Helene Gretsch Welsh aka Helene Hope

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

Helene Hope ( Helene Gretsch Welsh)
circa 1914

N.B. Since I know so little about Helene’s life, I have gleaned a lot of information about the world of the theater in which she lived from Gavin Lamber’s Nazimova; A Biography. NewYork: Knopf.1997. I had saved the review from the NYT in April of 1997 and read the book in the summer of 2007. Also  around this time, I read Memories by Ethel Barrymore published in 1956 by Hulton Press Limited, London. The Barrymore book especially, easily conjured up the theatrical atmosphere which always surround my grandfather’s younger sister.

1887

October 18, Helene was born in Brooklyn. She was the second daughter and fifth child of Rosa and Fred Gretsch

1895
April 14, Helene’s furture husband, John P., was born in Queens to Thomas F and Mary Welsh. He was their sixth child.

1896
Eleanor Duce, a famous Italian actress, came to the USA and did a triumphant tour. Grover Cleveland and his wife came to every performance. Mrs. Cleveland shocked the Washington society by having a tea at the While House in her honor. It was the first tea for an actress.
Eleanor Duce was a rival of Sarah Bernhardt. Bernhardt was outgoing thriving on publicity. Duce was the opposite.
What did young Helene, most likely already at age ten interested in acting think of these women? They were after all the “movie stars” of the day!

1906

May 5 Orlenev and his company which had once included Nazimova left New York

May 14 Nazimova signed a contract with Lee Shubert. he engaged an English teacher.

June 9,
Helene Gretsch played in  Clyde Finch’s drama “Nathan Hale” a production of the Derrick Dramatic Club of Erasmus High School. Helene played Dinah.

November 12 Alla Nazimova made her first appearance on Broadway in Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” at the Princess Theater.

She played matinees only four times a week. A month of packed houses and heavy advanced bookings called for a change of plan. Gavin Lambert, NAZIMOVA

The young Eugene O’Neil who was to become the first major American playwrite saw Nazimova’s performance ten times.

He said “The experience discovered an entire new world of frame for me.” “It gave me my first conception of modern theater where truth might live.” Gavin Lambert, NAZIMOVA

Other actresses of the era who Helene would have been well aware of were:

Maude Adams, playing in “Peter Pan”

Anna Held in Ziegfeld-Land, singing “Won’t you come and play with me”

Ethel Barrymore,

Leslie Carter and Olga Nethersole, “Du Berry” and “Mary Magdalene”

“All these stars were personalities first and actresses second” Gavin Lambert, NAZIMOVA.

1907

January 7 “A Doll’s House” opened the season at the Bijou and alternated nightly with “Hedda Gabler”

“Cosmopolitan” ran a special feature on Nazimova.

Dissenter was William Winter, who launched an attack against Ibsen as a threat to American values.

continued to play to a packed house for two months.

April 12 Nazimova plays “Comtesse Coquette” a comedy….the house was packed for every performance until the end of June when the theater season ended.

 

June 21, Friday,
Helene Gretsch graduates from Erasmus High School.
Commencement held at Majestic Theater.

 

June 25,
Helene’s mother is married to David Kling.

July 18,

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

This certificate was given to Gretchen Elsner-Sommer by Elsa’s grandchildren after their father’s, Teddy Clauss’ death. A similar certificate, also for 42 shares was given to Elsa Clauss on December 21, 1912, see 1912 below.

Helene’s sister, Elsa Gretsch received a certificate for 42 shares of the Fred Gretsch Mfg, Co., signed by her older brothers Fred, President,  and Walter, Treasurer. Each share was worth $100.00.
Perhaps, an equal amount was given to each of the Gretsch girls.
Perhaps, that is why Helene felt comfortable applying for admission to Emerson College the next month.

September
Helene Gretsch applies for admission to Emerson College of Oratory in Boston.
Many thanks to Christina J. Zamon, the head archivist at Emerson College for providing this information on March 5, 2013.

