The Dramatic Club of Indianapolis

Dramatic Club member Lew Wallace Junior circa 1917
Lew Wallace Junior circa 1917

Mary “Haute” Booth Tarkington was one of the leaders of a theatrical group which was established in Indianapolis in 1889.

The Matinee Club

Originally called the Matinee Club, the group formed to provide private performances. Twenty-five women from the city’s leading families formed the group. The all-woman group first performed in a private home ballroom at 10th and Delaware Streets.

By 1890, men were assisting in the productions and the group combined with another to form the Dramatic Club. Mary’s brother, Booth Tarkington, joined the group and designed the logo.

The Dramatic Club

Beginning in 1890, the group began assisting local charities which led to its most ambitious effort when the group “adopted” four French children after World War I. The club grew from 149 people in 1890 to over 400 by the early 20th century. By the 1920s, the performances had moved from the confines of private ballrooms to English’s Hotel & Opera House, the Murat Temple, and the Athenaeum. By the 1950s, they performed at the Civic Theatre. It continues to be an important theater group in Indianapolis.

Members of the Club

Throughout its existence the Dramatic Club has attracted some of the leading social, civic and business leaders of Indianapolis including members of the extended Lew Wallace family. In the 1916 Blue Book for Indianapolis, Wallaces listed as members in the Dramatic Club included Lew Wallace’s niece Zerelda Leathers Grover. In addition, Mary Booth Tarkington Jameson was a niece-by-marriage of William and Cordelia Butler Wallace.

More distantly related people listed in the 1916 Society Blue Book included Booth Tarkington and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. James Leathers, and Mr. Donald Jameson.

Lew Wallace, Jr.

Closer to home, Lew Wallace, Jr. (Lew and Susan’s grandson) and their future grand-daughter-in-law, Josephine Parrott, were active in the group. Lew, Jr. had grown up primarily in Indianapolis, although he spent time in Crawfordsville with his grandparents.

By 1916 he had finished his college studies at Yale and returned home for a stay. He paralleled his famous grandfather’s military career with a stint in the mid-1910s chasing Pancho Villa during the Mexican border dispute. He served in the military in World War I in 1917 and 1918.

Just when and how Lew Jr. and Josephine met is not recorded. After their inclusion in the Blue Book in 1916, they made the social columns again in 1917 when they married. Lew, Jr. and Josephine had four children. At least one of them, Margaret (Maggie Daly) followed her parents’ lead and enjoyed a brief career on the stage in the 1940s before she married and began her own family.


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