Two 1925 Autograph Letters Signed from Florida by 19th Century Acrobat and “Panto” Actor Ed. B. Montague


Two letters by by aging acrobat and “acting Ape” pantomime performer, Ed. B. Montague. Montague’s retrospective letters, both written from Key West, Florida to his “Friend Phil,” look back upon a career highlight and an old rivalry upon the stage.

Montague’s purpose in writing was to give an outline of his performing career which began in 1866. Viewing an old photograph of himself (not present here), Montague remembers a triumph from his younger days on the flying trapeze:

…[At] the time I was working the Flying Trapeze in San Francisco at the old Bella Union Theatre, many years before an Orpheum Theatre was dreamed of, and it is a singular coinsidence [sic] that I was the first one to put an Aerial act on (Oxides’s) in the first Orpheum Theatre when it opened in [18]87.

In a postscript to the second letter, written six days later, Montague discusses an old stage rival, Paul Martinetta, who had recently died:

We was rivals years ago in the acting Ape business. Paul acted the monkey part in a pantomime play. Mine was a sketch playing one hour, and I carried a fine tropical scene. I was billed the superior over all the other acting Apes which made Paul sore. I was offered in London by a manager to produce my sketch, but had to refuse as I had thrown the act away, on account of the severe strain on my strength.

The two rivals later became friends, Paul later succeeding in his own “Monkey Panto.” Though the memories are sweet, in both his letters Montague poignantly describes his “run down condition” and “stiffness.” Despite his fear of permanent disability, he hopes for better times not mere recollections of old memories.


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