The previous post on Pioneering Days at Antioch mentioned the colorful Pearl Means, and she was the sort of woman who demands more attention.
The Yellow Springs Heritage post on Pearl Means describes one incident where she claimed public attention when she took it upon herself to deal with a broken-down horse’s fate, but this was certainly not the only time she stepped into the spotlight, either literally or figuratively.
An article from the Ironton Register of 1889 makes note of the beginning of her theatrical career:
Ironton Register Thurs. Feb. 7, 1889 – MISS PEARL MEANS – The New York Sun makes public a fact that the young lady’s friends have known for some time, i.e., that Miss Pearl Means is studying for the stage. Miss Means is positive that she is not “stage struck” in the ordinary sense of the word, but adopts the stage as a method earning a livelihood. Before her parents were fully aware of her intentions she became a member of the Lyceum School of Acting, of which A. M. Palmer is the head, and Boucicault a professor. she has been placed upon the preferred list of pupils and has enlisted, by her earnestness, the interest and sympathy of such men as Lawrence Barrett and A. M. Palmer, and should she develop the requisite talent for success, will undoubtedly have every opportunity of proving it. She promises to be a very delightful “ingenue”, and the many friends of her family here will watch her career with deep interest. She kept her attendance at the school secret for awhile, fearing an unnecessary shock to her father, ex-Mayor Wm. Means, whose health is still precarious. The Sun says: “Two more society girls are ready for the stage. They show the extent to which the stage craze has gone among women in America since Mrs. Potter’s success. One of the young women has just been engaged by Mr. Frohman for the ‘Lord Chumley’ Company, and the other will probably join Mrs. Blaine’s company. Miss Means is the daughter of a former bank President in Cincinnati. She was very well known in society in the West. A series of misfortunes, culminating in her father’s financial ruin, finally led Miss Means to seek for a livelihood. The other society debutante is Miss Moynahan, who comes of the old Irish family of that name in Ottawa. Her fortune was left entirely in the hands of her father’s executors and was dissipated in less than three years. Both of the young women are in the class of society amateurs of which Miss Elsie DeWolfe is such a shining light.” – Com.-Gazette.
Miss Means goes upon the stage probably because she loves the dramatic art. Ever since she was a child she was fond of elocution. She has particularly a sweet voice and graceful manners, and is a most handsome and intelligent young lady. If the information above is true, we are sure she will carry to the stage the best and noblest ideas of the art. “
Because her father William Means was a prominent Cincinnati banker and one-time mayor, Pearl Means’ activities were frequently reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer, so in 1892 her professional theatrical introduction to the stage was noted in the issue of February 11, 1889:
The New York Graphic says: Dan Frohman has just given a position to a young lady quite well known as an amateur actress in this city and Cincinnati. She is Miss Pearl Means, daughter of William Means, of Cincinnati. Miss Means was educated at a well-known seminary, and kept the place merry with such excellent dramatic performances as it has not seen since she left. Her father failed lately, and since that time she determined to study for the stage. She applied to Mr. Frohman for a position, which application resulted in his giving her the part of “Jessie,” the ingenue role in “Lord Chumley.” She will play with the company in Williamsburg Opera House February 11th.
Cincinnati Enquirer, December 21, 1891:
Miss Pearl Means, a very attractive member of the company that spent the week at the South Broad-street Theater (in “All the Comforts of Home”), is the daughter of a Cincinnati banker, whose failure threw her on her own resources, and by dint of her earnestness and intelligence has won a creditable place upon it. Miss Means was educated at Ogontz and during the week has enjoyed social attentions from many of her former school companions.
Cincinnati Enquirer, January 28, 1892:
Miss Pearl Means, the daughter of Ex-Mayor Wm. Means, will be in the city next week with “All the Comforts of Home.” She has developed into quite an actress.
But not all was starry-eyed praise, as this tidbit from the Enquirer’s issue of February 7, 1892 shows:
Heard a lady remark at the Grand one evening last week that Miss Pearl Means was not on the stage long enough to see her face or for any one to tell whether she could act or not.
One particular incident thrust her in the spotlight in quite a different way:
Cincinnati Enquirer, April 24, 1895
Says He Only Loaned an Umbrella To Miss Pearl Means
SPECIAL DISPATCH TO THE ENQUIRER
NEW YORK, April 23.—Actor “Jack” Hollis, who is suing for divorce, is indignant because his wife in her answer mentions Miss Pearl Means. He says it is a willful slander, instigated solely by malice and jealousy.
He declares that Miss Means was never in his room alone, and that she only called when specially invited by Mrs. Hollis. He loaned her an umbrella one day, and she returned it the following day. He was home alone, and he says his wife returned a moment later, and seeing Miss Means, screamed until a policeman entered and took all hands to the station house. Mr. Hollis was subsequently discharged, and Mrs. Hollis was sent to the inebriate ward in Bellevue Hospital.
