Pittsburg Scenes - Theatres
  v Home
Pittsburg Scenes
Contact Me
Orpheum Theatre
(formerly the La Belle Theatre)
201 E. Fourth
Built 1904 - Torn Down 1964
"Opening of Orpheum," Pittsburg Kansan, Sept. 2, 1911, p.1 c. 5. “The Orpheum Theatre will open September 17th. Over 40 attractions have already been booked including Sousa's Band, Madam Sherry and Nat Goodwin. ”

“Pictures of Merit. Clarence Price's Tour in the Old World in Moving Pictures, ” Pittsburg Kansan, Oct 21, 1911, p.3, c.4 “Clarence Price, our townsman, spent a half year in the old world, visiting all the places of renown and interest personally for the purpose of selecting for his travelogue which he presents to the people of Pittsburg at the Orpheum theatre, this Friday evening and Saturday. The moving pictures and all the details were selected by Mr. Price who made a studious research in order to present them authoritatively and in a graphic manner, which he will. Mr. Price has many bookings this winter but Pittsburg will have the first sight at the result of his study and research. ”

“Orpheum Theatre Destroyed by Fire. Incendiary Set the Blaze in Braden Barn, Mr. Braden Asserts. Flames Discovered at 2 o’clock this Morning Reduced Both Structures to Ruins. – The Losses are Heavy," Pittsburg Daily Headlight, Wed., Nov. 24, 1915, p.1, c.5-6, p.2, c.3-6. “Orpheum Theatre, which represented original investment of $49,00. Total loss. Insurance $15,000. Livery Barn owned by W. H. Braden, $10,000 loss. Insurance $3,500. Livery stock loss of Daly & Frazier, $10,000 loss. No insurance. Charles Murray, rooming house furnishings in theatre building, $1,500 loss. No insurance. Dry goods stock of M. Simon in theatre building damaged $3,000 by smoke and water. Insurance $1,500. The Orpheum Theatre, the finest show house in southeastern Kansas, was destroyed by fire that started at 2 o’clock this morning in the Braden livery barn immediately east of the theatre. The loss on both buildings and their contents reaches close to $80,000, while the total insurance is only $24,000. Thirty-five person rooms in the theatre building escaped uninjured. Only four of the 60 horses in the livery barn burned, the other 56 being led out in safety. W. H. Braden asserted this morning that the fire was of incendiary origin. Evidence in his possession, he said, confirms his statement. Late this afternoon Chief Howe had the front wall of the Braden barn on Fourth Street pulled down as a safety measure. At the time he said he thought it might be necessary to pull down more of the west wall of the theatre building. The fire, which started in the hayloft of the barn, whether in the middle or the rear being a matter of controversy, was under great headway when discovered. The flames leaped from the barn to the roof of the theatre, a strong breeze driving them to the west and north. Both buildings soon formed a great furnace. A dozen streams of water could not subdue it. Until 9 o’clock this morning most of the steams were kept in ply on the burning buildings or on the surrounding ones to save them from the sparks and brands that showered on them. Fully 4,000 feet of hose was used and the entire equipment of the fire department manned by all the hours a fight that saved surrounding property, E. E. Frazier and Patrolman Coillot motored to Frontenac and borrowed several hundred feet of hose from the department there only to find that it does not have the same fittings as used here and were useless. Merchant Policeman Cooper, who was one of the first if not the first to see the fire, roused some young men sleeping in the barn discharged his revolver to give the general alarm and called the fire department. Roy Lewis in charge of the livery barn at night says that he and four other young men asleep in the office were awakened by smoke and that he had gone back into the barn as Cooper appeared on the scene. Cooper says the entire back part of the barn seemed to be on fire when he arrived.
Got 56 Horses Out
Lewis and John Downing, another barn employee, together with Lloyd McClurken, Verne Hicks and Walter Linthicum, who were spending the night at the barn with them, began cutting halters and leading out the horses. Others quickly came to their assistance and 56 horses were taken out, but four were burned. Two of the horses that burned belonged to the Wells Fargo Express Company. One of the burned horses was a roadster owned by Ed Riley, of the city engineering department. It was valued at $275. The fourth horse burned belonged to the Jewel Tea Company. Little of the rolling stock was saved from the fire. Eight cabs, buggies, carriages, harness and supplies in all amounting to close to $10,000 were burned. E. E. Frazier estimated. Nothing was saved from the theatre except some personal effects of people rooming there. The fire spread from the barn to the theatre rear, the rear where the offset from the stage to the main auditorium which formed a draw that made the flames eat into the tar covered roof and thence through the building with great rapidity.
