July 6, 1885. The theatre was one of the early adopters of the continuous variety show which ran from 10:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night, every day. Previously, shows ran at fixed intervals with several hours of downtime between shows. With the continuous show, you could enter the theatre at any time, and stay until you reached the point in the show where you arrived.
Albee and Keith opened the Union Square Theatre in New York City, and it was the site of the first American exhibition of the Lumière Cinématographe. They had obtained the exclusive American rights to the Lumière apparatus and their film output, and the first showing was on June 29, 1896. They then opened theatres in Philadelphia, and Boston, and then smaller theatres in the East and Midwest of the United States, buying out rival smaller chains. They signed a contract with Biograph Studios in 1896 which lasted until July 1905 when they switched to Edison Studios as their supplier of motion pictures. Keith and Albee merged their theatre circuit with Frederick Freeman Proctor in June 1906.
In 1928, the B. F. Keith Circuit merged with the Orpheum Circuit to form the Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO) corporation in Marysville, Washington. In a few months, this organization became the major motion picture studio Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO). Also in 1928 the B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre opened in Boston.
- 1846 Birth in Hillsboro Bridge, New Hampshire on January 26
- 1883 Partnered with Colonel William Austin in Boston
- 1885 Partnered with Edward Franklin Albee II
- 1894 Opens Keith's Theatre in Boston
- 1896 Opens Union Square Theatre in New York City
- 1906 Partnered with Frederick Freeman Proctor
- 1909 Retires
- 1913 Marriage to Ethel Bird Chase (1887-1971)
- 1914 Death in Palm Beach, Florida on March 26
- 1918 Death of his son Andrew Keith (c1870-1918)
- 1928 His company merges with Orpheum Circuit, Inc. on January 28
- "B.F. Keith Dies at Palm Beach". The New York Times. March 26, 1914. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
Palm Beach, Florida, March 26, 1914. Vaudeville Manager Stricken on 25th Anniversary of Opening of His Boston Theatre. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of his Boston house, which was being celebrated today in that city, B.F. Keith, owner of the theatre circuit bearing his name, dropped dead at midnight tonight in the Breakers Hotel, where he was stopping with his wife and Paul Keith, his son. ...
- Strausbaugh 2006, p. 127
- Laurie, Jr., Joe; Vaudeville: From the Honky-tonks to the Palace, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1953
- "Vaudeville to Pay Honors to Keith" (PDF). The New York Times. November 30, 1913.
- "B.F. Keith Weds On Yacht. Vaudeville Manager, 67, Marries Miss Chase, 26. Bride's Brother Weds". The New York Times. October 30, 1913. Retrieved 2015-01-25.
Benjamin F. Keith of New York, owner of Keith's vaudeville circuit, and Miss Ethel Bird Chase of this city were married at 6 o'clock this evening on Mr. Keith's yacht Nahmeyoka, anchored in the Potomac River. The bride is 26 years old and the bridegroom 67. ...
- "History". Boston Opera House. Archived from the original on 2015-08-10. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
- Strausbaugh, John (2006). Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture. Penguin. ISBN 1-58542-498-6.