Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Famous 19th and Early 20th Century Actress Henrietta Foster Crosman Lived in Pelham Manor

Henrietta Crosman was a famous Broadway, vaudeville, silent film, and movie actress known for her comedic talents.  Born in Wheeling, West Virginia on September 22, 1871, she became a famous star of the stage in the late 19th century.  She continued to act on Broadway and in national tours through the 1920s, but also appeared in numerous silent films and even made the transition to "talkies" late in her acting career.  Indeed, late in her career, Crosman appeared in Pilgrimage, a John Ford movie, in at least one Charlie Chan movie, and in a grandmotherly supporting role to Jean Harlow in the 1937 film Personal Property.  

Henrietta Crosman and her second husband, S. Maurice Campbell, moved to the Village of Pelham Manor in 1913 at the very height of Crosman's career.  The couple is shown in the 1930 U.S. Census as living at 1011 Prospect Avenue in the Village of Pelham Manor with their son, Maurice J. Cambell.

Crosman's second husband, S. Maurice Campbell, died in Pelham Manor on October 16, 1942.  By that time, the couple resided in an apartment within a building located at 908 Edgewood Avenue that no longer exists.  Henrietta Crosman died in her apartement on Edgewood Avenue, on October 31, 1944.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog includes several images of Henrietta Crosman and transcribes the text of two detailed biographies as well as Crosman's obituary published in The Pelham Sun shortly after her death.

1011 Prospect Avenue in April, 2012.  Henrietta
Crosman, Her Second Husband S. Maurice Campbell,
and the Couple's Son, Maurice J. Campbell Are Shown
as Living in the Home in the 1930 U.S. Census.

Henrietta Crosman on December 31, 1905.
Source:  Publicity Still for Madeline in 1906,
New York Public Library Billy Rose Theatre
Collection Photograph File, Image ID TH-06181.
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

SEASON IN THE COMEDY 'SHAM'.  Source:  Munsey's Magazine,
Vol. 43, Apr.-Sep. 1910, p. 130 (The Frank A. Munsey Co., 1910).
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

Henrietta Crosman in an Undated Publicity Photograph.
Source:  New York Public Library Billy Rose Theatre
Collection Photograph File, Image ID TH-06170.
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

"CROSMAN, Henrietta Foster (Sept. 2, 1861 - Oct. 31, 1944), actress, was born in Wheeling, Va. (later W. Va.), where her father, George H. Crosman, was stationed as a regular officer in the quartermaster corps of the Union Armey.  Her grandfather, Maj. Gen. George Crosman, originally from Taunton, Mass., was a graduate of West Point.  Her mother, Mary (Wick) Crosman, was a native of Youngstown, Ohio.  Henrietta -- named for her maternal grandmother, a sister of the composer Stephen Foster -- was educated in Wheeling and at the Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem, Pa.  With her father in poor health and retired on half pay, family funds were limited, and she was forced as a young woman to support herself.  Success in amateur theatricals in Youngstown, Ohio, where the family was then living, encouraged her to try for a stage career.  A great-uncle, Morrison Foster, introduced her to the Pittsburgh theatrical manager John Ellsler, and through his recommendation she made her debut at the Windsor Theatre in New York City on Aug. 13, 1883, as Letter Lee in Bartley Campbell's melodrama about the Old South, The White Slave.  

During the next few years she toured and played in stock companies, concentrating on farce and light comedy, for which she seemed best suited.  She was married in 1886 to Sedley Brown, an actor, and a child, Sedley Brown, [Page 412 / Page 413] Jr., later called George Crosman, was born in 1887 in Youngstown.  On Dec. 17, 1889, she had advanced sufficiently to play Celia to ADA REHAN's Rosalind in Augustin Daly's production of As You Like It.  She worked in secondary roles with both Daniel Frohman's Lyceum Company and Charles Frohman's Commedians.  In 1896 she divorced Brown, receiving custody of their son.  That same year she was married to Maurice Campbell; they had a son, Maurice Campbell, Jr., in 1897.  The next three years were spent with stock companies in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Denver, where Miss Crosman advanced to leading lady.  During this time her husband became her manager.  Together they bought the rights to George Hazelton's Mistress Nell, a romantic comdey based on the life of Nell Gwyn.  Despite the opposition of the then powerful Theatrical Syndicate or trust, they managed to book it into a New York theatre (the Bijou) on Oct. 9, 1900, where Henrietta Crosman was acclaimed as a star.  In 1902 she played Rosalind, a performance the critic John Ranken Towse considered 'one of the most satisfying expositions of the character I have seen.'  'The mantle of high comedy,' asserted the Evening Sun, '. . . has fallen more than gracefully on Miss Crosman's shoulders.'  Her most spectacular success (1903-04) was in David Belasco's Sweet Kitty Bellairs, a historical romance in which she played an Irish Miss Fix-It.

