Local Vaudeville Troupe: Rossley Kiddies

Rossley Kiddie Company Collection (Coll-472) 1.01.005 Rossley Kiddies on stage, "Beauty and the Beast" Annotations on verso: "J. C. M. Hayward, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 24 Upper Water Street, Clara"

All images from this post are sourced from Rossley Kiddie Company Collection (Coll-472) held at the Archives and Special Collections

Rossley Kiddie Company

St. John's has been an entertainment hub. More than 100 years ago a mysterious family, the Rossley's, arrived from New York and operated several theatres in downtown St. John's and on Bell Island. Under Jack Rossley's management The British Hall was known as a "Photo play picture palace". Rossley boasted that his establishments "were not forbidden by the Church". Newspaper accounts describe eventful evenings of entertainment that mixed live music, theatre and dance with silent films.

1.01.002 Formal portrait photograph of Rossley Kiddies in gypsy costumes with tamborines, affixed to cardboard. Annotation on verso: "The Majestic, Halifax": 8 unidentified girls

Rossley Kiddie Company Collection (Coll-472) 1.01.001 Formal portrait photograph by S. H Parsons of Rossley Kiddies in white costumes, affixed to cardboard: 4 unidentified boys and girls

Not only were the Rossley's operating a business in theatre they were regular performers themselves. Jack's wife, Marie, also directed the vaudeville troupes that performed in Rossley theatres as well as touring Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during the summers of 1915-1917.

Top Left image: 1.01.012 Snapshot with handwriting on image: "Dorothy, Alice, Bonnie, Marie and Mrs. Eagon-our mother who takes care of us
Top Right image: 1.01.013 (2) postcards of the Rossleys at a beach, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 1 September 1917. Handwriting on front "Rossleys, Yarmouth, N.S." Annotations on verso of one card: "My Dear Mother, This is the beach where we go Bathing it is a dandy place I am on the end sat down and Kathleen is on the other end this was taken the day when we were on the picnic, good-Bye from Dorothy with love xxxx"
Bottom images: 1.01.011 (2) snapshots of Rossley girls with Canadian soldiers, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Annotations on verso: Image 1: "Gertie Kennedy, Canadian soldier, Anna Farrell, Rose Field, Rossley troupe at Yarmouth Nova Scotia, Canada". Image 2: Note

In addition to the Rossley Kiddies there are references to the "Rossley Dumbells," "Rossley Company," "Rossley Group," "Sunshine Girls," "Merry Minstrels," "Pickaninnies" and the "Pantonmines". Were these troupes comprised of essentially the same performers or were they completely different groups directed by Jack and/or Marie?

Top Left image: 1.01.009 Formal Portrait of Rossley Kiddies in clown costumes by S. H. Parsons, [1916]. Annotations on verso: "St. John's Nfld, Rossley Troupe: A Squires, Lizzie Earle, Kitty Squires, Marcie [Renouf], Gertie Richards, Dot Marshall, Aileen Squires, Clara Squires."
Top Right image: 2.01.003 Newspaper advert for Rossley's "Jock and the Pied Piper" at Lyceum Theatre, Sydney, Nova Scotia 3 July 1916. Photograph by S. H. Parsons.
Bottom Left image: 1.01.007 Rossley Kiddies in costume, in park or field, 1917. Date written in ink on image, annotations by Marie Rossley on verso.
Bottom Right image: 1.01.006 Portrait of "Rossley Dumbells Jr, Halifax, NS" at steps of War Memorial
Sometime after 1917 the Rossley family relocated and eventually settling in Saint John, New Brunswick. Why did they leave? What happened to the Rossley Kiddie Company? We know from the stationary posted below that the company was active in Saint John into the 1920s under the direction of Marie Rossley and the patronage of B. F. Keith Imperial Theatre Management.

2.01.005 Rossley Kiddie Company stationary, Saint John, New Brunswick 192-

What brought Jack and Marie to Newfoundland with their two children, Bonnie and Victor? Why did they leave?
Left image: 1.01.015 Portrait and business card. Annotation on verso: "Halifax, N.S. Sept 12th, Bonnie Rossley, 84 Princess St, St. John, NB, Canada" Middle image: 1.01.017 Snapshot. Annotation on verso: Mae Donnelly, Miss Hanlon, Bonnie Rossley, Mother (Mrs. Rossley) and Victor Rossley, 1919" Right image: 2.01.003 Newspaper clippings related to Rossley Kiddies' "High Jinks"
Curious? Check out the finding aid or browse/search the online collection which has been completely digitized! Search through Evening Telegram newspapers during the peak of the Rossley's time in the province here.