A Match Made on Broadway
Cathrine Countiss was married three times, and one might speculate that she did so for either love or money or both. No one knows at this point exactly when, where or why she divorced William Countiss, her first husband of some fourteen years, but by the Spring of 1907, Cathrine was a free agent on the dating scene in Manhattan.
For six days in May, the Actors’ Fund of America staged a fundraiser in the old Metropolitan Opera House billed as "the most stupendous charity bazaar the world has ever known." (The Theatre, Vol. 7, 1907) Noted theatrical manager E. D. Price chaired the Promotion Committee, while Cathrine Countiss joined more than a thousand other volunteers to bring the Met’s stage to life as Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon.
President Teddy Roosevelt opened the fair by throwing a switch in the White House library, and celebrities including Lillian Russell, Mark Twain and Ethel Barrymore participated. Cathrine and her fellow actresses tirelessly spun the wheel of fortune, while other booths offered an automobile, copies of an all-star cookbook, a naphtha launch, a hansom cab with horse, and busts of Lillian Russell made of green soap. The week-long fair was a rousing success with $63,941.60 raised to benefit actors in need.
Apparently the charity bazaar was successful at match-making as well, for during that week at the Met, Cathrine caught the eye of E. D. Price. As the story goes, Price won $5.00 playing the racing wheel, but lost his heart before the wheel stopped spinning. A whirlwind romance ensued, for within weeks plans were already afoot for a private wedding in Westchester County.
On June 30th, E. D. and Cathrine were accompanied by friends W. H. Clendennen and Benjamin Richert on an automobile outing to Mount Vernon, New York when the car stopped at the First Methodist Church. The Reverend Bartholow was awaiting the motoring party in the vestry, much to the amazement of Richert and Clendennan who subsequently witnessed the wedding vows. The surprise ceremony remained a secret to Cathrine and E. D.’s many friends on Broadway until the four returned to the city that evening.
The happy couple continued on to Atlantic City, New Jersey for a honeymoon along the popular boardwalk. This match made on Broadway would last seven years and bring to the theatre world a formidable tag team of stage talent and promotional savvy. The glue of their show business partnership was a sense of humor coupled with a frenetic pace of performances in high and low venues coast-to-coast.
Images: The Theatre, 1907; Wikimedia Commons; New York Public Library Digital Collection