Cincinnati Enquirer, August 11, 1895
Every Allegation Made.
Testimony Favorable to Miss Pearl Means in the Hollis Case
SPECIAL DISPATCH TO THE ENQUIRER
NEW YORK, August 10.—Testimony in the action brought by John Beresford Hollis for an absolute divorce from Linna Valeria Hollis was filed in the Superior Court today. Harris, who is an actor, charges that his wife has been guilty of improper conduct with James Dunbar. Mrs. Hollis filed a counter suit against her husband, accusing him with intimacy with Miss Pearl A. Means, of Cincinnati.
Miss Means was an actress until the summer of 1891, when she left the stage to become a teacher of elocution in Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her sister, Gertrude, is also a teacher in the college.
The testimony filed was favorable to Miss Means.
President Daniel Albright Long, of Antioch College, testified that he met Pearl A. Means in 1883, when she was a young and frolicsome schoolgirl. He said she had been a teacher at the college, with an excellent record for the past two years. He added: “I have always found her chaste, and in all her communications as pure as a vestal virgin.”
Miss Means testified that she frequently took lunch with Mrs. Hollis after she returned in May, 18[illegible], from the road with the All the Comforts of Home Company. She also said that in August and September, [illegible year], during which time Mrs. Hollis lays some of her charges in this city, she (Miss Means) was at her home in Yellow Springs.
She denied that she was the cause of a row at the Hollis house, at No. 254 Fourth avenue, July 2[illegible], 1892, which resulted in the arrest of Mr. and Mrs. Hollis.
Miss Means also denied the allegation that while she was ill in San Francisco the previous fall Hollis nursed her through her illness. She also denied the charge that she spent the night of May 18, 1892, at a hotel with Hollis.
As a dedicated early defender of animals (as witnessed by the horse incident), Pearl Means strode boldly onto the legal stage later in her life and used her theatrical training to good effect (at least in garnering publicity):
Cincinnati Enquirer, May 12, 1914
DRAMATIC Scene in Council Hall
When Miss Means Accuses Stockman of Being Heartless
And Declares His Cruelty Will Lead Him To Hell
“I’ll Have Company,” Was Quick Reply—Exciting Tilt Over a Proposed Ordinance
Shaking her clenched hand in the face of Talton Embry, Miss Pearl Means, who was the originator of an ordinance to kill injured cattle as soon as they are received at the stock yards, told him that he had no heart or that it is as black as coal and that he is “absolutely devoid of any element of sympathy.” Miss Means is the daughter of former Mayor Means, of Cincinnati.
The veteran stock yards man replied: “I hate to insult a lady, but I fear that your present conduct must lead me to believe that you do not possess the instincts of a lady. I have a heart as big as you would have us believe you have. I have stood at the bedside of suffering, agonizing because I could bring no relief, and I have also repeatedly demonstrated my sympathy for the poor brute. We are willing to co-operate with your society, but this ordinance would deprive up of our property.
Another Hot SHOT.
“I again say you have no heart,” interrupted Miss Means, “and your cruelty will lead you to hell.”
“I guess I’ll have company,” rejoined Mr. Embry, as he proceeded to quit the scene.
Miss Means got the last word by calling after him: “You bet you will.”
This scene was enacted in the Council Chamber at the City Hall yesterday morning, following the meeting of the Committee on Law Contracts and Claims, which had under consideration the Means ordinance.
The ordinance was backed by the Hamilton County S.P.C.A.A. Committee representing that organization, as well as representatives of the Union Stock Yards, made statements before the committee as to the effects of the proposed law.
The society contended that cattle taken to the yards on Saturday night might frequently have among them some with broken bones. These, they claimed, are permitted to go without water or feed until they are slaughtered on Monday, and that in consequence they suffer greatly.
Representatives of the stock yards, however, denied that the animals are treated inhumanely and asserted they do receive feed and water. They contended that it is impossible to secure butchers to slaughter on Sunday, and that in most instances it would mean a loss of approximately $40 to $50 a head if they are disposed of before the slaughter houses open on Monday. The stockmen asked that the ordinance be held up for a while to give them an opportunity to see if they cannot secure a butcher to kill the injured cattle on Sunday. It was stated that arrangements will also have to be made with the Health Department to secure an inspector to witness the killing. This arrangement satisfied everybody but Miss Means, who insisted that the ordinance be passed. The attorneys for the organization, however, told her that the stock yards people are willing to do everything that was demanded of them, but that they are stopped by conditions that no one can control.
This did not satisfy her, and when the meeting adjourned, she renewed the argument with Mr. Embry.