Benjamin Franklin Keith

Benjamin Franklin Keith

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Benjamin Franklin Keith (January 26, 1846 – March 26, 1914) was an American vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

 theatre owner, highly influential in the evolution of variety theater into vaudeville.

Early years


Keith was born in Hillsboro Bridge
Hillsborough, New Hampshire
Hillsborough, frequently spelled Hillsboro, is a town in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 6,011 at the 2010 census...

, New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

. He joined the circus after attending Van Amburg's Circus and then worked at Bunnell's Museum in New York City in the early 1860s. He later joined P.T. Barnum and then joined the Forepaugh Circus, before he opened a curio museum in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, in 1883, with Colonel William Austin
William Austin
William Austin was a British character actor who was born on a sugar plantation in Georgetown in British Guiana . On the death of his father he was brought to England to complete his education...

. In 1885 he joined Edward Franklin Albee II
Edward Franklin Albee II
Edward Franklin Albee II was a vaudeville impresario, and the adoptive grandfather of Edward Franklin Albee III, the playwright.-Biography:He was born on October 8, 1857 in Machias, Maine to Nathaniel Smith Albee....

, who was selling circus tickets, in founding 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 anytime, and stay until you reached the point in the show where you walked in.

Moving pictures


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
Lumière
-Characters:*Lumière , one of the two main characters of the 2002 anime series Kiddy Grade*Lumiere, a character in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast-Places:*Lumière, a restaurant in Vancouver, Canada...

 Cinématographe. The first showing was on June 29, 1896, they had obtained the exclusive American rights to the Lumière apparatus and their film output. They then opened theatres in Philadelphia, and Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, and then smaller theatres in the East and Midwest of the United States, buying out rival smaller chains. They signed a contract with Biograph Studios
Biograph Studios
Biograph Studios was a studio facility and film laboratory complex built in 1912 by the Biograph Company, formerly American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, at 807 E. 175th Street, in the Bronx, New York....

 in 1896 which lasted until July 1905 when they switched to Edison Studios
Edison Studios
Edison Studios was an American motion picture production company owned by the Edison Company of inventor Thomas Edison. The studio made close to 1,200 films as the Edison Manufacturing Company and Thomas A. Edison, Inc. until the studio's closing in 1918...

 as their supplier of motion pictures. Keith and Albee merged their theatre circuit with Frederick Freeman Proctor
Frederick Freeman Proctor
Frederick Freeman Proctor , aka F.F. Proctor, was a vaudeville impresario who pioneered the method of continuous vaudeville. He opened the Twenty-third Street Theatre in New York City...

 in June 1906.

Death


Keith withdrew from business in 1909 and married for a second time on October 28, 1913 to Ethel Bird Chase (1887-1971). She was 26 years old and Keith was 67. Her father was P. B. Chase. Keith died at the Breakers Hotel
Breakers Hotel
The Breakers Hotel is an historic hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, United States. First known as The Palm Beach Inn, it was opened on January 16, 1896 by Henry Flagler, an oil, real estate and railroad tycoon, to accommodate travelers on his Florida East Coast Railway...

 in Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida
The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from the neighboring cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth...

 in 1914. After his son, Andrew Keith, died in 1918, control of the company went to Albee.

Legacy


In 1928, the company merged with the Orpheum Circuit
Orpheum Circuit, Inc.
Orpheum Circuit, Inc., was a company started by Martin Beck who owned a series of vaudeville theaters and motion picture theaters.- The company :...

 to form the Keith-Albee-Orpheum
Keith-Albee-Orpheum
The Keith-Albee-Orpheum Corporation was the owner of a chain of vaudeville and motion picture theatres. It was formed by the merger of the holdings of Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward Franklin Albee II and Martin Beck's Orpheum Circuit, Inc..-History:...

 (KAO) corporation in Marysville, Washington
Marysville, Washington
Marysville is a city in Snohomish County, Washington, United States. The population was 60,020 at the 2010 census. Marysville is known as "The Strawberry City" due to the large number of strawberry farms that once surrounded the city in its earlier days. Over the past decade, and continuing...

. In a few months, this organization became the major motion picture studio
Studio system
The studio system was a means of film production and distribution dominant in Hollywood from the early 1920s through the early 1960s. The term studio system refers to the practice of large motion picture studios producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative personnel under...

 Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO).

Timeline

  • 1846 Birth in Hillsboro Bridge, New Hampshire
    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

     on January 26
  • 1883 Partnered with Colonel William Austin
    William Austin
    William Austin was a British character actor who was born on a sugar plantation in Georgetown in British Guiana . On the death of his father he was brought to England to complete his education...

     in Boston
    Boston
    Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

  • 1885 Partnered with Edward Franklin Albee II
    Edward Franklin Albee II
    Edward Franklin Albee II was a vaudeville impresario, and the adoptive grandfather of Edward Franklin Albee III, the playwright.-Biography:He was born on October 8, 1857 in Machias, Maine to Nathaniel Smith Albee....

  • 1896 Opens Union Square Theatre in New York City
  • 1906 Partnered with Frederick Freeman Proctor
    Frederick Freeman Proctor
    Frederick Freeman Proctor , aka F.F. Proctor, was a vaudeville impresario who pioneered the method of continuous vaudeville. He opened the Twenty-third Street Theatre in New York City...

  • 1909 Retires
  • 1913 Marriage to Ethel Bird Chase (1887-1971)
  • 1914 Death in Palm Beach, Florida
    Palm Beach, Florida
    The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from the neighboring cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth...

     on March 26
  • 1918 Death of his son Andrew Keith (c1870-1918)
  • 1928 His company merges with Orpheum Circuit, Inc.
    Orpheum Circuit, Inc.
    Orpheum Circuit, Inc., was a company started by Martin Beck who owned a series of vaudeville theaters and motion picture theaters.- The company :...

     on January 28

External links