Letters presents readers' comments and reactions to specific articles in Pennsylvania Heritage, the initiatives of PHMC, and other developments in the historical, cultural and museum communities of Pennsylvania.

The Day Duse Died

It was a pleasure, indeed, to have the opportunity to read and to learn from Donald Miller’s article, “Romancing the Stone: Benno Janssen, Architect of Ele­gance,” in the Fall 2000 edition. Janssen’s architectural legacy remains, thanks to the efforts of many, vital and appreciated. I was especially interested in the author’s discussion of visitors to the Hotel Schenley, now the William Pitt Union on the University of Pittsburgh campus. In particular, mention of Italian actress Eleonora Duse’s sad stay at the hotel caught my attention. Although the article points to her death at the hotel in November 1924, it was actually on Easter Monday, April 21, 1924, that Duse died. For nearly two weeks, the world-renowned performer remained confined to her bed, some days rallying, some days relapsing, while members of her small acting troupe hoped for recovery. Caught in a cold rain prior to performing at the Syria Mosque (located two blocks from the Hotel Schenley), Duse and her supporting cast presented La Porta chiusa (“The Closed Door”) to a packed hall. Thoroughly chilled from the inclement weather, Duse – whose health had been precarious throughout what was to be her final U.S. tour – became feverish upon returning to the Hotel Schenley after the play. Funeral home records indicate that Duse, who stayed in room 524 of the hotel, died from complications of the flu, although chronic myocarditis, a condition that she battled for years, was the underlying cause of death. Pittsburgh physician Charles J. Barone, fluent in Italian, supervised her care at the hotel – and ultimately had the unhappy task of signing her death certificate. Less than an hour after her death, Eleonora Duse’s body was taken, via a service elevator, from the hotel. Thanks for a consistently wonderful publication.

Louise C. Sciannameo
Pittsburgh, Pa.

 

Double O-O-L-L-T-T

I enjoyed the article by Michael J. O’Malley III in the Fall 2000 edition, “Broadway takes A Bow in Bucks County: An Interview with Kitty Carlisle Hart and Anne Kaufman Schneider,” but I was very surprised to see that Alexander Woollcott’s name was misspelled not less than six times. Alexander Woollcott was adamant that his name always be spelled with a double “o,” a double “l,” and a double “t.” This is not to be confused with Wolcott Gibbs, a contemporary of his and editor of The New Yorker, who used only a double “t.” Just thought you’d want to know.

Jacob H. Lindemuth
Lafayette, Calif.

The editor regrets the error, and cautions computer users to never rely on electronic spell checks for proper names. Incidentally, best-selling novelist John O’Hara (1905-1970) christened his quasi-fictional portrayal of his hometown, Pottsville, as Gibbsville in honor of his friendship with Wolcott Gibbs (1902-1958).

 

On Broadway

Not more than two or three weeks after I devoured the latest issue featuring an interview with Kitty Carlisle Hart and Anne Kaufman Schneider did I read about the opening on Broadway of The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart starring Nathan Lane. Okay, so how do you do it? The timing of your article and the announcement of the play was quite coincidental. I imagine that the team of Kaufman and Hart would have enjoyed a chuckle. Guys and Dolls just marked its fiftieth anniversary in November; its debut was directed by Kaufman. (Damon Runy­on’s characters in Guys and Dolls, by the way, inspired Nathan Lane’s stage name.)

David R. Fox
Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Thank you for the interview with Mrs. Hart and Mrs. Schneider. Their memories are priceless because they are among the last living links to golden era of Broadway. To think that our very own Bucks County was a sort of “Broadway South” makes me proud. When I think of the great figures that lived amongst us during those heady years, I get goose bumps. We often spent several weeks during the summer with my mother’s family who had a small place near Doylestown, and I remember going to the playhouse in New Hope. It was all rather magical. After reading these wonderful recollections, I closed my eyes and for a precious moment I could actually smell the mustiness of that charming playhouse. Yes, it was sheer magic but much too brief. Thank you for returning to me a piece of my childhood. It was lovely.

Grace Knowles Johnson
Palm Beach, Fla.

 

General Johnny

I very much enjoyed Louis M. Waddell’s article in the Winter 2000 issue on “Johnny” Hartranft [see “Old Johnny’s Vision for an Industrial Society“]. As a child, I remember my grandfather, Milton A. Embick, referring often to his old friend, General Hartranft. My grandfather wrote Military History of the Third Division, Ninth Corps, Army of the Potomac. The article in your magazine contends “no state records are known to exist to document the history of the monumental bronze.” My grandfather’s book traces the history of this equestrian statue, from its conception to its dedication on the grounds of the State Capitol on May 12, 1899. The date selected was the anniversary of Hartranft’s promotion from colonel to brigadier general during the Great Wilderness Campaign of 1864. At the ceremony, my mother, Mary Lenore Embick Flower, had the honor of unveiling the statue and was given a large bouquet of roses. An accompanying note requested her to search the roses for “a drop of dew.” She did so and there was a diamond ring clinging to a rose! This ring is in my possession, but, alas, the card no longer.

Elizabeth Flower James
Carlisle, Pa.