Homepage  A to Z Index  Bibliography  People   Places   Plays   Site Map   About these letters    About EJ Phillips  Chronology  EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page

  1850s   1892   1894    Walking Toronto Tour   London Ontario

EJP's Toronto Google Map http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=202426891661796490166.000499257af3c12311fae&doflg=ptk&z=19

Mary Glen visited Toronto for the first time in June 2005, for an SLA [Special  Libraries Association] conference at the Toronto Convention Centre, and to visit cousin Sue Spencer.  We walked the Distillery district, dined on Thai on Front Street, not far from John Nickinson's Royal Lyceum site.  MG went to see the seven bronzed cows, next to PriceWaterhouseCoopers that mark the Theatre's site.   

Sue, Paula Sperdakos and I had tea with theatre historian Mary Shortt and Barbara.  We had much discussion, and great excitement about hitherto unseen pictures of various Nickinson daughters and their families.  New information surfaced later in copies of letters between Mary Shortt and Barbie Dolman Spencer, Sue's mother.

John Nickinson's military and civilian theatrical careers

John Nickinson at the Royal Lyceum Theatre 1850's
After Mitchell's Olympic Theatre in New York closed abruptly in 1850, John Nickinson formed his own company and with daughter Charlotte toured in Providence RI, Montreal, and Rochester and ended up in Toronto in 1851. 

In 1852 he and Charlotte took to the road again with a larger company and more varied repertoire.  The company included Charles Peters (who married Eliza Nickinson) and Miss EJ Phillips.  A local newspaper, the Patriot, wrote of the company as "persons distinguished for respectability in private life, a point which all who know John Nickinson would feel satisfied that he would particularly consult".   

In 1852 actor/manager John Nickinson, along with his theatrical company, arrived from Buffalo for a 2-week engagement at the Royal Lyceum. http://www.thebulletin.ca/cbulletin/dialog_printarticle.jsp?sid=18996727041436777391124631157&ctid=1000011&cnid=1000594  Bruce Bell, Toronto's World Class Music Halls, Dec. 2005 Information on John Nickinson, the Royal Lyceum, Charlotte Nickinson Morrison and Daniel Morrison and the Grand Opera House on Adelaide Street.

After the Utica Museum [Theatre] Nickinson had been managing failed in 1852 he resettled in Toronto in 1853 as Manager of the Royal Lyceum [Theatre and stock company].  The first purpose built theatre in Toronto opened in December 1848.  The brick building seated 750 and was lighted by gas, but awkwardly designed, eventually stopping first rate actors from coming to Toronto.  The theatre burned down in January 1874. [Durham]

Royal Lyceum Theater
Another [cobblestoned lane] was Theater Lane named for the Royal Lyceum Theater which stood on the site of the TD Centre’s bronze cow pasture sculpture. The Royal Lyceum built by wealthy landowner John Ritchey in 1848 was the first fully equipped theater in Toronto complete with a balcony, dressing rooms, footlights and orchestra pit and was the forerunner to both The Grand Opera House and St. Lawrence Hall. The Great Hall of St. Lawrence Hall, Bruce Bell Tours http://www.brucebelltours.com/html/the_great_hall_-2.html

TD Toronto Dominion Centre The Pasture by Joe Fafard, has a herd of seven bronze cows.

Royal Lyceum, Toronto, Jan. 12, 1855 playbill

1857 Lola Montez
On Saturday she [Lola Montez] appeared as “Lady Teazle” in the “School for Scandal.”  Our limits forbid us to say more than that she was received with great applause, and that she threw much archness and vivacity into the character.  The acting of Capt. Nickinson as Sir Peter is too well known to need comment for we consider it one of his happiest impersonations. ...   After the curtain descended, Lola was summoned back to receive the most flattering and hearty applause.  She was led in by Capt. Nickinson. ...  
Having established my identity, I would thank you for the kind manner in which you have received me during my stay here. (Applause.)  To the Manager -- Mr. Nickinson -- I would especially express my indebtedness for the great attention shown by him to make my stay here as pleasant as possible.  (Applause.) The theatrical company also deserves my thanks for their consideration and desire to make me comfortable while among them.  I am an old stager now, having been on the stage since 1842, and therefore can speak from experience, when I say that Mr. Nickinson’s company -- although most of the members are young -- embraces ladies and gentlemen of promising talent.  (Applause.)  Again, I would thank the audience for their kind reception of me.  To the Toronto press, I have only to say a few words; but it is not to thank its members -- except one person.  Let me say to the press of Toronto a word of advice.  The stage may be made an instrument of much good, and it is the province of the press to watch over it and encourage it.  And I hope that the press will take down my words and act upon them!

