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Bingham, Amelia (1869–1927)

Bingham, Amelia (1869–1927)

American actress-manager. Born Amelia Smiley on March 20, 1869, in Hicksville, Ohio; died on September 1, 1927, in New York, New York; attended Ohio Wesleyan College; married Lloyd Bingham (a manager of a traveling professional theater company).


The Struggle of Life (1892); The Power of Gold (1892); A Man Among Men (1892); The Mummy (1896); His Excellency, the Governor (1899); Hearts Are Trumps (1900); The Climbers (actress-manager, 1901); Lady Margaret (actress-manager, 1902); The Modern Magdalen (actress-manager, 1902); The Frisky Mrs. Johnson (actress-manager, 1903); The Lilac Room (actress-manager, 1907); Great Moments from Great Plays (1909); The New Henrietta (1913); The Pearl of Great Price (1926).

Pursuing the theater against the wishes of her deeply religious family, Amelia Smiley was induced to leave Ohio Wesleyan College by Lloyd Bingham, the manager of a traveling theater company, who saw her in an amateur production and thought she had talent. After touring the West Coast with the McKee Rankin Company, she headed to New York in 1892 to appear in a series of melodramas, including The Struggle for Life, The Power of Gold, and A Man Among Men. Now married to Bingham, she won her first important role in The Mummy, opposite Robert Hilliard (1896). Subsequent performances established her popularity and in 1897, after winning a newspaper popularity poll over such stars as Lillian Russell, Fanny Davenport, Ada Rehan , and Maude Adams , she went to work for Charles Frohman and played leading roles under his management for four years.

In late 1900, Bingham decided to become an actress-manager in the manner of England's Laura Keene . She leased the Bijou Theatre, assembled a company, and successfully produced Clyde Fitch's The Climbers, in which she played Mrs. Sterling. Historical accounts vary as to the success of her subsequent ventures, Lady Margaret and The Modern Magdalen, both produced in 1902. By some accounts, her 1903 production of The Frisky Mrs. Johnson enjoyed a modest run only because of publicity surrounding her battle with a critic who panned the production. Disputes with the playwrights as well as another critic embroiled her 1907 production of The Lilac Room which closed in its first week.

Bingham went on to play in different stock companies and in 1909 toured Great Britain in Big Moments from Great Plays. From 1913 through 1916, she performed in The New Henrietta with Douglas Fairbanks and William H. Crane. Following the death of her husband in 1915, Bingham retired from the stage but returned in 1925 to appear in Trelawney of the Wells. The following year, she gave her last performance in The Pearl of Great Price. Amelia Bingham died in New York City, on September 1, 1927, having distinguished herself as the first American actress to succeed at both producing and performing.

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