Kohl and Castle

Majestic Theatre, Chicago

In Chicago, the firm of Kohl and Middleton began buying and building museums and vaudeville theatres at a great rate in the early 1880s. In 1900, C.E. Kohl bought out George Middleton and went in with one of his theatre managers, George Castle. Kohl and Castle would dominate the vaudeville business in Chicago, the Twin Cities and the Midwest in general. Both men were taciturn and unapproachable. Kohl literally so; he was hardly ever to be seen at one of his theatres. Castle, the booker, on the other hand, communicated in one and two word sentences when he could be bothered to address his acts at all. Yet they were to build an impressive empire of Chicago vaud houses, comprising the Olympic, the Majestic, the Haymarket, the Chicago Opera House, the Academy of Music, and the Star. Of these, the Majestic was said to have been the most beloved. Comedian Jack Benny, a Waukeegan native, felt it was “the most beautiful, perhaps the most dignified theatre in the world.” A contemporary writer praised it for its “order, system, regularity, cleanliness and effectiveness” – highly prized traits in the culture of the day. The pioneering midwestern chain Kohl and Castle was swallowed up by bigger fish in the early years of the twentieth century.

To learn about the roots of variety entertainmentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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