Kleindeutschland and the Lower East Side, Manhattan - Theaters

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Kleindeutschland and the Lower East Side Theaters

My ancestors, Catherine Furst Schwartzmeier Lindemann (born Aschaffenburg, Germany 1827), her daughter, Wilhelmina Schwartzmeier Lindemann Goehle (born NYC c 1862), and Wilhelmina's husband, Peter Goehle (born Herrnsheim, Germany 1852) and their extended families lived in the Lower East Side. My grandfather, Frank Goehle, was born at 88 Sheriff Street in 1894.

The Theaters

The German population of the New York metropolitan area loved the German theater. Many of the uptown crowd looked down of the German Theater goers taste. However, a 1909 article on the New York Theater indicates that among popular comedies there was some serious theater:

"The German-speaking population is larger than in any city of the world except Berlin and possibly Vienna, and it supports a German theatre of the type familiar in all the cities of the Fatherland. Here Shakespeare, Schiller, and Gothe are played turn about with the latest problem play, light opera, and farce; and much of the stage management and acting is superlatively good. For a decade and more a number of New York dramatic critics used the German theatre to club a sense of the situation into the heads of the public. The German theatre became a familiar delight to intelligent playgoers."

The New Theatre, New York, 1909

Among the famous German Theaters were: Niblo's, the Bowery Theater, the Stadttheater, the Deutsch Volksgarten, and Lindenmuller's Odeon.

New York Public Library, Digital Library, Image ID: 805292 The celebrated Niblo's Hotel, New York City.

Metropolitan Hotel and Niblo's Theater

The Metropolitan Hotel was build in 1852. At that time point the entrance to Niblo's Theater was through the hotel lobby.

The Metropolitan is a handsome brown stone edifice, situated at the northeast corner of Broadway and Prince street. It extends back to Crosby street, and has a frontage of about 300 feet on Broadway. It is one of the most elegant hotels in the city, in every respect. It contains about 400 rooms, and is

always full. It is very popular with army officers, with Californians and the people of the mining States and Territories, as well as with the New Englanders. Capitalists and railroad managers also have a fondness for it. "Shoddy"* is to be seen here also in great force.

"Lights and Shadows of New York Life: or, the Sights and Sensations of the Great City" by James Dabney McCabe**, 1872

* "Shoddy" has several meanings. The most common refers to something of poor quality — a cheap imitation. The actual word derives from a term for woolens made from recycled materials. Shoddy was actually developed by my ancestor, Benjamin Law, in Batley, Yorkshire, England circa 1813. See Shoddy.

**James Dabney McCabe was more than a bit of a snob. See James Dabney McCabe below.

New York Public Library, Digital Library,Image ID: EM11616 Interior of Niblo's Opera House, New York City / J.W. Orr

Niblo's Theater

William Niblo's Theater stated in 1828 as the Sans Souci Theater at the Columbia Gardens at Broadway and Prince. It offered light vaudeville in an outdoor setting and was so successful that Niblo build a larger more permanent structure. The structure suffered from several fires and was rebuilt several times. The 1881 New York City Atlas maps shows it inside the Metropolitan Hotel. In 1866 it had a seating capacity of over 3,200 people. It was demolished in 1895.

Comments on the Niblo's from "Lights and Shadows of New York Life: or, the Sights and Sensations of the Great City" by James Dabney McCabe, 1872:

"Niblo's Theatre, or as it is generally called, "Niblo's Garden," is situated in the rear of the Metropolitan Hotel, with an entrance on Broadway. It is one of the largest and handsomest theatres in the city, and by far the coolest in warm weather. It is devoted principally to the spectacular drama. It was here that the famous spectacle of the Black Crook was produced. Its revival is to take place before these pages are in print, and it will probably be continued throughout the remainder of the season."

See History of the Musical Stage 1860s: The Black Crook by John Kenrick

Gleason Pictorial Saturday March 6, 1852

Niblo's Garden, Broadway, New York, 1852

Niblo's Theater was destroyed by fire in September 1846.

