1919 Season

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1919 Season
Manager(s) Will D. Harris (operating lessee)
Will D. Harris Amusement Company
Jacob F. Luft (manager)
J.D. Cleary (assistant manager)
Park Amusement Company
Joseph W. and Will J. Dusenbury
a.k.a. Dusenbury Brothers
The Olentangy Park Company (owners)
Opening Day April 6, 1919 (Sundays only)
May 25, 1919 (Daily)
Closing Day September 14, 1919 (Sundays only)
October (for season)
Stock Company Bafunno & Rice Producing Co.

Olentangy Park opened its 1919 season on Sunday, April 6, 1919, the earliest it had ever opened in a year.[1] A 12-piece jazz orchestra provided live music for the park's Dancing Pavilion.[2][3] Most of the park opened on Sundays at first, with the theater and the swimming pool opened later in the summer. The park's official opening for daily operation happened on May 25.[4] Admission was 5 cents at first but doubled to 10 cents ($1.64 cents in 2022 dollars), with Harris claiming it was needed due to the war tax. Children were admitted for free.[5]

Originally, there was no musical stock at the theater this season because the new management company believed it would have been too expensive, and a 15-piece special orchestra played live music for the park.[6] However, the president of the company and the theater manager later struck a deal for 14 weeks of comedy by the Bafunno & Rice Producing Co. [7] The Rainbow Division Band of 40 members also played for several weeks.[8]

The park was open daily until September 14 when it switched to Sundays only.[9] The park ended operation for the season later in October.[4]

Change in Management

Will D. Harris was the lessee-operator of the park when it opened for the season. He leased the park from J.W. and W.J. Dusenbury and their company, The Olentangy Park Company, which maintained ownership.[10] The park's operation was taken over by new management, changing the name of the Will D. Harris Amusement Company to the Park Amusement Company in mid-April. The operators involved in the new company included W. N. Ferguson, the president of Cedar Falls Oil Company, as president; and Jacob F. Luft, the treasurer of the Grand, Southern, and Olentangy Park theaters, became the manager. Joseph Cleary, a well-known Columbus detective at the time, became the assistant manager.[11] Harris left Olentangy Park to focus on the Grand Theater to expand its motion picture program.[12][13]

Effects of the War Tax

On February 24, 1919, the U.S. Congress passed a revenue act requiring places of amusement to pay a tax on every admission, ride, and attraction ticket. The double in the gate cost to 10 cents was to help lower the need for other ticket price increases. A 1-cent (16 cents in 2022 dollars) tax was added to every 5 or 10-cent sale and a 2-cent tax was added for every 15 and 12-cent sale, and a 3-cent tax for every 25 and 30-cent sale, and so on.[14] Harris paid a war tax for the two years prior, but did not raise prices, but felt it was needed for the 1919 season.

Fighting in Court

In June, W.J. and J.W. Dusenbury sued and wanted to cancel the lease held by Will D. Harris and the Park Amusement Company. Harris, who took over the park on March 5, 1917, and subleased it to the Park Amusement Co. earlier in the season,[15] asked that a receiver be appointed for the park company and the park. The Dusenbury brothers alleged the Park Amusement Co. was conducting gambling on the park grounds in violation of the lease terms. Harris said he remained in control of the Park Amusement Company and changed the company's name from his name as a stockholder. Since he was in control, he claimed the proceeds from the park were to go toward the payment of the debts of the original Will D. Haris Company. However, when W.N. Furguson was made manager of the theater, Harris was thrown out and the profits were distributed to the park company instead. Harris' application for a receiver was originally continued until Furguson could attend court.[16] Judge M.G. Evans of the Franklin County courts denied the request to appoint a receiver after the case was already heard by Judge Kinkead after the Electric Sales Co., a creditor of the amusement company also requested one. The Park Amusement Co. said they'd give a bond to pay the debts assumed by Harris after they determined what they were for Olentangy Park and not allow funds to pay for the Grand Theater, which Harris continued to operate.[17] Judge Kinkead also refused to appoint a receiver and ordered the Park Amusement Co. to give a bond of over $10,000 (around $164,000 in 2022), guaranteeing the payment of debts of the park.[18]

Jacob Luft, park manager, later sued the Park Amusement Co. for his salary of $1,600 ($26,240 in 2022), stating that he was hired on May 1, 1918, to manage the theater for $50 ($820) per week and worked 16 weeks. In 1919, he was hired to work for $100 ($1,640) per week and worked 10 weeks. He said he was only paid $200 of the $1,800 owed.[19]

Strike Closure

Manager J.D. Cleary closed the park on Wednesday, September 3, 1919, due to the street car strike. A major Mardi Gras celebration started the previous evening.[20] The park reopened on Sunday, September 7, 1919, and Mardi Gras celebrations continued the next day.

