EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of the Courier.
When Leila Koerber — later to become the famous Marie Dressler of stage and screen — left Findlay with her music teacher father in the early 1890s, after a residence of a few years here during the gas and oil boom days, she could well have emulated General McArthur in his letter and well known remark, “I shall return,” when he left the Philippines for Australia in World War II.
For Leila Koerber did return to Findlay. She came then as Marie Dressler to star in a play at the old Marvin Theater in February 1901. It was her only return to the scene of some of her girlhood days, so far as is known.
The play, a farce comedy, was “Miss Prinnt.” As the star she was a woman newspaper publisher and the story line dealt with some of her experiences in an eastern city, where her “paper” was published.
The Morning Republican article dealing with her appearance said the play came here because Miss Dressler wanted it to. It had had a long run in New York and was making only a few road dates in the larger centers.
The troupe arrived in Findlay at the old Toledo and Ohio Central depot on East Sandusky Street late in the morning. Atop one of the drays hauling the scenery to the Marvin on North Main Street rode a group of the young men singers in the cast, who made merry as they traversed Findlay’s Main Street. It was all for the benefit of Miss Dressler’s “old home town,” the press agent said.
During the afternoon, the newspaper said, the star visited in the homes of some of her friends in Findlay. There were two women members of the theatrical troupe who had lived here — Carolyn Locke and Eunice Warde, daughters of James Moyer. They also enjoyed renewing acquaintances here.
Miss Dressler undoubtedly took a look at two places where she and her father lived during their residence in Findlay. One was the large block on North Main Street at the northeast corner of Center Street. This is where she and her father first resided, it is understood. Then there was the residence at the southwest corner of Liberty and West Hardin streets, now owned by the two Laffey sisters, Mary and Martha, and where the Koerbers also lived.
The Morning Republican had warm praise for the play and the talent of Miss Dressler.
“Her agility, her comedy and her voice were splendidly received by the select audience,” said the article. “Her songs were catchy and such as the boys will be whistling on the street.”
One of the songs especially pleased the audience. It was “I’m Looking for an Angel.”
Miss Dressler’s rise as an actress must have been rapid. She was only in her late teens when she was in Findlay with her father. It was not more than a dozen years later that she was back as a reigning star of the theatrical world. “She set New York into an uproar with her exceedingly clever personality,” the Republican quoted a New York newspaper as saying.
When she was here as a young girl, she appeared in a benefit performance of Ouida’s “Under Two Flags.” She was said to have appeared in extra-short skirts that caused quite a bit of comment.
The father, who was of German extraction, came here with his daughter from their home in Canada. He was a teacher of violin and was drawn here because of Findlay’s great boom, feeling there was a good opportunity for one who made his living by teaching music, under such circumstances.
W.E. Crates, prominent Findlay grocer and manufacturer, once told the writer that he remembered her and her father coming into his grocery store at South Main and Lincoln streets rather frequently to buy groceries.