An intense silence that ensued when Lola commenced to speak of the press, was broken by a burst of applause, as, in conclusion she bowed, and, extending her hand to Capt. Nickinson, retired, frequently acknowledging the applause vouchsafed to her.   The Leader, Toronto 27 July 1857, page 2, cols 2-3  [Chronological Documentation for 1857, Bruce Seymour, Harvard Theatre Collection]   

Lola Montez (1821-1861) Known for being the mistress of Ludwig of Bavaria, famed for her Tarantula or "spider dance" and the origin of the phrase "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets" http://www.zpub.com/sf/history/lola/Bc1857.doc
Lola Montez, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lola_Montez  

Seymour, Bruce, Lola Montez: A Life, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1996 mentions Lola's School for Scandal appearance in Toronto, but "no record survives except a copy of a program billed as her last night.  From there she went to Hamilton, Ontario to begin her career as a lecturer, speaking in Hamilton on "Beautiful Women." Lola Montez had performed Lady Teazle in New Orleans, San Francisco (where a review called her acting "entirely original and the rendering piquant and effective" but noted that she "was rather free with Sheridan's text" and in Australia.  She died in January 1861, a parishioner of Calvary Church in New York, which EJ Phillips attended some years later. 

Mrs. John Drew [mother of Georgie Drew Barrymore, and grandmother of John, Lionel and Ethel] appeared in Toronto in 1858 with her third husband an Irish comedian, drawing good houses with familiar Irish comedies and farces: The Irish Ambassador, The Irish Emigrant and the Irish Lion. [Shortt]

Hard times came to Canada in 1858 and by Feb 19, 1859, the New York Clipper reported "Blue times in Toronto. Both theatres closed. hope Brother Nickinson is not a loser. Cheer up Villikins'! We know you deserve success even if you have not obtained it."  (Nickinson returned to Toronto primarily as a booking agent for a few months in the spring and summer of 1860.) [Mary Shortt]

Theater historian Mary Shortt wrote in Jan. 1979 "I wonder whether Albert [Edward Nickinson] was named after Queen Victoria's husband, and the Prince of Wales? In 1860 Nickinson returned briefly to Toronto, leased the Royal Lyceum, and renamed it The Prince of Wales Theatre in honor of the Prince, who was on a North American tour at that time.  As far as I can learn, the ungrateful Prince never went near the theatre during his stay in Toronto, but Nickinson was a keen British patriot, who used to finish his theatrical ads with "God Save the Queen!" and during the Crimean War (1854-1856] would add 'Vive L'empereur Francais!"

EJ Phillips enters the picture   First stage appearances
John Nickinson
had made his first stage appearance in Toronto at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Easter Monday 1851.  EJ Phillips wrote at the end of her life  "In the meantime I had received several offers of employment from professional companies and at last accepted one from Messrs Besnard & Nickinson to open the season in Toronto, Ont on Easter Monday 1852 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre."

This performance was supported by Charlotte Nickinson and a number of other professionals, including "Miss Phillips, of whom we do not feel we are prophesying at random when we venture to vaticinate [predict] that at no distant date she will be admitted to have added to the already respectable display of theatrical talent which owns Canada for its nursing mother." [Patriot April 10, 1852] The bill consisted of THE LADIES BATTLE and an afterpiece, THE FIRST NIGHT. On May 11, 1852, Nickinson's company presented LONDON ASSURANCE [yet another Boucicault play] at a benefit for EJ Phillips, who played Grace Harkaway. 