The Heat Was Intense
The fire developed intense heat and the torrents of water hurled into it through every available opening could not put it out. Water had to be thrown on the surrounding buildings to the north and on the building west of the theatre, occupied by the Farmers Restaurant. Repeatedly small blazes broke out on the roofs of these building and they had to be kept soaked with water turned on them at frequent intervals. After hours of work the blaze was practically extinguished between 8 and 9 o’clock, the only part of the interior that was not wiped out being, part of the rooms on the Fourth Street front of the building. A park of the wall on the Locust Street front bulged so much that it was pulled down. Commissioner A. Messenger said that without having made a close inspection he thought it possible that the south walls of both the theatre and barn might usable though the extreme heat to which they were subjected made this doubtful. Mr. Messenger and Mayor Lanyon worked with Chief Howe throughout the fire and Commissioner Huffman also put in several hours as volunteer fireman.
No Plans, McMullen Said
“The theatre building represented an investment of $49,000,” H. McMullen, who with his brother, M. J. McMullen owned it, said this morning. “We carried $15,000 insurance on it. I hear it said that we paid only $20,000 for the theatre. I wish it were true that that was the price. What we did pay is a personal matter. We have no plans formed as yet as to what we will do.” E. E. Frazier, of Daly and Frazier, who operated the livery business under the name of Braden Livery Company, leasing the barn from W. H. Braden, said this morning it was difficult to make a definite estimate on the loss until it was checked up on. He thought $10,000 would be a conservative figure. He said $4,000 insurance was carried on the stock. He said he had no information concerning how the fire started other than given by Lewis. “This is our second big fire,” Mr. Frazier recalled. A year ago last October the barn run by Mr. Daly and myself on Fifth Street near Pine burned, causing a $20,000 loss.” The remainder of the walls of the barn form the walls of what is now the Garden Theatre. The Wells Fargo Express Company lost $400 in the fire, their two horses being worth a total of $325 and three sets of harness making up the rest of the loss. The barn itself belonged to Mr. Braden. It was built 28 years ago by the late Robert Nesch according to plans selected by Mr. Braden who took a 5-year lease on it before it was erected, rented it another 2 years and then purchased it. He operated the livery business himself until 5 years ago. Mr. Braden said this morning that he would immediately put up a new building on the site of the one that burned this morning. It will not be a livery barn but a garage. The barn stood on three lots, the frontage on Fourth Street being 61 1/2 feet and the depth 145 feet.
Set on Fire, Braden Says
“I believe the barn was set on fire, “ Mr. Braden said this morning. “ I think the insurance companies will have something to investigate before they settle on the losses.” Mr. Braden would make no further statement on the subject. An incendiary attempt upon the Braden barn was made the night before the Daly & Frazier barn on West Fifth Street burned in October 1914. The blaze was discovered and extinguished before any considerable damage was done. Chief Tom Howe said this noon: “There are many conflicting stories about how the fire started. I have been so busy with the actual work of fighting the fire that I have not had a chance to investigate those stories or in any other way determine the cause of the fire.” Lewis, the night barn man, says that there was comparatively little hay in the loft where the fire started, not more than a dozen bales today, he says. According to Lewis there was no one in the barn, so far as he knew, at the time of fire was discovered except himself and four other fellows in the office. None of them had been back in the barn for a long while before the fire started he says.
Aroused Sleeping Occupants
Charles Murray, who a month ago fitted up 25 rooms at the front of the second and third stories of the theatre building as a rooming house, lost $1,500 on these furnishings he said this morning. He carried no insurance. When Merchant Policeman Cooper discovered the fire and discharged his revolver to give the alarm. M. Corey, night man in the Busy Bee Restaurant diagonally across the street from the theatre, grabbed a gun from the cash drawer and ran into the street to see what was the trouble. Seeing that the barn and theatre were on fire, he rushed to the building, first arousing Mr. Murray and his family, who occupied rooms on the second floor. Then Mr. Corey went up and down the hallways knocking on all the doors to arouse the 35 persons, who were quartered in these rooms. He made two trips to each door to make sure that the occupants of the rooms were getting out. In one room a man and a woman were sleeping so soundly that they were not awakened by Corey pounding on the door and calling to them. He kicked in the door and shook the people and they sleepily made their way out. When Mr. Murray, the proprietor was awakened, he took his wife and children to the street. When he tried to make his way back to the rooms there was too much heat and smoke to permit it. Many of the tenants left their rooms without taking any of their personal effects with them while others took what they could carry.
