Jack Langrishe

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Jack Langrishe
Comedian of the Frontier
Born New York
Died December 12, 1895
Wardner, Idaho
Occupation actor, comedian, impresario

John S. "Jack" Langrishe (died December 12, 1895), popularly known as the "Comedian of the Frontier", was an actor and impresario who travelled extensively throughout the American West.

Jack S. Langrishe, sometimes noted as John, arrived with his wife Jeannette and their Company, to Deadwood, South Dakota July 15, 1876. Mr. Langrishe along with treasurer and troupe manager Jonas Hellawell, leased the McDaniels Theatre July 22, 1876 from Cheyenne, Wyoming theatre manager James McDaniels, who constructed the first theatre in Deadwood.

The Langrishe Theatre’s first production was "Trodden Down" July 29, 1876. The Langrishe Theatre provided facilities for the Jack McCall murder trial, the man accused in the death of Wild Bill Hickok, the first marriage to be performed in Deadwood August 26, 1876, George Morgan to L. McKelvey by Judge Kuykendall, and as a meeting place for the secret society, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. General George Crook and his officers would attend a performance at the Langrishe Theatre September 23, 1876 while visiting Deadwood.

Jack Langrishe was an integral player in shaping Deadwood’s early day history as he participated in civic endeavors such as Fourth of July event planning and fund raising for health charities. The Langrishe Company’s benefit performance October 14, 1876 donated receipts totaling over $73 to Deadwood’s hospital kitty.

Calamity Jane would appear at the Langrishe Theatre in 1876 along with noted attractions such as Jenny Lind Burlesque. Legitimate Deadwood actors and actresses, Fanny B. Price, Augusta Chambers, Belle Gilbert, Jim Gilbert, Frank Perkins, Jimmy J.M. Martin, W. J. Gross, Viola Porter, J.P. Clark and Emma Whittle performed nightly to packed houses while other forms of Deadwood entertainment and amusement drew equally large variety audiences at the Gem and Bella Union Theatres where Negro Minstrels, Clog Dancers, Acrobats, Child Contortionists, Double Trapeze, Brass Bands and Serio-comic Song and Character Sketch Artists Charles Vincent and Georgie Morrell Vincent were at the top of the bill. Jack Langrishe leased and remodeled the Tremont House in Deadwood May 1879 and built new opera houses in the nearby mining towns of Central City and Lead, two and ten miles up Deadwood Gulch. On Langrishe Theatre opening night May 9, 1878, choice seats sold for $25 and theatre goers were tempted to sample strawberries and ice cream after the performance.

Many Deadwood miners and businessmen relocated to Leadville, Colorado January 1879 to follow the promise of the new rush and the next big strike. Jack Langrishe Company would once again be on the boards with fellow Deadwood manager Billy Nuttall’s Bella Union Theatre Company who opened the new Leadville Grand Central Theatre. Al Swearengen and the Gem Theater troupe visited Leadville February 1879, but chose to remain in Deadwood. The Langrishe Troupe continued to perform to audiences in Deadwood, Central, Lead and to the soldiers at Ft. Meade through the summer of 1879. The Jack Langrishe Company’s final performance to a Deadwood audience would be "Our American Cousin" August 15, 1879 performed by troupe artists The Gilberts.

Jack and Jeannette Langrishe opened November 23, 1879 at the Tabor Opera House operated by Colorado Silver Baron Horace Austin Warner Tabor and Baby Doe Tabor, Leadville, Colorado. Popular Langrishe actor Jimmy Martin would join with fellow Gem and Bella Union Theatre artists Flora Belle and Fannie Garretson to open at Leadville’s McDaniels Theatre May 1880.

The Langrishe Theatre building would be rented to Impresario Johnny Rogers and The Metropolitan Company where legitimate theatre continued to be a successful choice of entertainment for an evolving Deadwood audience. The Old Langrishe Theatre building would continue to serve as a theatre and as a church for Congregationalist services until its final demise in the Big Deadwood Fire of September 26, 1879. The following productions were performed by Jack Langrishe and Company 1876 – 1879, Deadwood, South Dakota.

Langrishe was portrayed by Brian Cox in the third season of the HBO television series Deadwood.


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