By 1868, Silver City must have been a fine community, indeed, because it had TWO theaters. John McGinely, one of the theater owners, promoted an early production by offering to give a gold ring worth $10 to the person in the audience who could come up with the most original conundrum (a riddle whose answer is a pun). Sadly, the winning riddle did not survive the ages.
The newspaper whose editorial plea may have sparked theater in Silver City, was not always a fan of the productions. On May 21, 1870, the paper gave one troupe a slap:
“The Carter Troupe have ‘folded their tents like the Arabs and silently stole away.’ Good riddance. Although his playing was passable, yet we couldn’t tolerate so much beggarly meanness as was concentrated in the person of J.W. Carter. We gave him a complementary notice last week which he didn’t seem to appreciate. Of all the contemptible catchpennies that ever afflicted our Territory he is the chief; of all the miserly exotics that ever visited Idaho he is conspicuous; of all the pitiful paltry scrubs that we ever saw, he caps the climax.”
Some productions had moved to Champion Hall by 1873, a new theater facility with seating for perhaps 150. On opening night the audience got a little scare when one of the supports for the building settled loudly and abruptly. It may have been an ominous sign. Silver City was attracting fewer professional productions and many of the amateurs who had performed had moved away. By 1874 the Owyhee Avalanche reported that “The old Silver City Theatre was torn down and moved to the Mahogany mine this week, where it will be rebuilt for an engine-house, etc.”
Things happened fast in a boom town. For the most part, the heyday of theater came and went in a period of about six years in Silver City. Not very long, but long enough for the newspaper to think of one of the theaters as “old.”
The photo of Silver City in 1891 is courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society digital collection.