Rhine’s Loss Complete
“I will either take a rest or plow corn for a while for everything I had was wiped out by the fire,” Perry Rhine, principal lessee of the Orpheum said this morning. E. Rhine, his brother, who had a much smaller interest in the lease, sold it only last Saturday to Glenn Klock. Mr. Rhine this morning estimated the loss to himself and Mr. Klock at $4,000. This included $3,000 on equipment, two pianos, electrical fixtures, moving picture fills and show paper. Besides this Mr. Rhine spent $1,000 in decorating the otherwise improving the interior when he leased it. This expenditure becomes a dead loss with the destruction of the theatre. In addition to this payment on the lease had been made for some time in advance. The lease was for a 5-year term. There is, of course, no way of estimating the loss on future business. The Orpheum had been doing a thriving business this fall with moving pictures and vaudeville. Several vaudeville performers were already here to put on tonight’s show and a special Thanksgiving attraction had been bought. There was considerable loss on show paper, the large posters The house management and not the owners of a show have to pay for this Paper for the opera “Robin Hood,” “The Winning of Barbara Worth,” and “Daddy Longlegs” all big attractions booked for early in December burned. The first of the paper was put yesterday for “Robin.”
Lost Film Worth $1,500
The heaviest single item of loss to Mr. Rhine was $1,500 worth of film. Employees of the theatre were on the scene of the fire early enough to have gotten this out since it was in the most remote part of the theatre auditorium and in the box office. M. Rhine said, but in their excitement after telephoning to him they awaited his arrival and by that time the fire had eaten too far into the theatre to permit going in after the film. The Rhine’s leased the Orpheum from McMullen Brothers for a period of five years commencing Aug. 19.
M. Simon Lost $3,000
M. Simon’s stock of dry goods, which occupied a storeroom on Fourth Street on the first floor of the theatre building estimates that his stock was, damaged $3,000. This damage was by water and smoke, he says. He carried $1,500 insurance. Mr. Simon and a number of assistants carried out some good from the store before the smoke drove them out. This morning these goods and those that had been left in the store were taken to a storeroom in the Syndicate building on West Seventh Street. Mr. Simon had rented a room in this building and was to have moved into it Dec. 1.
Two Alleged Looters Arrested
Blondie Armstrong and Clyde Miles were arrested this morning a little after 7 o’clock for looting the harness shop of T. E. Coulter, 406 North Locust Street, immediately north of the theatre. E. R. Collins, watchman for the Thomas Fruit Company reported to the police that he saw two men enter the backdoor of the harness whop, carry out some stuff and take it to 409 North Joplin. Chief Roll Rakestraw sent Patrolmen Prell and Farrimond to the house. In rooms occupied by Armstrong and Miles they found lap robes, harness and other plunder from the Coulter shop. Returning to the theatre corner the police waited and soon saw Armstrong and Miles emerge from hiding in the feed yard and Patrolmen Prell and Farrimond collared both men and took to the city jail. The harness shop had been entered by forcing the door. The lock was out of repair and the door had been secured by sticking a punch into the doorframe. This had made it possible for the men to force the door by throwing their weight against it. Presumably any of the large number of people watching the fire who saw them thought they were aiding in removing property from fire danger but Watchman Collins, who recovered formed a different opinion. The intense heat from the burning theatre broke a cable of the Bell Telephone Company carrying the wire that serve 50 or more telephones. C. W. Lowther, the plant chief, and a repair crew were on the ground and as soon as the fire was sufficiently under control to make it possible for the men to work in the vicinity of the theatre they got busy. By 5:30 repairs on the cable were completed and all the subscribers enabled to use their telephones without interruption.
