Dean, Tunis F. (Tunis Ferdinand), 1865-1939

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Tunis Dean, theatrical manager and fashionable civic leader in Baltimore, Maryland, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana ca. 1865. Affiliated for years with the David Belasco organization, Dean acted as Belasco's personal representative and press agent, and served as tour manager for a number of prominent actors including Blanche Bates, Mrs. Leslie Carter, David Warfield, Frances Starr and James O'Neill. Dean was, at various times, the manager of the Baltimore Academy of Music and the Grand Opera House in Pittsburgh, and agent for firms such as Nixon & Zimmerman, Klaw & Erlanger, Liebler & Co. and Harry Davis. He was also a promoter of beach parades and carnivals.

From the guide to the Tunis Dean papers, 1875-1939, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Tunis Ferdinand Dean was a theatrical manager, long associated with David Belasco. Born In Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1870, Tunis Dean moved to Baltimore, Md., as an adult, and managed Baltimore's Academy of Music for several years. Affiliated for decades with the David Belasco organization, Tunis Dean acted as personal representative of Mr. Belasco, and served as tour manager for a number of prominent actors, including Mrs. Leslie Carter, David Warfield, Frances Starr and James O'Neill. Mr. Dean was also involved in professional athletics, as secretary of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

From the guide to the Tunis Dean correspondence, 1906-1922, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Tunis Dean, theatrical manager and fashionable civic leader in Baltimore, Maryland, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana ca. 1865.

Affiliated for years with the David Belasco organization, Dean acted as Belasco's personal representative, and served as tour manager for a number of prominent actors including Blanche Bates, Mrs. Leslie Carter, David Warfield, Frances Starr and James O'Neill. Dean was, at various times, the manager of the Baltimore Academy of Music and the Grand Opera House in Pittsburgh, and agent for firms such as Nixon & Zimmerman, Klaw & Erlanger, Liebler & Co. and Harry Davis. He was also a promoter of beach parades and carnivals.

From the description of Tunis Dean papers, 1875-1939. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122346131

Tunis Ferdinand Anthony Dean was the first of ten children of Irish immigrants William Henry Dean (died circa 1892) and Catherine Whalen Dean (circa 1848-1914), and was born either in Columbus or Indianapolis, Indiana. The date of his birth appears to have been March 3rd, 1865, as supported by his 1896 passport application and in the 1910 and 1930 federal census reports. However, the year variously appears as 1867 (in the 1900 federal census), 1869 (on his 1912 life insurance application), 1870 (on the 1915 dance program from his 45th birthday fete), and 1871 (in his 1939 obituaries in the New York and Baltimore papers).

Raised in Indianapolis, Dean entered the theatre business as an employee of William Hayden English (1822-1896), a noted politician who owned the English Opera House on the city’s Monument Circle. He was hired away in 1885 by visiting impresario Patrick Harris, who took him to Baltimore to manage his theaters including the Academy of Music there. In 1890 Dean partnered with Harris and Harris’s brother-in-law Richard Britton to form Harris, Britton and Dean, proprietors of a chain of theaters between Minneapolis and Baltimore featuring popular-priced entertainments. The firm continued on for only a few years following Harris’s death in 1890, and Dean remained as manager of the Academy of Music when it was taken over by the Philadelphia firm of Nixon and Zimmerman in 1895. Aside from his affiliation with Samuel F. Nixon (1848-1918), Dean worked in Pittsburgh with Harry Davis (1861-1940), and, for a large part of his career, as a road manager, press agent, and personal representative with New York's great impresario David Belasco (1853-1931), his organization, and his company of actors: Dean handled Mrs. Leslie Carter, Frances Starr, Sarah Truax, and David Warfield, among others, as well as Blanche Bates, who became a personal friend. Perhaps the Belasco actress with whom he was most closely associated was Lenore Ulric (1892-1970), as he managed her tours of Tiger Rose, The Son-Daughter, The Gold Diggers, Kiki, and Lulu Belle between 1918 and 1926, and arranged her endorsements of products including perfume and jewelry. Toward the end of his career Dean worked with the actors Fanny Brice and Lionel Barrymore. Not just active the in theatre, Dean apparently invented a system to extract gold and silver from sea water, according to an article in the November 9, 1912, issue of Mining World .

