- The origin of the Lambs of New York City may be traced to a Christmas dinner at Delmonico's in 1874, when some members of Lester Wallack's company, then acting in Dion Boucicault's The Shaughran, socialized with their host, George H. McLean, and other cultured gentlemen, and conceived of forming a supper club to repeat such pleasant and instructive gatherings. Actor Henry Montague had belonged to the Lambs of London, which was then adopted as a model. Montague was elected the first Shepherd, with Harry Beckett as Boy (treasurer).After a few years of informal gatherings, the Lambs incorporated in 1877 as a New York institution with a charter membership of 60. During the early decades, the membership comprised three theatre professionals to every nonprofessional. As a precaution against conflict of interest, no critic or booking agent could be a Lamb. After several moves, the clubhouse settled at 34 West 26th Street in 1880, and it was there that the Lambs began presenting their in-house monthly Gambols in 1888. The Gambols were original skits and songs under the direction of a Collie. The remunerative success of opening a Gambol to the public in 1891 brought financial solvency and led to the practice of presenting an annual public Gambol. Eventually, it became customary for the stars to play walk-on roles while the large roles went to lesser-known members. First-year members, called Lambkins, got the "dame" parts. No woman ever became a Lamb or was even allowed inside the Fold (the clubhouse) until 1952.The Lambs prospered during the 1890s with Clay Meredith Greene as Shepherd and Augustus Thomas as Boy. In 1897, the Lambs moved into their first permanent clubhouse, a four-story building at 70 West 36th Street. They presented the public Gambol of 1898 at the Metropolitan Opera House, and it paid off the mortgage. The Lambs moved again in 1913, to an expanded facility at 128 West 44th Street, which remained the Fold until 1975. A number of skits written for the Gambols at that venue were later developed into full-length plays, including Edwin Milton Royle's The Squaw Man, Her Way Out, and Struggle Everlasting; Augustus Thomas's The Witching Hour, As A Man Thinks, and The Copperhead, among others. In May 1975, the clubhouse was sold to the Manhattan Church of the Nazarene, and its contents were sold at auction, but the club continues as a group of members.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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