Cut Off the Light
Half the load that the big dynamos at the Home Light Heat and Power Company’s plant regularly pull was taken off this morning by the Orpheum fire. Several of the most important circuits pass on Locust and these were burned in two. The area affected was the White Way, the street arcs of all the city, the house-lighting circuit for the power lines in town. These were shut off at the plant when it was seen that the fire was causing danger of live wires swinging down into the street. The Frontenac circuit was not affected, as it takes a different route from the plant. The force of linemen were put to work as soon as possible. If they complete by tonight the work they had before them, no one will be deprived of his supply of electricity. The circuit by which the homes are lighted was repaired before 7 o’clock.
Passing of Fine Playhouse
The destruction of the Orpheum theatre marks the passing of the playhouse that was known as the finest in southeastern Kansas. Its opening in 1904 was by far the most notable event in the amusement history of Pittsburg. The building of the theatre was promoted by W. W. Bell, who organized the La Belle Theatre Company. La Belle being the name of the house for a number of years preceding change in ownership and it’s rechristening as the Orpheum. Before the building was completed it was taken over by the Pittsburg Theatre Company, a company which is still in existence and was to have been in any event until payment was completed by the McMullen’s. While a number of men owned stock in the theatre holding company stock was bought up from time to time until W. H. Braden, R. P. Gorrell, George Biles and C. S. Smith owned all of it. Mr. Braden is president of the company and has been through its history. The company leased the theatre to Perry Rhine a year ago. A $10,000 mortgage remained on the building, which becomes due next March. When the McMullen’s bought the theatre in August they paid one-fourth the purchase price down. The insurance will protect the mortgage which the company has on the building under its contract of sale to the McMullen’s. While the Orpheum had during the past few seasons shared with all other theatres except those in the largest cities in the slump of the dramatic and the rise of the movies, it was in this theatre for several years following its opening that Pittsburg people saw the same line of attractions that played Kansas City. It was the era of musical comedies and at the then La Belle were seen “The Land of Nod,” “Peggy From Paris” and numbers of other big musical attractions. These companies came in special trains and carried carloads of scenery. The big stage of the La Belle was ample to accommodate the heaviest productions. Actors liked to visit Pittsburg for the opportunity of playing in a real theatre and managers were more than equally keen to book their shows in for they were sure of big business. Pittsburg was on the show map in bright big letters. Through a number of seasons Pittsburg enjoyed the best the metropolitan stage had to offer. Not only in promoting the building of the theatre but also in securing high class attractions Mr. Bell did much to make Pittsburg a notable show town.
Many Big Attractions
Not only the best in the then flourishing musical comedies played in the La Belle but many of the best dramatic offerings appeared here. Walker Whiteside was among the stars of the first magnitude who played in this theatre and there were a number of others of equal note. Then the bottom dropped out of the show business, not for Pittsburg alone but for the entire country. After playing a losing game for several seasons owners quit sending big shows out on the road to anything like the extent they had done. Whether it was the movies or any one of a dozen other suggested causes musical comedy and the drama were such an unprofitable venture that they became few and far between. The movies made their way into the La Belle as into thousands of other theaters throughout the country varied by a few “legitimate” attractions, very few in comparison with the numbers in preceding seasons. Last season the Shriners brought a few high-class attractions to the theatre, buying the shows outright and more than making good on the guarantee by a personal canvass to sell tickets. Manager Rhine had several good show coming on for this season and there were indications of a revival of the theatre business locally.
K of C Show Last in House
The Knights of Columbus and a number of young men and women who assisted them in presenting “The Follies of 1915” last night have the distinction of giving the last performance in the theatre. A large audience heartily enjoyed a pleasing and clever performance by the local entertainers. Mr. And Mrs. H. C. Renell, who produced the show, had two or three trunks of costumes and other effects in the theatre and these were of course, burned. A number of hats, several of them expensive, which had been lent to young women in the cast by the Veatch millinery parlor were left at the theatre and burned. Several of them were very expensive creations. The work of the fire department under the leadership of Chief Tom Howe was long drawn out and difficult. The men were on the job from 2 o’clock until noon for there is always much to be done even after a fire is brought under complete control. The fire was under such headway when they were called that there was no chance to save either the barn or the theatre and there was hour after hour of effective fighting to check the fire as much as possible and save surrounding building. Immediately after arriving the 3-way set was put in action and two singe lines were laid down the alley on the east side of the barn where the flames were checked as much as possible to make it possible to get the horses out. Taking any of the rolling stock from the second story was out of the question. Then the Siamese two-way set and a three-way set and several additional single lines were brought into play.”
