The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 416
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
excursions of their cowboy escorts had long been the backbone of the
town's economic stability. "Culture" for permanent residents before the
advent of the rails had, in the absence of any suitably equipped "opera
house," been limited to passing circuses and the occasional dance or
amateur theatrical held in the county courthouse or Godwin's Hall, a
hay fever-inducing space occupying the second floor of a livery stable at
First and Houston Streets. Prior to 1876, the courthouse had, in fact,
served as the settlement's social and artistic hub, with A. B. Fraser dele-
gated by county officials to handle all theatrical business and authorized
to charge $7.50 a night for rentals. Yet the reality remained that few pro-
fessional acting troupes cared to brave travel across the state, much of
which still had to be traversed by stagecoach.2
Completion of the Adelphi Theater at Second and Main Streets with-
in days of the railroad's arrival in July 1876 seemed to augur a new era
of growth for the town. While the clapboard variety hall, with its males-
only clientele, bore little resemblance to the "opera houses" of more
established cities like New Orleans and Galveston, the Fort Worth
Democrat nevertheless celebrated the Adelphi's premiere as "the first reg-
ularly established theatre in our city," declaring its offerings, somewhat
immoderately, "entertainment equal to that given in the finest theatres
of the older states." The elation was short-lived. Just three weeks after its
opening, the Adelphi had its "season" abruptly cancelled when its band
of feckless but well-oiled thespians '"jumped town" in the middle of the
night, stripping the building of most of its portable assets, including
$300 worth of liquor.
Just days later, the building's owners announced a return engagement
under a new moniker-Theater Comique. Engaged to operate the hall
was Will C. Burton, who between managerial duties and acting turns,
cranked out literary works with such artless titles as "Struck By
Lightning," "Sing Bad the Tailor," and "Red Dick." His shortcomings as
a dramatist had little effect on business. By October, the cowboy trade at
the reconstituted Comique was booming."
The Comique's bill conformed to a fairly predictable variety format:
presentation of the female form, short melodramas, and irreverent
political and ethnic humor liberally laced with sexual double enten-
dre. All were well-suited to the tastes of the hall's unsophisticated "reg-
ulars": drummers, buffalo hunters, farmers, drovers, and renegades. At
2 "Fort Worth City Guide" in Federal Writers' Project-Fort Worth and Tarrant County, here-
after cited as FWP-FWTC, n.d., 47, 19250-19251; Fort Worth Democrat, June 27, 1874, p. 3-
" Fort Worth Democrat,July 2i, 1876, p. 4, Aug. 9, 1876, p. 4.
4 Fort Worth Democrat, Aug 9, 1876, p. 4, Aug. 16, 1876, p. 4; Sept. 19, 1876, p. 4; Oct. 12,
1876, p 4; Fort Worth Dazly Standard, Sept. 21, 1876, p. 4, Sept. 27, 1876, p. 4.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/474/: accessed June 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.