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    A young woman home from Ohio Wesleyan College is waiting table in the family hotel dining room. She is spotted across the room by a leading man on tour with a theatrical group. He marries her and launches a career on Broadway. It all begin in downtown Hicksville, Ohio.

    Amelia Swilley Bingham’s stage career began in Hicksville, where her father owned the Swilley House, a midtown hotel located where The Hicksville Bank now stands. Lloyd Bingham was the traveling actor who married Amelia in 1890. For the next three years, Lloyd guided Amelia through apprenticeships around the country, with a Broadway debut on December 18, 1893 (a few sources cite 1892) at the old Bijou Theatre in New York City. Noted for sparkling performances in both comedies and melodramas, Amelia gained such renown that she was once voted more popular than Lillian Russell. Busses of tourists stopped to gaze at her Riverside Drive home.

    The Climbers, produced during the 1901–1902 season, was one of Amelia’s greatest successes. Both the play and the actress were lauded in The Oxford Companion to American Theatre (2nd ed.). Mrs. Bingham organized her own company of actors and leased the theatre, thereby becoming the first American woman to succeed as a Broadway producer/manager/actress. Later triumphs included Big Moments from Great Plays, excerpts from six plays which Amelia performed around the world. In London, Amelia performed before royalty, including the King and his guest Teddy Roosevelt.

    Despite Amelia’s fame and fortune, she and Lloyd often returned to Hicksville, where they were regulars at the Defiance County Fair. Amelia gave motivational speeches to young people and was present with Hart’s Girl Band when Tight Street was renamed Meuse Argonne, in honor of local WWI casualties. On the road, in Philadelphia, Amelia was so pleased by a serenade from her hometown’s Hart’s Boy Band, that she dismissed the theatre orchestra for the evening and had “her boys” sit in the pit and play the performance.

    Amelia Swilley Bingham died of pneumonia in 1927 at her NYC home with her sister at her side. Lloyd had died years before, while on a peace mission with Henry Ford. After a funeral at The Little Church Around the Corner, she was buried in The Woodlawn Cemetery. New York’s Herald Tribune, World, and Times reported throngs of mourners topping 2,000. Amelia left her books to the Hicksville Schools, a small part of an estate valued at over $200,000, then considered a vast amount of money for a lady.

    The Museum of the City of New York has an extensive collection of Amelia Bingham photographs and theatre clippings which they graciously copied for The Hicksville Historical Society.

    See a more complete list of Amelia Bingham's Broadway credits on the Internet Broadway Database.

    Amelia's NYC townshouse was featured in this 2010 brochure:   http://www.townhouseexperts.com/photos/290specsheet.pdf

    Summary of Accomplishments:

    bullet 1893 — Broadway debut as an actress in The Struggle of Life
    bullet 1900 — Assumed management of NYC’s Bijou Theatre
    bullet 1901 — Organized the Amelia Bingham Stock Company
    bullet 1909 — England’s Palace Theater production of Big Moments from Great Plays
    bullet 1910–1926 — First president of Professional Women’s League, charitable works for Elks Lodge #1 and Actors’ Fund of America, appealed for roles for mature women, supported hometown activities
    bullet 1927 — Buried from NYC Little Church Around the Corner
    bullet 1993 — Induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame

    — A Review

    The Brighton Hippodrome is “extra” this week—not the price: but the quality of the programme. Amelia Bingham is a programme in herself. Heartier applause than that which greeted her at the close of each scene has seldom filled the great building.

    Always on the alert for something new to serve up for the delectations of his numerous patrons, Mr. Thomas Barrasford has this week secured quite an innovation in the entertainment presented by Miss Amelia Bingham, an actress of wonderful ability from across the herring pond.

    Miss Bingham’s idea is to place before the public what may be called the most prominent scene from some of the great plays now being produced. The talented actress is most versatile. Drama, comedy, or a combination of both comes to her in a natural way.

    The following photos were submitted by Michael J. Breen, whose great grandfather was T. A. Bingham, brother to Lloyd Bingham (Amelia’s husband). Thank you, Michael, for your interest and your contribution to our site. Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger version of each photo.

     

    This photo is of Lloyd (standing) and his brother Samuel, from a family tin type.

     

    Amelia, from a 1910 national photo post card she posed for. Colorized by Michael Breen.

     

    A whiskey premium given to T. A. Bingham by his brother Lloyd.

     

    A cabinet photo.

       
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