On November 29, 1902, Drury Lane Theater in London packed the
sets and costumes from it's 1901 Christmas pantomime of Mr.
They sent them off on a ship bound for their new owner in New
York. Producers Klaw & Erlanger hoped to repeat the success of
its presentation the year before of Drury Lane's The
Sleeping Beauty and the Beast.
Along with the shipment went two acrobatic performers – Patrick
E. Dawe and William "Harry" T. Seymour, operators of two
mechanical characters in the production.
One of the mechanical characters was a dancing two-man elephant
and the other a giant four-foot round head named Grant, operated
by Seymour. Newspapers did not report whether either device
survived. If the fire at the Iroquois did not destroy them, the
fire nine weeks later at a salvage company did. Western Salvage
and Wrecking accepted a contract to save what they could but its
rented space burned
on March 8, 1904, earning Klaw and Erlanger a congressionally
awarded reprieve on duties. 'Makes
these photos a treasure.
When the fire
broke out at the Iroquois, Dawe and Seymour were probably in the
wings suiting up in their elephant costume. Newspapers did not
report anything about their escape from the theater. The
elephant appeared with Sister Anne (Eddie Foy) in Act II, scene
1, shortly before the fire started. The setting was the in
gardens at the royal palace. One newspaper described it as a
"trick elephant" without elaboration. Others described dancing
and that it was tame, suggesting it obeyed Sister Anne, at least
some of the time. Short-statured Seymour, stood erect in the
front, with his neck bent to lower the height of his head while
he controlled the head and trunk movements with his arms and
hands thrust into the head. Dawe stood bent at the hips,
gripping Seymour's waist, his legs splayed for stability.
The giant head Grant appeared in a skit in Act II scene 1 with a
drunken Irish Patshaw singing "Julie," lamenting
Sister Anne's rejection. Grant might have represented an
alcohol-induced hallucination but I don't know the significance
of the name Grant. Ulysses was too far in the past. Perhaps
there was a prominent Temperance figure of the time with that
name. Another possibility is that the head was named after a
well-known ventriloquist in London named Professor Grant, with
whom Dowe had worked. In the skit, when Patshaw offers Grant a
drink, a fifty-inch red tongue shoots out to grab the wine
bottle then scurries from the stage. Could have been a
telescoping metal rod with a claw on one end, or Seymour's
outstretched arm, wearing a close-fitting red sleeve and glove.*
One newspaper reviewer reported that a young child wore Grant's
head and another that it appeared to move as though hovering
above the ground, without legs. Grant's size and likely
weight would have made it unwieldy for a young child and the
mechanism controlling the facial expressions was complicated.
Additionally, it would not have been necessary for performers to
come from London to operate a device a child could master. My
theory is that Harry wore the head while crouched in a near
squat, the beard hair concealing his ankles. The shorter the
legs, the easier to obscure. Scurrying while squatting would
have taken substantial leg strength - which Harry had. An 1895
newspaper mention of him while performing in Boston with someone
named Farnum stated that he had an impressive standing jump.
Grant was one of several decapitated talking heads in Mr.
Bluebeard's dead wives appeared as talking heads in the
forbidden Blue Room.
In the years after the fire
In 1904 the pair performed again with comedian Joseph Cawthorne
in another Klaw and Erlanger pantomime, Mother
Cawthorne rode their two-man horse, described by the San
Francisco Call as
"paralyzingly funny." Donkeys were also among the cast in Mother
The Boston Globe remarked upon the anonymity of these highly
paid performers from Drury Lane.
Descendants of Patrick Dawe have tracked him to 1911 when he was
a passenger on a ship returning to London. Harry remained in the
United States until at least 1931. A 1915 newspaper story about
a theater performance of Auto
"The comedy is in capable hands, our little German friend, Harry
Seymour..taking care of the heavy end of it." He was a headliner
and co-producer then. In 1918-20 Harry appeared with Manny King
in a burlesque show, Pacemakers. In
1921-22 came Girl
in a Bottle with
the Cabaret Girls act. His act in 1923 was Harry
Seymour and his Four Queens of Cabaret, in
which his best song was "Don't Forget the Eskimo Pie Man." In
1924 came Vanities.
The last engagement I found mentioned in newspapers was in
mid-1931 when he played burlesque at the Gayety Theater in