Thursday, August 25, 2011

A famous Don

No, not the mafia.

Greenwich was home to another famous Don... Laura Don. I am sure you are asking yourself "Who?" again. But, that must be why you read this blog, to find out "who".

By published newspaper accounts, Laura Don was born Ann (or Annie) Laura Fish  in Glens Falls, NY in either 1850 or 1852. Her father was a prosperous wheelwright in the area and eventually moved the family to Greenwich. Laura, a romantic girl (modern readers can substitute "dreamer" or "imaginative"), was published in Ladies' Magazine at a young age. The piece was called "Gathering Pond Lillies". She enjoyed painting. After a trip to Brooklyn to visit friends she became enthralled with the theatre. Then, on a trip to Troy in 1868, she met a young photographer named George S. Fox. The couple was married a year later, but soon divorced because of Laura's continued interest in a stage career.

Laura Don enjoyed some modest success in traveling troupes in Cleveland, Chicago & parts west & south, before securing more steady work in New York City in 1879-80 with Frank Mayo, an actor from Boston, best known for his stage roles of Badger in The Streets of New York & the title character of Davy Crockett. Laura appeared in a revival of The Streets of New York  as Alida.

Praised more for her beauty than her acting ability, Laura's biggest triumph came in the 1882-83 theatre season with the production of her own play called A Daughter of the Nile. Not only did she play the role of Egypt, she was also stage director & manager. The effort exhausted her and she took a rest in Nice, France after the play closed.

In the summer of 1885 Laura returned to Greenwich to be with her parents. Here she succumbed to consumption (tuberculosis) on February 10, 1886.  She had reconciled with her ex-husband George Fox. He was there with her parents and a clergyman when she died. Ann Laura Fish is buried in Greenwich Cemetery in section G closest to Cottage Street. She was in her mid-30s.

Tuberculosis was & is a terrible disease. It was called consumption in Laura Don's time because the bacteria seemed to consume the person from the inside out. Fever, and coughing up blood are tell-tale signs.  The New York Times reported the day after her death that "For weeks she has been living almost entirely on morphine, and at the time of her death was much emaciated."

WPA poster- late 1930s

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