John Blake Rice

John Blake Rice

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John Blake Rice

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John Blake Rice (May 28, 1809 – December 17, 1874) was an American actor, theatrical producer and politician who served as mayor of Chicago, Illinois (1865–1869) as a member of the Republican Party.

Rice was born in Easton, Maryland and made his acting debut in Annapolis in 1829. His first professional role was as Uncle Barnwell in George Lillo's The London Merchant. He toured up and down the East Coast, as well as in the West Indies. While living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he married into a local theatre family. By 1839, he moved his family to Buffalo, New York, where he managed a theatre during the summers. In winter, he managed a theatre in Albany.

Rice arrived in Chicago in 1847 to work as an actor and entertain the politicians at the River and Harbor Convention, Chicago's first national convention. He decided to stay and establish a permanent theater, called Rice's Theater. On July 30, 1850, in the middle of Vincenzo Bellini's opera La Sonnambula, a fire broke out in the theater. Rice addressed the crowds, saying "Sit down. Do you think I would permit a fire to occur in my theater?" The crowd sat, but a prompter stage-whispered to Rice that the theater was on fire and panic ensued. The theater was destroyed, and he lost about $4,000. When a benefit only raised $60, he left Chicago for Milwaukee, Wisconsin.<ref...
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