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Lansing Rowan

Biography: 

(187?-1912)

The niece of treasury secretary Lyman J. Gage and one of Washington D.C.'s reigning belles, Lansing Rowan translated her social prominence into stage celebrity power eventually signing with the Frawley acting company when it formed in San Francisco. Born in Fresno, California, she was an early devotee of the physical culture movement. Tall, blonde, and strong, she used her reputation as an athlete to garner publicity, challenging champions Corbett, Sharkey, and Fitzsimmons to boxing matches. When her banker father committed suicide in 1896 she informed the press that it was not from shame after reading accounts of her boxing challenges, but from financial worry.

A solid dramatic leading lady, she enjoyed a dozen years on the stage, performing the standard dramatic repertoire at the turn of the 20th century: "Hazel Kirke," "The Banker's Daughter," "Monte Cristo," "The Silver King," and "The Westerner." She partnered with Ralph Steward in a touring company that crossed the nation between 1902 to 1904.

One of the peculiarities of theatrical life in the early 20th century was the unaccountable passion that certain cities developed for certain performers. Portland, Oregan, developed an intense fascination with Rowan in 1902 and welcomed her back as often as it could secure her. Security blanket venues were a balm to a performer's soul and pocketbook. She hired the Pringle company to manage her star tours in 1905, touring "Young Mrs. Winthrop" but was dissatisfied with the business being done, so attached herself to Annie Russell's company touring Shakespeare.

During the final years of her life, Rowan traveled in Europe accompanying her uncle Lyman Gage, until succumbing to complications during surgery for neuritis in 1912. David S. Shields/ALS