“The Jazz Singer” at Bligh’s Capitol Theatre


Above is an advertisement for the musical program, The Jazz Singer, at Bligh’s Capitol Theatre in Salem Oregon. This advertisement was published in the Statesman Journal on 22 July, 1928.

In relation to other advertisements on the page, this one was the most eye-catching due to its boldness. A disadvantage to this advertisement is it does not have any information about the price and dates of showing. It might have been at the bottom of the advertisement, but overtime and through digitizing it’s no longer there. 

This advertisement is interesting, particularly because of the program. The Jazz Singer was the first feature film with synchronized speech, which explains the use of ‘vitaphone’ and ‘movietone’ across the middle of the advertisement. The exhibitor wanted the focus of the advertisement to be on the brand new kind of program viewing in order to get the maximum amount of viewers. This also attributed to the popularity of the program. The Jazz Singer, was released in October of 1927, which means this program was available in Salem in less than a year. This further illustrates the programs level of popularity, considering the population and Westward location of Salem.

This program also had a big-time entertainer, Al Jolson. While Jolson was extremely popular among program goers, it is also important to acknowledge the racism embedded in the entertainment industry. Al Jolson did the majority of his programs in blackface, and at the time this was not a problem. Jolson used racial stereotypes, and was still considered to be the ‘greatest entertainer’ of the time. While blackface is not encouraged in the entertainment industry anymore, it is still important to recognize how it was sensationalized and welcomed at one point in time.



For context, Bligh’s Capitol Theatre was located on State Street in Salem Oregon in 1926. It was built in 1926, and burned down in 1935. It was then rebuilt and stayed open until it was closed in the early 1990’s, and eventually torn down in 2000. Throughout its lifespan the Theatre remained in the same location but the street names changed over time. 



Statesman Journal, 22 July. 1928, pg 2.

Digital Sanborn Maps. Sheet 109. Image

Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society. “Capitol Theatre (Salem).” The Oregon Encyclopedia, oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/capitol_theater_salem_/#.WuDvEYjwZm9

“Al Jolson Biography.” Biography, www.biography.com/people/al-jolson-9356888

Ye Liberty Theatre

Advertisement for ‘The Best Our Ambition’.  Weekly Chemawa American, 14 July 1911.

Above is an advertisement for the program ‘The Best Our Ambition’ at the Ye Liberty Theatre in Salem, Oregon. This advertisement was found in the Weekly Chemawa American newspaper which was published by the Salem Indian Training School on July 14, 1911.         

This advertisement was placed within a page full of various other advertisements. It is likely the school was trying to compress all the advertisements onto a single page, therefore this advertisement was not a central focal point. The advertisement states there is “matinee everyday except for Sunday,” and there are “daily evening performances.” The advertisement did not list a price for the showing, which is quite unusual when comparing it to various other advertisements; (and I doubt the theater was free). Placing the price on the advertisement would have been helpful.

The fact the advertisement is within the Chemawa Boarding School newspaper is interesting. This means the theater wants students from this area to attend the theater. I do find the this odd considering the students had to pay to leave the school, and then potentially pay again to see a program. These are young students, and it is likely this would not have been feasible. It may be more likely the theater wanted to reach the employees, not the students. Or perhaps the theater was very interested in having a younger audience.   

Looking at historical context, the use of this advertisement could be a way to further assimilate the Indigenous children attending the boarding school. Boarding schools have a history of wanting to strip Indigenous children of their language, traditions, culture, and identities. Films have the ability to influence individuals. It could be seen as a tool to illustrate a ‘normal’ American life to children they are trying to make more ‘American’.