Application for Admission
Date: September 1907
Name in full : Helene Gretsch.
Home address: 496 Hancock Street, Brklyn, New York
Residence while at Emerson College: (147 is crossed out) 39 St Stephens St.
Age: 18. ( according to my records she will be 20 in October, perhaps, my records are inaccurate)
Name and address of Father, Mother or guardian: Morris Mac Donald,  136 Broadway, Nassau Trust Building, Brooklyn.
Previous education: Erasmus Hall High School certificate
If Degrees, when received: blank
and where: blank
Previous Oratory training: blank
Church Preference: Dutch Reform
Have you previously attended Emerson College (Winter): No
Have you previously attended Emerson College (Summer): No
Give names of two clergymen or teachers or other persons of standing as references:
Miss Grace Burt EHHS Flatbush, Bklyn, NY
Morris MasDonald (above)
Name the class you wish to enter: Junior Class

It is interesting to note that Helene gives this 496 Hancock Street address. It is not the address of her mother either before or after Rosa’s marriage to David Kling.
Helene is not living with her mother. Nor does Helene list her mother as her guardian rather she lists Morris MacDonald.

Morris MacDonald is a lawyer with whom Helene must be well acquainted. In the near future she will be connected with him on many happenings.
On September 27, 1909, Helene and Morris and Louis Gretsch incorporated the Fulton Land and Mortgage Co in Brooklyn. Helene, Morris and Louis were listed as partners.
Again, on January 4, 1911, Helene, Morris, Louis and Elsa Gretsch Clauss came together to sign more papers for the Fulton Land & Mortgage Co.
Again in 1915, Helene would call on Morris MacDonald to represent her in court during the David Hyman case. Helene was on tour with a play.

September 23 Ibsen’s “Master Builder”

1908

February,
Nazimova, Brandon Tynan go on tour together with “A doll House”, “Hedda Gabler”, “Master Builder”

Opened in Washington and sold out for three weeks.

New Orleans to Toronto, a highly successful six month tour.

Dec.6 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“MR GRETSCH SURPRISED
a merry gathering of young folks surprised Louis Gretsch on his birthday last Saturday evening at his home, 45 Waterbury Ave, Richmond Hill.
Miss Helene Hope and Edward Braendli entertained the guests in  sketch entitled ” A Happy Pair”. This was followed by a musical entertainment. Foremost among the singers was William C. Pengal of Day Ridge, who rendered several selections from the “Bohemian Girl”. An elaborate collation was then served in the dinning room wish was artistically decorated. Morris V. McDonald, who acted as toastmaster called upon all men present. Each responded with clever or humorous speeches.
Among those present were Mr. and Mrs. William C. Pengel, Mr. and Mrs. M.V. McDonald, Mr. and Mrs. D. Kling, Mr. and Mrs. C Woelthan, Mr. and Mrs, Ralph Gretsch, Rev. Allen C. Benner, Misses Mille Gretsch, Minnie Gretsch, Dora Gretsch, Gussie Spietel, Beatride Mc Donald, Florence Brand, Enid Brand, Margaret Feanheimer, Helene Hope, Bertha Gretsch, Elsa Gretsch Louis Gretsh, Oliver White, Joseph Clauss, Wm c Lardy, Henry Marx, Herbert Gretsch, John Kreiss,  Edward Braendle and Carl Gitman.”

1909

June 2.

Helene’s older sister  Elsa (age 23),  married Joseph L.  Clauss (age 32) in Richmond Hill, Queens, New York.
At the time of her wedding, Elsa Gretsch was living at 285 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn.
This is where Elsa’s older brother Fred and his wife Charlotte Sommer Gretsch lived with their three sons, Fred, William and Richard.

Helene and her brother Louis Gretsch are witnesses to the wedding of their sister, Elsa. The pastor of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church officiated.
Apparently, Joseph Clauss was from a very Catholic family and his mother did not approve of the marriage.
As a result the children born of this marriage Teddy Clauss and his younger brother Joe, were not very close at all to their father’s mother.

