Harry Thornton

Harry Thornton

Birth
Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana, USA
Death 1 Apr 1944 (aged 71–72)
Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, USA
Burial Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, USA
Plot Block 8, 97; Masonic Grounds
Memorial ID 140697797 · View Source
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Harry Thornton, man about town, veteran of the vaudeville and dramatic stage, pioneer in the exhibition of motion pictures in this city, 30 years a resident of Springfield, a man of many ups and downs but always happy, cheerful and friendly, died yesterday at Memorial hospital. His wife, also of the stage, died in this city in 1939. Since that time he had lived at East Monroe street but recently had made his home at the Elks club.

In failing health for several months his death was not a surprise to his close friends. He is survived by a sister, who lives in New York City.

Noted for his geniality, his wide acquaintance, his stories of his travels and theatrical experiences, and his immaculate attire at all times, Harry Thornton had become an institution in Springfield. He was known wherever men congregated for socialability. Kind and generous in his impulses and favors, his company was welcome. A philosopher, whose philosophy was derived from extensive experience and analytical observation he was homely and wise in his conversation. He was 71 years old, but was known as "Junior" because of his youthful appearance and outlook upon life.

He was born on a farm near Greencastle, Ind., the son of Mr. and James Layfette Thornton. His grandfather was president of a bank in Greencastle and a trustee of DePauw university. When he was yet a boy, the family moved to Topeka, Kan., where his father became advertising manager of the Morning Capitol. Young Thornton got a job with the Rock Island railroad under John Sebastion, later one of the country's leading railroaders. When he was made general passenger agent of the company in 1887 he took Thornton with him. Two years later Thornton quit railroading and jumped into vaudeville and the theatre, where he spent the rest of his life with the exception of the last few years.

His first stunt on the stage was as a member of the Queen city quartet. He came to Springfield in 1914 to manage the Gaiety, the Princess and Vaudette theatres. In this capacity he was associated with his father-in-law, William (Bill) Watts, who had started in a most humble way in the motion picture business. The combination was successful financially and both Watts and Thornton made money, which they invested in securities that went sour during the depression, leaving both men pretty well stripped of their hard earned fortune.

Thornton's life was full of interesting events. From 1900 to 1914 he traveled, singing popular songs on vaudeville programs. He was abroad two years, playing on the opening night of the Coliseum opposite the Duke of York theatre in London. Then followed appearances across Europe and South Africa, thence back to America where he often boasted he had appeared in every city of more than 50,000.

In 1903 he was married to Grace Cummings at Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the team of Thornton and Cummings was formed. Later, they took on Frank Patricola and the three toured the Orpheum, Keith and Interstate circuits as he used to say, "with jugglers, acrobats, troups of trained cockatoos, leopards and lions."

IL State Journal, Springfield, IL, 4-2-1944


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  • Created by: BjJ
  • Added: 31 Dec 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 140697797
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Harry Thornton (1872–1 Apr 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 140697797, citing Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by BjJ (contributor 46902476) .