Tag Archives: vaudeville

Peg O My Heart — Gracie Mark’s Belt

Peg O My Heart — Gracie Mark’s Belt



Doris Blackburn/ Karen Blackburn Chenier gave me this beaded belt from the 1920s. What is the story behind it?


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This very unusual beaded sash belonged to Vaudevillian Joe Mark’s wife Gracie. They were part of the illustrious Marks Brothers. From Perth, Ontario they toured North America from the 1870s into the 1920s.


As the Marks Brothers had grown up near Christie Lake they often returned there for a summer vacation. The rest of the year was spent travelling or performing in New York City.



One day when Sophia accompanied Arden on his mail route, Gracie happened to meet them at their mail box. After a short chat she offered Sophia this belt to keep as a souvenir of their appreciation of Arden’s mail service to the Mark’s family.

Doris Blackburn 2008


Sophia was my Grandma Blackburn, *Arden’s wife who used to do the mail route every day with him. There is a book about my Grandpa Blackburn and his mail route stories His route ran from the Perth post office to Christie Lake and back. He delivered mail, groceries and even people. Quite the characters I met including a “hermit” named Dickie Peters who never came out of his little shack except to wave to Grandpa. As I often say to people “I can’t make this shit up.”  Karen Blackburn Chenier





Arden Blackburn’s Mail Route: The Early Days at Christie Lake

Theirs was a bond born in nature. United by water, the early inhabitants at Christie Lake were drawn into a community that came to transcend politics, religion and sometimes even family. Over time they gathered to work, to play and to celebrate the beauty that was around them. Located approximately 15 kilometres southwest of Perth, Ontario, Christie Lake is the third largest lake in what is known as the Tay Watershed. Follow the community’s mailman as he uses the North Shore Road to weave a thread that brings together this unlikely blend of permanent residents and summer vacationers




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A staged promo shot for the Marks’s production of Bringing Up Father, with Tom as Jiggs and Gracie as Martha. 1920s


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte

  1. relatedreading

Ontario’s Version of the Marks Bros-Tales of the Queen’s Hotel

What’s Happening at Christie Lake June 23, 1899

The Killarney of Canada in Lanark County


Entertainment in Rural Towns–Dancing Bears and Monkeys?

Entertainment in Rural Towns–Dancing Bears and Monkeys?





The Middle class Victorian families were at always happy at leisure in their drawing rooms or parlours playing chess backgammon or some other game board singing around their expensive upright pianos.

The Victorians had an appetite for the exotic and the strange, no doubt about it. They wanted novelty like the strange vaudevillian shows and feature presentations. They found joy in strolling entertainers around town such as dancing bears, *monkeys, the fire eaters and the jugglers. I have read many times that sometimes the Vaudevillian shows staying in our towns would provide a free street show at lunchtime… or some even sat in windows demonstrating their talents.

In October of 1887 a performing bear was listed as causing chaos in Lanark County. The postmaster of Perth shared his home with a travelling performer with his dancing bear. The postmaster accommodated the Bruin with a bed in the barn being careful to make sure he was chained at the stake.

In the small hours the bear got loose and went on a foraging expedition killing hens, skimming milk pans, and eating butter on the host’s supper table. The postmaster hearing a noise came down the stairs in his robe de nuit to see what was going on. When the two met face to face the Bruin hit down after feasting on the milk and butter. The postmaster escaped but his garment was rent. The bear’s owner was  made to leave quickly after that and the postmaster demanded  he had to pay $10.




Lewis and Wardrobe Hippolympian appeared many times at The Chatterton House Hotel.  They performed songs and choruses, acrobatic and gymnastic feats, contortions etc. The Carleton Place Herald reported that Lewis and Wardrobe also  formed themselves into a brass band and performed in the town streets wherever they went. Nothing but talented, unique, and beautiful people.–Part 6-The First Mosh Pits in Carleton Place — The Opera House of the Chatterton House Hotel


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)




Monkeys Create Chaos in Carleton Place

The Day the Hypnotist Came to Carleton Place

Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Carleton Place

Mrs. Jarley’s Wax Works -Creepy Entertainment

Mrs Jarley and her Waxworks Hits Lanark– and they call me strange:)

The Killarney of Canada in Lanark County

John Sparrow’s Royal Parilion – Chatterton House Hotel Carleton Place

Ontario’s Version of the Marks Bros-Tales of the Queen’s Hotel




Ontario’s Version of the Marks Bros-Tales of the Queen’s Hotel



Original Marks Brothers Poster – now in the third floor exhibit at the Perth Museum.    From left to right: Back – Joseph, Thomas, Robert, Alex, Earnest : Front – John, McIntyre

Did you know we had our very own version of the Marks brothers? Not Harpo, Groucho and Chico. I mean Joseph, Thomas, Robert, Alex, Earnest, John and McIntyre  a dapper looking dramatic company of Perth, Ontario-based brothers and their wives who travelled across North America bringing Vaudeville-style shows to entertainment-starved towns, both small and large. Ernie’s wife Kitty also performed with the group but the main attraction was Robert’s wife, May Bell Marks. Most of them stayed at the Queen’s hotel in Carleton Place and if you have followed my other blogs see related reading below) I have written about several of them.


