Leona Lewis, ‘The Little Gem,’ New York, circa 1895

January 16, 2015

Leona Lewis (active 1884-1898), American soprano and vaudeville serio-comic singer, billed as ‘The Little Gem’
(photo: Schloss, New York, circa 1896; cigarette card issued with Ogden’s Guinea Gold cigarettes, England, circa 1900)

London Theatre, New York, week beginning Monday, 18 April 1892
‘Manager John A. Flynn contemplated the two packed houses on Monday, April 18, drawn by his attraction, the London Gaiety Girls, with an expansive smile. The company is composed of very good burlesque and variety talent, giving a performance well calculated to please all. The opening sketch ”The Artist and the Model,” introduced Lida Gardner, May Smilox, Louise Llewellyn, Jessie May, Billy Arnold, Dan McAvoy and John Thompson. Then followed this olio: Mabel Hart, serio comic; Griff Williams, in a banjo act; Joe La Flower, in a good pyramid act; Lida Gardner, character changes; La Salle and Vedder, agile skirt and Spanish dancers; Leona Lewis, the pleasing little soubrette, with songs; McAvoy and May, in a funny sketch; the Mendoza sisters, in their trapeze act, and Walter P. Keen (late of Marion and Keen) in character songs. The burlesque, ”The Stolen Princess,” by the entire company, with fine scenery and costumes, concluded the jollification. Mr. Flynn has three weeks booked ahead, and will undoubtedly quit a winner. Next week, the Rentz-Stanley Co.’
(New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 23 April 1892, p. 102b)

‘MRS. GRIFF WILLIAMS (Leona Lewis) presented her husband with a girl baby Oct. 30 [1893]. Mr. Williams joined the Billy Plimmer show Nov. 6 for a two weeks’ engagement.’
(New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 11 November 1893, p. 576d)

‘Variety and Minstrelsy …
‘LEONA LEWIS will shortly appear at both of Mr. proctor’s houses in her repertory of new songs… .’
‘GRIFF WILLIAMS informs us that he was granted a divorce from Leona Lewis on March 25 [1896], at Boston, Mass.’
(New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 11 April 1896, p. 85e)

‘Was born in New York City in 1875, and began her stage career when nine years old, singing in German opera at the Oriental Theatre, this city. During the five following years she sang in a church choir, as leading soprano, and filled a number of engagements at concerts, singing operatic selections and high class sentimental ballads, her favorite songs at that time having been ”Farewell, Marguerite” and ”The Song that Reached My Heart.” Her first appearance upon the vaudeville stage occurred at the old National Theatre, about six years ago. She met with a very encouraging reception. She afterwards secured engagements whereby she appeared at the Windsor, the Union Square and the Fourteenth Street Theatres, in this city. At the age of sixteen she joined Flynn’s London Gaiety Girls, and played the principal soubrette roles with that organization for two years and a half. After that time she played dates for a while, one of her engagements, at the Lyceum Theatre, Boston, Mass., where she became a great favorite, continuing for eight weeks. In 1894 she joined ”The Colonel and I,” and remained with that company six months, playing the principal feminine roles. Following this engagement she was obliged to retired from the stage on account of illness, and did not sing for almost a year. With recovered health she began playing dates, and since that time she has filled highly successful engagements at Proctor’s houses, the Central Opera House, the various roof gardens, the London, Miner’s, and, in fact, many of the best vaudeville houses in and around this city. She is at present a member of the ”Zero” Co. She has had flattering offers to appear in farce comedy next season, but has decided to remain in the vaudeville field. Miss Lewis has been endowed by nature with an excellent voice and with other gifts that have been valuable aids to her success. She is petite and pretty, winsome in voice and manner, and, to crown all, is dainty and magnetic.’
(New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 24 October 1896, p. 533e, with engraved portrait)

‘LEONA LEWIS has proved a valuable addition to Joe Oppenheimer’s forces in ”Zero.” Her speciality is favorably commented on, and she has had several good offers from well known managers for next season. Miss Lewis has written the music to her new song, ”The Dainty Little Maiden,” which she is singing.’
(New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 28 November 1896, p. 616d)

‘Vaudeville and Minstrel.
‘LEONA LEWIS is advancing rapidly to the front in her singing specialty. She filled a successful return date at Hammerstein’s Olympia week of March 8 [1897]; is a feature at the Howard Athenæum, Boston, this week, and a ”head liner” at Gibbs’ Music Hall, Buffalo, this week. Her repertory of songs includes ”Little Willie Knows His Little Book,” ”Isn’t it Nice to be in Love,” ”Take Back Your Gold” and ”Mamie Reilly,” all of which she renders with admirable effect. A novel telegram sent by Manager Hill, of the Grand Opera House, Boston, to Monroe H. Rosenfeld, incidental to Miss Lewis’ engagement, reads as follows: ”She captured the ladies, also the men; a pronounced ‘hit’ was ‘The Little Gem.””
(New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 27 March 1897, p. 55c)

‘KOSTER & BIAL’S [New York]. – The roof garden at this resort was crowded Aug. 22 [1898] … Leona Lewis, a magnetic little comedienne, made her appearance and found herself among hosts of friends. She met with her usual big success.’
(New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 27 August 1898, p. 424c)


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