Edward Franklin Albee II

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Edward Franklin Albee
Edward F Albee 1857 1930 USA.png
Born (1857-10-08)October 8, 1857
Machias, Maine
Died March 11, 1930(1930-03-11) (aged 72)
Palm Beach, Florida
Spouse(s) Lauretta Frances Smith
Children ? Albee (?-1916)
Edward Albee (1883-1883)
Reed A. Albee (1886–1961)
Ethel Keith Albee (1890-1976)
Parent(s) Nathaniel Smith Albee
Amanda Higgins Crocker
Relatives Edward Franklin Albee III, adopted grandson

Edward Franklin Albee (October 8, 1857 – March 11, 1930) was a vaudeville impresario, and the adoptive grandfather of Edward Franklin Albee, the playwright.


He was born on October 8, 1857 in Machias, Maine to Nathaniel Smith Albee [1] and Amanda Higgins Crocker.

He toured with P. T. Barnum as a roustabout,[2] then in 1885 he partnered with Benjamin Franklin Keith in operating the Bijou Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.[3] With the success of their business, it grew into the Keith-Albee theatre circuit of vaudeville theatres. Albee gradually took managerial control of Keith's theatrical circuit. They were the first to introduce moving pictures in the United States.[1]

In 1900 Pat Shea of Buffalo proposed to Keith and Albee that they should set up a shared booking arrangement for vaudeville similar to the Theatrical Syndicate. They called a meeting in May 1900 in Boston of most of the major vaudeville managers, including Weber & Fields, Tony Pastor, Hyde & Behman of Brooklyn, Kohl & Castle, Colonel J.D. Hopkins, and Meyerfield & Beck of the Orpheum Circuit of the western USA.[4] They did not invite Frederick Freeman Proctor, Keith's main competitor, but the other managers objected to this and insisted on a meeting in New York where Proctor was invited. The Vaudeville Managers Association (VMA) was founded at the New York meeting. Keith and Albee dominated the new organization.[4] Albee was president of the VMA's United Bookings Office from its formation in 1906. Albee had most of the major vaudeville circuits give him control of their theatrical bookings where he charged acts a 5% commission.

When performers tried to form a union, he set up National Vaudeville Artists and made membership in it a requirement for booking through his company. His partner Keith died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1914.[5]

He formed the Keith-Albee-Orpheum corporation on January 28, 1928 with Joseph P. Kennedy.[6] Radio Corporation of America bought his company and formed RKO Pictures ("Radio-Keith-Orpheum") and turned the Orpheum vaudeville circuit into a chain of movie theaters.[7]

Albee died on March 11, 1930 at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.[1][7] He was buried at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.[8]


Many entertainers considered Albee's tactics tyrannical and he was not popular among them. Groucho Marx referred to the United Bookings Office as "Albee's Gestapo".[9]

Joe Frisco summed up the impression of power Albee made; exiting Albee's office into a street under construction, his agent wondered why the street was being torn up and Frisco quipped, "Albee's kid lost his ball."[2]:420

Albee appears as a small character in the first act of the 1968 Broadway musical, George M!.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "E. F. Albee Dies At Palm Beach. Retired Head of B.F. Keith Vaudeville Circuit Heart Disease Victim.". New York Times. March 12, 1930. Retrieved 2011-04-14. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ a b Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2006). Vaudeville, Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Psychology Press. pp. 15–18. ISBN 978-0-415-93853-2. 
  3. ^ Carey, Charles W. (2009). American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries. Infobase Publishing. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-8160-6883-8. 
  4. ^ a b Stewart, D. Travis (2006). No Applause—Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous. Faber & Faber. pp. 122–125. ISBN 978-1-4299-3041-3. 
  5. ^ "B.F. Keith Dies at Palm Beach. Vaudeville Manager Stricken on 25th Anniversary of Opening of His Boston Theatre". New York Times. March 27, 1914. Retrieved 2014-12-28. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ "700 Theatres Merged In Vaudeville Circuit. Keith-Albee and Orpheum Now Largest in Country. Final Papers Signed". New York Times. January 27, 1928. Retrieved 2015-02-10. 
  7. ^ a b "Edward Franklin Albee, 73, Manhattan theatrical manager". Time. March 24, 1930. 
  8. ^ "Edward Franklin Albee". Find a Grave. May 27, 2010. Retrieved 2014-12-28. 
  9. ^ Marx, Groucho (2009). Groucho And Me. Da Capo Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-7867-4827-3.