In 1852 Nickinson and Charlotte took to the road again with a larger company and more varied repertoire.  The company included Charles Peters (who married Eliza Nickinson) and Miss EJ Phillips.  A local newspaper, the Patriot, wrote of the company as "persons distinguished for respectability in private life, a point which all who know John Nickinson would feel satisfied that he would particularly consult".  

EJ Phillips was engaged for Nickinson's Utica, NY company and remained with the company until early 1858 when her disappearance from the bills may be accounted for by the birth of her first child. The following years of economic depression were very unsettled ones for Nickinson, who turns up in several places, including Toronto, where he tried to make a comeback as manager of the Royal Lyceum in 1860.   [Mary Shortt Nov 1978 letter]

Mary Shortt wrote in Feb. 1979 "When I wrote my thesis, I had no idea of the strains John Nickinson was under in his personal life. His youngest daughter, Isabella, remained in Toronto until 1858, the year that Charlotte married and left the company. It seemed likely that with the theatre no longer yielding enough income to support the family, Mrs. Nickinson had returned to New York and had taken Isabella, then only eleven years old, with her. However in the light of your information about the separation document of 1855, it seems more probable that Isabella (who was very active and useful in the company, in spite of her tender years) had been looked after by Charlotte and went to New York at the time of Charlotte's Marriage. 1858 must have been a miserable year for John Nickinson, whose financial troubles were compounded by the loss of Charlotte, his touring companion and popular leading lady, and lively little Isabella.  I can understand why he seemed to lose heart and left the management of the Royal Lyceum in the hands of his son-in-law and another actor for several months that summer.  EJ Phillips must have been his chief source of comfort and consolation at this time." 

John Nickinson was 22 years older than EJ Phillips.  Their relationship obviously dated from about the time EJ Phillips joined his stage company in 1852, for his letter of October 3, 1859 refers to "our seven years of past love".  The date of their marriage is less clear.  (John Nickinson, son of his first marriage, wrote to the New York Clipper after his father's death that his parents had never been divorced.) 

Mary Shortt, in a January 1980 letter about her thesis on Toronto theatre notes that "I was unable to explain Nickinson's strange behavior in 1858, when he disappeared for an extended period from the Royal Lyceum.  The loss of Charlotte, who married and left the stage in the spring of '58 was obviously a blow, but I was unaware of the great stress created by E.J.'s pregnancy (in strait- laced  Toronto, where Nickinson had been considered a pillar of respectability!").

John Nickinson often refers to himself as EJ Phillips' husband in his letters.  EJ Phillips occasionally calls herself Nickinson, though she uses Phillips much more often, and in her letters does not directly call him her husband.  The fullest obituary of EJ Phillips (New York Dramatic Mirror, August 20, 1904) makes no reference to John or Albert Nickinson, but lists Hattie and the three grandchildren.  The New York Times obituary mentions only Hattie.

I had long wanted to know when Miss Phillips became Mrs. Phillips.  An explanation came in the recent discovery of a  Nov. 1978 letter from Barbie Dolman Spencer [granddaughter of Hattie Nickinson Dolman] to Toronto theatre historian Mary Shortt.  "The "Mrs." was a printer's error which she accepted and used thereafter.  She was married in 1857 or earlier to the actor-manage John Nickinson of the Royal Lyceum. He was a famous Sir Peter Teazle [in Sheridan's School for Scandal], and though not an "old bachelor" he did marry a "young wife".  Whether she played Lady Teazle with him I have no record, but I do have her own list of parts she played in her 45 years on the stage, and Lady Teazle is among them."

