Martha Watson - Theater Owner

A woman theater owner? Pre-suffrage? Love to see it.

It seems that the history of Eugene theaters, specifically the Electric Theater owned by a Mrs. Morgan Watson, are heavily intertwined. As seen in the following article in The Morning Register on September 3rd, 1908, it appears that Mr. Watson owned and operated many theaters across Oregon, with their main operations taking place in Salem. Together with a Mr. Range and Austin Farrington, a general stock company called Moving Pictures Co. was established. This Company had an estimated value of $20,000 - worth roughly $600,000 in modern times. Principal stockholders in this company included his wife, Martha, and his two sons, Morgan and Gwyn. 

Not only did Martha have stock in these theaters, but she took her husbands enterprise a step further, establishing the Electric Theater here in Eugene with their son Gwyn. It seems the Dreamland and Electric are marketed as two separate theaters, but are actually part of the same establishment.

Snippet of newspaper ad announcing details from above
Moving Pictures Co Announcements, "Will Incorporate Their Picture Shows, Range and Mrs. Watson and Sons Consolidate.," ​​​​ Morning Register (Eugene, Oregon),
September 3, 1908:

The consolidation was successful enough that Mrs. Watson found it wise to expand on the theater - in a business and physical sense. On September 30th, 1909, The Morning Register announced Mrs. Watson's plans to completely renovate both her and her neighbors building. Julius Goldsmith, proprietor or a cigar shop next door to the theater, had gone in together to completely demolish the current building in order to lay foundations for something much bigger and better. The next structure would be 44x160ft, a one story building with plenty of room for further expansion. During this construction period, Mrs. Watson made the most out of her multiple assets, moving the Electric's equipment to the Dreamland - allowing her son to maximize his period with the new Edison machines in the meantime. The new theater would occupy roughly 85% of the new construction, leaving the frontmost 15% for the cigar shop. The 44x60ft backroom allowed a great amount of storage for the theater, leaving a 44x75ft portion for a 3-row 450 seat theater, complete with a 15ft stage. This new theater was advertised to be the "Finest Nickelodeon in All of Oregon," duly renamed the Nickelodian. Not only was Mrs. Watson the owner of an establishment in a period this would be considered highly unusual, she was also a successful businesswoman.

Announcement of the Nickelodian's construction
Details on new construction, "New Theater Plans Drawn.," ​​​​ Morning Register (Eugene, Oregon), September 30, 1909:

For more information about the Nickelodian, please visit the Theater profile listed under Eugene.