'The American Gymnast'




The article detailing Frank R Clifton's life & career in the United States of America,

and the most comprehensive found to-date,

'Local Theatre Change'

was published in the Sacramento Daily Union on 9th Jun 1898 and read as follows.



The new Lessee & Manager Frank R. Clifton has been know in this city 'Sacramento' for several months and in that time Assistant Orpheum Director, has established himself so well with theatre going and business public that his new venture assures him a most kindly welcome.

          Mr. Clifton was born in Quebec, the son of the Financial Inspector of Upper Canada. While yet a boy he became enamoured of American Institutions and emigrated to Ogdensburg, NY, and ever since has been a resident of the United States, and since then, was qualified to swear allegience to 'Old Glory', has been a citizen. He is as thorough and typical an American as if had not been born just over the the cousin-line.

          From his earliest years he was an athlete. In mere babyhood he had athletic vigour, an athlete born as it were, born into love for athletics and equipped by nature with a constitution and physique that fitted the calling. While yet beardless he became noted for his strength and skill as a gymnast and attracted the attention of New York managers. He was the first American to do a double somersault from the horizontal bars. 

          An all round performer in athletics and gymnastics he was always in demand, and never saw the day or the hour he could not command a lucrative engagement. The thirst for travel was upon him as a boy, and it enabled him, as a boy and man, to see the goodly part of the western hemisphere and gratify a taste for lands strange and new. But whereever he went he wore the American colours and never for an instant failed to make his intense patriotism and love for the 'Starry Banner' manifest. The earnest, profound admiration for his country was such as to distinguish him as the 'American Gymnast'.

           His first appearance was with Amory Bruce Company, a small affair, which he soon found limited for his work, and so he took place with managers who could gratify to the full his highest athletic ambitions. He thus became 'a Star' under some of the most noted managers of the country, and as an expert gymnast had the pick and choise of the best engagements offering. He won especial honours under Langrishe & Glenn's Black Crook Company, in which he was the star gymnast and athlete. 

            He made his first appearance on the Pacific Coast with that company, coming to San Francisco and being billed as the only man living who could do the double pirouette. While is San Francisco he created such a sensation with this act that the Olympic Club of that day paid him the exceptional compliment of attending one of his performances in a body out of especial admiration for the splendid feat. He went with Montgomery Queens Circus throughout Mexico, South America & Cuba. He visited Mexico also with Orrin Bros Circuses, its star gymnast. He was identified at various times with Sells Brothers & Adam Forepaugh's establishments, and all other leading ring companies. 

            In 1874 he played his first in Sacramento with Sells Bros we believe. His many visits to California so impressed him with the country that he resolved to make this State his home, and settled in San Francisco permanently in 188?. But he still adhered to his line of business and was four years successful as business manager of McMahon's Circus and went with the organisation to British Honduras and other distant parts. Returning finally to his California home he resolved to cease roaming.

            He fell in with Gustave Walter when he first started the Orpheum business and was engaged by that far seeing manager as his assistant in his expanding business. Until this time he had been with the Orpheum Circuit always in the capacity of manager. When it was resolved to add Sacramento to the circuit he was chosed to manage here. Now, for the first time, he proposes to apply his experience and skill on his own account, content to take what comes and do all that can be done by one thoroughly familiar with managerial tactics and difficulties and perfectly at home handling people of the stage whose peculiar and variable moods he understands to perfection. 

            Mr. Clifton enjoys an enviable reputation for fair dealing, promptness, openess of conduct, uprightness of living and strict business methods. He is well liked here and has the confidence and esteem of the business community, while theatre goers of the city are profuse in their compliments upon his methods and his labours to deserve commendation. He is one manager, of all we have had, who lives to the letter of managerial maxim. 'The management is best which is least seen in the act of managing'. Mr. Clifton believes this as gospel, and he is right. No one who in the past year has attended at the Opera House but has noted the absence of any appearance of management. The manager himself has never been pretentiously to the fore. Things went on smoothly, orderly, with clockwork precision, but few could discover the hand upon the tiller or were able to speak if the management was in front of the curtain. 

           It remains to be seen how Mr. Clifton will succeed as manager of a combination house here. If his scheme does not work it can confidently set down as truth that it will not be because of the man or the lack of skill or hard work. It will be because the city will not support a dramatic establishment and that we do not for one moment believe. 


Ref; Sacramento Daily Union, vol.95, number 108, page 6., California Digital Newspaper Library.



This page last updated 6 Feb 2021