The 1978 letter from Barbie Spencer lists various Shakespearean roles EJ Phillips played in Toronto
Hamlet: Player Queen, Marcellus, Guildenstern, Queen Gertrude
Othello: Emilia [and Desdemona in Rochester]
Romeo & Juliet: Nurse [and Juliet in Cincinnati 1864]
King Lear: Goneril [and in Indianapolis 1868]
Macbeth: Donalbein, Gentlewoman, Malcolm, Witches [and Lady MacBeth in Ottawa 1861]

John Nickinson and EJ Phillips had three children -- Charles Alderman (born. Toronto, Apr. 30, 1858 - died Pittsburgh, Sept. 1859, reportedly of a fall from a high chair.
Hattie Christine Harriet Melanie (born Toronto, Aug. 24, 1860 - died Philadelphia  Oct. 9, 1946) Dolman family
and Albert Edward (born Cincinnati July 8, 1863 - died Pensacola, Florida June 3, 1948)      Nickinson Family  

Royal Lyceum playbill Sept. 10, 1858 The Great Nautical Drama of the SEA

This piece produced under the Management and personal direction of
with every appointment.
Lost and Saved!

EJ Phillips is not listed in the program and Charles Nickinson would have been five months old. Many thanks to Mary Shortt who provided a copy of this playbill, "discovered by somebody at the back of an old mirror."

Hattie Nickinson [Dolman] had been born in Toronto in August 1860 and Albert Nickinson in Cincinnati, Ohio in July 1863 so John Nickinson and EJ Phillips seem to have come to the United States  in the early 1860's.

Charlotte Nickinson Morrison
Charlotte Nickinson (1832-1910) married the editor of the Toronto Leader and forthright theatre critic Daniel Morrison in 1858  She had toured extensively with her father..  The Morrisons moved to Quebec City, London,  New York, and finally back to Toronto.  Daniel Morrison died in 1870, leaving Charlotte a widow with four children.  Charlotte returned to acting and producing at Toronto's Royal Lyceum in 1871 and 1872.  She became a director of the Toronto Opera House Company in 1873, and was the first manager of the Grand Opera House, until it was sold to a new owner who replaced her two years later in 1878. 
more on Charlotte Nickinson Morrison

For the next quarter century the Lyceum under the direction of John Nickinson and later his daughter Charlotte paved the way for such great international stars such as Ellen Terry, Henry Irving (the first actor to be knighted), Lily Langtry (mistress of Edward VII) and the divine Sarah Bernhardt (also a friend of Edwards) to look upon Toronto as a prosperous high-point of any tour.  The Royal Lyceum was destroyed by fire in 1874 but its manager the aforementioned Charlotte Nickinson now known as the formidable Mrs. Morrison undeterred moved onto the new Grand Opera House which had just opened.  In 1875 the site of the Royal Lyceum became home to the Royal Opera House but it too succumbed to fire in 1883.  Bruce Bell Tours http://www.brucebelltours.com/html/the_great_hall_-2.html      more     Grand Opera House Toronto

Toronto's World Class Music Halls, 2005 http://www.thebulletin.ca/cbulletin/dialog_printarticle.jsp?ctid=1000011&cnid=1000594 

1892  previous: Columbus celebration
The Saratoga of Canada
Tecumseh House 
London, Ont 

Novr 30th 1892 

My dear Son, 

Here I am all right.  Played to a crowded house in Hamilton.  Ladies in full dress. 

Arrived here today at 11:15.  Leave tomorrow at noon for Brantford, only a short ride.  Friday St Thomas and go back to give a matinee Sat in Hamilton.  Do not play Sat night.  I think we shall leave for Toronto after Matinee on Saturday. 

No letters here from anyone but "Aunt Louisa", Mrs. Eldridge, who wants a donation to the children's Xmas at Tony Pastors.  Love and Kisses to you all from your loving Mother 

Tony Pastors Theatre was "a little playhouse in the Tammany Hall Building, on the north side of 14th Street, near Third Avenue.  The attractions are invariably of the variety order." (Kings NYC)   

The Rossin House 
Toronto, Canada 
King & York Sts 
Dec 7, 1892

My dear Son, 

Opened on Monday night to a very fine house, and had a fine house last night - $200 better than the first night. The house is a very pleasant one to play in. Have not met anyone I know. All are gone - and it makes me feel like a Centenarian. 

