Edward M. Favor (August 29, 1856 - January 10, 1936)
- by Tim Gracyk
The following is an entry from POPULAR ACOUSTIC ERA RECORDING ARTISTS, by Tim Gracyk. Special thanks to Jeanne M. Durney of Waldwick, New Jersey. This descendant of the recording artist supplied new information, including the singer's real name ("Edward Addison Favor"), which was written in the Favor family bible shortly after he was born!
This singer was among the most important recording artists a century ago, his cylinders and discs selling well. He was successful in the early 1890s as a Broadway comedian during the long run of E. E. Rice's 1492 at Wallack's Theater. Around 1893 he recorded "The King's Song" (Columbia cylinder 6544), a popular number from this hit musical. From another show of this period, Ship Ahoy, he cut "The Commodore Song" (North American 772). The record opens with this announcement: "Edison Record 772, The Commodore Song from Ship Ahoy as sung by the original commodore Mr. Edward M. Favor, now of Rice's 1492 Company." These are probably the first "creator" records, or records featuring songs from musical shows as sung by an original cast member. He was principal comedian with Klaw and Erlanger, the Shuberts, and other prominent managers.
The team of Favor and his wife, known professionally as Edith Sinclair (presumably her maiden name), were in vaudeville and musical comedies. Surviving promotional literature establishes that they worked on stage together by 1887 in "A Box of Cash," a musical comedy by Frank Dumont, as members of the Edith Sinclair Comedy Company. He played an Irish-American character named Timothy O'Hara. Page 104 of the May 1900 issue of Broadway Magazine identifies Favor and Sinclair as "two stars of the spring season," adding, "They have started out in 'My Innocent Boy,' under the management of Thomas H. Davis. Mr. Favor is one of the best light comedians on the stage, and, with Miss Sinclair, he has for a couple of seasons been one of the big attractions in vaudeville."
The March 1909 issue of Edison Phonograph Monthly, announcing the release of "Casting Bread Upon the Waters" (Amberol 119), identifies the performers on that recording as Edward M. Favor, Edith Sinclair, and Steve Porter. It states, "Until Mr. Favor entered the comic opera field he and Mrs. Favor were widely known in vaudeville as Favor and Sinclair."
By the late 1890s, Favor was among the most popular recording artists. He made records at a dollar a "round" between periods of filling vaudeville dates, working for virtually all companies. Billy Murray told Jim Walsh that he had seen Favor, in 1897, sing into eight cylinder phonographs at the headquarters of Bacigalupi Brothers, Edison wholesale distributors for the Western states. Favor, who was then appearing at the Orpheum Theater, made an indelible impression on Murray. The veteran recording artist cupped his hands behind his ears to determine whether the tone was hitting the horn straight in the center.
Numbers from early in Favor's recording career include "Say Au Revoir, But Not Goodbye" (North American 858; 1894) and "My Best Girl's A New Yorker" (Columbia 2107; 1895). For Edison he recorded comic titles such as "Hamlet Was A Melancholy Dane" (8400, taken from the show Mr. Bluebird), "I Think I Hear A Woodpecker Knocking At My Family Tree" (10313) and "Who Threw The Overalls In Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" (7697). Labels often identify him as "Ed. M. Favor."
He recorded 16 titles for Berliner from 1897 to 1899. Typical is "Oh, What A Beautiful Ocean" (0537), cut on September 22, 1899.
He possessed a high Irish voice, and his records include many Irish songs and nonsense ditties, many of the latter taking the form of limericks. Numbers with Irish topics include "Mr. Dooley," recorded in 1902 (Columbia 876, Edison Standard 8125), and "Fol-the-Rol-Lol," recorded for various companies, including Victor on March 16, 1906.
Announcing the November release of Standard 9404, the September 1906 issue of Edison Phonograph Monthly states, "'Jingles, Jokes and Rhymes,' by Edward M. Favor, is a Record that includes three verses and two choruses of a topical song written by Benjamin Hapgood Burt and sung with orchestra accompaniment. Mr. Favor has made a great success with songs of this character, some of his Records in the past year being among the largest sellers we have had."
A song with an Indian theme, recorded during the March 16, 1906 Victor session, is Gus Edwards' "Pocahontas" (4683). This was recorded during an Indian song craze inspired by "Hiawatha" (1902) and "Navajo" (1903).
Favor was among the first around 1899 to make records sold by Frank Seaman's National Gramophone Corporation (3 and 5 West 18th Street in New York City), a subsidiary of the Universal Talking Machine Company. Its Zon-o- phone discs would soon compete with Berliners in the disc market. Favor began his association with Victor when it was called the Consolidated Talking Machine Company, his first session for Eldridge R. Johnson's new company taking place on July 26, 1900. He recorded "What Do You Think Of Hoolihan?" and four other titles issued on seven- inch discs.
He had a Victor session as late as 1911, his three final titles for the company being "Conversations," "Just For A Girl," and "The Dublin Rag" (with the American Quartet). For Edison he cut "Conversations" and "The Dublin Rag."
