Posted on 07/02/2014

Photo taken on December  1, 1917

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Ida Gwathmey Anderson
African American Woman
Crisis Magazine (Dec 1917) edition
Stock Company Owner

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Photo replaced on July  3, 2014
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Ida Anderson

Ida Anderson
Ida Anderson was born Ida Gwathmey in King William County, Virginia, the eleventh of thirteen children. At an early age she went to New York City and took up dancing. She had always wanted to be an actress, so when she asked Anita Bush in 1915 to give her a chance in a dramatic play, Miss Bush (a former chorine in the famous Williams and Walker Company and then director of the Anita Bush Players) responded by giving Miss Anderson a small part. Miss Anderson made her debut in a play entitled Barbara Fritchie.

In 1916 Miss Anderson joined the Lafayette Players Stock Company at the Lafayette Theatre in New York City. At that time the salary of the featured players averaged from $103 to $150 per week. The company was so successful in Harlem that additional companies were organized and sent on the road to play Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Chicago.

After a season with the Lafayette Players, Miss Anderson left the company and during the next two years took out a dramatic company of her own, playing the major cities of the East. After that she returned to New York and again joined the Lafayette company, which by that time had come under the ownership of E.C. Brown. After the parent company temporarily disbanded, Miss Anderson organized her own company of Lafayette Players and for the next eighteen months toured the East and Midwest. Her health broke under the strain, and she retired from the stage, convalescing in Chicago and California.

In 1925, Miss Anderson returned to New York from California to see if dramas could be revived in Harlem. However, because of the growing popularity of musical comedies and after months of trying, she presented such plays as: The Scrubwoman, The Branding Iron, Kick In, and Why Wives Go Wrong. ['Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Early Black Musical Shows,' by Henry T Sampson]

After management insisted that shorter, less serious playlets be offered instead. Miss Anderson refused and resigned in protest, but her players remained at the Lincoln for the rest of the season, changing their name to the Lincoln Players. Miss Anderson apparently regained control of the troupe, and with her new company of Ida Anderson Players, she returned to the Lincoln for one month in mid-1929, presenting a repertoire of four plays, each running for one week in combination with other entertainment. After this, she took her troupe to the West End Theatre in Harlem, where it became known as the National Colored Players.

Personally, I have been trying to find out information about Mrs. Anderson's life after her retirement from the stage including when she died and where she is buried. I'll include that information when I'm able to.

Bio: 'The African American Theatre Directory, 1816 - 1960' by Bernard L Peterson

Photo: The Crisis Magazine, (vol. 16, 1917)