The Maryland and other Cumberland Theaters
On June 11, 1918, the "True American Minstrel Show" gave a benefit performance at the Maryland Theatre, which was an eye-opener to a crowded house of whites and blacks, who enjoyed the fun immensely. The program included songs by Charles Green, Major Lee, Lillian Fisher, Edward Clark, Jessie Taylor, Samuel Jefferson, Perry Smith, Hattie Casey, and John Brown. P. Hayes performed an acrobatic feat. There was much dancing and a cake walk contest. The program ended with the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner".
On July 11, 1927, the Howard Theatre and Dancing Academy, 127 North Mechanic Street, opened. This theatre and dance hall was for Black people. At the opening of the Howard, there were speeches by Mayor Thomas W. Koon, and the Reverend Nathaniel Minor. On November 1, 1927, due to lack of patronage by Black people, the Howard Theatre was changed to the Garden Theatre and was for white people.
As with most of America, the movie theaters of Cumberland were also segregated. The old Maryland Theater, constructed in 1907, stood on North Mechanic Street until its razing in 1964. It had three balconies. For many years the upper most balcony was reserved for blacks only. As a LaSalle High School student, William D. Fossett worked at the Maryland Theatre from 1948 until 1950 when he graduated. He recently noted that he still remembers the separate ticket booth in the rear of the theater for the black patrons and how after purchasing their tickets they would have to walk up the stairs to the top balcony. He recalls thinking back then, and still thinks about even today, how these young men, many of whom were World War II veterans, were good enough to fight for their country but had to go through a back door to see a movie.
The Embassy Theater on Baltimore Street was in operation from 1931 until 1957. Upon purchasing their tickets, black patrons would enter the theater and climb the steps to the reserved second story balcony.
Information in the first two paragraph from, Cumberland, Maryland Through The Eyes of Herman J. Miller. Other information from Reflections of the Silver Screen, A History of Allegany County Movie Theaters, by the Allegany High School Social Studies Department, 2000
The circa 1915 postcard of the Maryland Theatre is from the collection of Albert and Angela Feldstein. The Maryland Theatre on North Mechanic Street opened in 1907 and had the state's largest stage. The Great Houdini opened his road show here in 1925. Other performers included Al Jolson and the Marx Brothers, as well as stage presentations such as Ben-Hur in 1919, with live horses for the chariot race. The Maryland Theatre showed its last movie in 1963 and was razed in 1964.
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008