Ted Clauss also told me that his father, Joseph Clauss was working with Louis Gretsch at a bank. One night, Louie Gretsch brought his friend joe Clauss home for dinner.  Louie pointed to his three sisters, Elsa, Helene and Hertha and said to Joe, ” Pick one!” Joe picked Elsa.

Wednesday evening, June 2—–Brooklyn Eagle
GRETSCH -CLAUSS
Miss Elsa Gretsch, daughter of Mrs. Rosa Kling was married to Mr. Joseph Theodore Clauss at home of the bride’s mother 43 Waterbury Ave, Richmond Hill, LI on Wednesday evening, June 2, the Rev. Doctor Benner officiating.

It was a quiet home wedding, only the immediate family and a small circle of intimate friends being present. The parlors were beautifully decorated with palms and cut flowers, the ceremony being performed under a bower of hydrangeas and apple blossoms.

The bride wore an elaborate gown of white satin trimmed with duchess lace, and pearls ornaments. She carried a shower bouquet of lilies of the valley. The groom’s gift was a handsome necklace, set with diamonds. She was given away byre eldest brother, Frederick Gretsch, Brooklyn, and was attended by her sister, Miss Helen Gretsch, as bridesmaid who was attired in a grown of pink crepe meteor, trimmed with Irish lace and carried a bouquet of white roses. Louis Gretsch acted as best man.

After the ceremony an elaborate supper was served, and the young couple left for an extended trip through Canada and the Northwest. They will be at home to their friends after August 1,  at 852 Classon. The bride was the recipient of many handsome gifts including  solid silver and cut glass.

Among those present were: Mr. and Mrs. Howe, Mr. and Mrs. Weynness, Mr. and Mrs. M.C. McDonald, the Reverend Doctor Benner, Mr. and Mrs. D. Kling, Mr and Mrs. Fred Gretsch, Mr and Mrs. Charles Bell, Mr and Mrs. Kating, Mrs. Emily Gretsch, Clara Gretsch, Mr and Mrs. Ralph Gretsch, the Misses Helen Lewin, Margaret Flannery, Florence Brand, Enid Brand, and William McLaidy, Louis Gretsch, MR. and Mrs. William Sommer, Joseph W. Genner, Clara Gretsch, Olga Gretsch, Minnie Gretsch, Mrs. W. Lankonw, Helen Gretsch, Bertha Gretsch, Herbert Gretsch and Walter Gretsch.

 

 

Eleonora Duse retires from the theater.

On September 27, 1909, Helene and Morris and Louis Gretsch incorporated the Fulton Land and Mortgage Co in Brooklyn. Helene, Morris and Louis were listed as partners.

1910

February 7,

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports:

“Capital Stock increased (Special to the Eagle) Albany February 7- The Fulton Land and Mortgage Company of Brooklyn, has certified to the State Department, that its capital stock has been increased from $10,000 to $50, 000. The directors are as follows Louis Gretsch, Helene Gretsch and Morris V. McDonald.”
Note that Louis Gretsch is the older brother of Helene and that Morris Mc.Donald will in the near future handle the Gretsch girls claim to the will of Jacob Hyman. See below, February 20, 1915.

March 10,
Helene Gretsch gives a performance under her stage name  Helene Hope. She appeared  in “A House Builded on the Sands” a three act drama  by Emilie Fabre’s  translated from the French. This was the first time that this piece played in this country. It was part of a matinee performance at the Empire theatre by the students of the Academy of the Dramatic Arts.

March 11,
An article in the New York Times reports on the above mentioned matinee. As of 2013, this is the only recorded reference I have of Helene’s stage career.

March 15, Thursday
Helene Gretsch, graduates from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

The American Academy of Dramatic Arts is the oldest organization for the training of actors in English-speaking countries. Founded in 1884 by Franklin Haven Sargent the academy is located in New York City with a recently founded branch in Pasadena, California (1974). The courses do not just include stage work but television and film as well. Former students include Anne Bancroft, Kirk Douglas, Ruth Gordon, Agnes Moorehead and Spencer Tracy

A New York Times article dated March 16, 1910 reads “The graduation exercises of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts were held at the Empire Theatre yesterday afternoon and consisted of the awarding of diplomas to members of the class and of an address by Helen Ware.”
Helene Hope of Brooklyn is listed as one of the graduates.

