Love, Linnie (1893-1918): Singer Who Gave Life for Camp Lewis Soldiers

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 6/19/2008
  • Essay 8659
See Additional Media

Linnie Lucille Love was a child actress, dancer, and singer in early Washington popular vaudeville. She advanced her skills by studying grand opera at New York City music conservatories. Upon completion of her New York training she appeared on Broadway and then toured the country with the Metropolitan Opera Quartet. She teamed up with singer  Lorna Lea and they joined the YMCA Entertainers to tour Western military camps during World War I. While performing at Camp Lewis,  Linnie Love was stricken with the influenza virus. She died of it on November 12, 1918. Ten years later, a national campaign led to the U.S. Congress funding a monument at her grave.

Child Singer and Performer

On February 26, 1893, Linnie Lucille Love was born in Portland, Oregon. The Love family, Royal Fred Love (1871-1956) and Clara Buford Love (1874-1956), lived in the Lents neighborhood of Southeast Portland. Royal worked as a clerk at the Routledge Seed and Flower Company. In 1899 the Love's had another daughter, Ruby, but the parents soon separated. In 1900 Clara and Linnie moved to Seattle, and for Linnie this would be home for the rest of her too-short life.

Clara and Linnie lived at 304 Spring Street, Seattle, a boarding house that Clara ran and that accommodated three boarders. At this time the 7-year-old Linnie demonstrated talent and became interested in child acting. In 1901 she started dance lessons at the Willson's Academy of Dance, in the Ranke Building at 420 Pike Street. Here she learned "buck and wing dancing," rhythm dancing with wooden shoes, which included shooting out the leg to make a wing movement, a minstrel and vaudeville style. "Professor" James H. Willson, the academy head, discovered her to be an excellent dancer and singer. Willson believed that Linnie and other child actors could be a successful touring company.

During America's early twentieth century, a good economy, more spending money, and more leisure time created a demand for entertainment. Radio would not be available until the 1920s and of course television not until many years later. The live theater with vaudeville shows became immensely popular. Most small towns had theaters or tent shows that featured entertainers playing circuits. In 1902, the 8-year-old Linnie Love, made her first stage appearance. She would become a popular juvenile vaudeville performer who then studied opera and demonstrated a clear and remarkable singing voice.

In 1902 Willson organized a juvenile minstrel show, rented a railroad car, and with a company of 23 children, ages 7 to 12, toured the Pacific Northwest. The shows were popular and well received. An Anaconda, Montana, paper reported on February 21, 1902, that the little tots had opened for a three-night engagement at Sutton's Family Theater. The two-part show, minstrel and burlesque, was based upon the opera Il Trovatore. Linnie Love was especially good, doing comic routines, singing, and dancing. Favorable reviews of the show specifically mentioned her.

The next year Linnie went out on her own. She appeared as "Little Linnie Love" on a vaudeville circuit performing at the popular-priced Unique Theatres. This chain claimed to be the world's first legitimate popular-priced vaudeville chain. The Washington theaters could be found in Vancouver, Portland, Bellingham, Everett, Yakima, Spokane, and Seattle. Her engagement at the Bellingham Unique opened on June 22, 1902, and for only 10 cents admission charge, patrons enjoyed her comic routine, dancing, and singing. Miss Love and other vaudeville performers appreciated the security of Unique Theatre's guaranteed four- and eight-week contracts. Many vaudeville theaters had no contracts and often terminated acts with little notice.

Linnie, when not on the road, lived in Seattle at 902 ½ 2nd Avenue. Her mother lived at this address some of the time and then reconcile with husband Royal and return to Portland to join him. They separated and reconciled a number of times during their lives.

Love and Love in Port Townsend

In 1906 Linnie moved to Port Townsend and continued her stage career. She became widely known and liked there, but returned to Seattle in 1908. In 1910 she returned to Port Townsend and joined with her cousin Harry Love as a vaudeville team performing at the Rose Theatre (located at 235 Taylor Street and now restored). They also made additional vaudeville appearances.

A review of a February 1910 Love and Love show describes them as a classy team, one of the "classiest to hold the boards here in months." The reviewer recalled their monologues as modern and up-to-date, spicy, but not offensive. The team filled the theater and did so for the length of their stay. The review said, "Miss Love has many admirers and friends in Port Townsend who predict she will become a Broadway star" ("Love and Love Are Classy Team").

Linnie in New York

Linnie Love had a physical problem that did not hold her back and that was blindness in her right eye. In 1911 she left Washington to attend New York City music conservatoires. This included the American Institute of Applied Music, at 212 S 59th, a large and prestigious school. She also studied grand opera in conjunction with the Metropolitan Opera. During her New York studies she had a remarkable operation that restored her sight. Linnie became friends with fellow student Lorna Lea and they would perform together until Love's death. Lorna sang Contralto with Linnie singing Soprano.

Together Linnie and Lorna sang as two of the Metropolitan Opera Quartet, a group that toured the country in 1912. The quartet brought opera to towns across the nation. They performed arias, duets, and quartet arrangements. After this one-year tour, Love returned to New York City and had a role in Edward Sheldon's play Romance. This play, considered his best, had a run of 160 performances at the Maxine Elliott Theatre before closing in June 1913. While in the show, Linnie Love, in March 1913, sang for Thomas Edison at his home. Edison described her voice as unusually clear and even and near perfect in modulation.

The closing of Romance provided the opportunity to return to Seattle. Lorna and Linnie, now calling themselves "Lovelee" performed on the West Coast, joining the Ellison-White Chautauqua organization. The Chautauqua tour brought tent and theater shows to cities, large and small. These community events featured lecturers, debaters, music, and "genteel" variety acts. The organization goals emphasized education and enlightenment.

