Frederick William Vroom died 24 June 1942

NOTE:  FRED VROOM’S STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED – SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 – CHECK FOR THE NEW VERSION.

Frederick Vroom was born 11 November 1857 in Clementsport, Nova Scotia, the first of at least five children of Albert Douglas Vroom and Charlotte Maria Morse.  The family was counted in the 1871 census in Clementsport.  Their religion was Wesleyan Methodist, and they were of Dutch descent – their ancestors were Loyalists from New York and New Jersey.

The Vroom family moved to Boston, and Fred and his brother Otis arrived in Boston, from Bear River NS, on the schooner “Alert”.  Frederick’s father died there in 1874.   Frederick became a naturalized citizen on 9 October 1879 at the US Circuit Court in Boston.   I have not yet found Frederick in the 1880 census.  His mother and two siblings lived in Pennsylvania, but he was not with them.

William married Georgianna F Wheeler on 17 September 1883 in Melrose.  The marriage was also recorded in Boston.  Georgianna was 31, the daughter of Gardner and Sarah Wheeler and a resident of Melrose. He was 25, a clerk, and a resident of Boston.  This was the first marriage for both.

Frederick took up the profession of Shakespearian actor.  Browsing old newspapers, I found a lot of references to plays where Frederick was one of the supporting actors – never the headliner, but always in the upper part of the cast.

The earliest reference I found was in the Boston Daily Advertiser of 15 January 1887, which said that Lawrence Barrett’s troupe was performing Rienze.  In February they were in Chicago, and in March they visited Milwaukee.

In October of 1886, Frederick played Popilius Lenas in Julius Caesar.  Edwin Booth played Brutus.  Edwin Thomas Booth was the famous actor who toured throughout America and the capitals of Europe, performing Shakespearean plays.  He is also remembered as the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Lincoln.

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported a slightly different kind of story on 5 November 1887.  A young lady answered an advertisement to become an actress.  She contacted the alleged theatrical agent, and paid him a $10 security, went home to wait to hear from him.  “Mr. Frederick Vroom, of the Booth and Barrett Company, happened to be boarding at the house.  Vroom told her that she was a dupe, and went with her and made the phony agent give back the money.”  She filed charges, and the man was arrested.

On 07 Feb 1888, the Daily Picayune (New Orleans) reported that the Booth-Barrett troupe was in town presenting Othello.  Frederick played Gratiano.

In June of 1889, the troupe was in Portland, OR, presenting As You Like It, with Frederick playing Adam.  In July they were in Denver, and in September, they were in Chicago.

On 19 October 1889, The New York Times reported that Much Ado About Nothing would be presented at the Broadway Theater, Mr. Booth will act Benedict and Mme Blodjeska will be  Beatrice.  The part of Leonato was to be performed by Frederick Vroom.

At the end of September 1890 the troupe was in Milwaukee presenting Hamlet.  In November, they were in Baltimore with Othello, the Moor of Venice – Iago played by Edwin Booth.  Montano by Frederic Vroom, Ludovico by Edward Vroom (Frederick’s brother.)

On 25 Jan 1891, the New York Times reported the play “Guido Ferranti” was to be presented, and Frederic Vroom was to play Simone Gesso. In April 1891 the group was in Philadelphia to present a military play called Shiloh.

In 1893, Frederick was touring with Thos. W Keene, the star of Richard the Third.  Frederick played the Duke of Buckingham, and the newspaper stated that he had been in Edwin Booth’s company for many years.

In 1894, the Newark (OH) Daily Advocate advertised an upcoming performance with Walker Whiteside, and Frederick was a supporting actor.   In October of 1895, the group was in Portland OR presenting a biographical play about Edgar Allen Poe.

On April 22, 1896, a Philadelphia newspaper reported activities planned to celebrate the birthday of Shakespeare.  Frederick was going to help present a scene from Hamlet.  The newspaper also mentioned that he was travelling with his wife.

