Henry B. Harris

Henry Birkhardt Harris (December 1, 1866 – April 15, 1912) was a Broadway producer and theatre owner who died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. His wife was future producer Renee Harris, who was injured in a fall on the aft grand staircase of Titanic.[1] She survived the sinking and lived until 1969.

Henry B. Harris
Born
Henry Birkhardt Harris

(1866-12-01)December 1, 1866
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 45)
Occupationtheatrical producer
Years active1901–1912
Spouse(s)Renee Harris
(married 1898–1912)
Parent(s)William Harris, Sr.
Rachel Freefield
RelativesWilliam Harris Jr. (brother)

Life

Harris was the son of William Harris Sr., a founder of the Theatrical Syndicate in the 1890s and Rachel Harris (née) Freefield.[2][3] He had a younger brother, William Harris Jr.[4] Harris was born in St. Louis in 1866 and was a young boy when the family moved to Boston.[5][6] He began his career selling song books in the theater lobby as a young man in St. Louis. When the family moved to Boston, young Harris began selling song books in the lobby of the Howard Athenaeum.[6] He married Irene (Renee) Wallach, a legal secretary from Washington, D. C. with an interest in the theater on October 22, 1899.[7][8][9][lower-alpha 1]

Harris worked for his father in the theatrical business in Boston for a number of years before starting out on his own producing plays in 1901.[12] He managed such stars as Amelia Bingham and Robert Edeson.[8] In 1906, Harris became the owner of the Hackett Theatre on 42nd Street.[5] The theater was later renamed the Harris Theatre, to honor William Harris Sr.[13] He leased and managed the Hudson Theatre in New York[5] and in 1911 built the Folies Bergère Theatre.[14][15][16] The Folies Bergère was an attempt to emulate the success of its Parisian namesake. By September 1911 it had failed swiftly and heavily: Harris lost a reported $100,000 on the venture.[17]

By April 1912 he was in London, arranging future performances of Maggie Pepper by Charles Klein with his star artiste Rose Stahl and the original American cast from the Harris Theatre.[18][lower-alpha 2] The play was made into a 1919 film of the same name. Harris also acquired an option on the US rights to The Miracle, the world's first full-color narrative feature film that would later show at the Royal Opera House.[18]

Harris was one of the nearly 1,500 who died in Titanic's sinking on April 15, 1912.[2]

Although she had broken her right arm near the elbow in a fall on Titanic's aft grand staircase earlier in the day, Renee Harris had refused to be parted from her husband. Mrs. Harris was rescued by the ship RMS Carpathia. She cabled the Hudson Theatre from the ship, saying that her husband was not among those on board, but hoped he had been saved by another rescue vessel.[12] A story was circulated that Harris had been rescued by another ship and had wired his New York office to that effect, but this proved to be untrue.[19] His body was lost at sea. If it was recovered and brought to Halifax by one of the cable ships sent out to look for bodies, it was never identified as such.[20]

Selected productions

  • Soldiers of Fortune (1901)
  • Strongheart (1905)
  • The Lion and the Mouse (1905)[4]
  • The Chorus Lady (1906) (*made star of Rose Stahl)[4]
  • The Struggle Everlasting (1907)
  • The Traveling Salesman (1908)
  • Pierre of the Plains (1908)
  • The Third Degree (1909) (*made star of Helen Ware)[4]
  • Such a Little Queen (1909) (*made star of Elsie Ferguson)[4]
  • A Skylark (1910) (with May de Sousa)
  • The Arab (1911)
  • Strongheart (1914)

Notes

  1. Irene Wallach Harris (known as Renee) took over her husband's business after his death. She was initially assisted by her father-in-law and her brother-in law, William, although she was head of the estate.[4][10][11]
  2. Charles Klein also died in a well-known maritime disaster, the sinking of Lusitania in 1915.

Further reading

  • Bigham, Randy Bryan & Jasper, Gregg, Broadway Dame: The Life & Times of Mrs. Henry B. Harris (Hayes-Stokes Press Group, Lulu Press Inc. 15 June 2019, ISBN 978-0-578-48256-9)

References

  1. Randy Bryan Bigham, Gregg Jasper, Broadway Dame (2019) p. 50.
  2. "Henry B. Harris". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. April 16, 1913. p. 5. Retrieved February 26, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  3. The Jews of the Titanic: A Reflection of the Jewish World on the Epic Disaster, by Eli Moskowitz p.176 c.2018 ISBN 978-1-938015-96-0 eBook:978-1-938015-97-7
  4. "Who Is William Harris Jr.?". Courier-News. November 8, 1920. p. 8. Retrieved February 26, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  5. "Henry B. Harris". Bristol Banner. April 26, 1912. p. 6. Retrieved February 26, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  6. "Henry B. Harris, Theatrical Manager--Remarkable Career of Man Who Started Peddling Song Books". Pensacola Journal. April 26, 1908. p. 10. Retrieved February 26, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  7. "The World of Society". Evening Star. October 19, 1899. p. 8. Retrieved November 21, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  8. "Henry B. Harris". Pittsburgh Press. April 17, 1912. p. 3. Retrieved February 26, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  9. "Renee Harris, 93, First Woman To Produce Plays Here, Is Dead". New York Times. September 3, 1969. p. 47. Retrieved February 27, 2017.{subscription required)
  10. Greene, Mabel (April 3, 1927). "Woman's Place in the Theatre". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. p. 98. Retrieved February 26, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  11. "Sequel to a Story of Two Politicians". Anaconda Standard. May 31, 1912. p. 8. Retrieved February 27, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  12. "Theater Owner and Producer, Who Sailed on Titanic, Not Listed With Survivors". San Francisco Chronicle. April 18, 1912. p. 2. Retrieved February 26, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  13. "William Harris, Sr., Stage Veteran Dies" (PDF). New York Times. November 26, 1915. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  14. The Oxford Companion To American Theatre, 2nd edition by Gerald Bordman, c. 1992 page 323; by The Oxford University Press
  15. Who Was Who in the Theatre: 1912-1976 c. 1976, volume 2 page 1103 originally published by John Parker annually, 1976 version published by Gale Research
  16. Who's who in music and drama: an encyclopedia biography of notable men by Dixie Hines & Harry Prescott Hanaford, page 156, c. 1914
  17. "Folies Bergere experiment reaching an end tomorrow" (PDF). Variety. New York. XXIV (4): 1. 30 September 1911. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  18. Miss Stahl's Return, The Standard (London), 11 April 1912, p. 5, col. 2. via Newspaperarchive.com
  19. "Many Inquiries for H. B. Harris". New York Times. April 17, 1912. p. 1. Retrieved February 27, 2017 via Newspapers.com.
  20. "Henry Birkhardt Harris". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved February 27, 2017.


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