In 1980, Ted Clauss wrote to me that the American Academy of Dramatic Arts was a four year program held at Carnegie Hall.

Before entering that course, Helene studied at The Emerson School Of Elecution in Boston, Mass.

Click on image to enlarge

Helene Hope on stage during this period.

Ted Clauss wrote further of Helen’s work ” Aunt Helen’s first work in the theater was secured for her through the Academy, and she had small parts in plays with Dewolfe Hopper. Later, she toured in straight with Sidney Drew, in light comedy, and also with John Drew, in the heavy stuff. She did no musicals. During the years she did several short plays with William Farnaum, (Farnum) one of which I saw at the Flatbush Theater ( 2207 Church Street ) in 1918, and can still remember it. She had a regular agent, who shipped her on tours all over the U.S. and Canada. She used the stage name Helene Hope . She also toured with Otis Skinner of theatre fame and knew Cornelia Otis Skinner the monologist”.

April 18 “Little Eyolf” American premier of another Ibsen play. Played to capacity houses for three months. 75,000 people saw it. at the 39th street theater which was to be renamed “Nazimova’s 39th street theater”.

September 15 Schnitzler’s “The Fairy Tale” in Chicago

1911

May Frohman’s office became the scene of what the press would describe as “secret negotiations”.( Lambert)

May 15 Frohman made an announcement to the press that Nazimova was moving over to him

Shubert countered with a press release of his own, the Nazimova 39th Street theater was to be stripped of her name.( actually she never performed there

Frohman, the first and most successful star makers among American producers, had a star list that included John Drew, Ethel Barrymore, Maude Adams, Billie Burke, Marie Doro, and William (sherlock Holmes) Gillette.

Nazimova wanted to open with “Witness for the Defense” but Ethel Barrymore got the part and only lasted 6 weeks at the Empire.

September 15 Nazimova opened in Utica with ” The Other Mary” and closed in Chicago three weeks later.

December 14 “The Mrionettes” opened at the Lyceum.

1912
elsa 12
Click to enlarge image

 

This very colorful certificate was first given to Helene’s older sister, Elsa Clauss, on December 21, 1912. It was for 42 shares of the Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Co. Each share was worth $100.00 and the certificate by signed by Elsa’s older brothers, Fred and Walter.
Perhaps, stock was given at the same time to all the Gretsch sisters, Elsa, Helene and Hertha. NOte the very colorful transfer stamps on the right hand side.
This certificate was given to Gretchen Elsner-Sommer after the death of Elsa’s son, Teddy Clauss, by her grandchildren.

1915
January 26,
Jacob Hyman, a long time boarder with the Gretsch family died. His death set in motion a series of court actions which leave us a few clues to Helene’s acting life.

February 20,
Helene was with a touring group in the county of Hamilton, Ohio. She petitionted the court that K.C. & M.V. Mc Donal at 189 Montague Street in Brooklyn appear for her in the up coming proceedings concerning the will of Jacob Hyman.

April 19.

The Brooklyn Eagle reports:
Miss Hazel King, daughter of Mrs. J.F.H. King entertained a number of friends, at her home, 71 Midwood street, on Tuesday evening.
An interesting musical program was enjoyed and dancing followed.
The program consisted of songs given by Miss Hazel King, W. Russell, Miss Laura Gilder, Albert Salmon, Willard Salmon, Harry Bennett: and piano selections by Robert MacMillan, and Miss Grace Gilder. Those present were Miss Marjorie Bruce. J.F.H. King, Bertell A King, Miss Marjorie Nelson, Miss May Brown, Miss May Russell, Miss Hertha Gretsch, Herbert Gretsch, Joseph Tuggle, Charles Rice , Mr. Williams and Theo Schutltze-Berge.