Over the next ten years she acted in two or three new plays each season, touring the United States and parts of Canada when a long New York run was not possible.  Most successful were Geraldine Bonner and Elmer Harris' Sham in 1909 and Catherine Chisholm Cushing's The Real Thing in 1911, both more admired on tour than in New York.  heavy losses from an ambitious but unsuccessful production of a play they commissioned in 1907 based on Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress left the Campbells bankrupt, and for several years (1908-16) Miss Crosman recouped their funds by occasional tours in vaudeville, in which she appeared in one-act plays.  Having now outgrown youthful comedy roles, she began to receive more satisfying parts in the theatre.  In 1916 she played Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and Constance Collier.  That autumn she won praise for her Mrs. George in Shaw's Getting Married.  Her professional appearances became less frequent after World War I; her most important role in the early 1920's was as Madame Atherton in Martin Flavin's Children of the Moon (1923).  Her last Broadway appearance was in Thunder in the Air in 1929, though she played occasional parts elsewhere during the 1930's.

Between 1913 and 1927 Miss Crossman found time to appear in silent films.  In 1930 she created the talking-picture role of Fanny Cavendish in Royal Family of Broadway, based on the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman.  Between 1933 and 1937 she appeared in seventeen films in Hollywood, most significantly, perhaps in John Ford's Pilgrimage (1933).  An ardent suffragist, she played in Percy MacKaye's suffrage drama Anti-Matrimony in 1910.  In an address in 1909 she told her se:  'You're too ladylike -- get together an army of women . . . and send them to Washington . . . [and] their employers would beg Congress for their immediate enfranchisement.  I have worked since I was sixteen and have supported not only mystelf but four or five others as well, and I have not omitted to darn my husband's stockings or to rock the cradle.  Some of those I took care of were men voters.'  (New York Sun, May 5, 1909, Robinson Locke Scrapbooks).  She died at her home in Pelham Manor, N. Y., in 1944 at the age of eighty-three, two years after her husband's death.

Henrietta Crosman never pretended to have a strong love for the theatre or for acting; it was, simply, a way of life she accepted in order to earn a living, but she gave herself to it without reservation.  Her distinctive features and graceful blond beauty were combined with great personal charm.  If her final reputation is not as great as that of her contemporaries Maude Adams (d. 1954), MINNIE MADDERN FISKE, JULIA MARLOWE, OR Ethel Barrymore (d. 1959), it is because she made her mark at first almost exclusively in comedy -- we reward Mrs. Siddons above Peg Woffington -- and because during her most active career, between 1900 and 1916, she found few suitable roles that could meet the taste of both the New York audience and the larger public on the road, where her real following was.  She could not, for example, accept the new realism, as her frequent public statements agaisnt Ibsen and 'sewer' drama attest.  Her long career spanned several eras in American theatrical history:  from Oceana in John Augustus Stone's Metamora in 1886 at Miner's Bowery Theatre to a grandmotherly supporting role to JEAN HARLOW in the film Personal Property in 1937.  Her charm and beauty, her acting and her sheer durability appealed to the American audience.

