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 all involved.
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, absolutely required that the
house be shipped back to London. So the house was
smashed into small pieces that were piled into 480
crates and loaded onto a ship and transported to
England. Once there, Drury Lane was delighted to
accept a $5.00 offer for the lot.
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 from the Drury Lane
Theater in London.
passed a week later.
introduced Winston Churchill to New York Society.