Edward Franklin Albee II [1857-1930]
ECA Record Control Number: 15584
Record Level: Listing
Record Type: Collector
Name: Edward Franklin Albee II
Albee was born on October 8, 1857 in Machias, Maine to Nathaniel Smith Albee and Amanda Higgins Crocker.
He toured with P. T. Barnum as a roustabout, then in 1885 he partnered with Benjamin Franklin Keith in operating the Bijou Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. With the success of their business, it grew into the Keith-Albee theatre circuit of vaudeville theatres. Albee gradually took managerial control of Keith’s theatrical circuit. They were the first to introduce moving pictures in the United States.
In 1900, Pat Shea of Buffalo proposed to Keith and Albee that they should set up a shared booking arrangement for vaudeville similar to the Theatrical Syndicate. They called a meeting in May 1900 in Boston of most of the major vaudeville managers, including Weber & Fields, Tony Pastor, Hyde & Behman of Brooklyn, Kohl & Castle, Colonel J.D. Hopkins, and Meyerfield & Beck of the Orpheum Circuit of the western USA. They did not invite Frederick Freeman Proctor, Keith’s main competitor, but the other managers objected to this and insisted on a meeting in New York where Proctor was invited. The Vaudeville Managers Association (VMA) was founded at the New York meeting. Keith and Albee dominated the new organization. Albee was president of the VMA’s United Bookings Office from its formation in 1906. Albee had most of the major vaudeville circuits give him control of their theatrical bookings where he charged acts a 5% commission.
When performers tried to form a union, he set up National Vaudeville Artists and made membership in it a requirement for booking through his company. His partner Keith died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1914.
He formed the Keith-Albee-Orpheum corporation on January 28, 1928 with Joseph P. Kennedy. Radio Corporation of America bought his company and formed RKO Pictures (“Radio-Keith-Orpheum”) and turned the Orpheum vaudeville circuit into a chain of movie theaters.
Many entertainers considered Albee’s tactics tyrannical and he was not popular among them. Groucho Marx referred to the United Bookings Office as “Albee’s Gestapo”.
Joe Frisco summed up the impression of power Albee made; exiting Albee’s office into a street under construction, his agent wondered why the street was being torn up and Frisco quipped, “Albee’s kid lost his ball.”:420
Albee appears as a small character in the first act of the 1968 Broadway musical, George M!.
Citation: “Edward Franklin Albee II.” Wikipedia. Updated September 18, 2016. Accessed October 15, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Franklin_Albee_II
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October 15, 2016
October 15, 2016