Rides and Attractions

Improvements to the Swimming Pool

A new system was added to the Swimming Pool to make it more efficient, allowing the park to serve 15,000 visitors per day. Bathers were slowed by a haphazard process of checking in their street clothes to change into the park bathing suits the previous year, and in 1919, the checking room was enlarged, and a larger staff was there to help along the east side of the bathing house. Valuables were checked in another room with sealed and signed envelopes for security. A shower on the south part of the bathing house forced swimmers through before entering the pool, cleaning visitors and acclimating them to the chilled water. City water was always running into the pool to keep it clean.[21] By July, nearly 10,000 bathing suits were available.[22]

List of Rides and Attractions

Theater Performances

On April 26, 1919, the North High School Thespians performed "Green Stockings," a play by A. E. Mason, at the theater.[23]

On May 17, the Patriotic League Glee Club presented a minstrel show directed by Lillian Sticklin and managed by A.C. Moorhaus.[24] Part of the performance featured women in bear suits presenting the Teddy Bear Glide.[25]

Three hundred participants from North High School performed the operetta, "The Conquest of Nations" on Saturday, May 24, the day before the park's opening for daily operation. This was the first time the operetta was performed in Ohio. The solos were performed by Ruth Heizer, Catherine Mackintosh, Pauline Dorn, Charles Medick, and Edgar Sprague. Ruth Caldrewood played as the Spirit of Fair Play, Martha Mathews as Utopia, and Katheryn Mathews as Columbia.[26]

Theater's Need for Repairs

A state inspector visited the park in June and told the Dusenbury brothers that the entire theater building to be rewired, four additional exits to be provided, new aisles created, stairways strengthened, and other repairs made within 30 days.[16]

Dispatch Contest

There were 23 pieces of a photograph in the May 25 issue of the Columbus Sunday Dispatch of Mina Davenport, the Prima Dona of The Bafunno & Price's Producing Company.[27] Readers who cut out the 23 pieces and place them together properly could send them into the newspaper with the advertisers' information to be entered into a contest with the following prizes:

  • First place prize - One entire box for three performances on June 2, June 9, and June 16, an $18 value ($295 in 2022 dollars)
  • Second place prize - One entire box for two performances on June 3 and June 10, a $12 value ($197 in 2022 dollars)
  • Third place prize - One entire box for Wednesday night, June 4, and two box seats for June 11 and June 18, a $10 value ($164 in 2022 dollars)
  • Fourth place prize - One entire box for Monday night, June 2, and two box seats for June 9, a $8 value ($131 in 2022 dollars)
  • Fifth place prize - One entire box for Tuesday night, June 3, a $6 value ($98 in 2022 dollars)
  • 25 other winners a varying amount of orchestra seat tickets for different performance dates, ranging from $1 - $3 ($16.40 - 49.20 in 2022)

Marie McColley, Gilbert S. Barbee, and Corinnie E. Fisher won the first, second, and third prizes on June 1.[28]

Stock Members

  • Mina Davenport, lead actress
  • Henry Taylor, lead actor
  • Ferne Rogers, lead actress
  • Billy Welp, actor
  • Lillian Ludlow, actress
  • Clara Louise Evans, actress
  • Harry Murray, actor
  • Tom O'Hare, actor
  • Betty De Sales, soubrette
  • Elaine Claire, dancer

Stock Performances

Matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays were 25 and 50 cents ($4.10 and $8.20 in 2022), and every evening at 8:15 for 25, 50, and 75 cents.

Park Amusement Co. president Jacob Luft and the Olentangy Park Theater manager W.N. Furguson agreed to have 14 weeks of musical comedies presented by Antonio "Tony" Bafunno and Alonzo Rice and their own producing company. The season opened June 2 with "Review of Reviews." Bufunno previously directed the Musical Players at the Grand Theater, and Price worked with the Henry W. Savage company and was known as a producer and manager of unusual talents. Price was in charge of the productions, while Bufunno was the musical director and in charge of the orchestra. They created Bafunno & Rice Producing Co. for their work that summer. The cast had at least 35 members.[7]