List of Shows and Attractions During the Last Year of the Orpheum Theatre Before the Fire:
Clicking on a link will take you to the more information about that particular show on the website IMDB.com (internet movie database) or the IBDB (internet broadway database). Most of the shows that played in Pittsburg at that time were the stage productions of the shows that would eventually be made into movies.
  • Jan 7, 1915: George M. Cohan’s musical, “45 Minutes to Broadway,” price: .25-$1.00
  • Jan 15, 1915: George M. Cohan ’s mystery, “Seven keys to Baldpate,” price: .50, $1.00, $1.50
  • Jan 22, 1915: Arthur Hammerstein’s musical comedy, “High Jinks,” price: .50-$2.00
  • Jan 25, 1915: Henry W. Savage ’s drama, “Every Woman,” starring Alice Baxter, show lasted 3 hrs, began at 8:15 p.m.
  • Feb 5, 1915: “Oh—Oh Dat Camp Meetin’ Band,” local burlesque show under the auspices of the Delta Sigma Alpha fraternity, directed by Ralph H. Preston, included 2 choruses of 48 voices, 12 musical numbers, 35 playing characters, 150 girls in drills.
  • Feb 8, 1915: “Oh—Oh Dat Camp Meetin’ Band,” repeated due to a big success.
  • Feb 11, 1915: “September Morn.”
  • Feb 12-13, 1915: “The Spoilers,” movie about Alaskan life, starring William Farnum, Kathlyn Williams, Thomas Santsehi, Bessie Eyton, prices: Gallary-.10, Balcony-.20, Lower Floor-.25.
  • Feb 16, 1915: Peter W. Collins, lecture titles “Coming Conflict, or the Menace of Socialism,” Free
  • Feb 19-20, 1915: “Cabiria,” movie, prices: adults-.25, children-.15
  • Feb 22, 1915: “Baby Mine,” by William A. Brady, prices: .25-$1.00
  • Mar 8, 1915: “A Pair of Sixes,” comedy, prices: .50-$1.50
  • Mar 11, 1915: “Al G. Field’s Great Minstrel,” prices: .25-$1.00
  • Mar 12, 1915: “The Christian,” movie, prices: Gallary-.10, Balcony-.20, Lower Floor-.25
  • May 31, 1915: “The Lost Paradise,” a 5-act drama presented by the Pittsburg High School Senior Class, prices: .25-.35
    June-July 1915: $1,000 renovation in process.
  • Aug 23, 1915: “The Three Van Statts,” by Swor & Westbrooks, “A side splitting Dutch Scream Greater than the War, movie, souvenirsto the ladies and school children, gallery reserved for colored people.”
  • Sept 6, 1915: “Midnight at Maxies” and “Work,” starring Charlie Chaplin.
  • Sept 9, 1915: “Lore lei Madonna
  • Sept 13, 1915: “The Bank,” starring Charlie Chaplin
  • Oct 2, 1915: “War in Moving Pictures” and “Shanghaied,” starring Charlie Chaplin.
  • Oct 25, 1915: Howat-White Debates.
  • Oct 28, 1915: Local Shriner Minstrels
  • Nov 1, 1915: “A Pair of Sixes,” play
  • Nov 5, 1915: “Bohemian Girl,” comic opera, prices: First 3 Rows-$2.00, Balcony of Lower Floor-$1.50, Balcony-.75, Gallery-.50
  • Nov 15-17, 1915: “The Show,” starring Charlie Chaplin
  • Nov 18-20, 1915: “6 Girls in Vaudeville Act”
  • Nov 22, 1915: “Within the Law,” melo-drama
  • Nov 23, 1915: “The 1915 Follies,” put on by the Knights of Columbus, (this was the last show performed in the theatre as it burned down later that evening)
“Wants the Theatre Rebuilt; Hinkle Says Town Needs One to Keep Play Lovers at Home,” Pittsburg Daily Headlight, Thurs., Dec. 2, 1915, p.4, c.5 “J. R. Hinkle, president of the Chamber of Commerce, favors the rebuilding of the Orpheum Theatre before concentrating effort on a convention hall. He said this morning he would seek to persuade the McMullen brothers to replace the structure that fire destroyed Nov. 24. “Pittsburg should have both a theatre and a convention hall,” Mr. Hinkle said. “ But it needs a good theatre first. A convention hall could not take the place of a theatre. So I propose to do all I can to persuade the McMullen brothers to rebuild. I have already been in consultation with the McMullen’s.” Joplin will get Pittsburg’s better theatrical trade if the Orpheum is not rebuilt, Mr. Hinkle believes. That is the tendency already. Pittsburg people like good shows and will see them. Then why should they be compelled to go elsewhere to see them, Mr. Hinkle asks. It should not be in a city of Pittsburg’s size. Mr. Hinkle is not opposed, however, to the convention hall suggestion. That should only come later, he says, Pittsburg’s position as the center of a densely populated coal district makes it needed.”
