Marc Klaw, a former advance man, and Abe
Erlanger, theatrical producer and manager,
formed a partnership
A decade later, another theater owner and booking
agent, Al Hayman, suggested a plan by which he would
team up with Klaw and Erlanger, Charles Frohman, Samuel Nixon and Fred Zimmerman
-- to produce a more reliable and profitable climate for
their combined theaters. They consistently
denied that it was a trust. Though theater owners
across the country came to feel forced to cooperate
with what became known as the Syndicate, two, Harry
Powers and Will J. Davis, were eager to deliver the
Chicago market in exchange for a piece of the pie.
By the early 1900s
controlled bookings at playhouses across the country,
as well as performers and productions.
Some Syndicate measures involved common sense
business practices that were good for the
industry had they been implemented fairly and with
diplomacy and flexibility. Instead, the
Syndicate, represented primarily by Erlanger and
Hayman, was autocratic and bullying, too often
taking an our-way-or-take-a-hike posture that
enraged large segments of the industry, particularly
performers, laying the foundation for legal troubles
and the Syndicate's inevitable demise.
The Shubert brothers, Lee,
Samuel and Jacob, decided to produce their own shows
rather than settling for what the Syndicate deigned
to give them. Shubert productions
appeared primarily at Shubert theaters, but not exclusively;
nor did the Shuberts demand that productions by others
could only play at Shubert theaters if Shubert was
their exclusive venue.
The Shuberts found a cache of stars who had been
treated shabbily by the Syndicate, happy to lend
their skills to a less heavy handed organization.
One of those was the popular Sarah Bernhardt who
became a strong endorser for Shubert productions.
By 1909 so many performers had jumped ship for the
Shubert team that the Syndicate was hard put to keep shows
running in its theaters. Further
problems came from negative attitudes created by the
Iroquois Theater fire and the public's impatience
with monopolies. To top it all off, vaudeville
captured the public's fancy and the Syndicate was
unable to adapt to the much different entertainment
During its go-go years,
includedBen Hur, the Ziegfield Follies and the Jazz Singer.
They also purchased costumes and sets for
successful in Europe,
particularly from the
Drury Lane playhouse in
London. These included
Beauty and the Beast,
Goose and Mr. Bluebeard.
1858 - 1936
When he couldn't find clients,
attorney Marc Klaw became an advance man for
traveling theater companies.
With Abe Erlanger he entered The Syndicate with
control of theaters in the South and East regions.
Check out this
discussion by a great grandson of Marc Klaw, John
Tenney. It contains an error about the
Iroquois (no doors were chained) but is remarkably
detailed and a fun read. Tenney states that
the Syndicate paid only minimal restitution to
Iroquois victims. If so, that is new news.
Every book and newspaper story, period or
contemporary, emphatically states that the only
restitution was paid by Fuller Construction thus ANY
restitution paid by the Syndicate has heretofore not
1848 - 1918
Samuel Nirdlinger used the last
name Nixon for business purposes. He was born
in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and left the Midwest to take
a job in a Philadelphia theater. Nixon and
Zimmerman began leasing theaters and graduated to
ownership. To The Syndicate they brought
control of numerous theaters in large cities, as
well as expertise in managing theaters.
1856 - 1915
When the Lusitania sank, one of
its wealthy and influential passengers was Charles
Frohman. As Marc Klaw was the salve to the
abrasiveness of his partner Abe Erlanger, Frohman
was the more personable side of the Frohman-Hayman
team. While Al Hayman concentrated on
financial activities, Charles Frohman concentrated
1844 - 1919
1903-1907 newspapers commonly
Will J. Davis as a member of the Syndicate but
it was such an overstatement that it may have earned
a chuckle from actual members. I feel sure, however,
that if not an actuality, it was Will's aspiration.
Davis spent most of 1874-1890 as an advance man for
Jack Haverly so may have become acquainted with Klaw,
Erlanger, and Zimmerman long before he and Al Hayman
Columbia Theater in 1890. The Syndicate
needed a team in Chicago and Davis and Powers may
have been the best candidates available, although
neither had the aggressiveness of an Erlanger or
Hayman. By most measurements the Syndicate's Illinois
Theater, completed two years prior, was well enough
managed to justify confidence in Davis managing the
Iroquois as well.
Abe Erlanger's energy, ambition
and combativeness were his most frequently mentioned
positive characteristics. The negatives filled
newspaper columns. As a boy in a struggling
immigrant family in Cleveland, Ohio, he had a
variety of jobs, including selling opera
glasses and ushering at a theater. Later he
went to work as an advance man for road companies
and worked his way up to managing theater houses.
A discussion of Erlanger's early life (see link at
left) offers a glimpse at a small man driven to win,
at almost any cost.
1843 - 1925
Beginning his career as an
usher in a Cleveland theater, John Frederick
Zimmerman Sr. went on to spend time as an advance
man for road companies. Eventually he teamed
up with Samuel Nixon to lease and own Philadelphia
theaters. They served up Philadelphia to The
Syndicate, as well as theaters in West Virginia and
1847 - 1917
A native of Wheeling, West Virginia,
Raphael "Al" Hayman learned the
theater business as a protégé managing theaters and
road companies for M. B. Leavitt in San Francisco,
Australia, Mexico and Central America. His
first big success came when he and Charles Frohman
produced Shenandoah. He
entered The Syndicate with control
of West coast theater bookings.
Like Erlanger, Hayman has been
thoroughly demonized for a century. He may
have been as ruthless as reputed but it should also
be noted that he raised large sums for the Actor's
Retirement Home and the United Hebrew Charities.
1859 - 1941
In terms of day-to-day
management of a theater house,
Harry Powers probably had the most deeply
vertical experience of the Syndicate members.
He started at Hooleys as a young man and stayed
there throughout his career, eventually purchasing
the theater and naming it Powers Theater.
One of his many wives
died at the Iroquois
James Strong lost his
family at the Iroquois Theater
If you have additional
info about an Iroquois victim, or find an error, I would like to
hear from you. Chaos and communication limitations of 1903
produced many errors I'm striving to correct and welcome all the help I can get. Space is provided at the
bottom of stories for comments, or