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.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Professor David A. Van Buskirk's Scandalous Musicale in North Pelham in 1897

Pelham tongues wagged for weeks over the scandal.  Indeed, Pelhamites were made to look like fools by one of their own, Professor David A. Van Buskirk of River Avenue in the Village of North Pelham.  (River Avenue disappeared with the later construction of the Hutchinson River Parkway.)

Professor Van Buskirk announced that he would sell tickets and hold a "musicale" on the evening of Saturday, January 30, 1897.  He put up posters all over Pelham announcing that famed actress Lillian Russell, famed minstrel performer George H. Primrose, famed Broadway producers Weber & Fields, and a host of other "leaders of the stage" would attend the musicale.

Ticket sales were brisk.  On the appointed evening, the old wooden Town Hall (predecessor to today's Town Hall building at 34 Fifth Avenue) was full.  Indeed, it was "crowded."

The evening began with Professor Van Buskirk stepping in front of the audience waving a handful of supposed "telegrams" from all of the leaders of the stage, each "regretting their inability to appear" but "wishing him much success" with his musicale.

The crowd was disappointed, but settled in for an entertainment.  Little did they know that the opening performer was none other than little Sadie Van Buskirk, beloved daughter of Professor David A. Van Buskirk.  

The next performer was another youth who performed "some rather vulgar songs."  Some of the audience were offended, and left.  Then the "youth reappeared later partly dressed and began some risque stories."  The crowd turned ugly and began hissing.  Every woman in the audience stood and left.  All but a handful of the men in the audience followed.  

Professor Van Buskirk "came out smiling" and urged the crowd to wait, saying that "the floor would now be cleared for dancing."  There was, however, no one left to dance because all had left.

The scandalous show "almost ruined future really worthy entertainments given at the hall for two years."

Detail from Undated Photograph of the Original Pelham Town Hall
on Fifth Avenue on an Election Day.  This is Where the "Musicale"
Was Held on January 30, 1897.  Source: Courtesy of The Office of
The Historian of The Town of Pelham. Note: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Detail from Plate 20 of John F. Fairchild's Atlas of Mount Vernon and Pelham
Published in 1899 Showing Location of Original Meeting Hall and
Courthouse on the Fifth Avenue Lot Where Today's Pelham Town
Hall Stands.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the text of the fascinating article that forms the basis of today's Historic Pelham article.  On March 1, 1896, North Pelham resident J. Gardiner Minard founded a local newspaper named "Pelham Press."  The newspaper lasted only a couple of years until Minard left to serve in the Spanish-American War.  Few copies of any of the newspapers exist today.  Luckily, however, during the 1920s Minard submitted to The Pelham Sum summaries of the news from his copies of the Pelham Press, often styled as "Pelham 30 Years Ago" and the like.  Occasionally, he added commentary to explain references from the old newspapers.  Below is one example of "Pelham 30 Years Ago" published on January 28, 1927.  It contains information regarding David A. Buskirk's "musicale."

(Pelham Press January 23, 1897)

Next Saturday night a musicale will be given at the town hall with a dance following.  The proceeds are for the benefit of Prof. David A. Van Buskirk of River avenue.  [Editor's Note:  The following parenthetical was not reported in the original Pelham Press on January 23, 1897.  Instead, it was a "Note" added to the reprint in 1927 by J. Gardner Minard long after the fact regarding the "musicale" that was held as announced in the Pelham Press.]  (Note -- The posters announced that Weber & Fields, George H. Primrose, Lillian Russell and a host of the leaders of the stage at that time would appear.  The hall was crowded and Van Buskirk appeared with 'telegrams' from the different stars regretting their inability to appear and wishing him much success.  The singing of Miss Sadie Van Buskirk, daughter of the professor, was good, but when a youth appeared next with some rather vulgar songs, some of the audience left.  The youth reappeared later partly dressed and began some risque stories which caused every woman and all but a handful of men to leave amid much hissing.  Van Buskirk came out smiling and said the floor would now be cleared for dancing, but there were none to dance, and all left.  This show almost ruined really worthy entertainments given at the hall for two years.)  [Editor's Note:  End of updated added by J. Gardner Minard in 1927.]


Henry Iden has men engaged in cutting the ice on his pond on Wolf's lane.  The work began last Wednesday and it is expected that the ice house will be filled with this crop.


Philip Flynn, of the oldest and best known residents of City Island died at his home there last Saturday.  The interment took place Thursday.

Two cases of pneumonia were reported this week:  Mrs. H. T. Stone of Fourth avenue and Mr. Wilson-Barker of Second avenue, North Pelham.


The North Pelham board of health complains that out of town doctors practising in the village are not reporting contagious cases as required by law.


Ethel Jones, little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. H. Jones of Mayflower avenue, found a bottle labeled 'poison' in a vacant lot last Friday and brought it to the North Pelham school.  Principal Hill saw her about to drink some and asked her what it was.  She replied 'cough medicine.'  He took the bottle from her and brought it to Lyman's drug store where it was found to be laudanum.


During the early part of the week a rumor was in circulation that the Adam's Express Co. would move its North Pelham office to Pelham Manor.  The agent states that while it is true a branch will be opened in the Manor, the Pelham office will remain.


Miss Florence Archer of Chester Park was seriously injured in an accident last Monday.  She had driven Mr. Miller of Chester Park to the Pelham station and in turning around, the horse cut too short, dumping the young lady out, the carriage passing over her.  she was carried to Lyman's pharmacy in a fainting condition.  She was cut about the head and face but appeared to be all right otherwise.  The horse was caught by James Conkling.


Former Justice of the Peace Gustav I. Karbach is being mentioned as a possible candidate for that office at the town election which takes place March 16.


The Pelham Social club held a very successful masquerade ball at the town hall last night.  A large number came from Mount Vernon and New Rochelle.  The feature was an immense Japanese umbrella suspended from the center of the ceiling.  The grand march was led by Thomas Morrelly of North Pelham and Miss Anna Moore of Mount Vernon."

Source:  PELHAM 30 YEARS AGO -- (Pelham Press January 23, 1897), The Pelham Sun, Jan. 28, 1927,  p. 13, cols. 1-2.

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