Rehearsals of the Judge began this morning. I am only in the last act - and did not have to go to-day. It is another farcical comedy. Love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Neppie & Edward from their loving Mother

Centenarian Still a subject heading in the NY Times index in the 19th century. Check when it stopped.

next: Detroit Dec 13,1892

previous: Rochester  Dec. 19, 1894

The Rossin House 
Toronto Canada
Xmas eve 1894 

My dear Son,  

I did hope to have posted a letter to reach you all, on Xmas morn, but I am too late.  Left Buffalo 1:30 PM Sunday, reached Niagara Falls an hour later -- went sight seeing -- stopped at the Kaltenbach Hotel all night.  Now am trying to scratch a few lines to you and wish you a Merry Xmas -- though it will be over before this will reach you.  

I am feeling pretty well, only had a little attack of indigestion last night -- produced by eating a banana in the morning -- nothing else I had eaten could have done it so I have "sworn off" banana

We open with Camille to-night and play it at Matinee to-morrow and Thursday night -- and Saturday night -- Wed night Romeo & Juliet.  Friday night and Sat night Frou-Frou in which I do not appear.  Love and Kisses and best wishes for a Happy New Year to my dear children Albert, Ted and Neppie from their loving Mother

A Complete Record of Niagara Falls and Vicinage by Thos. Holder, 1882  http://www.niagara.edu/library/nfguides/holder.html

The Rossin House 
Toronto Canada 
Dec 26th 1894  

My dear daughter Neppie,  

I hope yesterday was a very happy day for you all.  It was a very quiet day for me - for before I got up, word was brought to me that there would be no Matinee on account of Miss Nethersole having a very severe cold - so I concluded to keep quiet and did not get up until after 11 o'clock.  

Took dinner at 3 and read during the rest of the day - went to work at seven, Transgressor being the bill.  We had a fine house.  Miss Nethersole's cold was still bad - but she got through having had two doctors - one a throat specialist - and I hear she is a little better this morning, but the weather has turned very cold and I am afraid it will not be very good for her to come out tonight - for it has been trying to snow. 

Miss Nethersole caught cold at the Falls.  She left Buffalo after the performance on Saturday night and went to the Falls with her maid and her dog - stayed up to see the Falls by moonlight - 4 AM.  Was out early again in the morning and walked about - had dinner at 3 PM and then went driving in an open wagon until six.  Consequently could scarcely speak on Monday morning.

I had told her to be careful - the air is always damp from the spray rising from the Falls - and is very apt to give cold the hottest day in summer.  Sunday was a lovely day and the air just crisp enough to be very enticing.  I took a long walk, but did not go riding and have no cold. 

Tonight we play Romeo & Juliet if Miss Nethersole is well enough.  Tomorrow night Camille, Friday night & Saturday Mat[inee] Frou-Frou, at night Transgressor.  Then off for "Montreal".  I am glad you did not send your present to me here - and do not worry yourself about embroidering the hand'fs.

You have enough to do without that.  I shall appreciate them all the same - for I am sure you "love me very very much" - and I love you very very much - and would be happy to do much more for you, if I were able, to prove my love but can only ask you not to try your eyes embroidering for me.  Your eyes are more precious than embroidery to me. 

Rec'd a letter from Hattie this morning.  They are all well.  She went to the Cemetery on Sunday to place some flowers on her little daughter's grave.  

I hope Teddy is satisfied with his presents - should like to see him enjoying them.  I was having a good time thinking my loved ones were all having a good time.  My love and Kisses to you dear children.  Your loving Mother 

Decr 29th 1894 
Toronto   Canada 
My dear Son, 

This is likely to be my last letter to you in 1894.  It will be my greeting to you for the New Year 1895.  I wish you, Neppie & Ted a Happy New Year.  