Photo by Linda Seccaspina from the Queen’s Hotel Registrar at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

According to Amazon. com The Marks Brothers  formerly known as The Emma Wells Co. may well have been the most remarkable theatrical family in Canadian history. A phenomenon on the vaudeville circuit, the seven brothers left the farm and took to the boards and the footlights throughout the latter part of the 19th century and into the 1920s.


Photo by Linda Seccaspina from the Queen’s Hotel Registrar at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


From 1870- to the 1920 the brothers from Christie Lake, near Perth played to an estimated eight million Canadians, as well as to sizeable audiences in the United States. Their road shows, largely melodramas and comedy, kept audiences crying, booing, laughing and cheering until movies sounded the death knell for touring repertory companies. They played at our local Opera hall which was inside the Carleton Place Town Hall. It used to be a one week;s stand in most towns that they played with May A. Bell Marks playing the heroine’s role.


Photo by Linda Seccaspina from the Queen’s Hotel Registrar at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


From all about Perth— Dec 27, 1923, Toronto – The Marks Bros Dramatic company presenting ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, an old English pantomime.



Marks Family of Christies Lake

The early history of Christies Lake is lost to posterity.  “The Killarney of Canada” was the name given to it by the late Thomas Marks, the little bit of heaven set in the heart of Lanark County.  It is situated 12 miles southwest of Perth in S. Sherbrooke.  If there is a “Christie” who settled there and perpetrated his name in this lake no information is obtainable.  The earlier known settlers in the area were the Thomas Marks family and theWilliam H. Patterson family.  Thomas Marks was the father of the seven Marks Brothers who became known from one end of America to the other in the theatrical world.  Robert Marks, the eldest brother, was the founder and manager of their enterprise which varied from solo tours and duos, trios and troupe entertainment all of which was in great demand by theatrical managers during the great era of vaudeville.  One of the most outstanding landmarks on the shores of the lake is the old Marks homestead which is still in fairly good shape and as one ambles through the rooms one can visualize the Marks brothers practicing for a winter tour.  This homestead is a great tribute to Canada’s greatest contribution to the vaudeville stage and the Marks brothers.


At the Queens and Leland hotel yards, agents were hiring teams of horses in December for winter work at Ottawa Valley lumber shanties.

1893 Almonte Gazette

Comedy Company Coming. “ The Marks Bros’. Musical Comedy Co. opened a week’s engagement in the opera house Tuesday night to a good audience. Tom Marks does not change, but is the same funny Tom as of yore, and his spontaneous wit as Dan McGinty in McGinty’s T.*oubles produces the laughter which ripplos unceasingly from curtain rise until its fall. Miss Emma Gertrude, who played the part of Ward No. 1, is a very pretty girl with a remarkably good controlled voice. The rest of the company are very good, and the show went with a snap and vim that is pleasant to see.”—Smith’s Falls News. The Marks Co. will play in the Town Hall, Almonte, for one week—Sept. 19 to 25—under the auspices of the Citizens’ Band



Part 1- Tales of the Chatteron House Corset — Queen’s Hotel in Carleton Place- can be found here.

Part 2- Hell on Wheels at Lady Chatterton’s Hotel in Carleton Place– can be found here.

Part 3- I Will Take Some Opium to Go Please —The “Drug Dispensary” at the Chatterton House Hotel

Part 4- Chatterton House Hotel Registrar- George Hurdis -1884

Part 5-What the Heck was Electric Soap? Chatterton House Hotel Registrar

Part 6-The First Mosh Pits in Carleton Place — The Opera House of the Chatterton House Hotel

Part 7-All the President’s Men — Backroom Dealings in Carleton Place?

Part 8- Who Was John Boland? Chatterton House/Queen’s Hotel Registry — The Burgess Family Dynasty

Part 9-What Happens Behind The Queen’s Hotel Stays Behind the Queen’s Hotel

part 10-John Sparrow’s Royal Parilion – Chatterton House Hotel Carleton Place

part 11-The Rules of the Queen’s Hotel in Carleton Place

part 12 –He Did What? Tales of the Queen’s Hotel

The Sultans of Swing at The Queen’s Hotel in Carleton Place

Dan Miller of the Queen’s Hotel vs the Town of Carleton Place

The Mystery Murals of The Queen’s and Mississippi Hotel

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tillting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place