About Edward Franklin Albee, II
Edward Franklin Albee II (October 8, 1857 – March 11, 1930) was a vaudeville impresario, and the adoptive grandfather of Edward Franklin Albee III, the playwright.
He was born on October 8, 1857 in Machias, Maine to Nathaniel Smith Albee.
He toured with P. T. Barnum as a ticket collector, then in 1885 he partnered with Benjamin Franklin Keith in operating the Bijou Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1885 Reed married Lora S., and he had the following children: Reed A. Albee (1886–1961); and Ethel Albee (1890-?). With the success of their business, it grew into the Keith-Albee theatre circuit of vaudeville theatres. Albee gradually took managerial control of Keith's theatrical circuit. They were the first to introduce moving pictures in the United States.
Albee was president of the United Bookings Office from its formation in 1900 or 1906. Albee had most of the major vaudeville circuits give him control of their theatrical bookings where he charged acts a 5% commission.
When performers tried to form a union, he set up National Vaudeville Artists and made membership in it a requirement for booking through his company. His partner Keith died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1914.
He formed the Keith-Albee-Orpheum on January 28, 1928 with Joseph P. Kennedy. Radio Corporation of America bought his company and formed RKO Pictures and turned the Orpheum vaudeville circuit into a chain of movie theaters.
Albee died on March 11, 1930 at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.
The United Bookings Office had such an all-powerful control on vaudevillians' careers that Groucho Marx referred to it as "Albee's personal Gestapo".
When a friend asked comedian Joe Frisco to explain all the street construction that was going on around them, Frisco replied, "Albee's kid lost his ball, so they're tearing up the street to find it."