E. F. Albee

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E. F. Albee
Edward F Albee 1857 1930 USA.png
Albee circa 1894
Edward Franklin Albee II

(1857-10-08)October 8, 1857
DiedMarch 11, 1930(1930-03-11) (aged 72)
OccupationVaudevillian impresario, producer
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
RelativesEdward Franklin Albee III, adopted grandson

Edward Franklin Albee II (October 8, 1857 – March 11, 1930) was an American vaudeville impresario.

Early life[edit]

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


Edward F. Albee in 1908

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 United States.[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]


Many entertainers considered Albee's tactics tyrannical. Groucho Marx referred to the United Bookings Office as "Albee's Gestapo".[8]

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 minor character in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy and in the 1968 Broadway musical, George M!.

Personal life[edit]

Albee married Lauretta Frances Smith (1861–1960), with whom he had:

  • Albee (d. 1916)
  • Edward Albee (1883–1883), who died young
  • Reed A. Albee (1886–1961), who married Louise Holmes Williams, an actress, in 1914. They divorced in 1925 and in the same year, he married Frances Cotter.[9]
  • Ethel Keith Albee (1890–1976), who married Edwin George Lauder Jr. (1883–1955)[10] in 1914. They divorced in 1941.[11]

On March 11, 1930, Albee died at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.[1][7] He was buried at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.[12] In his will, his estate was valued in excess of $2,000,000 (equivalent to $30,984,100 in 2021[13]) and he left his wife $1,000,000 (equivalent to $15,492,000 in 2021[13]), among many charitable donations that supported The Actors' Fund, Percy Williams Home, Variety Artists' Benevolent Fund and Institution.[14]


His grandson was Edward Albee (1928–2016), the playwright, who was adopted by his son, Reed.[15]

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". The New York Times. March 12, 1930. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  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". The New York Times. March 27, 1914. Retrieved 2014-12-28.
  6. ^ "700 Theatres Merged In Vaudeville Circuit. Keith-Albee and Orpheum Now Largest in Country. Final Papers Signed". The 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. ^ Marx, Groucho (2009). Groucho And Me. Da Capo Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-7867-4827-3.
  9. ^ "Reed Albee, Officer of Keith Theatres". The New York Times. 3 August 1961. Retrieved 14 April 2011. Reed A. Albee, a former official of the BF Keith Corporation ... Mr. Albee was the son of the late Edward F. Albee, a founder of the ...
  10. ^ "EDWIN G. LAUDER JR. | THEATRE EX-OFFICER". The New York Times. March 2, 1955. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  11. ^ "DIVORCES E.G. LAUDER JR. | Daughter of Late E.F. Albee Receives Decree in Reno". The New York Times. April 10, 1941. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  12. ^ "Edward Franklin Albee". Find a Grave. May 27, 2010. Retrieved 2014-12-28.
  13. ^ a b 1634 to 1699: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy ofthe United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700-1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How much is that in real money?: a historical price index for use as a deflator of money values in the economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  14. ^ "ALBEE LEFT $250,000 TO 3 ACTORS' FUNDS | Will of Vaudeville Producer Tells Why He Left Nothing to Aid N.V.A Work. | WIDOW RECEIVES $1,000,000 | Children, Relatives, Employes and Friends Also Benefit—Church Gets $25,000 Trust". The New York Times. April 2, 1930. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  15. ^ Weber, Bruce (16 September 2016). "Edward Albee, Trenchant Playwright for a Desperate Era, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • New York Times; March 16, 1930. THRONG AT FUNERAL OF EDWARD F. ALBEE; Notables of Stage and Other Fields at Services in Cathedral of St. John.BISHOP MANNING PRESIDES Cathedral Clergy Assist in Impressive Requlem—700 Theatres Pay Tribute to Former Head. The Honorary Pallbearers. Some of Those Present. Tribute at 700 Theatres. Vaudeville stars, old-time luminaries of the stage, vaudeville executives from cities far West as Chicago, people connected in every conceivable way with the stage and many others paid homage yesterday morning to Edward F. Albee, former ...
  • Time; June 8, 1931. But the [National Variety Artists' Club in West 46th Street in Manhattan] club has always run an annual deficit. For years Edward Franklin Albee variety tycoon (Keith-Albee), footed the losses until his death in 1930."