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Photograph: courtesy Ned Thanhouser.

Edwin Thanhouser

Born 11 November 1865 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Died 21 March 1956 in New York, New York, USA.

Married actress Gertrude Homan, 8 February 1900; son, Lloyd Thanhouser, born 31 January 1902; daughter, Mary Louise Thanhouser, born 23 March 1906; until her death, 29 May 1951.

Edwin Thanhouser was born in Baltimore in 1865. He spent his youth and was educated in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Edwin later moved to Garden City, Kansas, where he spent some of his teenage years. In 1893, he was impressed by Alessandro Salvini, a well-known orator and actor, and joined Salvini’s traveling company. Four years later, Salvini died, and his company dispersed. Edwin Thanhouser traveled around the United States and eastern Canada with various companies, after which he formed his own stock companies in Atlanta and Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, he managed the Academy of Music, which became a very profitable venture. In 1897, he became a member of the Players Club, an affiliation which brought him much pleasure. Years later, he was to use the Players Club insignia of two masks, one for comedy and the other for tragedy, as a Thanhouser trademark.

In 1900, Edwin Thanhouser married Gertrude Homan, an actress whom he met the preceding summer. Lloyd, their first child, was named after Lloyd Lonergan (who had married Gertrude’s youngest sister, Molly), and was followed by Marie Louise (named after Gertrude’s mother).

Success with the Milwaukee theatre and fortunate speculation in the securities market gave Edwin Thanhouser sufficient capital to lease the Bush Temple Theatre in Chicago, after which transaction his family moved to Chicago in 1907. Attendance was lower than hoped for and Edwin Thanhouser terminated his lease. Seeking to enter the growing field of motion pictures, he moved to the New York City area, which was then the center of film production. After staying briefly with Lloyd Lonergan, Edwin Thanhouser and his family moved to New Rochelle, New York, where he leased an old wooden skating rink. His new venture, the Thanhouser Company, released its first commercial film on 15 March 1910.

From 1910 through 1911, he lived on Slocum Street in Rochelle Heights. In 1912, his residence was at 3 Hamilton Avenue in New Rochelle. The same year, he sold the Thanhouser Company to a combine headed by Charles J. Hite. Thanhouser retired from the motion picture business and took his family on a grand tour of Europe, where he remained until the World War broke out in August 1914. He returned to America about the same time that Charles J. Hite was killed in an automobile accident. After managing by committee for many months, the stockholders of the Thanhouser Film Corporation asked Edwin Thanhouser to resume his old position as managing head of the company, which he did early in 1915. But as the film industry, its practices, and the tastes of the public had changed since he had last been in films in 1912, Edwin Thanhouser’s re-entry into the business did not duplicate the success he had achieved in earlier years.

By the autumn of 1917, Thanhouser and his secretary, Miss Jessie Bishop, were the only remaining employees at the studio, while he waited for his contract to expire. He remained until early 1918, when the Thanhouser Film Corporation was liquidated, with several hundred-thousand dollars remaining on deposit in various accounts. During much of this time he resided at the Pepperday Inn, a few steps away from the studio.

New Rochelle city directories indicate that Edwin’s widowed mother, Julia Thanhouser, lived in the Locust Apartments, 11 Locust Avenue, in 1916 and 1917. In 1918, Edwin Thanhouser retired to Bayville, Long Island, New York, subsequently relocating in 1925 to Sands Point, New York. In 1945, he and his wife sold their Sands Point home. Within a year the couple moved to New York City and soon became residents of the One Fifth Avenue Hotel, where they lived for the remainder of their days. Edwin Thanhouser kept active in securities investments and enjoyed collecting art. Gertrude died in 1951, and Edwin in 1956.

Biography by Ned Thanhouser

 
Website : Ned Thanhouser’s Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.
 
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