In June 1897, Frederick was in Atlanta in the Merchant of Venice, playing Antonio. In October of 1898, Frederick was travelling with Madam Modjeska to Lincoln NB to present Cleopatra.  Madame Modjeska was a well-known actress from Poland.

On 7 April 1898, Frederick married Grace A Addison, in Louisville, KY.  She was also an actress, and they formed their own company of actors.  A story published in Reno in the summer of 1899 stated that the Vroom-Addison Company would be coming to the Opera house next month.  Frederick Vroom was a member of Lawrence Barrett’s company five years, and Miss Grace Addison was a member of the company headed by Jodjeska.  They have an excellent repertoire and will appear here about the middle of next month.  A few weeks later, the paper published an  ad for Mr. Frederick Vroom & Miss Grace Addison and their company of 14 talented players, presenting a charming and picturesque comedy called “The Duke’s Pledge, plus “Pygmalion and Galatea” and “Love and Duty” admission 25, 50, and 75 cents.  The performance apparently went well, as Frederick got good reviews:  The Vroom Addison company  presented the comedy of “Pygmalion and Gallatea” to a delighted audience at McKissick’s Opera House last evening.  Mr. Frederic Vroom gave immediate satisfaction in his portrayal of Pygmalion, the Athenian sculpter, and his grace, tone of voice, and precision of action made his character harmonize and blend with artistic taste. 

On 13 May, 1900, the newspaper San Francisco Call reported that Grace shot Frederick.  She had suspected him of being unfaithful, and had a detective follow him.  She learned that he was allegedly involved with another actress from their company.  Grace confronted the other actress and at gunpoint, obtained a confession from her.  She then confronted husband, who allegedly struck her.  She in turn, shot him.  Friends took him to a doctor, and she went to her sister’s home.  The shooting was not reported to the police, but did get reported in the newspaper.  Grace turned herself in to the police, but she apparently gave a convincing performance as the Judge only ordered a $25 bail, and police took her home to get the money.  Frederick apparently left on an already planned trip to Cape Nome by way of Seattle, and did not stay in San Francisco to swear a complaint.  Grace also blamed Frederick for losing about $3000 that she had put into the company, because his misconduct caused the company to disband and she lost her money.  The next day, the “other woman” gave her statement to the newspaper, denying that no illicit relations existed between her and Actor Vroom.  She said she only confessed because she feared for her life.   Grace later denied even having a revolver with her when she confronted Maud Morell and extracted her confession.   The same paper reported on 25 May 1900 that Grace sailed north to Nome to join a theatrical company.  I wonder at the coincidence as this was also supposedly Frederick’s destination when he left San Francisco.

I was not able to find Frederick  in the 1900 census.  Perhaps he was on his way to Alaska and didn’t get counted.  I did find a Mrs. Grace Vroom, born Oct 1856 in Ohio, no occupation listed, in Seattle at Arlington Docks.  There were no other family members with her.  It appeared to be mostly single people, many miners and prospectors perhaps waiting to go to Alaska.  The census was dated 18 June 1900, just a few weeks after the news report that she was headed north.   I found no more references to the shooting, so perhaps, as predicted, charges were dropped for lack of a complaining party.  I found no more records for Grace Addison Vroom.

A news item dated 28 August 1907 in the Oakland (CA) Tribute reported that Frederick Vroom was a guest at Hotel Touraine.  The item didn’t mention whether his wife was still with him.

I have not yet located Frederick in the 1910 census.  However, his brother Otis died in 1910 in Pennsylvania, and that obituary says that brothers Frederick W and Edward J were living in New York.

When Frederick arrived in California, he began working as a film director, with The Tie That Binds in 1914.  He soon returned to acting, this time in motion pictures.  The newspapers began advertising his films, rather than plays.  Frederick was functioning as stage manager for the Thanhouser film company, later heading the company’s West Coast troupe from 1913 to 1914. Vroom’s screen-acting career began around 1912 with “The Forest Rose” and continued to 1939 with an uncredited role in the James Stewart movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

In 1916, the California voter registrations list Frederic Vroom living in the Malibu precinct on Sycamore road, working in motion pictures.  He was a Republican.  He did not have a wife listed.  Others on the page listed both spouses, so I suspect that he was again divorced and  had not yet remarried.  I have not found a death or remarriage record for first wife, Georgianna, and did find someone in the 1920 and 1930 censuses in Boston who matches her.   She died in 1931 in Boston.

