Amusement Business

Hall of fame. (history's top personalities in the live entertainment and amusement industry) (One hundredth-anniversary collector's edition)

It's only fitting on the occasion of our 100th Anniversary that we honor those outstanding individuals who have made an undeniable and indelible impact on the live entertainment and amusement industry. Therefore, we inaugurate the Amusement Business Hall of Fame.

We received numerous nominations from our readers for which you have our thanks. Many were indeed worthy of inclusion, but space required limiting our initial selections to 10 -- which was no easy task. It is our hope that many others will be honored in the future.

On the following pages then, are the first members of the Amusement Business Hall of Fame. They are a diverse group of individuals representing a diverse group of industries bound by one common thread -- entertainment.

They are people of insight, creativity, and dedication. Some are household names, others known only within their industry. Most became wealthy, one died a pauper; but we are all richer for their achievements.

William H. Donaldson 1864-1925

William H. Donaldson was born in Dayton, Ky., in 1864. He first went to work for his father's art store and picture frame shop. His father soon established a poster-printing business later to be known as Donaldson Lithographing Co. and young Donaldson worked as a salesman.

That sales position brought Donaldson in contact with bill posters, show printers, outdoor advertisers, and showmen. At the age of 30 Donaldson conceived of a publication to serve the bill posting industry. He took the idea to James H. Hennegan who owned the Hennegan Printing Co.

Donaldson pitched an industry newspaper to Hennegan and the printer bit. On Nov. 1, 1894, the first issue of Billboard Advertising was published in Cincinnati. It contained eight pages.

The basic agreement betwween the two was that Donaldson would handle the editorial and business side of the publication. Hennegan would be responsible for production. The deal was bound by a handshake.

In February 1897 the name of the publication was changed to The Billboard, a name which stuck until 1961 when the publication was divided into two publications -- Billboard and Amusement Business. The focus also began to change and include news about fairs and outdoor attractions.

By November 1898 Donaldson had a falling out with Hennegan and the Associated Bill Posters trade organization and left the publication. His absence didn't last long.

With the publication facing bankruptcy, Donaldson bought out Hennegan's share for a reported $500.

With help from his wife, Jennie, and daughter, Marjorie, Donaldson made some dramatic changes. He began publishing the The Billboard on a weekly basis in May 1900. The editorial now focused entirely on the entertainment industry and grew rapidly. Soon there were offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and London.

Under Donaldson's direction, The Billboard played a major role in the development of vaudeville and the motion picture, fair, circus, carnival, amusement park, auditorium, and, later, the recording industries.

One of Donaldson's primary directives was that The Billboard was to serve as home base for its transient readers. Other offices opened; many served little purpose other than to serve as post offices for itinerant readers to pick up their mail and the publication. By 1914 more than 42,000 show people used The Billboard as their permanent address.

Donaldson died Aug. 1, 1925, at the age of 61. The publication remained under family ownership until 1984.

William Frederick Cody "Buffalo Bill" 1846-1917

William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was born on Feb. 26, 1846, in Le Claire County, Iowa, the fourth of eight children. Following the death of his father, Cody got his first job at the age of 11 as a wagon train messenger with the famous Russell, Majors, and Waddell outfit.

At 14 he became the youngest Pony Express rider. When one rider was killed by Indians, Cody took over his route after completing his own. In one continuous ride of 24 hours and 40 minutes, he rode 21 horses for 322 miles.

In February 1864, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the Seventh Kansas Regiment, serving as dispatch bearer. Disguised as a youth from Tennessee, he collected information about the Confederate forces. …

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