News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 30, 2012

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Alice Fischer had a passion for theater

Dipa Sarkar
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Alice Fischer was born on Jan. 16, 1865, in Terre Haute, where she also attended school. Fischer had a passion for theater and appeared in amateur productions when she was only 8 years old. In 1879, she, gifted soprano Helen Jeffers, and Hoosier Jenny Lind formed the Morris Hughett Concert Co. They were escorted throughout Indiana and Illinois by Eugene V. Debs, then a city clerk.

At age 19, Alice enrolled in Frank Sargeant’s Lyceum School for Acting in Manhattan. During her 18 years of performing, she became a star and overwhelmed Broadway, appearing in famous shows, such as “Nordeck,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and “The Girl of the Golden West.” She was acclaimed for her rendition of Empress Poppaea in “Quo Vadis”, earning a command performance before King Edward VII. Returning to Terre Haute in 1902, she was engaged in a command performance in “Mrs. Jack” in a packed Grand Opera House where Col. William McLean presented her with the city’s loving cup engraved by Tiffany & Co. Back on the east coast, Fischer founded the “Twelfth Night Club” for New York actresses.

In 1893, Alice married a famous Shakespearean actor, William Harcourt King, at St. Steven’s Church. Well-known Terre Haute friends included miniature artist Amalia Kussner, sculptor Janet Scudder and author Theodore Dreiser. At the age of 70, she made her final New York performance in “Symphony” at Cort Theater. Alice Fischer had lived a glorious life as an artist. She passed away on June 27, 1947, and was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery.

A large portrait of Alice Fischer hangs above the fireplace in the second floor parlor at the Vigo County Historical Museum.