2016-12-01 / Columnists

Raised in the shadow – PART 5 (Final) During Prohibition patients given alcohol

by Sandi Brewster-walker

Very slowly the families that had operated the early three Amityville sanitariums were moving from hiring immigrants to a more diverse workforce, and servants at home, as well as Brunswick Home, continued to build its relationship with the Actors Fund of America.

From 1919 to 1940, Charles J. Burbridge, El Nino Eddy, Blanche Booth, Frank E. Young, Henry Wellington Mitchell, Marie Haynes, Frank J. Woods and Lizzie Keogh, the widow of Thomas J. Keogh, were among the actor and actress patients. And some of the Long Island Home patients were being treated with alcohol for alcoholism during Prohibition!

In1919,theU.S.FederalGovernment passed the 18th Amendment prohibiting the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” Legally, members of the clergy and physicians were still allowed to buy and disseminate alcohol.

The Long Island Home was granted a special permit for “intoxicating liquors” to be used in the treatment of recognized disorders. It can be assumed that the other two sanitariums also received special permits too. Physicians were giving patients liquor to treat anemia, tuberculosis, typhoid, pneumonia, high blood pressure and alcoholism.


Blanche Booth Blanche Booth “This new law required physicians to obtain a special permit from the Prohibition commissioner in order to write prescriptions for liquor. The patient could then legally buy liquor from the pharmacy or the physician. The law also regulated how much liquor could be prescribed to each patient,” according to the Rose Melnick Medical Museum.

The museum continued, “Patients of all ages used alcohol. A common adult dose was about one ounce every two to three hours. Child doses ranged from one half to two teaspoons every three hours.” During the Prohibition years, the Actors Fund continued to bring actors and actresses to Brunswick Home, and some for alcoholism!


Percy G. Williams Percy G. Williams The June 4, 1922 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that “Charles J. Burbridge (1849-1922), an English actor who had lived in the United States for 35 years, died at Amityville, L. I. on May 30.” He had performed in “The Son of His Father (1915),” “The Man Inside (1916)” and “The Black Pearl (1915).” Charles had been a patient of Brunswick Home placed there by the Actors Fund.

Business was good on Division Avenue for all sanitariums in 1922, so the Long Island Home expanded again opening Searle Cottage (named for board member Charles Searle) for male patients only, and two wings were added to Stanton Cottage. Louden Hall was now being advertised in newspapers as Louden-Knickerbocker Hall with the telephone in Amityville. Grace Louden (Burns), his daughter, received 1/3 interest in Louden Hall (including Knickerbocker Hall). Sarah, his wife, received the property at the foot of Ocean Avenue, two lots on Ketcham Avenue and property on Greene Street.


Percy Williams Home for Actors Percy Williams Home for Actors

A year later on Sept. 16, 1923, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported El Nino Eddy (1853-1923), an acrobat and circus rider, died at Brunswick Home. Eddy was twice married, “His first wife being Mabel Pearl, his partner on the stage for many years. His second wife was Miss Alice Morgan…,” according to the Eagle, he was buried in the Actors Fund plot at Evergreens Cemetery.

In 1926, the Brunswick Home’s Dr. C. L. Markham was the physician in charge.

On Thanksgiving Day, after serving 34 years as the superintendent of Brunswick Home, Dr. O.J. Wilsey had died.


Special Permit for “intoxicating liquors” (coupon) Special Permit for “intoxicating liquors” (coupon) The next year on Sept. 13, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle mentioned that Frank J. Wood, an actor, died at age 56 at Brunswick Home, “where he had been a patient under the care of the Actors Fund of America.” His last appearance was in 1924, where he left the stage due to illness.

About the time the Actors Fund’s home was relocated to Englewood (NJ), the Patchogue Advance on May 31, 1929 told readers that Henry Wellington Mitchell (1832-1929), a retired actor, had recently died. He had been under the care of the Actors Fund at Brunswick Home for 13 years. “His stage career goes back to association with Edwin Forrest and Edwin Booth.” The newspaper continued, “… his last appearance was in Cohan’s “Get Rich Quick Wallingford.”

Still on April 15, 1930, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, Blanche (Booth) De Bar (1844-1925) for 25 years had been under the care of the Actors Fund and died at Brunswick Home. She was the daughter of actor John Wilkes Booth’s brother, Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., as well as the niece of Ben De Bar.

After Lincoln’s assassination, Blanche was investigated and cleared. She made her stage debut in 1865 at the Ben De Bar’s Theatre (St. Louis) in “She number being “Amity 53,” however Western Electric’s first handset subscriber telephone was still under development.

The Aug. 25, 1922 Suffolk County News (Sayville) reported that William T. Louden, of the Town of Babylon, died at his home Stoops to Conquer.” Her New York debut was in 1869 at the theater of Edwin Booth, her uncle. She was buried at Evergreen Cemetery by the Actors Fund. Actors and actresses continued to come and go on Division Avenue!

On Oct. 22, 1930, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle carried still another death notice. Frank E. Young, an actor, had died at Brunswick Home. He was placed at the sanitarium in 1928 by the Actors Fund; prior he had been a guest of Percy Williams Home at East Islip (NY).

Percy Garnett Williams (1857-1923) was the founder of the Percy Williams Home for Actors and Actresses in East Islip (NY). Upon Williams’ wife‘s death, his approximately 48-acre East Islip estate became part of the Actors Fund.

Mae West had performed at the Gotham Theater, owned in 1907 by Williams, as a child actress, as well as in 1909 Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel had appeared at other Williams’ vaudeville theatres. He owned or managed more theatres in the greater New York area than anyone else; two in Manhattan and one each in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

Two years later, Williams had eight theatres in the area! He died on July 23, 1923 at East Islip, and according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the will stated, “I made my money from the actors; I here with return it to them.”

Marie Haynes (1865-1934), an actress, had been at Brunswick Home for some time, placed there by the Actors Fund of America. She was known for “The Pillory” (1916), “Children of the Whirlwind” (1925) and “Poppy” (1917).” In 1881, she was in a production of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and shortly after she played in “Jane Eyre.” Marie, the widow of Ralph Howard, died on April 3, 1934 in Riverside, CT, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote on April 4.

Progress was being made in 1938, iceboxes in all Louden Hall buildings were replaced with brand new Frigidaire machines. Over at Brunswick Home, Lizzie (Montgomery) Keogh (1862-1938) aka Lizzie Montgomery had died, reported the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Nov. 8. She had been in the care of the Actors Fund of America. In 1887, Lizzie first made her appearance on stage in a traveling stock company. She was buried in Kensico, NY, in the Actors Fund plot.

On Oct. 16, 1942, a little over 10 months after the United States declared and entered World War II, the Suffolk County News (Sayville) ran the story “Republican Women Increase Activity in Election Work” about a group of women leaders, including Mrs. Grace Louden Burns.

The paper continued, “…all efforts would be directed to individual work throughout the election districts to impress the voters with the importance of the casting their ballots on Election Day as the best means of preserving the two-party system upon which our free and liberal government is founded.”

Coming of age during the struggle of the Women’s Suffragist Movement influenced the lives of local women like Grace Bonheur (Louden) Burns. Grace had lived in the shadow of the Louden Hall, Long Island Home and Brunswick Home, however there are many more stories left in the shadows of the now Louden Avenue (formerly Division Avenue) to be told!

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