1917
The family story goes that Helene Gretsch married Jack Welsh secretly before he went to war. This secretcy made it possible for Helene to go on acting while he was away. No record of the marriage has been found.
Few facts are know.
John P Welsh registered for the draft on May 17, 1917. He stated he was single and born in 1892. This date makes him 3 years older than he actually was.

1919

April 9 Sidney Drew who Helene had toured with died. He had a son, S Rankin Drew, who died in World War I.

It is interesting to speculate how well Helene Hope knew Sidney Drew and how the war impacted them both. Sidney was the uncle of Ethel, John, Lionel Barrymore. It is believed that he was his mother’e Louisa Drew’s biological child although she said that she adopted him after her husband died.

1920

According to US Census, dated January 4, 1920, Helene and John Welsh are living with the Gretsch/ Kling family at 42 Sidney Place, Brooklyn.
Helen’s nephew,  Ted Clauss, wrote in a letter in 1980 to Gretchen Elsner-Sommer, ” My Uncle Jack Welsh was not in the theater. They married secretly in 1917, just as he was leaving for France, as a 1st Lieutentent in the U.S. Army. No one knew about the marriage until he came home from Germany in February, 1920, where he had been in the ARmy of Occupation, stationed at Rhinefels.”

January 25<
Walter Gretsch< Helen’s older brother, and Gertrude Beardall Gourlay are married and leave shortly there after for Europe.

September, Walter visits with William Gretsch and helps William move from Heidelberg to Basel.

William’s property is released from the Alien Property Custodian. There must have been talk in the family of money coming to the family from this release.

Walter was probably sent to check it out. Walter showed a telegram detailing this property release to the American Consul in Basel. That consul recorded this telegram in his notes on William Gretsch’s passport application from 1920.

1922

February 12 ” A Doll’s House” a film financed by Nazimova opened in New York, “restored Nazimova’s prestige as an actress”. Lambert…a box office failure. in spite of this commercial failure, she invested $250,000. on a second independant project…ended up spending $400,000 by the time Allied put Salone on the shelf in June of 1922.

1923

February “Allied gave Salome a very restricted run”

” A movie SALOME is not. In the credits, Nazimova described it as ” A Pantomime affter the Play by Oscar Wilde. and also said that she conceived it as a” in the style of a Russian Ballet.”

July 30 Eleonora Duse’s picture appears on the cover of Time Magazine, the first woman ever.

1924

April 21 Eleonora Duse dies in Pittsburg. It is the last stop of her American Tour.

April 27 Nazimova sails to Europe on the Aquitania

August 30 arrived back in New York.

1926

When Helen’s nephew, Bill Gretsch, enrolled at the University of Michigan, he filled out some forms which were found at the Michigan archive by his daughter in 2000. The forms asked for ” Names and local addresses of two adult acquaintances at your home residence.”  Bill entered:

Doctor Sayboldt, Forest Hills, New York.  and  Mr. J. P. Welch (sic), Greenway North, Forest Hills

From the 1920 census, Dr. Saybolt is living with his wife Angela and three children on at 11 Greenway Terrace South. He was in private medical practice. Dr. Saybolt was 40 years old, the same age as Charlotte and Fred. The Saybolt family home was less than a mile away from Bill’s home. It was located near the Forest Hills Inn. PErhaps, he was Bill’s physician.

J.P. Welch ( Welsh) was the wife of Helen Gretsch Welsh and an uncle of Bill Gretsch. Bill must have been close to Uncle Jack to have written his name here. Years later, Helen Gretsch Welsh, my great aunt, told me how she used to visit my father often when he was a child and confined to bed because of his many polio operations. Perhaps, Uncle Jack also visited often.

1928

October 15 “The Cherry Orchard” opened at the Civic Rep, at 14th street near Sixth Ave. with Alla Nazimova as Ranevskaya. It sold out for the season twenty-four hours after opening night.{Lambert)

Civic, thought by some to be a lesbian theater. May Sarton, Gladys Marshall, Eva Le Galliienne,

1929

February 23 Nazimova opened in her second play at the Civic but neither critics nor audiences shared her admiration for Katrina.