Miss Nethersole was unable to play Thursday night.  The doctor would not allow her to play but she played last night in Frou-Frou.  Repeats it this Afternoon and gives the Transgressor tonight.  I want to send you a little New Years all, but I think I had better wait until I get to Providence.  Will however enclose a dollar for Ted, and tell him he had better buy beefsteak than candy.  I am going over to theatre to see how Matinee is getting on.  With love and Kisses to my dear children Albert, Ted and Neppie. Your loving Mother 

next: Montreal Jan 1895

Toronto Walking Tour
Cathedral Church of St. Jamehttp://www.stjamescathedral.on.ca/  65 Church St. Charlotte Nickinson married Daniel Morrison here. in 1858. At one point she lived at 146 John Street.  Mary Shortt has a letter addressed to her there.
Front Street of Old http://www.hhpl.on.ca/Greatlakes/Documents/Robert2/default.asp?ID=ca004
St. Lawrence Market  http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/
  Bruce Bell St. Lawrence Market Part 1 http://www.brucebelltours.com/html/200_year_history.html
St. Lawrence Hall http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/hall/hall.html
St. Lawrence Hall 1849-1850, King and Jarvis Streets, originally Toronto's second City Hall http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings5.html#28
A competitor to the Royal Lyceum in the 1850s.

Toronto Hotels

EJP's Toronto train station
Before the current [1927] structure, an earlier Union Station was built in 1872 on Front Street between York and Simcoe Streets. The front of the old station was completed in 1895 and contained ticket offices, waiting rooms and railway offices. It was designed by E. P. Hannaford, Chief Engineer of the Grand Trunk Railway. The station was modelled on the Illinois Central Station in Chicago and had three domed towers, one containing a clock. In its time, the previous Union Station was considered to be one of the most modern and handsome stations on the continent. Its tall silhouette was a noted feature of the turn- of- the- century Toronto skyline.  Even though this station almost doubled the previous station in size, demands for an even larger station came soon after the completion. http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/union_station/oldus.htm
Bruce Bell, Toronto's First Railroads, 1850s  http://www.brucebelltours.com/html/torontos_first_trains.html     
more on Railroads

Distillery Historic District http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/
Distillery District roses, Sue Spencer        

Distillery District Iris, Sue Spencer   

Woofstock, Distillery District, June 2005

The former Toronto branch of the Bank of Montreal 1884 building is now part of the Hockey Hall of Fame,  http://www.hhof.com/index.htm
 Front and Yonge Streets.  Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_Hall_of_Fame

Mary Glen Hockey Hall of Fame, June 2005        
photograph by Sue Spencer   

List of oldest building & structures in Toronto Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_buildings_and_structures_in_Toronto
Adelaide Court House built 1851-1852, now Court House Market Grill http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings3.html#17
Daniel Brooke Building 1833, rebuilt 1848-1849  http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings2.html#9
Flatiron Building 1892 http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings2.html#10
   Bruce Bell Gooderham [Flatiron[ Building http://www.brucebelltours.com/html/gooderham_bldg_.html
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1885 Bank of Montreal branch http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings5.html#29
Market Lane School Site http://www.brucebelltours.com/html/franks_hotel.html#MarketLane
McKenzie house 1859-61, built 1857  http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings3.html#13
Toronto Street Post Office, built 1851-1853  http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings2.html#12
University College 1856- 1859 http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings6.html#35
York Post Office - Toronto's first PO 1833- 1835 http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/buildings5.html#27

Bibliography See also Nickinson
Alexander, Sandra, History of Toronto and County Of York http://www.historyoftoronto.ca/history/index.html
Becker, Larry, Collecting Toronto, Toronto City Archives http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/archives/becker_collections/index.htm
Becker, Transporting Toronto http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/archives/becker_collections/transporting.htm
Bell, Bruce, Amazing Tales of St. Lawrence Neighbourhood, Community Bulletin Newspaper Group, Inc. 2001
City of Toronto Archives http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/archives/description.htm have Toronto City Directories from 1833 -2001 and 25 views of mid-Victorian Toronto photographed by Armstrong, Beere and Hime in 1856.
Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto: A collection of Historical Sketches of the Old Town of York From 1792 until 1833, and of Toronto From 1834 to 1895, vol. 2, J. Ross Robertson, Toronto, 1896  http://www.hhpl.on.ca/Greatlakes/Documents/Robert2/default.asp  mentioned John Nickinson and Charlotte Nickinson Morrison.

Last updated Oct 30 2011

Homepage   A to Z Index  Bibliography  People   Places   Plays   Site Map   About these letters    About EJ Phillips  Chronology  EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page