“Chamber Will Give Aid to McMullens,” Pittsburg Daily Headlight, Tues., July 12, 1916, p.7, c.7 “A committee from the Chamber of Commerce to assist the McMullen brothers in soliciting aid from the citizens of Pittsburg for rebuilding the Orpheum was provided for last night in the resolution presented by H. H. Porter of the sub-committee to work out a plan, and the resolution was adopted. The committee will be appointed by President J. R. Hinkle. The plans for selling stock in the theatre and the proposition to sell tickets to the first performance were decided upon by the committee as unpractical. Mr. Porter showed how apparent it was that there would be much criticism from the citizens on either of these plans. Under the committee's resolution the McMullen brothers would go out and solicit on their own account but will be backed by the proposition by the Chamber of Commerce."
“Dismantle Old Building; Elizabeth Apartments Give Way to Parking Lot,” Pittsburg Headlight, Sat. Feb. 8, 1964, p.1, c.2.“ The old Elizabeth Apartments building is being dismantled to make for a parking lot for customers of the Hotel Besse, Roy Montgomery, hotel manager, reported. Site of the apartment building is a historic one here. It formerly was the site of the old La Belle theatre, which burned in the early 1900’s. Some of the charred timbers of the old theatre were incorporated in the apartment building. Dismantling is being done by Jack Shipp.”
“Scene of Spectacular Confrontation—Howat-White Debate in Famous Theatre that was La Belle,” Pittsburg Headlight, Thurs., Feb. 27, 1964, p.10, c. 1-5.“By one who heard the debate and watched the big show from the seat on the stage. Work started the other day, a story in the paper said, on razing the building at Fourth and Locust, which rose from the ruins of the building, which had once been a famous theatre, La Belle. The apartment building was erected a few years after the fire, which destroyed the theatre in the early morning hours of Nov. 24, 1915. The La Belle, which had been opened in 1904, was described as the finest theatre in southeastern Kansas. It was a unit of a project, which involved playhouses in two or three other cities in the general area. It was the successor in its function of the old “opera house” a part of the present National Bank Building. When the end came it was the Orpheum, the name having been changed by the current operator. The development now in progress which involves the disappearance of the structure recalls a famous gathering in the theatre on the night of Oct. 25, a few hours less, than a month before the theatre burned. This was the occasion of the debate between John P. White, international president of the United Mine Workers of America, and Alexander Howat, the dethroned leader of the miners of district 14. With White was a famed Iowa lawyer, Nathan A. Kendall. With Howat was a widely acclaimed Fort Scott lawyer, Jacob I. Sheppard. The theatre was filled to capacity. The spirit of the crowd was high and the speakers were uninhibited. The issue debate was the fate of Howat.
Charges Against Howat
Howat had been a vigorous leader of the Kansas miners and there were 12,000 to 15,000 of them. Suddenly in 1915 a storm broke with the publication of a newspaper story in Oklahoma that coal operators of the southwestern area had raised a fund for the purpose of obtaining a more favorable contract with miners. It was said that this fund mounted to $11,000 and that it had been expended. Who got the money was the question raised. Out of the situation came charges that the money had been paid to Howat and to another union leader of less renown in the form of a bribe. A coal operator, Joseph H. Hazen, asserted he had paid the money to Howat. Howat denied Hazen’s charge. But the storm arose with many of Howat’s opponents in the union, who had suffered from his methods of governing the union, joining in the demand that Howat be ousted. The international officials took note of the charges and the controversy. Howat resigned as district president. The late Bernard Harrigan became district president. Howat announced himself a candidate for another election, his idea being to seek vindication at the hands of the miners. President White sent an order to President Harrigan and the district board to bar Howat from the ballot in the election that was to be held. The wrangle over this development resulted in White’s offering to come to Kansas and hold a series of meetings to discuss the matter with Kansas miners. A program of meetings was scheduled over a 3-day period. Howat and his friends violently protested against White’s requirement that the meetings be made public. But White held to his stand. The first meeting was to be in Pittsburg Oct. 25 with meetings the next two days at Franklin, Mulberry, Frontenac and Scammon. The Pittsburg meeting was set for the auditorium of the old City Hall. But on the last day plans were changed and the Orpheum was too small.
