The Roseburg Theater- The Latest Novelty

In these two separate advertisements located next to each other in The Plaindealer’s July 6th, 1905 paper, The Roseburg Theater boasts two shows on the same days: Friday and Saturday, July 7th and 8th. The first advertisement in the paper details the showing of “the latest novelty” Dear Old Stars and Stripes, Goodbye which has prices ranging from 15-25-35 cents. Tickets are available at Bells’ Candy Store, which indicates this showing may be a more family-friendly event than the other advertisement located further down the page. The sale location for tickets indicates there was an intention to attract a younger audience.

The following advertisement differs greatly from the first, despite being placed by the same theater and showing on the same day. “The Groesbacks” are slated to perform in a separate exhibition from the films showing the same day. This advertisement uses an interesting promotional strategy of boasting the technology used to show the moving pictures the Vitagraph showing “…one of the steadiest, clearest, brightest and most perfect moving picture exhibitions ever brought to our city”. This emphasis on clarity of the films and equipment is similar to exhibition practices of today, in which audiences want to see the best, brightest, and clearest films (such as IMAX, 3D, etc). Headlines in this advertisement include The Great Train Robbery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Corbett and McGovern Prize Fight, the latest Spanish Bull Fight, as well as President Roosevelt’s Grand Inaugural Parade. The advertisement states that the film Uncle Tom’s Cabin includes twenty-four scenes, indicating the number of scenes was more than average for the era, proving to be a major selling point.

Further research shows the Uncle Tom’s Cabin was directed by Edwin S. Porter under Thomas Edison and released in 1903; the same year as his film The Great Train Robbery. Uncle Tom’s Cabin included various racist and problematic depictions of slavery and slave auctions, with white actors performing in blackface. The film is also known as Slavery Days and has been preserved by the University of Virginia Department of English (Railton).

Further research could help to decipher who or what “The Groesbacks” are. It seems as if they were traveling entertainers, similar to a modern band, but extensive research in various newspapers across Oregon would be required to discover their identity and touring history.

By Shelby Chapman

Works Cited

Railton, Stephen. “Uncle Toms Cabin & American Culture a Multimedia Archive -University of  Virginia Department of English.” Edison/Porter 1903 Film, The University of Virgina/National Endowment for the Humanities, 1998, utc.iath.virginia.edu/onstage/films/mv03hp.html.

The Roseburg Theater. “The Plaindealer.” The Plaindealer [Roseburg], 6 July 1905.