"The flames spread with such rapidity that in a very short time the whole block bounded by Broadway, Prince Street, Crosby Street and the new club-house, was consumed."..... Three years later, July 30, 1849, the summer theatre in Niblo's Garden - rebuilt and surpassing in elegance all its predecessors - was thrown open

A history of the New York stage from the first performance in 1732 ..., Volume 1 By Thomas Allston Brown

New York Public Library, Digital Library, Image ID: 806098

View of the Interior of the Opera House, at Niblo's Garden, New York

Old Bowery Theatre New York City

Harpers Weekly April 1871

Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

The Bowery Theatre was know at various times as the Thalia and Fay's Bowery Thretre.

Next door to the Bowery Theater was the Atlantic Gardens, a large German beer Garden (see below).

The Bowery Theater is the building with the flags - The Atlantic Theater is to the right in the above image.

Comments on the Olympic Theatre from "Lights and Shadows of New York Life: or, the Sights and Sensations of the Great City" by James Dabney McCabe, 1872:

"The Old Bowery Theatre, situated on the thoroughfare from which it takes its name, below Canal street, is the only old theatre left standing in the city. Three theatres have preceded it on this site, and all have been destroyed by fire. Within the last few years, the interior of the present theatre has been greatly modernized. The plays presented here are of a character peculiarly suited to that order of genius which despises Shakspeare, and hopes to be one day capable of appreciating the Black Crook. "Blood and thunder dramas," they are called in the city. The titles are stunning--the plays themselves even more so. A writer in one of the current publications of the day gives the following truthful picture of a "Saturday night at the Bowery:"


"I had not loitered long at the entrance after the gas blazed up, when from up the street, and from down the street, and from across the street, there came little squads of dirty, ragged urchins--the true gamin of New York. These at once made a gymnasium of the stone steps--stood on their heads upon the pavements or climbed, like locusts, the neighboring lamp-posts; itching for mischief; poking fun furiously; they were the merriest gang of young dare-devils I have seen in a long day. It was not long before they were recruited by a fresh lot of young 'sardines' from somewhere else--then they went in for more monkey-shines until the door should be unbarred. They seemed to know each other very well, as if they were some young club of genial spirits that had been organized outside of the barriers of society for a long while. What funny habiliments they sported. It had never been my experience to see old clothes thrown upon young limbs so grotesquely. The coat that would have been a fit for a corpulent youth nearly buried a skinny form the height of your cane.

"And on the other hand, 'young dropsy's' legs and arms were like links of dried 'bolonas' in the garments which misfortune's raffle had drawn for him. Hats without rims--hats of fur, dreadfully plucked, with free ventilation for the scalp--caps with big tips like little porches of leather--caps without tips, or, if a tip still clung to it, it was by a single thread and dangled on the wearer's cheek like the husk of a banana. The majority seemed to have a weakness for the costumes of the army and the navy. Where a domestic tailor had clipped the skirts of a long blue military coat he had spared the two buttons of the waist-band, and they rested on the bare heels like a set of veritable spurs. Shoes and boots (and remember it's a December night) are rather scarce--and those by which these savoyards could have sworn by grinned fearfully with sets of naked toes. One 'young sport,' he had seen scarcely ten such winters, rejoiced in a pair of odd-mated rubber over-shoes, about the dimensions of snow-shoes. They saluted him as 'Gums.' A youngster, with a childish face and clear blue eyes, now shuffled upon the scene.

"'O Lordy, here's Horace, jist see his get up.' A shout of laughter went up, and Horace was swallowed in the ragged mob.

"'Horace' sported a big army cap like a huge blue extinguisher. He wrapped his wiry form in a cut-down, long-napped white beaver coat, the lapels of which were a foot square, and shingled his ankles as if he stood between a couple of placards. I had seen the latest caricature on the philosopher of the _Tribune_, but this second edition of H. G. swamped it. I knew that that young rogue had counted upon the effect of his white coat, and he enjoyed his christening with a gleeful face and a sparkle in his blue eyes. O, for the pencil of a Beard or a Bellew, to portray those saucy pug-noses, those dirty and begrimed faces! Faces with bars of blacking, like the shadows of small gridirons--faces with woful bruised peepers--faces with fun-flashing eyes--faces of striplings, yet so old and haggard--faces full of evil and deceit.

