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.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Western Actor Harry Carey of Pelham, Born Henry DeWitt Carey, Recalls His Boyhood Days in Pelham

Harry Carey was a star of stage and screen who became best known for his roles, typically as a bad guy, in westerns.  He grew up on City Island in the Town of Pelham before the area was annexed by New York City.  

Harry Carey's real name was Henry DeWitt Carey II.  He was a son of Pelham resident Henry DeWitt Carey who served as a judge in the Special Sessions Court at White Plains for many years and founded a local dairy known as the Willow Brook Dairy in which he owned an interest for many decades until he sold that interest in the mid-1920s.  Judge Carey also served as president of the New Home Sewing Machine Company.  Thus, the Carey family was quite affluent.

Harry Carey was born on January 16, 1878 on 116th Street in New York City, then a rural area distant from the hustle and bustle of lower New York.   At the age of six, Carey moved with his family from 116th Street to City Island in the Town of Pelham.  I have written about Harry Carey and his father, Henry DeWitt Carey, before.  See Mon., Jun. 02, 2014:  Henry DeWitt Carey Of City Island in the Town of Pelham.  

In 1911, a friend introduced Harry Carey to movie director D.W. Griffith, for whom Carey eventually starred in many, many films. Before his death in 1947, Harry Carey starred in hundreds of films. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  He received an Oscar nomination for his role as President of the Senate in the 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."  He was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and has his name enshrined along the Walk of Western Stars.  For a complete biography of Harry Carey, see IMDb - Harry Carey Biography, available at <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002503/bio> (visited June 21, 2015).

Actor Harry Carey in 1919.
Source:  Wikipedia.

1920 Movie Poster for "Human Stuff" Starring
Harry Carey.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

In 1928, Harry Carey was in between movie projects.  He had just completed filming The Trail of '98 and was about to begin filming another project with the Schuberts.  In between, he began performances of a vaudeville show in Proctor's Theatre in New Rochelle.  

On the evening of Thursday, July 19, 1928, Carey was the featured speaker at a meeting of the Boston Post Road Association held in the old Loew's Theatre in New Rochelle.  The meeting was attended by many Pelhamites, who were shocked to learn from Carey that he grew up in Pelham.

Following this revelation, a reporter from The Pelham Sun arranged a meeting with Harry Carey in his dressing room at Proctor's Theatre.  The interview sheds light on Carey's youth in Pelham and on much of his career.  The text of the entire article appears immediately below, followed by a citation and link to its source.

"Harry Carey, Pelham Bred Westerner, Recalls Boyhood Days In Villages
Motion Picture Star As Youth Stalked First Imaginary Indian In Wilderness Of the Pelhams.  Played Baseball On Old Shamrocks.  Lured First By Sea, Then Horses Through Melodrama Into Motion Pictures

Although many Pelham motion picture fans have applauded the daring exploits of Harry Carey, western movie star, few know or suspect that Carey as a boy, stalked his first imaginary Indian in the wilderness, which the Pelham were at that time, and practiced much of his splendid horsemanship in this vicinity.  Carey the son of Judge Henry D. Carey, of City Island ,which was at that time part of the Town of Pelham.

At the meeting of the Boston Post Road Association, on Tuesday evening, in the old Loew's theatre, in New Rochelle, Carey, an entertainer on the program startled many of the audience who were Pelhamites, by remarking that he was a Pelhamite, himself.

The movie bad man proved quite congenial when he met a Pelham Sun reporter this week in his dressing room at Proctor's Theatre in New Rochelle, where he has been playing.  Mr. Carey recalled many incidents of his boyhood in the Pelhams, which were then villages almost as youthful as he himself.

Mr. Carey, son of Judge Henry D. Carey, came to City Island to live when he was six years old and as a young boy favored the sea, and many times accompanied the clam dredgers on their trips from City Island.  The Island at that time had three shipyards and was a very busy community.  Horses then attracted him and his two saddle mounts on which he roamed the country-side, were largely responsible for the western atmosphere, which he later assumed.

'Do I know Pelham,' said Mr. Carey, 'why I used to play first base on the old Shamrock baseball team, and what a team that was.  We played games with a team from New Rochelle called the Resolutes and the Vernons fromo Mount Vernon.'

Carey attended the City Island School and then went to Hamilton Military School in New York, where he continued his studies and his horsemanship under expert tutelage.  After leaving the Hamilton school, he entered New York Law School and graduated in the same class with Judge Jacob S. Ruskin, of New Rochelle.

Law books were too dull for young Carey.  Drama attracted him and he went on the stage, first appearing at the Old Yorkville Theatre, in New York City.  Carey's first starring part brought him back to Westchester County, when he opened in 'Montana,' at the New Rochelle Opera House in 1909.  'There was a great play,' stated Mr. Carey.  'We played that melodrama for over five seasons all over the east.'

In answer to that inevitable question how he happened to enter the movies, Mr. Carey told the Pelham Sun, that one day, at a time when the melodramas were beginning to lose popularity on the stage and he, incidentally, out of work, met Henry Walthall, movie star of several years ago, in front of the old Biograph Studio on Fourteenth street, New York City.  Through Walthall's intercession Carey was given a job and thus four people, destined to become famous in this medium of entertainment, made their first appearance in the same picture.  The four were Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Lionel Barrymore and Mr. Carey.

Following his first taste of screen acting, Carey went west and rose to stardom on the Pacific Coast.  Mr. Carey is at present marking time in a vaudeville act, between the completion of his latest pictures, 'The Trail of '98' and the time this fall when he starts work on a production with the Schuberts.

'My father organized the Willow Brook Dairy,' Carey told the Pelham Sun.  'He combined several small dairies aroudn Pelham and opened his first office in Mount Vernon.  He disposed of his interest in the company about two years ago.'

Carey's father, Henry D. Carey, was Judge in the Special Sessions Court at White Plains and sat with Judge Isaac Mills and Judge Baxter.  When City Island was annexed to New York City, Judge Carey became a Tammany Hall man. 

Town Historian John M. Shinn, Lieutenant Bruce Dick, of the North Pelham police department, and Town Tax Receiver Henry E. Dey all recalle the Carey family."

Source:  Harry Carey, Pelham Bred Westerner, Recalls Boyhood Days In Villages, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 20, 1928, p. 7, cols. 1-3.  

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