paying import duty, Klaw & Erlanger rented rather
than purchasing approximately $100,000 worth of
scenery and costumes from Drury Lane for each of the
pantomime extravaganzas imported from London (such
as Beauty and the Beast, Mr. Bluebeard and
Goose). That meant the goods had to be returned --
an unhappy situation for investors.
In the case of Beauty and the Beast, in addition
to thousands of costumes, scenery to be returned
included a seven-ton palace and fountain made in Vienna,
consisting of two thousand light bulbs and
thirty-three thousand pieces of blue, amber and red
Reassembling the palace at each new performance site
took up to three weeks and for some theaters then
presented handling problems.
At the National Theater in
Washington, for example, to keep the house out of sight until the last act,
the cellar beneath the stage was blasted out to
deepen the hole, creating a 16'
x 75' elevator shaft into which the house could be
stored out of sight then raised ten minutes before the
last scene by seven bull wheel operators.
When Klaw & Erlanger cabled Drury Lane's theater
manager, Arthur Collins about the house he
reportedly cabled back: "If you are through with it,
sink it in your bay."
Custom laws, however, required that the
house be shipped back to London it was
smashed into small pieces and piled into 480
crates, loaded onto a ship and transported to
England. Once there, Drury Lane was delighted to
accept a $5.00 offer for the lot rather than pay for
Another fire and Congress
gives Klaw and Erlanger a freebie
On April 18, 1904 a bill was
introduced before the House of Representatives by
congressman Bourke Cockran (1854-1923), a Democrat
from New York, to absolve Klaw & Erlanger of the
$37,000 it had paid as a duty bond for the Mr.
Bluebeard theater set and costumes from the Drury Lane
Theater in London. The bill
passed a week later. What remained of the
Mr. Bluebeard costumes had been destroyed on
March 8, 1904 in a 2:00 am fire at the seven-story
Western Salvage and Wrecking Company in Chicago.
As an aside, Cochran
is sometimes credited with having introduced Winston Churchill to New York Society.