Part Two of History of Cincinnati Music: Puttin’ On the Ritz – Southwest Ohio Show People

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Last month, David Lewis and I presented  History of Cincinnati Music: Puttin’ On the Ritz – Southwest Ohio Show People

at the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

The original plan was for me to present information on three figures: Powhatan Beaty, James O’Neill and Paul Laurence Dunbar. That plan had to be amended due to limited time and I focused on Powhatan Beaty and Henry Boyd, to whom Beaty was apprenticed early in his life.

David gave fantastic presentations on Charles Urban, Arthur V. Johnson, Theda Bara and Harry Richman.

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This month, on Saturday, we will be presenting Part Two. I will be presenting the information on James O’Neill and Paul Laurence Dunbar that I had to reserve earlier, while David will tell us all about Burton L. King, Ted Lewis and Harry Reser.

Here is his radio piece on King:

 A commentary about Burton L. King, Cincinnati native and silent film director 

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And here is his recent radio interview with Joseph Rubin, curator of the Ted Lewis Museum in Circleville:

Learn About Ohio-Born Jazz Musician Ted Lewis

And here is the event page for part two of this talk:

History of Cincinnati Music – Puttin’ on the Ritz Part II: More Cincinnati Show People

I think it was David who wrote this description of it:

“A continuation of Rebecca Forste and Uncle Dave Lewis’s series of historical sketches of Cincinnati figures in entertainment. On this program, Rebecca will present on 19th century actor James “Count of Monte Cristo” O’Neill, father to playwright Eugene and, for the first time, tell the untold story of poet Paul Laurence Dunbar’s connection to mainstream, Broadway entertainment. Uncle Dave will narrate, in summary fashion, the careers of Harry Houdini’s film director Burton L. King, and musicians Ted Lewis and Harry Reser.

Program will be held in the Reading Garden Lounge located on the first floor of Main Library’s south building.”

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So, here is some of what I presented last time on Powhatan Beaty:

“The three (Beaty, O’Neill and Dunbar) were contemporaries, but Powhatan Beaty was born first, in Richmond, Virginia on October 8, 1837. pbeattydeath Most sources state that Beaty’s parents are unknown, but I have located a copy of his death certificate which lists his mother as A. Leigh. We know that Beaty named his first-born son Albert Lee Beaty. Also, the 1900 census shows a sister named Ellen Lee and a niece named Carrie Lee living in his household. These facts provide more evidence for Leigh/Lee as a family surname.

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Beaty was born a slave and is believed to have come to Ohio in 1849 at around the age of 12. It is not known exactly when or how he was freed. He was listed as free in the first record I found of him: the 1860 federal census, where he is found living in the household of furniture maker Henry Boyd on June 18 in the thirteenth ward of Cincinnati.

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It is thought that Beaty was apprenticed to Boyd, who had been a slave in Kentucky before coming to Cincinnati, where he became a prominent furniture maker known especially for his beds. The bed shown here is at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon. Boyd employed both black and white workers. He  is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery. Beaty’s occupation in early records is usually given as turner or sawyer, both woodworking jobs.

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Beaty is believed to have received schooling before this apprenticeship. He showed promise as a scholar and actor and is known to have studied with actor James E. Murdoch, who moved to the Cincinnati area around 1850.  

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In 1862, Beaty served in the Black Brigade formed to help protect Cincinnati from attack and in 1863 he enlisted as a private in the Union Army at Camp Delaware, Ohio. He was promoted to sergeant two days later. Beaty was awarded a medal of honor for his actions at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, where “took command of his company, all the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.”

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As impressive as Beaty’s military career was, we are more interested in, for the purposes of this presentation, his stage career. ”  –To be continued….

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Please come down to the main library in Cincinnati on Saturday, August 29 at 3 PM to hear more!! Looking forward to seeing you there!!

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