Monday, December 3, 2012

N. Dushane Cloward

N. Dushane Cloward, 1899
There have been many people over the years who, while they may not have been born or raised in Mill Creek Hundred, have nonetheless made a significant contribution to some aspect of its history. One such person was N. Dushane Cloward.

It's easy to think of Brandywine Springs Amusement Park as consisting of no more than the rides, attractions, and buildings that once stood in the glen along Hyde Run. Of course, the park was much more than just its physical structures -- it was conceived, built, and operated by real people (a simple statement, I know, but one that often gets overlooked). Like any business today, it was populated by all kinds of people, some with simple stories, and some with more interesting backgrounds. One of the more interesting people involved with park was N. Dushane Cloward. Cloward was a musician, an artist, and a showman, and he was integral to the success of the amusement park.

Nathan Dushane Cloward was born on August 11, 1865 to William and Hannah Cloward of Wilmington. William H. Cloward (1839-1879) was a clerk all of his adult life, save for four years in the early 1860's. From 1861-1865, he served in the Fourth Delaware Regiment Infantry Volunteers as Adjutant to Col. A.H. Grimshaw, the prominent Wilmington doctor who raised the regiment. Quite interestingly, in what was perhaps a bit of historical foreshadowing, the Fourth Delaware Regiment was camped from June to October 1862 at Camp DuPont -- at Brandywine Springs. Lt. Cloward is standing in the left rear in the picture below. Col. Grimshaw is seated second from the left.

William Cloward's son N. Dushane (Dushane was his grandmother's maiden name) was raised in Wilmington, and began his professional life the same way his father had spent his -- as a clerk. But while the young Cloward toiled as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Railroad, he realized his true passion was music. Before long he was studying music seriously, and then left the railroad to make his passion his livelihood. One of the directions he took his love for music was education -- not too surprising, given that his father had served a term as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Wilmington School Board. In 1889, Dushane took over the music department at Smyrna High School. Later on, he would help found the Wilmington School of Music.

He seems not to have stayed at Smyrna for long, because by the early 1890's Cloward was living in Washington, DC with his wife Anna. In the nation's capital he was involved with a number of theaters and musical societies. In fact, two of the highest honors he received took place in DC. Cloward sang at the second inauguration of President Grover Cleveland in 1893, and led a 5000 voice chorus at the 1885 dedication of the Washington Monument.

A younger N. Dushane Cloward

By the late 1890's, Cloward and his family (which by now included his five children -- William, Anna, N. Dushane, Donald, and Catherine) had moved back to Wilmington. Soon after returning to Delaware, Cloward began his affiliation with Brandywine Springs Amusement Park. During his roughly ten year tenure at (and around) the park, N. Dushane Cloward made significant contributions toward its success. His background in music and theater (and the connections he had made) was a perfect fit for a park with two theaters and thousands of visitors to entertain. Just down the hill from the fields where his father had encamped 40 years before, Dushane Cloward entertained tens of thousands of park patrons with the acts he booked as well as with his own considerable talents. He often sang and performed at the park.

Cloward's main duty at Brandywine Springs, though, was to oversee the entertainment at the park -- sort like a dry-land version of a cruise director. The connections he fostered in the industry undoubtedly aided him in booking acts of all sorts for the park's theaters -- theater companies, singers, performers, speakers, and more. He was also the man responsible for special park promotions, like Children's Day and Baby Doll Day. At one of the Children's Days, he led a chorus that was said to contain 5000 of the honored guests.*

Of all the insider connections Cloward likely made, one is particularly interesting. The theater performer and singer seems to have had an early interest in the next wave of entertainment -- moving pictures. Very early on he made connections with the Edison Company, at a time when they were just about the only ones making movies. Cloward exhibited motion pictures at the park (and elsewhere) soon after the turn of the century, and in 1903 he was responsible for the construction of the park's movie theater -- possibly the first purpose-built structure of its kind in Delaware.* What's even more interesting is what occurred later that year.

In August 1903, Cloward invited one of Edison's top directors, A.C. Abadie, to come to Brandywine Springs and film a few short movies. Abadie filmed a Maypole dance, the Children's Day parade, and a short movie entitled "Turning the Tables". To the best of my knowledge, the footage of the dance and the parade are not available online, but are either in the National Archives somewhere or have been lost to history. "Turning the Tables", however, is available and is embedded below. The short film shows several boys swimming in a local watering hole, only to chased out by a constable. In the end, the constable ends up in the water. It doesn't specifically say so, but it seems to clear to me (and others who have seen it) that the watering hole is in fact Lake Washington at the park. And although also uncredited, we think there's a pretty good chance that the part of the ultimately drenched policeman was played by none other than N. Dushane Cloward. Assuming this is all correct, it may be the first motion picture footage ever recorded in Mill Creek Hundred. It ain't Casablanca, but it's fun to watch. For those who can't watch videos here, the movie is also available here.

In addition to his official roles within the amusement park -- which also included booking the lucrative group outings, once he became the assistant manager in 1904 -- Cloward also was involved with the roller skating rink that sat next to the park, but not officially in it. The rink was a joint venture of some of the park managers, and unlike the park itself, operated year-round. Cloward must have enjoyed the roller rink, because for several years he also managed the Eleventh Street Rink in Wilmington, located near 11th and Madison Streets. At both rinks (and many others) from 1907 to 1909, a sport called roller polo was contested, a subject which will be detailed in a subsequent post. Cloward was the manager of the Brandywine Springs team.

Both prior to and while he worked at the amusement park, Cloward was constantly involved with all manor of musical and theatrical societies and companies. In 1887 he helped form the Wilmington Choral Club. It seems as if he was always either performing, planning a performance, or scheduling one. In fact, upon his death in 1910, a newspaper article says he was in talks with the World Champion Philadelphia Athletics to form an amateur company to perform The Mikado. (I think I would have paid good money to see Connie Mack, Home Run Baker, and Chief Bender sing "Three Little Maids from School Are We".)

Dushane Cloward's death did come on November 6, 1910, at the age of only 45. A benefit performance, said to be the biggest at the time, was given in his honor at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington a few days later. After his passing, the entertainment at Brandywine Springs was never quite the same. No one else was able to bring in the level of talent that Cloward had for nearly a decade. And although he wasn't a native of Mill Creek Hundred, Nathan Dushane Cloward certainly made an entertaining contribution to its history.

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • Several years ago at one of the Friends of Brandywine Springs' archaeological digs at the park, we unearthed a small metal token (about the size of a dime), that read "Children's Day 1910". This was one of the free gifts given to the kids, and would have been from the last such event overseen by Cloward himself.
  • Cloward also was the manager, around 1909, of the Red Moon Picture Theater at 411 market Street in Wilmington. I've checked, and the address seems to be about the only empty lot on the block.
  • A big thanks to Mark Lawlor for the Cloward pictures included above, as well as much of the information. Mark became interested in Cloward while researching for his book Brandywine Springs Amusement Park: Echoes of the Past 1886-1923. The book, while currently hard to get except for beat-up used copies, is the definitive resource on the park.

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