Encyclopedia Titanica

Henry Burkhardt Harris

Henry Burkhardt Harris
Henry Burkhardt Harris

Mr Henry Burkhardt Harris, 45, was born on 1 December 1866 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of William Harris, a theatrical manager (b. 17 October 1845 in Prussia, d. 25 November 1916 in New York City), and Rachel Freefield (b. 21 December 1845 in Germany/Prussia; d. 15 February 1903 in New York City).  Henry B. Harris had four siblings, including Minnie, b. 30 August 1865 (d. 1929 in New York as Mrs. Stearn/e), Jennie, b. ca. 1868 (later Mrs. Cohen), Gertrude, b. January 1877 in St. Louis (d. 1929 in Virginia as Mrs. Loeb), William Oakland, b. 22 July 1884 in Massachusetts (d. 2 September 1946 in New York City).

Henry B. Harris married Bertha Prager 3 February 1887 in Boston, Massachusetts, but she died 31 May 1895, aged only 27. Mr. Harris was noted as the manager of the Columbia Theatre at the time of his wife’s death. 

He moved to New York at some point after the death of his first wife and married René Wallach on 22 October 1899.

In the theatrical agency in which he was a partner (with his father and Charles Frohman) Harry’s office was in the Empire Theatre; he was managing plays not only in New York at the time but in Philadelphia and Boston. 

His principal producing theater in New York was the Hudson Theatre (1903). He also acquired the Hackett Theatre (1909), which he renamed the Harris Theatre (after his father) and built the Folies Bergére (1911) which he later named the Fulton Theatre.

His greatest success as a producer was won with Charles Klein's The Lion and the Mouse (1905) which made him a millionaire. Henry, known as “Harry” to friends and his wife, had previously managed such personalities as Lillie Langtry and Amelia Bingham and launched Robert Edeson as a star.

He also discovered Elsie Ferguson, Mae West and Ina Claire, among others. His later hits included The Chorus Lady (1906), The Third Degree (1909), The Country Boy (1910) and The Quaker Girl (1911). Harris also managed the controversial dancer Ruth St. Denis.

“the phenomenal success of Henry B. Harris Enterprises catapulted the producer into show-biz orbit as high as any star he promoted. A bona fide celebrity, he cared little for the distinction. Though “one of the great leaders in theatrical affairs of America,” as the Boston Globe observed, the paper found the showman a “quiet, unaffected, unamusing personage, a thinker, not a speechmaker; he is a practicalist, not an idealist.” By all accounts, he was sympathetic, considerate, and cheerful. Charles Burnham of the Theatrical Association of New York recalled that “no more generous heart ever beat in a human breast.” Augustus Thomas of the Lambs Club said Harry was not merely “receptive” and “unselfish,” but that his “high-mindedness” inspired emulation. Ruth St Denis recalled her benefactor as “nothing but generous and kind, a rare person to find in the atmosphere of Broadway.” - Broadway Dame by Randy Bigham and Gregg Jasper

Harris was treasurer of the Actors' Fund of America and was a trustee of the Hebrew Infant Asylum of New York. He had 18 companies on tour during the 1910-11 season. He was president of the Henry B. Harris Company and a director of the Theater Managers of Greater New York.

Harry and René Harris lived at 50 Central Park West, New York City. He was 5’10’’ tall, had dark eyes and black hair.

Harris and his wife boarded the Titanic at Southampton, they occupied cabin C-83 (ticket number 36973, £83 9s 6d).

A business friend of Harry’s, John D. Baumann, was travelling with the Harrises.

Harris died in the disaster, his body, if recovered, was never identified.  After his death, newspapers reported that he was in fact heavily in debt.

Notes

  1. Often listed as Burkhardt or Birkhardt, his middle name was more likely originally Burckhardt and may have been changed or the other spellings may be transcription errors.
  2. His parents had married ca. 1863 2 very likely 7 July 1863 in St. Louis, albeit William Harris was listed as ’Philip Burkhardt,’ his father’s name was Burkhardt.

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr Henry Burkhardt Harris
Age: 45 years 4 months and 14 days (Male)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Married to Irene Wallach
Occupation: Theatre Manager
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 36973, £83 9s 6d
Cabin No. C83
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body Not Recovered

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References and Sources

Passport Application, Bureau of Citizenship, May 4 1908
Reading Times, April 26, 1912

Research Articles

Titanica! (2019) A Night to Forget : Renée Harris and the Titanic Disaster
New book focuses on the forgotten career of Mrs. Henry B. Harris

Newspaper Articles

New York Times (16 April 1912) HENRY B. HARRIS
Washington Times (16 April 1912) HENRY B. HARRIS, MAJ. ARCHIBALD BUTT, WILLIAM B. SILVEY
Washington Times (17 April 1912) Actor Is Worried Over Fate of Man On Unfortunate Ship
Brooklyn Daily Times (17 April 1912) BAYSIDE'S LOSS IN DEATH OF HENRY B. HARRIS
New York Times (17 April 1912) The Harrises
Trenton Evening Times (18 April 1912) Harris Lost on Trip for Rose Stahl
New York Times (19 April 1912) HOW THE HARRISES PARTED
Approached the lifeboats arm in arm
Mrs. Churchill Candee Washington Herald (19 April 1912) MRS. CANDEE LAUDS MAJ. BUTT'S HEROISM
Daily Home News (19 April 1912) ROEBLING WENT DOWN IN TITANIC
Washington Times (19 April 1912) WASHINGTON MAN TELLS HARROWING DETAILS OF WRECK
New York Times (20 April 1912) Mrs. Harris Gains Strength
Washington Times (20 April 1912) NATION MAY RAISE GREAT MEMORIAL TO DISASTER'S HERO
New York Times (21 April 1912) MEMORIAL NOTICE (2)
New York Herald (21 April 1912) MR. HENRY B. HARRIS: VICTIM OF DISASTER
New York Times (22 April 1912) ELKS' TRIBUTE TO HARRIS
Daily Home News (22 April 1912) Wreck Victim Known Here
(26 April 1912) Henry B. Harris
Billboard Magazine (27 April 1912) Henry B. Harris (2)
Unidentified Newspaper (7 September 1912) Seeks Lien on Estate of a Titanic Victim
New York Times (2 July 1914) DEFICIT IN HARRIS ESTATE
Boston Daily Globe (13 September 1922) MRS. RENE W. HARRIS TO WED Z. C. BARBER

Letters and Diaries

(1912) Letter to Mrs. Harris

Miscellaneous

Why Do I Smile?
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

Credits

Randy Bryan Bigham, USA
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Gregg Jasper, USA
Arthur Merchant, USA

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2020) Henry Burkhardt Harris (ref: #149, last updated: 13th June 2020, accessed 2nd December 2021 11:23:50 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/henry-birkhardt-harris.html