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Buckley & Clay Company.
Theatrical management company established by
John J. Buckley (1839-1890) and Samuel G. Clay (1818-1910).

John J. Buckley & Samuel G. Gray. - Added Dec., 2010.

History of Saginaw County, Michigan - 1918

Page 671. (Ref. Academy of Music, Saginaw)

At the time of its opening, on the evening of December 16, 1884, the Academy was regarded as one of the finest theatres in Michigan, its furnishing and appointments beng first-class in every respect. The initial performance was a gala event in this city, the presentation being "Lenore," an adaptation of "Lorlie," with Mme. Janisch in the leading role. The house was crowed with the elite of Saginaw society, and from that hour it sprang into favor with all theatre-goers. The second night the same company appeared in "Camille," the star role beign filled by Mme. Janisch. The attractions offered by Clay & Buckley, the managers of the Academy, were of the highest grade, such celebrities as Booth, Barrett, Salvini, Fanny Davenport, Jefferson and others having filled engagements in this theatre.

Upon the retirement of Mr. Buckley from the threatrical firm operating the Academy, Sam G. Clay continued the management for several years, but was at length succeeded by John A. Davidson, who had been in active charge of the affaris for a long period. About ten years ago the house was sold to outside capitalists, and in 1911 was leased to the Burtterfield intestests. After experiration of their lease in 1915, the Academy was operated by the owners, the National Amusement Company, with Fred E. Button as manager.

Excerpt from biography of son, Frank J. Buckley. - Added Dec., 2010.

History of Bay County, Michigan - 1892

Frank J. Buckley

This capable young man, who is Secretary and Treasurer of the R. P. Gustin Company, a firm of wholesale groceries in Bay City, is possessed of the best of business qualifications. He was born at Horseheads, Chemung County, N. Y., and his father, John J. Buckley, was a native of Syracuse, where his grandfather, J. J. was a contractor and builder of salt blocks, before coming to the Saginaw Valley, where he carried on the building of salt blocks and was active until his death, which took place in 1890.

The father of our subject was a contractor and builder of salt blocks in Syracuse, N. H., and came to Saginaw to carry on the same line of work and put up some of the first blocks that were there located. In 1873 he engaged in the theatrical business with Samuel G. Clay and built the Saginaw Theater and afterwards the Bay City Opera House, which he put up in 1885, and which was afterwards sold to a stock company. He was a theatrical manager for eighteen years and the only man who ever made a success of that business in the Saginaw Valley. He died in December, 1890, at the age of fifty years at Bay City, where he had long made his home, although he had acted manager in both Port Huron and St. Louis, Mich.

The mother of our subject bore the maiden name of Malvina Staring and she was born at Horseheads, N. Y., which was also the place of her death. Of their seven children, the eldest is our subject and he was born March 17, 1866. In 1870 he came to Saginaw Valley, and after studying in the common schools took a course in High School, which he completed at the age of sixteen and in 1881 he came here and took a course in Devlin's Business College and after that was with his father helping to manage the theater.

  • John Buckley was married to Malvina Staring, of Horesehead, N.Y., and they had seven children.

    1883 Biography of John J. Buckley - Added Dec., 2010.


    John Buckley is a native of Onondaga County, N. Y. At twenty-one years of age he went to Tennessee and assumed the foremanship of a grist mill. When the war broke out he had his choice of joining the rebel army or leaving the country, and it took him about two seconds to decide upon the latter. He returned to New York and in 1862 came to the Saginaw Valley. Locating in East Saginaw he engaged in building salt blocks and was foreman of the first salt block built in that city. At the close of the year he removed to Watkins, N. Y., where he put down a salt well, and afterwards sunk two mineral wells at Barrington, Yates County, in the same state. After some time spend in his native state, he again returned to Saginaw, and in 1877, in company with Samuel Clay, opened as managers the Saginaw Valley Circuit, including cities of Bay City, East Saginaw, Port Huron and Flint. Mr. Buckley was married in 1882 to Miss Catherine Welch, of Grand Rapids, and has one child. Residence, 253 Madison Street.

  • John J. Buckley, b.1859, Ireland. Catherine b. Feb., 1859, New York. [1900 Census: Syracuse, NY]
  • Marriage of John and Catherine took place Jan. 18, 1882 (John's second wife). [Bay City Tribune]

    Biogrgraphy. - Added Dec., 2010.

    History of Sagnaw County, Michigan - 1918.

    A Unique Character.

    Sam G. Clay, the old-time theatrical manager, was a unique charcter who entered the profession as a musician and actor at an early age. He was born at Bath, England, February 14, 1817. When scarely sixteen years of age he joined the elder Booth, travelling in the East and Middle West. In the abence of opera houses they played in hotel dining rooms or other large rooms that might be available, using sheets as curtains, and improvised stages made of boxes and old lumber to raise the performers slight above the audience seats.

    In the early seventies Mr. Clay and others organized the pioneer theatrical circuit in Michigan, if not in the United States, and included such cities as Detroit, Saginaw, Bay City, Port Huron, Flint, Ann Arbor, and at times St. Louis and other small places, in one night stands. Erlanger, later of Klaw & Erlanger, was booking agent, and John A. Davidson was ticket seller in the Detroit Opera House. Although most of the advertising was done in newspapers, Mr. Clay erected the first bill boards in Saginaw, one of which was on Genesee Street, where the Jeffers Fountain now stands. The first paper put on was was the Dupree and Benedick Minstrels, during the Civil War times.