April 11
Helene and her husband Jack Welsh return to New York via the ‘Homeric” liner. Her husband’s birthday is listed as 1895. He is now giving his real age. Helene gives her year of birth as 1897. She was actually born ten years earlier in 1887.

April 15
Theater Season ends

1930
According to the US Census in 1930, Helene Welsh and her husband, John P., are living in a rented house at 237 Greenway North in Forest Hills. Also living with them is a servant Lena Sandmeyer, age 23, who was from Germany. the house was not far away from Helene’s mother’s house on Union Turnpike and her brother’s house on Shorthill Road. John was listed as a contractor/ paving streets.

1934
Rosa, Helene’s mother died in December. In the invantory of her estate, Helene is listed as living at 237 Greenway North.

1936
January 18, Helene’s younger sister Hertha dies. Helene is listed as the executrix of her estate. Helene’s address is given as 37 Shorthill Road. For this distance, it looks like Helene waited until her mother died before she left her husband John.

Helene lived at Shorthill Road with her brother until his sudden death in 1952.

1941
January 10, New York Times
“John P. Welsh, a Long Island City contractor and a World War veteran, died at his home, 84-13 Queens Boulevard, Elmhurst, late Wednesday after a long illness. His age was 45.
Mr. Welsh was a member of the Welsh Brothers Contrasting Company of Long Island City, which was founded by his father, Thomas F. Welsch. He was born in Long Island City and resided in Queens all of his life. During the World War he went overseas as a first lieutenant and was promoted to the rank of captain in the First Division Motor Corps.
He leaves a widow, Helena; two brothers, William and Richard, with whom he was associated in business, and three sisters, Catherine Welsh, Mrs. Theresa Kerr and Mrs. Rose Barnett.”

1945

July 13 Alla Nazimova died. John Beal a friend of her latter years read at her memorial service from the books at her bedside. Spinoza’s ETHICS and MEDITATIONS of Marcus Arelius.
John Beal was a friend of my mother,  Maxine Elsner Gretsch. They were both from Joplin, Missouri.
I wonder if my mother and Helene Welsh discussed that John Beal had been a part of Nazimova’s funeral.

1952
After the sudden death of her brother, Fred, Helen had to move out of the her brothers house on Shorthill Road. She had moved into this house after her separation from her husband circa 1935.
She was not happy about moving out. It was decided that Sylvia (Maxine)  and her children would move into the house.

circa 1960
At 37 Shorthill Road, the house my grandfather built and the house where my father and I grew up, I was looking through some stored books in the basement. I was 12. I remember finding a book entitled “Good Night Sweet Prince”. I didn’t know anything about the book but I was mesmorized by its title. Years later, I realized it was a book about the life and times of John Barrymore. The book must have belonged to my Aunt Helen who lived so long in that house with her widowed brother,  my grandfather.  At the time, I did not know that Aunt Helen used to live there. Nor did I know that she was once a serious actress.  Looking for the book in a used bookstore in early 2000, I can across a book by John Barrymore’s sister Ethel with the enchanging title of  Memories. This book reminded me so much of the theatrical aura which always surrounded my aged aunt.

1962-3
Sylvia was recovering from her cancer operation and went to Florida in the winter for a week or two to recover at Helen Welsh’s apartment there. I think Barbara Shea and her young family stayed with me on Shorthill Road while my mother was in Florica with “Aunt Helen”.

1964
Helene Welsh came to Shorthill Road to live with Sylvia’s four children after Sylvia’s death.
Note that this was the second time that Helene moved into the house on Shorthill Road.
She was often intoxicated and ill. It was very scary for me to she her so intoxicated and ill.

1968
Helene Welsh was living in Palm Beach at a hotel. I was pregnant with my first child, Maggie. My husband and I had just moved to Miami and we drove to Palm Beach to visit with Aunt Helen.
I remember her room was very messy and there were aunts and other bugs crawling around her night table.
She took me into her bed room alone, leaving Richard in another room and asked me about his heritage. She was very concerned that I had not married below my rank.

1982
October 18, Helene Welsh died in Palm Beach, Floria.

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