"Every mother's son of them had his fists anchored in his breeches pockets, and swaggered about, nudging each other's ribs with their sharp little elbows. They were not many minutes together before a battle took place. Some one had tripped 'Gums,' and one of his old shoes flew into the air. I think he of the white coat was the rascal, but being dubbed a philosopher, he did his best to look very wise, but a slap on the side of the ridge of his white collar upset his dignity, and 'Horace' 'went in,' and his bony fists rattled away on the close-shaven pate of 'Gums.'

"The doors are now unbarred, and this ragged 'pent up little Utica' rends itself, but not without much more scratching and much swearing. O, the cold-blooded oaths that rang from those young lips! As the passage to the pit is by a sort of cellar door, I lost sight of the young scamps as the last one pitched down its gloomy passage.

"In the human stream--in a whirlpool of fellow-beings--nudging their way to the boxes and the upper tiers, I now found myself. It was a terrible struggle; females screaming, were eddied around and around until their very faces were in a wire cage of their own 'skeletons.'

"'Look out for pickpockets,' shouted a Metropolitan. Every body then tried to button his coat over his breast, and every body gave it up as a bad job. In at last, but with the heat of that exertion--the smell of the hot gas--the fetid breath of two thousand souls, not particular, many, as to the quality of their gin--what a sweltering bath follows! The usher sees a ticket clutched before him, and a breathless individual saying wildly, 'Where?' He points to a distant part of the house, and the way to it is through a sea of humanity. A sort of a Dead Sea, for one can walk on it easier than he can dive through it. I shall never know how I got there at last; all I remember now are the low curses, the angry growls and a road over corns and bunions.

"The prompter's bell tingles and then tingles again. The bearded Germans of the orchestra hush their music, and the big field of green baize shoots to the cob-web arch.

"Now is the time to scan the scene--that teeming house--that instant when all faces are turned eagerly to the foot-lights, waiting breathlessly the first sound of the actor's voice. The restlessness of that tossing sea of humanity is at a dead calm now. Every nook and cranny is occupied--none too young--none too old to be there at the rise of the curtain. The suckling infant 'mewling and puking in its mother's arms.' The youngster rubbing his sleepy eyes. The timid Miss, half frightened with the great mob and longing for the fairy world to be created. Elder boys and elder sisters. Mothers, fathers, and the wrinkled old grand-sire. Many of these men sit in their shirt-sleeves, sweating in the humid atmosphere. Women are giving suck to fat infants. Blue-shirted sailors encircle their black-eyed Susans, with brawny arms (they make no 'bones' of showing their honest love in this democratic temple of Thespis). Division street milliners, black-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and flashy dressed sit close to their jealous-eyed lovers. Little Jew boys, with glossy ringlets and beady black eyes, with teeth and noses like their fat mammas and avaricious-looking papas, are yawning everywhere. Then there is a great crowd of roughs, prentice boys and pale, German tailors--the latter with their legs uncrossed for a relaxation. Emaciated German and Italian barbers, you know them from their dirty linen, their clean-shaven cheeks and their locks redolent with bear's grease.

"Through this mass, wandering from pit to gallery, go the red-shirted peanut-venders, and almost every jaw in the vast concern is crushing nut-shells. You fancy you hear it in the lulls of the play like a low unbroken growl.

"In the boxes sit some very handsome females--rather loudly dressed,--but beauty will beam and flash from any setting.

"Lean over the balcony, and behold in the depths below the famous pit, now crowded by that gang of little outlaws we parted with a short time ago.

"Of old times--of a bygone age--is this institution. In no other theatre in the whole town is that choice spot yielded to the unwashed. But this is the 'Bowery,' and those squally little spectators so busy scratching their close-mown polls, so vigorously pummeling each other, so unmercifully rattaned by despotic ushers--they are its best patrons.

"And are they not, in their light, great critics, too? Don't they know when to laugh, when to blubber, and when to applaud, and don't they know when to _hiss_, though! What a _fiat_ is their withering hiss! What poor actor dare brave it? It has gone deep, deep into many a poor player's heart and crushed him forever.

"The royal road to a news-boy's heart is to rant in style.

"Versatile Eddy and vigorous Boniface are the lads, in our day, for the news-boys' stamps.

"Ranting is out of the female line, but Bowery actresses have a substitute for it.

