Monday, September 5, 2011

Boston Museum

Boston Museum, 1852.

Boston Museum, Tremont street, 1888.

The Boston Museum was one of the leading theaters of 19th Century Boston. The first building was erected in 1841 at Tremont and Bromfield street, and its immediate success lead five years later to a new, larger building being constructed, again on Tremont street, this time between School street and Scollay square.

The Boston Museum was founded by Moses Kimball. Kimball first bought the New England Museum, and then transferred its contents to the new Boston Museum. The facility actually was a museum, containing stuffed birds and animals, and other natural curiousities. During the 1840s, Kimball became a friend and associate of P.T. Barnum, and often shared exhibits with him. The (in)famous Feegee Mermaid was one of these, a half-orangutan/half fish construction that had a great popularity.

Entrance Hall.

In spite of its origin as a Barnum-type curiousity showplace, the Boston Museum is best remembered as a theater. It is suggested that the facility was given the name museum to avoid the opprobrium of Purtian Boston. More likely, it truly was a museum at the beginning but over time the Museum became one of the country's leading theaters. The first American productions of both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and H.M.S. Pinafore occurred on the Boston Museum stage.

Moses Kimball died in 1895, and the Boston Museum closed in 1903.

1 comment:

  1. I just read a fantastic article about the Boston Museum in the Boston Globe (Boston Daily Globe; March 10, 1889; Page # 17; Reporter: V.G. Eaton). The newspaper interviewed my great-great grandfather Patrick Clark about his life & times. He was a hack and had just purchased his own team when he decided a plum place to park was in front of Kimball's Tremont Street Museum theater on opening night November (2 or 3 I can't make out the number properly) in 1846.

    It was a VERY cold night in November he retells to the reporter, and he wanted to make a bit of money so he thought that the opening night of the theater was a good choice and picked out a stand right outside of the building. The rest is history.....