Lewis Family

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Lewis Family

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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.


Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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Theatre performers and musicians

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Fonds processed and finding aid created by Archives Technician Kelly Bucci, 2017.




Bailey, Melville Thomas. Dictionary of Hamilton Biography, Vol. 3, p.116-117. Hamilton: W.L. Griffin Printing Limited, 1992. Library Call Number: R971.352 DIC

Henley, Brian, "Actress Julia Arthur Returned to Hamilton as Top Star of the Stage." In Henley's People." Burlington: North Shore Publishing Inc., 1996, pp.97-99. Library Call Number: R971.3520922 HEN

Townsend, Claire. "A Family of the Stage." New England Home Magazine, Vol 6., no.6 (February 5, 1899), pp. 268-272.

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