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Oscar Hammerstein I
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    (May 8, 1847-August 1, 1919)
    Born in Stettin, Prussia (Now Szczecin, Poland)
    Theatrical impressario
    Founded the Manhattan Opera House (1906) and London Opera House (1911)
    Composed the comic opera 'Santa Maria' (1896) and the musical 'Punch, Judy & Co' (1903)
    Grandfather of Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II
    He got the money for his show biz pursuits by manufacturing cigars.
    He spent so lavishly on staging operas that they inevitably lost money.
    Because he was saturating the New York market, the Metropolitan Opera eventually paid him $1.2 million to stop producing operas for ten years.
    He then opened the London Opera House and ran through the money in less than two years.
    He was so careless with money that his sons took to hiding bills in his top hat so he would not be caught without cabfare.
    Following a slump at his vaudeville theaters, he inflicted the Cherry Sisters on New York, telling reporters, 'I've been putting on the best talent and it hasn't gone over. I'm going to try the worst.'
    He started sweeping up at a cigar factory, working his way up to eventually owning one.
    He invented several machines to improve cigar-making, taking out 80 patents.
    He almost single-handedly created New York City's theater district.
    He said, 'I am never discouraged. I don't believe in discouragement...To do anything in this world, a man must have full confidence in his own ability.'
    Asked by a reporter if there was any money in the opera, he quipped 'Yes, mine.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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