Who do you think you are? My research revealed a Vaudeville Star!

Charles Cartmell & Laura Harris

I love nothing better than rising early on Sunday’s and delving into my genealogical research with a hot cup of coffee in hand.  I often find myself jumping from one familiar line to another.  I wrote out my research objectives for the day and began searching for information on my GREENE lineage.

I had no idea the delightful surprise I would unveil! The Greene/Green lineage is typically stuffy people with lofty accomplishment.  One of the most noted  is  Thomas Greene  (the second proprietary Governor of Maryland. But today the discovery of an entire family of performers has shed some liveliness on the family line.

The research focus of the day was my 2nd great grand Aunt – EMMA GREEN (1858-1910?). EMMA was the daughter of ELIZABETH CLARK (1825-?) and GILES THOME GREEN (1803-1863).  Elizabeth being much younger than her husband found herself a young widower and left to the rearing of EMMA and her brother ANDREW.

EMMA lived and worked in her mother’s hotel in Uniontown, MD  and on February 19, 1880, EMMA married THOMAS HARRIS (1855-1934)  in Carroll County, MD.

EMMA and THOMAS are listed twice in the 1880 census. One listing their residence and place of work at their mother’s hotel in Uniontown. The second entry was in Baltimore, MD but when I looked at the occupation it listed them both as ACTORS!  A husband and wife team well…well…well.  Finally a little bit of fun in the Green family!  woohoo.  This discovery inspired me to dig a little deeper, after all these are the first actors in the family.

By the 1900′s EMMA and THOMAS were still residing in the Baltimore area and their family had been blessed by the addition of four children.  The 1900 census also revealed that two of the children THOMAS, JR. and LAURA are also actors!  So now I am really excited a family of actors!  What a fun Sunday this was turning out to be!  Errands and household chores could wait.  Due to the excitement I abandoned my typical research protocol and turned to the universe for answers…translated that means to google. So my chubby little fingers deftly typed  LAURA HARRIS + THOMAS HARRIS +ACTOR and Bingo.  The very first result returned was a bio from Will Rogers book – “The Papers of Will Rogers from Vaudeville to Broadway.” Here is the excerpt:

 

So now we can add ANOTHER actor to the family, CHARLES CARTMELL, husband of LAURA HARRIS. If you have lost count we are up to five actors in the same family.

The trio appeared on Broadway together in 1903  All three where on stage for the opening night of the musical comedy “Mrs. Delaney of Newport.”

In 1908 CHARLES & LAURA found themselves on Broadway again in GEORGE M. COHAN’s “Fifty Miles to Boston.” One of Cohan’s featured song’s written in the musical was “Harrigan” Click  here to listen to a great recording of the song I found on YouTube.

Words and Lyrics by GEORGE M. COHAN:

H-A- Double R-I
G-A-N spells Harrigan!
Proud of all the Irish that’s in me.
Divil a man can say a word agin me!
Oh, H-A-Double R-I
G-A-N you see!
It’s the name,
That no shame has ever been connected with
It’s a name that a shame never has been connected with
Harrigan, that’s me!

By 1910 the three actors  – THOMAS, CHARLES and LAURA were  residing in Manhattan, NY .  The census confirmed again that all three were still performing.

In 1912 CHARLES would go on New York’s Broadway theatre solo in the musical comedy, “The Sun Dodgers.” He is listed as performing a dance specialty.

The newspaper archives are filled with rich stories and complimentary reviews of “CARTMELL & HARRIS Vaudeville performances. They travelled all of America and Europe delighting audiences with their talents. One of their most famous numbers that all three performed in was a dancing, comedy skit titled “Golfing with Cupid.”

Below is a picture and excert from the review of their skit:

Cartmell & Harris in "Golfing with Cupid"

Click on the link below for the full article.

<a href=”http://www.newspaperarchive.com/FreePdfViewer.aspx?img=71080054&firstvisit=true&terms=Review” >Review of “Golfing with Cupid”</a>

In 1918 they performed opening night in Raymond Hitchcock’s Hitchy-Koo a musical revue with two acts and 14 scenes on Broadway.

The 1930′s found the three actors residing in an actor’s colony in Freeport, Long Island, NY.  Vaudeville actors established the community around 1910 and lived there while not on the road performing.

Another point  of interest is THOMAS HARRIS is now listed in the census as “THOMAS MCSWIGGAN”  Perhaps his birth name was McSwiggan, and his alias of Harris was a stage name. Personally I like it, sounds like a bartender on Grey’s Anatomy.

I love finding obituaries, and I was hoping that the obit of THOMAS HARRIS would answer all of my questions.  However it only created more!  Now I find out that his wife, EMMA GREEN was also an actress and prior her death they also performed together. So if you are still counting we are now up to six actors in the same family.

In addition to that fact the obit lists her name as EMMA MURRAY – who the heck is that?  Her maiden name was GREEN.  Ok – I will just chalk this up to another stage name.  This story is now is now frustrating me. Two steps forward and one step back.

From the best that I can tell with my preliminary research THOMAS MCGUIGAN was born on February 3, 1855 in Philadelphia, PA the son of a saloon-keeper.  At the age of seven he joined a minstrel troupe as a young boy he tap-danced for Abraham Lincoln. In 1875 he made his first appearance at Fox’s Theatre in Philadelphia. In 1876 he formed a team with JACK  MCNEIL.

In 1879 both Harris & McNeil joined “The Three Arnold Brothers”,  while performing with the minstrel troupe the two would dissolve their partnership.  At that point THOMAS began performing with his wife EMMA.  The playbills listed them as “The Harrises.” They performed together until 1889 when Thomas took a stock engagement at the Odeon Theatre in Baltimore.  He remained there 10 years performing one season with his son Tommy and daughter Laura calling themselves “The Three Harrrises.”  He then worked for four years with his daughter and son-in law under the bill of “Harris and Cartmell.” He had an illustrious career and continued performing almost to the end of his days.  He was also lovingly called the “Colonel” and the Mark Twain of Vaudeville.   Thomas Harris aka McSwiggan aka McGuigan passed away in Freeport, Long Island New York in 1934.

Below is the obituary for Thomas Harris:

Charles Cartmell, husband to Laura Harris passed away a few year later.

Below is the obituary of Charles Cartmell:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I don’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle in place.  I have discovered something about my family that I never knew.  It certainly brightened my day and I hope it brightened yours as well.  You just never know what you discover.

 

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