    In the early days of Clay's theatrical life it was the custom of the managers to meet once a year in New York City, to arrange bookings, etc. These men had an informal organization but later they formed the Order of Elks. Among the charter members were Clay of Saginaw, Bidwell of New Orleans, and McVicker of Chicago. In recognition of Mr. Clay's high standing, and his services in obtaining the local charter in the order, the scope of which had been enlarges to include other than actors, he was made a life member of the Saginaw Lodge No. 47, in 1892. In appreciation of this action he presented the order with a number of fine portraits of famous actors of the early days.

    In striking constrast to theatrical amusements of thirty or more years ago, are the offerings of newer theatre and moving picture houses, which for diversity and human interest far surpass anything in the past. This is apparent in the wide uses to which the Auditorium, the municipal theatre and convention hall are put. This large structure was erected in 1908 through the munificense of two wealthy citizens, and with its splendid equipment affords every facility for presenting plays, musical festivals, concerts and recitals, commerical exhibtions, fairs, dances and banquets. An account of the Auditorium is given in pages 265-66.

    Addition biographic history. - Added Dec., 2010.

    History of Saginaw County, Michigan - 1881.

    S. G. Clay, formerly manager of the Academy of Music, East Saginw, was born at Bath, England, in 1818. When 12 years of age he went on board a man of war, where he practices instrumental music for three years. At the end of this time he went on board the vessel "Spit-Fire," off the coast of Algiers, and subsequently came to America, locating in Philadelphia, where his parents had previously settled. Mr. Clay has been engaged in managing theaters and theatrical companies for over 30 years. In 1852 he was the manager of the Bidwell Hall at Adrian, Mich., and was subsequently a teacher of band music at Detroit, Flushing, Flint and East Saginaw. He has been in charge of the Academy of Music from 1859 to 1881.

    Additional Notes.

      1880 - Census: Bay City, Mich.

    • Buckley, John - b. est. 1848, NY, single, theatrical agent.

      1883 - Directory: West Bay City, Mich.

    • Buckley, John, Mngr Opera House, also Saginaw Valley Circuit, res 253 N. Madison.

      1880 - Census: Saginaw, Mich.

    • Residence: 431 S. Washington.
    • Clay, Samuel G. - b. Feb., 1818 England, musician
    • Fannie G., wife - b. Sep., 1826 Vermont

      1890 - Michigan Deaths: Bay City.

    • John J. Buckley, died Dec. 26th, age 51, b. 1839 N.Y., manager Opera House.

      1891 Directory: Bay City, Mich.

    • Buckley, Catherine (wid John J), res 253 N. Madison ave.
    • Buckley, Edward T, clk Bay City Club, bds 253 N Madison.
    • Buckley, Frank J, sec The R P Gustin Co., res 815 N Johnson.
    • Buckley, John J, died December 20, 1890.

      1891 - The Dramatic Year Book for 1891.

    • BAY CITY - Population, 32,000. Theaters:
    • Grand Opera House. - seats 1,000. Managers, Messrs. Clay, Buckley, and Powers.
    • Woods Opera House. - seats 1,400. Managers, Messrs. Clay and Buckley.
    • New Opera House. - seats 1,600. Manager, James Antisdal.

      1900 - Census: Saginaw, Mich.

    • Clay, Samuel G. - b. Feb., 1818 England
    • Fannie G., wife - b. Sep., 1826, Vermont

      1905 - Michigan Deaths: Saginaw.

    • Fannie G. Clay, age 82, died Feb. 11, 1905, daughter of Jedediah Buffum and Ruth Benton.

      1910 - Kentucky Deaths:

    • Samuel G. Clay, born 1817, died July 29, 1910, burial in Saginaw, Mich.

  • Related Pages/Notes

    Samuel G. Clay

    Related Pages:
    Buckley, Frank J. son
    Theater History
    Woods Opera House
    People Referenced
    Antisdal, James
    Barrett, Lawrence
    Benton, Ruth
    Booth, George O.
    Button, Fred E.
    Buckley, Catherine
    Buckley, Edward
    Buckley, Frank J.
    Buckley, John J.
    Buffum, Fannie G.
    Buffum, Jedeiah
    Clay, Samuel G.
    Davenport, Fanny
    Davidson, John A.
    Erlanger, Abraham
    Janisch, Miss
    Klaw, Marc
    Staring, Melvina
    Welch, Catherine
    Subjects Referenced
    Academy of Music
    Adrian, MI
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Barrington, NY
    Bath, England
    Bay City, MI
    Bay City Opera House
    Bidwell Hall
    Buckley & Clay Co.
    Chemung Co., NY
    Chicago, IL
    Detroit, MI
    Devlin's Bus. College
    Dupree & Benedick Minstrels
    Flint, MI
    Flushing, MI
    Grand Opera House
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Horseheads, NY
    Natl. Amusement Co.
    New Opera House
    New Orleans, LA
    New York, NY
    Onondaga Co., NY
    Order of Elks
    Philadelphia, PA
    Port Huron, MI
    R P Gustin & Co.
    Saginaw, MI
    Saginaw Theater
    Saginaw Valley, MI
    St. Louis, MI
    Watkins, N.Y.
    Woods Opera House
    Yates County, NY
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.