After her husband's death, Catherine Dean moved to Baltimore and established a household (supported by Tunis Dean) through which revolved Dean and his siblings, at least four of whom also had careers in theatre management: Walter P. Dean (circa 1868-1909), Rose Dean Reaves (circa 1874-1895), Julia Dean Batten Hyland (circa 1876-1912), Katherine (Kate) Cecilia Dean (circa 1877-1950), Edward J. Dean (circa 1880-1912), and William Francis Dean (circa 1884-1904). Their home was a popular stopping place for the theatre community, as evidenced by the tributes received and national press coverage granted Catherine Dean at her death in 1914.

By all accounts debonair and creatively well-dressed (one obituary headline read "Veteran Theatrical Manager Was Colorful Figure Here Years Ago -- Noted Far And Wide for His Bizarre Clothes"), Tunis Dean was briefly engaged to the actress Anna Boyd in 1895, but never married. While his correspondence files reveal that he left broken hearts (both female and male) in cities and towns across the United States, they also show that he was extremely generous to his friends, colleagues, clients, and lovers, and regularly supported the businesses of florists everywhere. He died in Spring Valley, Rockland County, New York, on April 21, 1939, and was buried in the Dean family lot in Baltimore's New Cathedral Cemetery. In 1914 Dean had commissioned for the lot a granite obelisk twenty feet in height and a set of headstones for his mother and siblings; none of the monuments, including his, display life dates.

From the guide to the Tunis F. Dean papers, 1886-1930, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Tunis Dean correspondence, 1906-1922 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Tunis Dean papers, 1875-1939 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Tunis F. Dean papers, 1886-1930 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Dean, Tunis F. Tunis F. Dean papers, ca. 1890-1930. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Dean, Tunis F. Tunis Dean papers, 1875-1939. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn William Pleater Davidge papers, 1850-1937. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Academy of Music (Baltimore, Md.) corporateBody
associatedWith Bates, Blanche, 1873-1941 person
associatedWith Beegle, May, d. 1943 person
associatedWith Belasco, David, 1853-1931. person
associatedWith Belasco Theatre (Organization : New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Biedler, H. H. (Hampson Hubert), 1854-1921 person
associatedWith Bookbinder, Herman R. person
associatedWith Carter, Leslie, Mrs, 1862-1937. person
associatedWith Curry, Thomas A. (Thomas Albert) person
correspondedWith Davidge, William Pleater, 1814-1888 person
associatedWith Duse, Eleonora, 1858-1924 person
associatedWith Grand Opera House (Pittsburgh, Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith Jardon, Dorothy, 1883-1966 person
associatedWith Leishear, Mary S. person
associatedWith McCaull, Charles D. person
associatedWith Moore, Alexander Pollock, 1867-1930 person
associatedWith Nixon, Samuel F., 1848-1918 person
associatedWith Pickford, Mary, 1892-1979 person
associatedWith Quinlan, Elizabeth C., 1863-1947 person
associatedWith Roeder, Benjamin F., d. 1943 person
associatedWith Roeder, B. F person
associatedWith Roeder, B. F. person
associatedWith Shook, Harry Dean person
associatedWith Shook, Harry Dean. person
associatedWith Shook, Harry Dean. person
associatedWith Starr, Frances. person
associatedWith Truax, Sarah. person
associatedWith Ulric, Lenore, 1892-1970 person
associatedWith Wilken, William L. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Theater--History--19th century
Theatrical managers
Theatrical managers--United States
Theater--United States
Baseball--Management--United States
Theater
LGBTQ resource
Gay men--United States
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1865

Death 1939

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