On November 29,
the sets and costumes from Drury Lane's Theater's 1901 Christmas pantomime
Mr Bluebeard were packed up and sent to their new owner in New
York, producer Klaw & Erlanger, two acrobatic performers came along.
They were Patrick E. Dawe and William "Harry" T. Seymour,
operators of two mechanical characters in the production. Klaw
& Erlanger's alterations to the Drury Lane production were
extensive but they liked these special features enough to spend
a bit extra to keep them in the act and apparently concluded
American substitutes could not easily duplicate what Dawe and
Seymour brought to the performance.
A year earlier
K&E had presented Drury Lane's The Sleeping Beauty and the
Beast in New York, said to be the first English Christmas
pantomime in America. It was based on that success that
K&E purchased Mr. Blue Beard.
One of the Mr.
Bluebeard mechanical characters was a dancing
two-man elephant and the other a giant
four-foot round head named Grant, operated by Seymour. Nothing was reported as to
whether either device survived the fire but my guess is that
they did not, making these photos a treasure. If they were
not destroyed in the Iroquois Theater, as was the case with
many of the costumes, they were destroyed in a fire where
the remaining costumes and sets were sent for salvage, Western
Salvage and Wrecking.
It burned on March 8, 1904, earning Klaw and Erlanger a
congressionally awarded reprieve on duties. in When the fire broke out, Dawe
and Seymour were probably in the wings suiting up in their
elephant costume. Nothing was reported 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. Other newspapers referred to it
dancing and described it as "tame," suggesting it was at least
somewhat compliant with Sister Anne's wishes. It appears
man in front stood erect with his neck bent to lower the height
of his head while he controlled the head and trunk movements with his
hands. The man in back stood bent at the hips and gripping
the waist of the man in front. I suspect Seymour was short
of stature thus in the front half and Dawe in the back, his leg
splayed for stability and maybe to prevent a swayback
The giant head Grant appeared in
Act II scene 1 in a skit with a drunken Irish Patshaw singing
"Julie," lamenting that he's been rejected by
Grant might have been intended to represent 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
possible connection is that Dawe worked with a well known
ventriloquist in London named Professor Grant. In the
skit when Patshaw offers Grant a drink, a fifty inch long 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.*
reviewer reported that a young child wore Grant's head but
another said it appeared to move as though without body or legs.
In addition to the large size being too cumbersome for a young
child, the mechanism to control the facial expressions was said to be
complicated so it seems unlikely it was worn by a child. Additionally,
it would not have been necessary for performers to come from
London to operate
a device a child could master. My guess is that Harry wore
the head while crouched to a near squat, possibly with a telescoping metal arm for the
tongue, with a claw on one end to grab the wine bottle, or
maybe his arm, clad in a red sleeve and glove. The shorter
the legs, the easier to obscure, thus my theory that Seymour was
the shorter of the two men. Moving while squatting would have
taken serious 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.
Vertical jumps make the heaviest demands on the quads,
hamstrings and glutes.
Grant was one of
several decapitated talking heads in Mr. Bluebeard.
Bluebeard's dead wives appeared as talking heads in the
forbidden Blue Room.
In the years after the fire
In 1904 the pair
met up with comedian Joseph Cawthorne again, figuratively and
literally. In another Klaw and Erlanger pantomime, Mother
Goose, they played a two-man horse - called "paralyzingly
funny" by the San Francisco Call - and were ridden by
Cawthorne. Donkeys were also among the cast in Mother Goose.
The Boston Globe remarked upon the anonymity of these highly
paid performers from Drury Lane.
Patrick Dawe have tracked him to 1911 when he was 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 in Fort Wayne,
Indiana mentions, "The comedy is in capable hands, our little
German friend, Harry Seymour, with Harry Ward, taking care of
the heavy end of it." This is one of several references
to Harry being little, small, diminutive and of German or Dutch
descent. They were appearing in a
variety show, Auto Girls 1915-17, in which Harry was a
headliner and co-producer. 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