Friday, March 11, 2011

The musical comedy career of
two Grand Haven brothers
The Lyman twins, Herbert and Howard, were born on September 12, 1877, in Grand Haven, to Charles and Mary Lyman. Charles was captain for may years for the Crosby Transportation ship line. The twins had an brother, William, who died at age 11 in 1887. Herbert and Howard, who had an interest in singing, dancing and songwriting, began performing by age 13 in penny shows for local kids.
By 1895, the brothers were performing professionally, scribbling out their own material, and got their first break in 1897 touring with The Holden Comedy Team in theaters across the country. The shows featured Charley and Harry Holden with a small ensemble of character actors, actresses and young chorus girls.

Their first headlining musical comedy hit was “Money to Burn,” circa 1897, which co-starred Suzette Carsell, a renowned accordion player. Several other plays with the Holden Company followed, including "Dangers of a Great City" and Capt. Herne, U.S.A."
Their first original production, “A Merry Chase,” went on tour in 1899.

In A Merry Chase" the twins pioneered the broken mirror illusion. A January 1900 review wrote, The Lymans are very clever in their 'duplicate' roles and the mirror scene in the last act inspired much applause. Historical sources including Variety Magazine incorrectly attribute the routine to the Schwartz Brothers circa 1912, some 13 years later. This routine became famous when performed by the Marx Brothers (shown at right) in their 1932 film Duck Soup. Click on the link Marx Brothers version to watch the broken mirror illusion in that film.

The brothers soon formed their own entertainment company, the Lyman Twins and Company, and managed their own bookings. Later plays included “The Prize Winners, At the Races, The Rustlers,” The Yankee Drummers and The Speculators.

At the peak of their career, the brothers quit the stage in 1911, and traded acting for a new life in Florida, settling in Seminole County. The twins opened the Armour Fertilizer Company in Orlando, and became prominent citizens and businessmen.

Herbert was married to Patti Rosa and never had children. Howard was married twice, first to Esther Van Brocklin, then to Emmeline Abbott. Howard had a daughter by his first wife, and two sons by his second.

Howard Lyman suffered a broken neck in a diving accident in Orlando, Florida on July 7, 1923 and died. The Lyman High School located in Longwood, Florida is named for Howard who participated in its origin. 

Herbert Lyman, died at Daytona Beach, Florida on July 3, 1953. He lived to the age of 75. 

A tattered remnant from circa 1900-1903, an original poster for the Lyman Twin's first original musical comedy, "A Merry Chase."

Final resting place
The twin's headstones in Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Orange County, Florida.
The book "Grand Haven's Lyman Twins"
"Grand Haven's Lyman Twins" is a 50 page book highlighting the lives and musical comedy career of Howard and Herbert Lyman. A biography, transcribed news clippings, photos and advertisements bring the brothers' stage career from 1897-1911 to life. It also includes a listing of all their original musical comedy plays, and the best pranks they ever played in public. Don't miss this entertaining historical vaudeville book featuring our city's homegrown stars!


Written and Compiled by Kevin Scott Collier
52 pages / Large Size Book / Over 30 Rare Photos