On 11 January 1914 in Los Angeles, Frederick married Florence Estelle Peck.  She was the widow of Rodney Newton Parks, and had three grown children.  She was a musician and music teacher.

Frederick and Florence were in the 1920 census.  They lived in a rented home at 1856 West 11th Street in Los Angeles.  He was an actor in motion pictures, and she was a voice teacher.  He reported coming to the US in 1870, and becoming a naturalized citizen in 1879.  He was actually about a year off but still did pretty well, considering it happened 40 to 50 years earlier.

The 1921 Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual listed Frederick.  Apparently he had worked for several different studios since moving to California.

1921 Nov 17 Trenton (NJ) Evening Times – Frederick Vroom, former Shakespearian player, and for the last eight years a photo-play actor, with more than 300 appearances in presentation of the largest concerns to his credit, is to be the director general of the new enterprise.  Their plan was to make short films about Bible subjects.  The article says Mr. Vroom won distinction with his appearances with Edwin Booth and Lawrence Barrett from 1886 to 1891.  He became affiliated with the film industry about ten years ago as a director, but later became an actor.  He has appeared with practically all of the leading film stars.  At the time of this article, he was with Paramount studios.

The California voter registration for 1922, 1928, 1930, and 1932 listed Frederick Vroom actor, and Mrs. Florence Parks Vroom, musician, living at 1210 Flores street, both were Republicans.

In 1924, Frederick was in the Buster Keaton film The Navigator, playing “the girl’s father.”  In 1927, he was again with Buster Keaton in “The General” playing a southern civil war general, and not the title role, which was actually a locomotive.  These are probably his two most well known roles, and can be seen on television from time to time.

The 1930 census shows that Frederic and Florence Lived at 1210 Flores, in Beverly Hills, in a house valued at $18,000, the most expensive on this page.  His occupation was actor in pictures.  She was a teacher of music and reading.

Florence died 15 April 1932 in Los Angeles.  The 1934 CA voter registration shows Frederick still at 1210 N Flores.

The 5 April 1935 Oakland Tribune has a grainy photo of Vroom and other dignitaries in a beer-testing event.  They voted that Brown Derby Beer was most like pre-prohibition Pilsner.  Apparently it was more advertisement than news, as the story was repeated several times.

On 5 February 1938, the Los Angeles times reported that Frederic W. Vroom, 80, 1210 Flores Street, and Geraldine Baker, 69, 33 Highgate Street, Boston Mass had purchased a marriage license.  I do not have the actual date of marriage.  Geraldine was the daughter of John Mechan and Mary McTaggart, and she was born in 1864 in Newark NJ.  She was previously married to Leighton Baker.   The 1940 census lists the couple at 842 Hudson, with his occupation as “charactor actor” in motion pictures.

Frederick died of a heart attack on 24 June 1942 in Beverly Hills.  Obituary:  Funeral services for Frederic William Vroom, 84, Shakespearean actor who toured with Edwin Booth 60 years ago, will be conducted privately at Pierce Bros. Hollywood Chapel.  Interment will be in Valhalla Cemetery.  Vroom was said to have been an organizer of one of the first motion-picture companies here, located in the Hollenbeck district.  Later he was with D.W. Griffith and the old Essanay Co.   In recent years he had been a character actor.  Vroom died at his home, 832 N Hudson Avenue., Wednesday, leaving his widow, Geraldine Vroom. 

Frederick was buried at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood.

Geraldine Vroom died 11 February 1955 in California.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0904143/ has a list of Frederick Vroom’s films. Thanhouser is now a film preservation organization specializing in the early silent film era.

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