"At the proper moment, they draw themselves up in a rigid statue, they flash their big eyes, they dash about wildly their dishevelled hair, with out-stretched arms and protruding chins they then shriek out, V-i-l-l-a-i-n!

"O, Fannie Herring! what a tumult you have stirred up in the roused pit! No help for it, my dear lady. See, there's 'Horace,' standing on his seat and swinging his big blue cap in a cloud of other caps--encore! encore! And the pretty actress bows to the pit, and there is more joy in her heart from the yells of those skinny little throats than from all the flowers that ladies and gents from above may pelt her with.

"The bill of fare for an evening's entertainment at the Old Bowery is as long as your cane, and the last piece takes us far into the night--yet the big house sits it out, and the little ones sleep it out, and the tired actor well earns his pay.

"I'll not criticise the acting--a great part of the community thinks it's beyond the pale of criticism--this peculiarity of tearing things to pieces, and tossing around 'supes' promiscuously.

"And another thing, those little ungodly imps down there have a great appreciation of virtue and pathos. They dash their dirty fists into their peepers at the childish treble of a little Eva--and they cheer, O, so lustily, when Chastity sets her heavy foot upon the villain's heart and points her sharp sword at his rascal throat. They are very fickle in their bestowal of approbation, and their little fires die out or swell into a hot volcano according to the vehemence of the actor. 'Wake me up when Kirby dies,' said a veteran little denizen of the pit to his companions, and he laid down on the bench to snooze.

"'Mind yer eye, Porgie,' said his companion, before Porgie had got a dozen winks. 'I think ther's somthen goen to bust now.' Porgie's friend had a keen scent for sensation.

"As I came out, at the end of the performance, I again saw 'Horace.' He had just rescued a 'butt' from a watery grave in the gutter. 'Jeminy! don't chaps about town smoke 'em awful short now'days!' was the observation of the young philosopher.

"The theatre is almost the only amusement that the ragged newsboy has, apart from those of the senses. The Newsboys' Lodging House, which has been the agent of so much good among this neglected class of our population, find the late hours of the theatre a serious obstacle to their usefulness. It is safe to say that if the managers of the two Bowery Theatres would close at an earlier hour, say eleven o'clock, they would prosper as greatly as at present, and the boys who patronize their establishments would be much better off in body and mind. An effort is about to be made to obtain this reform from the managers voluntarily--instead of seeking legislative aid. We are quite sure it will be for the interest of all to close the theatres early."

James Dabney McCabe was clearly not only a snob, but a bigot. In fact, he displayed a common attitude of the times of the "better class" toward any and all "foreigners".

New York Public Library ID 805681



This image is indicative of of the type of prejudice that existed in the press toward recently arrive immigrants. Their shabby, unfashionable cloths, their homely looks, their casual posture are indications of "low class". The one boy is holding a program that reads "Bowery". The type of theater presented at the Bowery theater was considered low brow as opposed to the opera and musical recitals given up town. It should also be noted that they are occupying the cheapest of seats in an already "cheap" theater.

Collection Maggie Land Blanck

The Stadt Theatre on Sunday Eve

Comments on the Stadt Theatre from "Lights and Shadows of New York Life: or, the Sights and Sensations of the Great City" by James Dabney McCabe, 1872:

"The Stadt Theatre, just across the street from the Old Bowery, is exclusively a German establishment. It is a plain old-fashioned building, without and within, but is worth a fortune to its proprietors. The performances are given in the German language, and the company is usually good. The prices are high and the audiences are large. Occasionally a season of German opera is given. I doubt that a more appreciative audience is to be found than that which assembles within the walls of the Stadt on opera nights. They are to a man good judges and dear lovers of music, and their applause, when it breaks forth, is a spontaneous outburst which shakes the house to its foundations. It is generously given, too, and must be particularly grateful to the performers.
Originally located at 37-39 Bowery the Stadttheater was the first German theater in New York. It was in existence at that address until 1864 when it moved to 43, 45 and 47 Bowery. The second Stadttheatre was opposite the Old Bowery Theatre. The 1864 building could house 3,500 persons. The building was five stories high and also contained a hotel. Productions included Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Faust, in Germany. On March 12, 1871 Loengrin was sung here for the first time in America.

It is interesting to note that theater going for the German American was a family affair - from the howling babe in arms to the old grandma. As the image indicated light food and liquid refreshments were served.

