RICHARD MONTGOMERY FIELD 1834-1887
Deputy Grand Master, 1887
From Proceedings, Page 1902-179:
"In offering our tribute to the memory of Richard Montgomery Field, we signify our appreciation and respect for one who, for thirty years, by his devoted and successful management of the dramatic stage, contributed, more perhaps than any other Bostonian, to the innocent amusement and instruction of the community.
"The death of a great actor or a great singer is always felt as a public loss. When Garrick died, Doctor Johnson, with pardonable hyperbole, said that 'his death eclipsed the gayety of nations and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure.' In somewhat the same tone in which we speak of dead actors, and always with the allowance which the Doctor claimed for the over-strained rhetoric of eulogy, may we, perhaps, be permitted to speak of those who by brave and skilful management aid the triumphant career not of one but of many actors, and present to admiring audiences the art and genius which would otherwise be scattered and obscured. The debt which actors owe to their managers is not always sufficiently recognized or sufficiently felt, and there was probably no one to whom the actors who appeared in Boston between 1864 and 1894 owed so much as to Richard Montgomery Field.
"Field was born in Boston, Aug. 15, 1834, the son of Barnum Field, a well-known teacher. He had a public school education, graduating at the Latin school. His intention of going to college was frustrated by the death of his father, which left him to earn his own living. He went to sea and continued a sailor until he was twenty years old. Leaving the sea he entered the office of the Boston Post as a reporter. He had the faculty not always found in reporters, the literary touch, and soon became of importance on the staff of the Post, where he remained for a dozen years. Fond of the stage, he attracted especial attention by his dramatic criticisms, and gained the intimacy of many persons connected with theatrical life. Among these friends and admirers were Moses Kimball, one of the proprietors, and E. F. Keach, the manager of the Boston Museum. On Keach's death, early in 1864, Mr. Kimball offered the vacant place to Field. The offer was accepted with little hesitation, for Field's career as a critic had instilled into his mind very distinct notions how a theatre should be run.
"When Field came to the direction of the Boston Museum, that noted place of entertainment was already more than twenty years of age. It was started in 1841 by Mr. Kimball, who lives in the memory of many of us as an influential and publicspirited citizen and a member of our Fraternity. As a museum it was founded upon the collection of curiosities of the old New England Museum, formerly existing upon Court street, between Cornhill and Brattle street. The new Museum, on the corner of Tremont and Bromfield streets, differed from previous ones in having a music hall of a seating capacity of 1,200. Here during 1841. and 1842 were presented variety shows, panoramas, and performances of musicians, jugglers and ventriloquists, and the twenty-five-cent admission fee had already begun to cut into the receipts of the only important theatre, the old Tremont, then existing in Boston. In 1843 regular dramatic performances began, well put upon the stage, with a stock company of more than ordinary ability. Beside appealing to usual playgoers, the performances attracted large numbers of pious people who objected to attending a theatre, but did not mind going to a museum, and were successful from the outset. In 1846. the present Museum was built. It would; be interesting were this the time, and place; to mention the prominent actors of the earlier days of the Museum, some of whom the elder Booth, Adelaide Phillips, Mrs. George Barrett, Clara Fisher, W.H. Smith – were already.dead before Mr. Field's day, while others still lived and acted under his administration, and almost down to our own day.
"When Field assumed direction he had already a definite theory of the running of a theatre. He made, acquaintance) with practical details with astonishing rapidity. He believed that everything depended upon the maintenance of a sufficient, permanent and contented, stock company, and he won the favor of his company by his justice, kindliness and common sense. In this belief and practice he continued,to the end of his career. Time does not permit our following this career, in detail, but some comments made, during the period have recently reappeared in print and may properly be placed upon our record. It was said of the Museum that It is the only theatre in the country which keeps alive its own traditions; it is the only theatre in the country which can, at twenty-four hours' notice, put upon the stage a. modern drama, a standard comedy or a Shakesperian tragedy without going outside of its own walls for an extra actor, relying, as it does, entirely upon its own company. It is the only unsubsidized. theatre in the world, that can do anything of the kind. And of Mr. Field it was said that from the day when Rosedale ushered, in his management at the Museum up to the present time there has been manifested that sincerity and uprightness, co-operating with administrative ability and keenness of foresight, which have resulted in giving tbe Boston Museum continued success and lasting fame, and in establishing fixedly the high reputation of Mr. Field as a theatre manager.
"Many of us have delightful recollections of some of the members of Mr. Field's company. William Warren, a host in himself, dear Mrs. Vincent, Annie Clark, J. A.. Smith, had come down to him from earlier times. Others followed. The almost universal length of service spoke volumes for the sagacity of the management and many, an actor of note to-day looks back with satisfaction to his apprenticeship at the Museum. Stars sometimes came from abroad, secure of the support of a good stock company; and Edwin Booth sometimes found it hard to hold his own for applause with Charles Barron, the popular though somewhat over-strenuous leading man.
"Fashion changes in art as in all other things. Early in the '90s it became evident that stock companies, playing the regular drama for regular seasons, must give way to stars, coming like comets with their own trains, and their brilliant but transient light. Field yielded to the inevitable, but he did not long retain, the active direction of his theatre. His. individual administration finally gave place, in 1895, to the present firm of managers, in which, however, he retained a passive interest until his death. His later years were afflicted by disease, which within the last few months became acute, and he died on November 12 at the house of his only son. His second wife, a niece of our beloved Grand Master Endicott, had died childless a few days before him.
"Field's Masonic career was not remarkable. He was too busy a man. It is unfortunately the case, in America at least, that the high honors of Masonry too rarely fall upon those who are at the head of their professions outside of the Fraternity. He received the degrees of the Ancient York Rite in Washington Lodge, of Roxbury, in 1864. In 1866 he transferred his allegiance to Winslow Lewis Lodge, where, after occupying in due course various subordinate stations, he filled for two years, 1871 and 1872, the office of Worshipful Master. He is remembered by his Brethren of that day, who still survive, as a wise and excellent Master. He retained his honorary membership of Winslow Lewis Lodge until his death. He held the office of Deputy Grand Master of this Grand Lodge during 1887, and to his memory, as one of our oldest and most respected Permanent Members, this tribute is paid."