Singing for Soldiers

In mid-July 1918, Linnie and Lorna signed up with the YMCA entertainment program, a program to bring lecturers, variety shows, and sports figures to the military camps as well as overseas. During World War I, the organization provided 109,794 separate performances.

The two singers embarked on an extended tour of Western camps. They performed  shows at Fort Stevens, Oregon, and in Washington: Vancouver Barracks; Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton; Fort Flagler; Fort Canby; Fort Worden; Fort Lawton; and a final stop at Camp Lewis.

Camp Lewis and the Flu

The two arrived at Camp Lewis on October 19, 1918, just as the camp went into quarantine to fight the influenza that was devastating the nation. The quarantine prohibited all public meetings, closed theaters and recreation centers, prohibited visitors to the camp, and restricted those afflicted to the post hospital. Linnie and Lorna were told that they could leave, but instead they decided to stay and perform in the hospital.

The Lovelees worked hard to entertain the troops and the soldiers appreciated the effort. The duet became very popular and were described as ''real American" types. They went into the hospital wards and sang their hearts out, making confinement less irksome. During the 3rd of October they did seven shows on Saturday, seven on Sunday, and six on Monday and another six on Tuesday. They gave shows in all 38 wards.

Linnie Love's Death

The two very tired singers were stricken with the influenza and hospitalized. On November 11, as America celebrated the end of the war Linnie lay in a ward bed dying from pneumonia. Lorna Lea had recovered and would soon be released and leave the camp.

By November 12, the influenza epidemic at Camp Lewis had nearly passed. That morning the quarantine was relaxed and the YMCA recreation huts reopened. Also, that morning Linnie Love died. Word of her death quickly circulated throughout the camp. That night the YMCA buildings had three minutes of silence and prayer in memory of Linnie Love.

Love was among 164 patients at the Camp Lewis hospital to die from the influenza pandemic. The camp had not been as hard hit as others, having the second lowest camp death rate. Camp Sherman in Ohio recorded 1,177 deaths, the most of any camp. The military lost about 24,000 to the virus. Although records are very inaccurate, the nation suffered 600,000 deaths, and worldwide an estimated 40 to 50 million died. Locations where people lived in close quarters such as army camps, prisons, and crowded cities had the highest death rate.

Linnie Love's body was transported to Portland, Oregon, and she was buried next to her maternal grandparents, John and Mary Buford, in the Cornelius, Oregon, cemetery (today Methodist Cemetery, 1095 S Beech Street, Cornelius).

Lorna Lea resumed her career and in the early years of opera on the radio in the 1920s could be heard on several stations.

Honoring Linnie Love's Memory

Lorna Lea and Linnie Love's exceptional contributions went largely unrecognized until 1928. Charles D. Isaacson (1882-1936), a renowned music critic at The New York Morning Telegraph (and best known for organizing free concerts, bringing opera to a large audience, and later music editor at Dance Magazine) took up her case and encouraged people and the U.S. government to memorialize her. Isaacson wrote that she gave her life for her country, not unlike the soldier killed by enemy gunfire. He went on to say that she had entered the camp of her free will and volunteered to stay. Not only did she stay, but performed until stricken with the virus.

Isaacson went on to note that no marker recites her deed, but that 10 years later a national movement had emerged to honor her and her partner, Lorna Lea, who lived. This music critic argued for a government marker at her grave. This would give relief to Linnie's mother and to the young mother Lorna Lea.

The United States Senator from Oregon, Frederick Steiwer (1883-1939), lobbied to create a monument. Women's Clubs wrote letters seeking honors for Love. On April 19, 1928, Representative Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1949) of New York introduced a Bill: "that the sum of $1,000 is hereby authorized for the purpose of erecting a tablet or monument on the grave of Linnie Love as a tribute for her patriotism and loyalty in remaining at Camp Lewis, Washington, during the World War, after said camp had been quarantined by reason of contagious disease, which she subsequently contracted and from which she died." The Bill passed and became H.R. 13172. A simple black marble urn on a granite base was placed next to Linnie Lucille Love's grave.

As a monument went up at Linnie Love's grave, the camp hospital where she died was removed, and the buildings sold. A few years later the YMCA entertainment program served as a model for the USO (United Services Organization) Camp Shows in World War II. The USO Camp Shows greatly exceeded it in number of shows and worldwide coverage.

Family and friends have visited Love's grave over the years, putting flowers and forget-me-nots in the urn. In April 1956 both her parents died within days of each other, Clara in Seattle and Royal in Marion County, Oregon.

Sources: "Little Tots As Minstrels," The Anaconda Standard, February 21, 1902; "Child Minstrels to Appear at the Columbia Theater Tonight," The Idaho Daily Statesmen, March 21, 1902, p. 5; "Love and Love -- Are Classy Team," Port Townsend Morning Ledger, February 23, 1910, p. 4, "Singer Charms Edison," The New York Times, March 22, 1913, p 13; "New York Girls Popular in Camp," Trench and Camp, October 26, 1918, p. 3; "Concerts Given At Base Hospital," Trench and Camp, October 27, 1918, p. 2: "Gave Life For Soldiers: Miss Linnie Love of Seattle," Seattle Daily Times, November 13, 1918, p. 1; "Drill Going On As Usual," Seattle Daily Times, November 13, 1918, p. 9; "Government Marker Is Asked For Girl," The Oregon Journal, April 19, 1928, p. 12; Judith Quinlin Bunch and Joyce Quinlin Gray, "South East Memories -- Linnie Love 1893-1918," John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plaque in History (New York: Viking, 2004); James W. Evans and Captain Gardiner Harding, Entertaining The American Army: The American Stage and Lyceum in the World War (New York: Association Press, 1921).

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You