Sunday, July 22, 2018

MAUDE GRANGER & THE COLORADO SPRINGS OPERA HOUSE #theaterhistory #sweetheartsofthewest

Ever heard of Maude (Maud) Granger? Maude was one of the actresses who traveled across the country in the later part of the 1800’s. In the book “New National Theater, Washington DC: A record of Fifty Years” by Alexander Hunter, published in 1885, they had this to say about Maude:

The statuesque Maude made by far the most beautiful Mlle. Gautier that the audience had ever seen, for she had a figure that Rubens would have loved to paint — a Byron describe — large, full, sensuous. On a pose in a tableau Miss Granger was a success, but as an actress in such a character as “Camille" she was an insolvent in the dramatic bank, and more people went to see her out of curiosity than with a desire to be entertained.

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Cabinet Card of Maude Granger found on EBay

Yet, as critics go, this from the book “Performing the American Frontier, 1870-1906” by Roger A. Hall,
A review of the play “My Partner” by the Mirror of Sept 20, 1879, they say of Maude, in the part of Mary

We do not know of any actress who could bring more intelligence, labor, and the good looks to the depiction of the poignant woes and heartsore grief of this woman.

Maude, like some of the actors today, had parts of her personal life show up in the papers. From the Sunday October 21, 1877 issue of the Denver, Colorado Rocky Mountain News, the following was found:

Maude Granger, the actress, found a long lost brother the other day at Springfield, Ohio, whom she had not seen for 17 years. He had been a circus clown and various other things in his time, and at present is a whitewasher and a politician of the working man's party.

And in the December 31, 1878 issue of the Chicago, Illinois Inter Ocean they speak of her near death experience.

Miss Maude Granger, the actress who came near dying from the effects of a dose of laughing – gas on Monday last, was found Wednesday by a New York ‘Sun’ reporter. This is the story she told:
"I had a narrow escape, indeed," she said, "although it was not so much the poor dentist fault. He has given me laughing – gas frequently before; but last Monday I was out of sorts, and very nervous, and I suppose I should not have gone to him at all. I had a wisdom tooth which had troubled me greatly, and the doctor told me that I must have it out, so I went. Dr. – (you must excuse my not mentioning his name) gave the usual amount of the gas, but it had the most remarkable effect. They told me afterward that I lay for 15 minutes as though I were dead. I lost all sensation for a time, could see and hear nothing. They told me that I stopped breathing, and that my heart did not beat. When I recovered I lay as one in a dream for more than two hours, while five doctors did everything they could for me. I could see them working around me, and hear every word they uttered, but I couldn't no more move hand or foot that if I were dead. I don't know how I dressed for my part that evening, or how I looked, for that matter. I remember saying a few lines of my part, and coming on and going off the stage, and that is all. I was so weak that they had to carry me into the green – room after the last act, but the audience was very kind, though some of them must have suspected that I was intoxicated."

I do love how dramatic an actor can be.

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Overview of Colorado Springs 1882 
On April 18, 1881, Colorado Springs opened its Opera House with Maude Granger as the star of the show. Her traveling company had been performing in Denver, when she was contacted to play Colorado Springs. (For a more complete description of the Opera House, the book “High Drama: Colorado’s Historic Theatres” by Daniel & Beth R, Barrett).

Suffice it so say, it was a momentous occasion. The town that was billed as ‘Little London’, that advertised the many natural wonders and the clear air for those suffering from consumption, was out to show the world what they could do. Theater patrons received a white satin souvenir program recording the cast and management in gold lettering.

Everything was set, except Miss Granger chose for the performance, “Camille”. The papers made a bit of a to-do about the choice of a consumptive dying in front of an audience of consumptives, but they did applaud the performances. There was only one minor mishap, when the settee, that Maude was to rise into the heavens, was not properly attached and she came crashing down to the stage floor. Reports say she heaped abuse on the stage manager, while the curtain had been raised for her curtain call.

Hope you enjoyed this bit of theater history. There are more stories where that came from. Until next time.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Member of National League of American Pen Women,
Women Writing the West,
Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. Oh, how I loved this. The idea of a Rubenesque woman playing a consumptive is funny enough to me. To be labelled "an insolvent in the dramatic bank" in the world of 19th century melodrama the acting must have been incredible - and not in a good way. What a movie this woman's life would make.

    1. The language of the theater critics are to die for.I so enjoyed researching this post. Of course having spent many a year trodding the boards myself didn't hurt. I'm so glad you enjoyed the posts. (And you're right, the acting back then was not what we see now. They had to play to the back seats with no microphone. LOL) Doris

  2. Doris,

    This description of Maude's brother: " present [he] is a whitewasher and a politician of the working man's party..." Whitewasher. Oh my gosh. I laughed out loud.

    I encountered information about Maude Granger in the book "High Drama, Colorado's Historic Theaters" by Daniel and Beth R. Barrett. The stories in this book are priceless.

    I'm looking forward to your future articles about women in Colorado's early theater years. *hint* *hint*

    1. Kaye, I had to read the description of her brother twice to make sure I had copied it correctly. What a hoot.

      I love the book "High Drama". It tells such great stories. With luck I'll be able to continue the 'drama/actor' posts on this site for some time to come.

      Glad you enjoyed the story. *Smile & Grin* Doris

  3. Brave Lady. I liked her dentist story. It’s scary enough to go to the dentist now—where the gas has the perfect mix of nitrous and oxygen. So many obstacles to overcome in those days. Thanks Doris.

    1. Thank you. I so enjoy researching and bringing the stories of these early women to light. That she was an actor is even more fun for me.

      I don't like dentist either, but... Thanks for stopping by. Doris

  4. I have horrible memories from childhood dentist visits and the nightmares rendered under laughing gas! Maude was quite a character, worthy of her own story put to stage or screen. Thanks, Doris!

    1. You are welcome, Arletta. I will say dentist trips are not pleasant for me either. I'm allergic to Novocaine and its derivatives, so...

      You are right, her story that I have found so far is pretty fascinating. Doris

  5. What a shock that settee falling must have been for Maude and the audience. Fascinating, Doris. I had not heard of her. I do like the term "Rubenescue" for her. I laughed at the "insolvent in the dramatic bank" phrase.

    1. Caroline, reading the news reports from that era are such a hoot. The news report about the sette falling talked about Maude being to heavy for it.

      From what I could gather, she may have been around and starred in some early silent films also. It's on my list to check out.

      Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the post. Doris


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