Profile Updated: October 28, 2017
Residing In: Berkeley, CA USA
Occupation: Author, Historian, Building Contractor
Yes! Attending Reunion

I just released a new book "The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty." (ISBN 978-0-9678204-5-3) I want to share with my CHS classmates. It is the amazingly dramatic biography of Jewish immigrant actor M. B. Curtis who was suddenly catapulted to fame and fortune by performing the role of a Jewish immigrant "drummer" (a traveling salesman) beginning in 1880. He was the first Jewish male to be allowed to portray a Jewish male character on stage in American theatre history. (at the time African Americans, Asian Americans and Jewish Americans were not allowed to represent themselves on stage). Curtis broke that barrier for all ethnic groups and a flood of ethnic comedy theatrical plays followed his breakthrough. He performed often at a number of Philadelphia theaters.

His life is story of great success and great disappointments, Curtis rose to stardom using his charisma and comedic talents to overcome common stereotypes and prejudices of the time. But his influence spread beyond the stage. As an immigrant, he couldn’t bear to see the Statue of Liberty go unlit due to congressional deadlock immediately after its dedication, so he paid to have it lit himself. In addition to paying back the country that welcomed him and his family, Curtis had a dramatic impact on the mainstream culture of the day, so much so that Mark Twain asked him to star in a rare stage rendition of one of his books. Curtis then became a pioneer in the nascent silent-film industry, a producer, a real estate developer, a promoter, a hotelier, a benefactor, and a murder suspect. M. B. Curtis’s life encompassed the highs of celebrity and fame and the lows of failure, illness, and a faltering career. What defined him, however, was that he always followed his dreams even in the face of extreme adversity.
Using New York and later San Francisco as his home base, Curtis and his wife toured the country to great acclaim in the 1880s until being in San Francisco almost ended his life. The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty rescues M. B. Curtis’ story from the dust-covered archives of forgotten history and reexamines an actor whose creativity and cultural influence still resonate invisibly today.
The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty has been chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts Margaret Herrick Library to be included in their collection.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument Stores currently stock the book.
For further information on the book visit

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Posted on: Feb 15, 2022 at 9:32 AM

Love of my life-2014
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RICHARD SCHWARTZ has left an In Memory comment for Ronald Booth.
Feb 26, 2017 at 4:33 AM

Ron's joyous spirit preceeded him and lingers still. I can see him smiling lumbering down the hallway in that big way he had. Rest in Peace Ron. Keep smiling. And thanks.


Feb 26, 2017 at 3:38 AM

Hey Howard. Are your folks still on Williams Ave? What about your sister? The last I knew of you you were in the Tetons. Where are you now Howard? I would like to catch up about the 'ol block and am in touch with Howard Ford.

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