[The Robinson Locke Scrapbooks, Theatre Collection, N. Y. Public Library at Lincoln Center, especially for 1900-16, and other files there, including [Page 413 / Page 414] the Stella R. Newton Scrapbooks from Denver; George C. D. Odell, Annals of the N. Y. Stage, vols XII-XV (1940-49); Morrison Foster, My Brother Stephen (1896); Morrison Foster, 'Scrapbook Extracts' (typescript), Music Division, N. Y. Public Library at Lincoln Center; John Tasker Howard, Stephen Foster, America's Troubadour (1934); Lewis C. Strang, Famous Acresses of the Day in America, Second Series (1902); John Ranken Towse, Sixty Years of the Theater (1916); Walter Browne and F. A. Austin, eds., Who's Who on the Stage (1906); obituaries in N. Y. Times, Oct. 17, 1942 (on her husband), and Nov. 1, 1944, N. Y. Herald Tribune, Nov. 1, 1944, and Variety, Nov. 8, 1944; Archie Binns, Mrs. Fiske and the Am. Theatre (1955); George C. Hazelton's Mistress Nell, in J. B. Russak, ed., Monte Cristo and Other Plays (American's Lost Plays, vol. XVI, 1941); Henrietta Crosman, 'The Story of 'Mistress Nell,' ' Harper's, Feb. 1938; information from Maurice Campbell, Jr., and from George Freedley.]


Source:  James, Edward T., ed., et al., Notable American Women:  A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. I, pp. 412-14 (USA:  Radcliffe College, 1971).


MISS HENRIETTA CROSMAN is a Southern woman, being born in Wheeling, West Virginia, September 22, 1871, and comes of good old stock.  She is the daughter of Major George H. Crosman, of the United States Army, and is a niece of the late Alexander Crosman, a commander in the navy, who graduated from Annapolis in the class with Admiral Dewey, and who lost his life in attempting to save two of his men.

Miss Crosman's first aspiration was to become an operatic star, and she studied both in Paris and Vienna for that purpose, but she lost her voice, and later studied for the dramatic stage.  Her first appearance was at the old Windsor Theatre, in New York, as Lily, in 'The White Slave,' under the management of its author, Mr. Bartley Campbell.  She was at this tiime seventeen years of age.  Mr. Daniel Frohman next engaged her for his Lyceum Theatre Company, and later she played Celia to to Miss Rehan's Rosalind in 'As You Like It.' under the management of Mr. Daly.  She hass played the leads with Robert Downing, and under A. M. Palmer played Gladys in 'The Rajah.'  Miss Crosman will also be remembered in 'Gloriana,' 'Madame Sans Gene,' 'One of our Girls,' and will Mr. William Gillette in 'Mr. Wilkinson's Widows,' under the management of Mr. Charles Frohman.  In all of these she has been seen with more or less success and is this season making a great hit in the title role of 'Mistress Nell,' and the critics have been loud in their praises of her in this role which is justly and truly merited by Miss Crosman."

Source:  "HENRIETTA CROSMAN" in Storms, A.D., ed., The Players Blue Book, p. 86 (Worcester, MA:  Sutherland & Storms, Publishers, 1901).


Henrietta Foster Crosman, leading actress at the early part of the century, died on Tuesday at the age of 83 at her home on Edgewood avenue, Pelham Manor.  She had been ill for several months.  The funeral will take place this afternoon at 2 o'clock at Walter B. Cooke Parlors, No. 117 W. 72d street, New York.  

Miss Crosman was known in private life as the wife of the late Maj. Maurice Campbell [illegible].  He was her business manager.  He died in 1942.

She came to Pelham in 1913 and made her home on Prospect avenue.  She was an enthusiastic member of the Manor Club and occasionally graciously contributed her professional talents to productions of the Drama Section.  Renowned for her beauty and charm, she reached stardom in 1900 when she played on Broadway in the leading role of 'Mistress Nell' at the Bijou Theatre.

She was born in Wheeling, W. Va.  Her mother was a relative of the composer, Stephen Foster, composer of 'Home, Sweet Home.'  She began her career in her home town at the age of nine.  She appeared in later life in several motion pictures.

With her at her death was her son, Maurice Campbell and his wife.  Another son by a former marriage, George Sedley Browne, is deceased."

Source:  FAMOUS ACTRESS DIED ON TUESDAY, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 2, 1944, Vol. 35, No. 29, p. 1, col. 2.  

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At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Brian Youmans said...

I'm writing a Wikipedia article on Maurice S. Campbell, Crossman's husband. He is actually an interesting character also. He was a veterinarian, a silent film director, a manager, a journalist, and a spirited enforcer of Prohibition who became a leader of the effort to repeal it. See http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/MP/20130106/LIFE01/130109793

Brian Youmans
Arlington, MA


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