In a 1968 interview with researcher Leo Kimmett, a former Edison employee named Clarence Ferguson recalled his friendship with Favor: "One time Edward Favor spent about two hours at my home listening to his own records. He had never heard them after they had been made. I asked him why he did not have a phonograph. He said he had bought a Gem at one time from Edison and had it sent to a niece in Cliffside, New Jersey. 'But,' he said, 'I never owned one because my wife and I were never home enough.'"
Ferguson also recalled Favor saying he earned $50 from Edison for singing for a cylinder "but the same song for Victor or the Columbia disc he would get from $150 to $200...Singing for a disc record he had to shout to the top of his voice to record on the disc." This would leave Favor hoarse, which is why he demanded more. He told Ferguson that when recording for Edison he could sing in a natural voice.
Announcing the release of "Romance and Reality" on two-minute 9760, the December 1906 issue of Edison Phonograph Monthly states, "The mere reading of this title will bring pleasure to hosts of owners of Edison Phonographs, for Mr. Favor has always been a great favorite and he has not been able for some time to make a Record for us. Mr. Favor's position as a comic opera artist of wide fame keeps him on the road a large part of the time and it is only when he returns to New York that we can get him to sing for the Phonograph. This song is one of the hits in 'Fascinating Flora.' Mr. Favor scored nightly with it for many weeks at the Casino, New York."
Favor's career as a recording artists was in decline before double-faced records were introduced in 1908. Perhaps he was spending more time on the road, away from studios, than in previous years, or record company executives may have finally viewed him as dispensable, with many new and capable singers at their disposal.
Newspaper clippings establish that at some point, perhaps in 1906, Favor and his wife entertained in South Africa and Australia. In 1906, Favor, his wife, and James T. Powers appeared in The Blue Moon. A review in the Boston Globe states, "While they were rehearsing with 'The Blue Moon' in New York City they were appearing in one of the vaudeville houses in a sketch called 'The Maquires," which they have played at least 10,000 times." In 1906 they also appeared in "Hogan's Flat," a farcical sketch, not a full show. They were successful entertainers, clearly able to satisfy a vaudeville crowd, but they were not Broadway stars.
In 1908 Favor was in The Girls of Holland, an unsuccessful comic opera by Reginald de Koven.
Among his last two records were Blue Amberols featuring "My Best Girl and Me" (1510), from the musical comedy My Best Girl, and Gillen's "If They'd Only Move Old Ireland Over Here" (2391), from the Blanche Ring vehicle When Claudia Smiles. The latter number, his final Edison record, was issued in September 1914. Favor was far more important to Edison as an artist during the era of brown wax cylinders and Standard Records. He did not make Diamond Discs.
Around 1914 he also recorded "On The 7:28," a train song issued on Rex 5251 (the song was written by Stanley Murphy and Henry I. Marshall, who soon afterwards wrote "On the 5:15"). Rex issued "Indoor Sports" (5254) at the same time, and this was probably Favor's last record. He remained active in theater through the early 1930s. For example, he appeared in 1933 as grocer James Caesar in a production of John Ferguson at the Belmont Theater in New York City. He was successful playing the role of Amos Gashwiler, a country storekeeper, in the Broadway production of Merton of the Movies.
Favor died in Brooklyn on January 10, 1936. His obituary in the January 11, 1936, edition of the New York Times states, "Veteran actor who was 80, played in 'America, Very Early' in 1934, died of a complication of disease [peritonitis] at the Bushwick Hospital in Brooklyn, where he had been confined for more than six weeks...Other plays in which he appeared prior to 1934 were 'John Ferguson,' a revival, 'The Lancashire Lass,' 'Edward the Fifth,' and Man's Estate.'...He is survived by his widow, Edith Sinclair Favor, who appeared with her husband in vaudeville, and a daughter, Bessie Hazleton Favor. Friends recalled yesterday that the actor began his career in NY Theater in 1876."
His daughter, Bessie, was 82 when she died in October 1959, which suggests that Edward Favor married Edith Sinclair at least by 1877.
Some sources report that he was born Edward M. Le Fevre but the Favor family bible establishes that he was named Edward Addison Favor. It is also the source of his birth date: August 29, 1856. This bible is now in the possession of Louise Favor Bellows. She received it from her grandmother, Mary Jane Stinson Favor, who was married to Alfred Cushman Favor and, upon his death in 1901, to Alfred's brother, Samuel W. Favor.
Edward's father was Franklin C. Favor, born in 1826. His mother was Lydia Lowe Favor, born in 1828. Edward's parents had several children. Around 1888 Edward performed on stage with brothers Sam Favor and Alf Favor. The Favors came from New England Protestant stock, so it is surprising that Edward made a name for himself as an Irish-American comic. If he had any Irish blood, it would have have been from his mother.
Edith Sinclair Favor died in Brooklyn on November 27, 1942. She performed on stage for much of her life. According to her obituary in the November 28, 1942, edition of the New York Times, she was a child actress in Ship Ahoy in 1861 in New York City's Standard Theatre. She later played with Lillian Russell in Dorothy.
The ashes of the Favors are in the Evergreens Cemetery at Bushwick Avenue and Conway Street in Brooklyn.