New Stadt Theater


AT 43, 45, 47 Bowery, east side, directly opposite the Old Bowery Theatre, was the "New Stadt Theatre." It was erected in 1864 by a company of Germans, and opened Tuesday, Sept. 6, 1864. It was five stories high, used as a hotel, with a wide entrance to the theatre, which was in the rear of the hotel The auditorium was the largest of any theatre in the country, having a parquet and three tiers, with a capacity for thirty-five hundred persons. Otto von Hoym was the acting manager, with Mme. Steglich, Fuchs, Mme. Otto von Hoym, Miss Petersen, Miss Hesse, Otto von Hoym, Knorr, and others in the company. The stars who appeared during the first season were Daniel E. Bandmann, Mme. Methua-Scheller, Chas. Pope, and others of note, including Mme. Ottilie Genee, Becker-Grahn, Mertzke, WalterGoerner, and the operatic singers, Johanna Rosser, and Rosina Reiss, Edward Haerting, Alphonse Zerboni, all of whom made their first American successes under Hoym's management. Charles Pope played Othello in German, to Mme. Methua-Scheller's Desdemona, Dec. 23, 1864. For two weeks in July, 1865, a magician called the " Fakir of Vishnu " occupied the house. The season of 1865-66 was Hoym's last complete one in this city. Bogumil Dawison made his American debut Sept. 20, 1866, supported by Otto von Hoym. He acted in "Othello," "Narcisse," "The Robbers," "The Merchant of Venice," " The King's Lieutenant," "Three Winters of a Poet," " Faust," " Richard III.," "The Miser," "The Unfortunate," "Hans Juerge," "The Viennoise in Paris," and "Two Days in the Life of a Prince." He closed his engagement Nov. 5."

A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 ..., Volume 2 By Thomas Allston Brown, 1903

The Neue Stadttheatre seated 3,500. It was the ome of grand opera, operetta, drama and comedy.

An Evening Performance at the Thalia Theatre December 1884

The entertainment included the comedy "Im Darmenstift oder Der neue Arzt" followed by a brief ballet "Die Fliegende Fee" [The Flying Fairy] where the principle dancer flew through the air suspended on invisible wires. Trained pigeons accompanied her, perched on her arms and headdress as she flew across the stage.

For more information on the German Theater in NYC and for images of some of the actors go to The German Theater in New York City now or at the bottom of the page.

For more information on the Goehles and related families go to Goehle Introduction Page

To see images of life in the tenements of lower Manhattan go to Tenement life

For more information on the Streets in Kleindeutschland see Kleindeutschland

To see images of children on the Lower East Side and for information on education, child labor and other issues see Children of the Tenements

88 and 90 Sheriff Street were addresses that were written about in the press for a number of years. My grandfather, Frank Goehle, was born at 88 sheriff Street in 1894. 88 - 90 Sheriff Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan as a Microcosm of Little Germany (Kleindeutchland)

New York City, Information and Images

Shopping and Street Venders

Actors in the German Theater

Survices and Utilities in New York City

Trollies, Cars, Subways, Buses and Boats in New York City

German Beer Gardens

German Social Organizations

Life in Germany

Catherine Furst, Julius Lindemann, Peter Goehle, Henry Blanck, the Erxmeyers, the Petermanns were among the millions of German American immigrants. For images of life in Germany, click on the picture of the wooden shoes

Germans in America

Catherine Furst, Julius Lindemann, Peter Goehle, Henry Blanck, the Erxmeyers, the Petermanns were among the millions of German American immigrants. For information on and images of the German American in United States click on the image of the German American Family

The Temperance Movement

For early pictures representing the Temperance Movement in New York City

May 1st Moving Day in NYC

May 1st was a day when many leases, both commercial and residential, expired. Consequently the city was jammed with moving wagons.

General Slocum Fire 1904

On June 15, 1904 the excursion boat, SS General Slocum caught fire on the East River resulting in the death of over 1,000 persons, mostly women and children. It was the biggest disaster in New York City until 9/11.


If you have any suggestions, corrections, information, copies of documents, or photos that you would like to share with this page, please contact me at maggie@maggieblanck.com

© Maggie Land Blanck - page created 2008 - latest update, April 2018