Fonds - Lewis Family fonds

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Lewis Family fonds

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  • Graphic material

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  • 1891-1950 (Creation)
    Lewis Family

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Physical description

48cm of textual and graphic materials

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Biographical history

The Lewis family of Hamilton, Ontario became well-known in the local community through their children. Thomas Lewis, a successful cigar manufacturer, and his wife Ann Arthur, a dramatic reader of Shakespeare, had 14 children, some of whom displayed an aptitude for music and theatre acting. In particular, their daughter Flora became an amateur theatre actress and their daughter Ida Lewis became the famous professional theatre actress known as Julia Arthur. Born in Hamilton in 1869, Julia began acting at the age of eleven, making her hometown debut as Portia in a local amateur theatre company production of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” In 1883, she made her professional debut in Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Julia studied music and the dramatic arts in both Germany and England for three years and then moved to New York to work as an actress, landing a role in “The Black Masque” to much acclaim from theatre audiences. She returned to England and was invited to join the renowned Sir Henry Irving’s Lyceum Players Company. She returned to Canada in the late 1890s as one of the most popular and successful stage performers of her time. In 1898, Julia Arthur married Benjamin Pierce Cheney, a millionaire and prominent banker and real estate developer from Boston, Massachusetts. She retired from the theatre and began a short career as a film actress in 1908, acting in a few movie pictures, including some war propaganda films. By 1920, her husband’s financial empire had suffered such serious losses that Julia was forced to return to the stage to earn a living. Julia Arthur lived most of her adult life in Boston and died in 1950.

Custodial history

The material was bequeathed to the Hamilton Public Library by the Estate of Flora Fairchild Tobin Bryant, niece of Julia Arthur, in 1994.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of predominantly graphic materials including family photographs and professional photographs of theatre actress Julia Arthur, as well as a few textual documents pertaining to family records. The fonds consists of 2 series including family photographs and paintings, and family records, with a subseries of photographs pertaining to Julia Arthur.

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Restrictions on access

Painted portrait miniatures are not to be copied without the permission of department staff. The LH&A copy of the original “Julia Arthur Book” has been photocopied for research use. Please use this copy instead of the original.

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Finding aids

Created by Archives Technician Kelly Bucci in August 2017

Associated materials

Dictionary of Hamilton Biography – 971.352 DIC, Vol. 3, pp. 116-117
Hamilton Famous and Fascinating – R971.3521 BAI, pp. 26-27
Henley’s People – 971.3520922 HEN pp.97-99
Picture Collection – Portraits – Arthur, Julia
The Julia Arthur Book – R792.92 AR77a

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The fonds was processed in August of 2017 by Archives Technician Kelly Bucci

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