The Two Bees

Harry & Florence Blake, comic entertainers / 1880s-1900s

from: An authentic history of the Benevolent and protective order of Elks By Charles Edward Ellis

HARRY BLAKE was born in London England at the back of the famous Canterbury Music Hall,
one of the oldest and best known London halls. At the age of eleven years while singing
in the Holy Trinity church choir he was discovered to possess a wonderful soprano voice
and was very soon snapped up by a then well known and prominent minstrel troupe. It was
he who popularized in London such ballads as Tis But a Little Faded Flower, Please Give
Me a Penny Sir, Out in the Snow,
and Just Touch the Harp Gently, My Pretty Louise.

When his voice broke he was put to Bibleprinting at Spottiswoode 8 Co s as a printer's devil.
He afterwards went into the wholesale booksellers firm of Terry Stoneman & Co, also W.H. Smith & Sons
in the Strand and became a boy sorter in the general postoffice. During all this time he still had
the fever for the footlights and he used to sing comic songs of his own writing at smokers in an
amateur way and attend to his work in the daytime.

The singing at night meant late hours and the general postoffice required his attendance at 4 am
every morning so he was often late. From here he ran away to sea, joining the royal navy on a
training ship, HMS Boscawen, laying in Portland harbor. His father found his whereabouts and
bought him out after only two months a jack tar. He then began as a comic vocalist with varied
success playing the smaller halls and finally became chairman and manager of the old Britannia
Music Hall on the Surrey side, and used to do the first turn as was the custom then and then take
the chair and announce the rest of the show.

In I883 he sailed for the United States of America under to MB Leavitt's All Star Specialty Company
with a marionette show known The Royal Crystal Palace Marionettes. He soon gave up pulling strings
seeing a future for himself in America as a singing turn. John Forepaugh him in Cleveland, Ohio in 1884
and engaged him for the concert of the Forepaugh's circus that summer.

After the tenting season was over he his wife, Flora Blake, as "The Two Bees - Harry and Flora Blake"
played in vaudeville in all the best houses an uninterrupted run till I894 they returned to England
owing to the death of his brother an officer in Soudan attached to the Tenth Soudanese Battalion of
the Egyptian army. On opening in London they scored a phenomenal hit and dates came rolling in from all
the big tours and syndicates causing them to play four different halls a night by the aid of a brougham.

The Two Bees were engaged for South Africa in 1896 just after the Iameison raid appearing at the Empire
Johanncsburg for eight weeks where they were so popular they were never allowed to retire under one hour
of curtaining on the stage often doing seven duets. In I903 they took their first holiday rest and sailed
to the United States of America. In Detroit, their former home, they secured the sole singing rights for
Great Britain of Hiawatha and on their return they produced it as a beautiful scena in Indian costumes,
special scenery and light effects. This production set the country wild and Hiawatha became a disease.

Christmas, 1907, Mrs Blake retired from the stage to enjoy the fruits of her many years of hard work and travel,
settling down to home life of which she was always so fond and had so little through her strenuous life. On
New Year's day, 1908, Harry Blake commenced to appear as a single turn in London where he achieved such a huge
success that his date book rapidly began to fill his success continuing and he has never looked back being now
booked for some years ahead.

His many comedy creations are characters that show great originality and versatility. In I885 in America Mr. Blake
met for the first time Al E. Fostell This was in Washington DC when a friendship sprung up that has continued over
a quarter of a century They and their wives traveled together whenever they could Fostell and wife came to Springfield,
Ohio to work for Blake when he ran a theatre there and Blake and his wife were on the bills as "The Two Bees" in Erie, Pa when Fostell managed for Colonel Edwards there.

In I888 the quartette traveled as "The Four Brilliants" through the lower provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton,
New Brunswick. Newfoundland. Prince Edwards Island, etc. with Zera Semon's Novelty Company where they used to change
their program nightly and put on a different afterpiece every evening

Tony Pastor's 14th Street Theatre / NYC / Vaudeville Program / November 18, 1889

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