Dates Peformance Writer Genre Headliners Notes
June 2 - 8, 1919 "Review of Reviews" Comedy Mina Davenport [7]
June 9 - 15, 1919 "Alma" or "Alma, Where Do You Live?" Comedy Mina Davenport, Henry Taylor [29]
June 16 - 22, 1919 "A Knight For a Day" Comedy Mina Davenport, Henry Taylor [30]
June 23 - 29, 1919 "Madame Sherry" Comedy Mina Davenport, Henry Taylor [31]
June 30 - July 6, 1919 "The Firefly" Comedy Ferne Rogers [32]
July 7 - 13, 1919 "The Girl of My Dreams" [33] Comedy Henry Taylor, Ferne Rogers
"A Stubborn Cinderella" Comedy
"The Show Girl" Comedy
"Florabella" Comedy
"San Toy" Comedy

Other Acts

Circus acts were performed twice a day in August. There was also a special stage at the south end of the Shoot-the-Chutes pool with unusual electrical effects.[34]

Here are some of the acts:

  • Flying Herberts and the Omar Sisters[34]
  • Clowns Leroy and Alexander and an act from Chicago[35]
  • Samayoa, trapeze act
  • The Bluches, fast comedy act involving clowns
  • Sterling Rose Trio, a woman and two men who perform aerial gymnastics, strength tests, holding and revolving by the teeth, etc.[36]
  • C.A. Chandler did a 95-foot dive headlong into a net (for Ohio State Fair)
  • Balloon ascension and parachute leap (for Ohio State Fair)[37]


List of Activities


  1. "Anticipating Park Sunday." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 11 April 1919. Pg. 42.
  2. "Park Opens Sunday." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 4 April 1919. Pg. 42.
  3. "The Big Park Opens." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 6 April 1919. Pg. 66.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Park Open for Summer" The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 25 May 1919. Pg. 74.
  5. "Park Gate Charge Changed." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 12 April 1919. Pg. 12.
  6. "Olentangy Open Today." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 27 April 1919. Pg. 78.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Authors of Musical Comedy Success to Direct Coming Olentangy Stock." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 11 May 1919. Pg. 56.
  8. "Rainbows for the Park." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 23 June 1919. Pg. 18.
  9. "Gay Scenes at Mardi Gras." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 12 September 1919. Pg. 40.
  10. "Incorporate Park Company." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 16 January 1918. Pg. 9.
  11. "Cleary to Aid Luft." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 25 April 1919. Pg. 42.
  12. "Olentangy Park Taken Over By New Management." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 18 April 1919. Pg. 1.
  13. "No More Musical Stock." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 19 April 1919. Pg. 42.
  14. "Park Tax Problem." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 13 April 1919. Pg. 56.
  15. "Owners Sue To Oust Lessee of Olentangy Park." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 18 June 1919. Pg. 1.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Three-Cornered Fight for Park Opens in Court." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 24 June 1919. Pg. 1.
  17. "Rejects Request for Receiver for Park Co." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 7 July 1919. Pg. 1.
  18. "Refuses to Appoint Receiver for Park." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 28 July 1919. Pg. 1.
  19. "Sues Park Company." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 24 June 1919. Pg. 20.
  20. "Olentangy Park Closed." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 3 September 1919. Pg. 2.
  21. "Fast Check System." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 8 June 1919. Pg. 69.
  22. "May Pass Million." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 6 July 1919. Pg. 67.
  23. "Miss Rhae M'Carty." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 25 April 1919. Pg. 38.
  24. "Girls in Minstrel Cast." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 15 May 1919. Pg. 25.
  25. "Girls will Don Teddy Bear Suits for Minstrel Show." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 15 May 1919. Pg. 12.
  26. "North High to Give Patriotic Operetta." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 22 May 1919. Pg. 6.
  27. "$100 in Tickets Free to 'The Review of Reviews' Opening Attraction of Bafunno and Price's Producing Co. at Olentangy Park Theater." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 25 May 1919. Pg. 8-9.
  28. "Miss Marie M'Colley Wins Dispatch Contest." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 1 June 1919. Pg. 14.
  29. "Promises Well for Park." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 6 June 1919. Pg. 36.
  30. "Second Week of Stock." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 8 June 1919. Pg. 71.
  31. "19 Songs in 'Mme. Sherry'." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 21 June 1919. Pg. 14.
  32. "Ferne Rogers for Park." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 24 June 1919. Pg. 26.
  33. "Hits of Park Piece." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 7 July 1919. Pg. 26.
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Free Circus and Concerts." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 5 August 1919. Pg. 22.
  35. "Sunday Opening at Olentangy." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 9 August 1919. Pg. 12.
  36. "At Olentangy Park." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 17 August 1919. Pg. 66.
  37. "Daring Dive into Net." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 21 August 1919. Pg. 26.