U.M.W.A. Chief Led Off
White’s purpose was to tell the Kansas miners why he was barring Howat from the ballot. The time for the Orpheum meeting was divided equally, an hour and a half to each side with White to speak first, followed by Kendall. Next Sheppard was to speak followed by Howat. White was to give the rebuttal. White was given 40 minutes to open and twenty minutes for the rebuttal. Howat was given an hour, the two lawyers had 30 minutes each. Harrigan was the presiding officer. The theatre was packed. White, who’s home was at Albia, Iowa had been a miner as a boy in that region and became a union leader, finally international president. He was an able and aggressive speaker. He presented his reasons for barring Howat. He said that the international union wanted to clear up the bribery charges and that it had been decided that the guilt or innocence of Howat had himself asked the International officials to advise him on a course of action. White said that the international organization wanted to give Howat every opportunity to prove his innocence but that Howat’s conduct had raised some doubt in the international organization.
Lawyers in Action
Kendall, who had been a congressman for a couple of terms and who a few years later was to become governor of Iowa, said at the outset he had no personal interest in the controversy and that he would discuss the legal phases of the situation which he proceeded to do. Kendall was a dignified appearing man in middle age and an excellent speaker. Sheppard was a rough and ready lawyer who was involved in labor disputes in Crawford County for many years, a socialist in his thinking and violent in his speaking. He charged the international organization was trying to convict an honest man whose offense was that he was the friend of the miners. He was interrupted time after time by a big ovation from the crows which was loudly for Howat. Howat was given a standing ovation and was interrupted time after time by loud applause. Howat said he was being abused because he had always stood up for the miners. He said that Hazen was a liar and that White had vilified him. Howat was a forceful speaker for ten or fifteen minuets. Then it was his habit to repeat what he had said. And on this occasion he had an hour and repeated his speech three or four time. But the majority of the men in the audience liked it and their applause gave his throat plenty of rest. When he was through men in the audience rose and urged everybody to leave. A part of the crowd started out. White was up to make his rebuttal. He finally got attention, said that his was a pre-arraigned disturbance and asked the crowd to stay and be fair. Many moved out but the crowd largely remained and heard White declare that he was willing to permit Howat’s name to go on the ballot if Howat would agree to bring a damage suit against the operators in connection with the bribery charges. Sheppard in his speech had made some suggestions along this time.
Canceled Other Meetings.
The other meetings were never held. White and Kendall and Howat and Sheppard reached an agreement, which was announced the next day whereby Howat was permitted to run for another election and litigation was to be started under the direction of Frank P. Walsh, Kansas City labor leader. With Walsh’s expenses to be borne by the international union. So the scheduled meetings at other places were called off. On the morning of Nov. 24, the fire, which started in the Braden Livery barn to the east, spread to the theatre and destroyed it. Later the same day Walsh acting for Howat filed a $50,000 damage suit in court at Kansas City alleging defamation.”
“Struck by Falling Bar. Rural Scammon Man Working on Razing Pittsburg Bldg.” Pittsburg Headlight, Thurs., Mar. 19, 1964, p.12, c.2.“A man identified as George Gabern, Scammon R. R. 1, was treated by Dr. D. B. McKee in his office shortly before noon yesterday for an injury allegedly sustained while he was working on demolition of the old La Belle theatre building at Fourth and Locust. Dr. McKee said the man come into his office about 11 a.m. He stated that he had been standing in the bed of a truck when a bar weighing some 600 pounds fell from above. Gabern escaped serious injury, Dr. McKee said, when he was struck across the back by the bar. He was bruised but no fractures were reported. Pittsburg Ambulance Service took the man to Mt. Carmel hospital from the doctor’s off, but he was not admitted as a patient.”
updated April 16, 2008
copyright 2008