Lillian Russell
(1860-1922)

woman, singer, and actor

Died aged 61

Lillian Russell (born Helen Louise Leonard; December 4, 1860/1861 – June 6, 1922), was an American actress and singer. She became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence. Russell was born in Clinton, Iowa, but raised in Chicago. Her parents separated when she was 18, and she moved to New York with her mother. She began to perform professionally by 1879, singing for Tony Pastor and playing roles in comic opera, including Gilbert and Sullivan works. Composer Edward Solomon created roles in several of his comic operas for her in London. In 1884, they returned to New York and married in 1885, but in 1886, Solomon was arrested for bigamy. For many years, she was the foremost singer of operettas and musical theatre in the United States, performing continuously through the end of the 19th century. In 1899, she joined the Weber and Fields' Music Hall, where she starred for five years. After 1904, she began to have vocal difficulties and switched to dramatic roles. She later returned to musical roles in vaudeville and retired from performing around 1919. Russell was married four times, but her longest relationship was with Diamond Jim Brady, who supported her extravagant lifestyle for four decades. In later years, she wrote a newspaper column, advocated women's suffrage, was a popular lecturer, and contributed to the passage of the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924.

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Commemorated on 1 plaque

Texas Historical Marker #05805

Wichita Falls Opera House. The Wichita Falls Opera Company was formed in 1908 to establish a theater in the city. The first seven directors were C. W. Bean, N. Henderson, J. L. Jackson, Frank Kell, J. A. Kemp, W. M. McGregor, and T. R. T. Orth. The project was funded by public subscription and the land for the opera house was deeded by J. A. Kemp and Anderson Bean. The building was completed the same year by the Fort Worth firm of Brown and Cramer. The first production in the new theater was the play "His Honor, The Mayor", which opened to a full house. In addition to drama, the building was also used for music festivals, concerts, ballet, traveling acts, opera, and for graduation ceremonies of the Wichita Falls High School. Celebrities appearing here during the early years included William Jennings Bryan, Anna Pavlova, Lillian Russell, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, and Evelyn Nesbitt. Later the interior was remodeled to accommodate motion pictures. Music for the early silent movies was provided by a mechanical piano. The opera house declined in popularity after the opening of the Municipal Auditorium in 1926. Later used as a wrestling arena, it was purchased by the Interstate Theaters, Inc. (1981) #5805

921 Indiana, Wichita Falls, TX, United States where they performed