Greenwall, Henry (1832–1913)

By: C. Richard King

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: February 28, 2018

Henry Greenwall, theater manager, a native of Germany, was taken to New Orleans by his parents in 1837, when he was five years old. He worked in a brokerage house until the end of the Civil War, when he and his brother Morris moved to Galveston to organize their own brokerage firm. In 1867 Augusta L. Dargon, an actress of note, became stranded in Galveston and indebted to the Greenwalls; the brothers took over the management of her career. By November 1867 they had remodeled the Galveston Theatre. The following year they booked Sophie Miles in the Perkins Theatre, Houston, when it was lighted by gas lights for the first time. After being accused of mistreating the troupe, the brothers countered with charges that the Houston contract had been violated. Henry Greenwall became known for keeping the opera house respectable. On January 7, 1869, he became involved in a disagreement with Maude St. Leon and Isabelle Boyd, who were performing in the play Rosedale, and the production was canceled.

While Augusta Dargon toured Australia under the direction of Morris Greenwall, Henry persuaded Willard Richardson, founder and owner of the Galveston News, to build the Tremont Opera House. In 1871 the Tremont was leased to Morris and Henry Greenwall, and the Sweeney and Combs Opera House in Houston was remodeled by the Greenwall Theatrical Circuit and renamed the Houston Theater. Greenwall added the Fort Worth Opera House to his chain in 1890, and in 1892 he brought the Waco Opera House under his supervision. Greenwall raised $100,000 in 1894 to build the Grand Opera House (later renamed the Grand 1894 Opera House) in Galveston. In an early civil-rights case in June 1873, he was charged with refusing a black woman entrance to the Tremont Opera House. He leased houses in Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, and Savannah and established the American Theatrical Exchange in New York in opposition to the Theatrical Syndicate, which he refused to join. He then went to California, where he became ill. In 1909 he sold his interests in Galveston and Houston to Albert Weiss, but he kept his property in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Waco, under the management of Phil Greenwall.

Henry Greenwall died on November 27, 1913, in his apartment over the Greenwall Theatre in New Orleans. At the time of his death he was said to be the oldest active theatrical manager in the United States.

The Bohemian, Christmas 1901-New Year 1902. Fort Worth Record, November 28, 1913. J. S. Gallegly, Footlights on the Border (The Hague: Mouton, 1962). Galveston Daily News, March 21, 1894, August 26, 1894, November 29, 1913. Galveston Weekly News, June 7, 1875. John S. Kendall, Golden Age of the New Orleans Theatre (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1952). C. Richard King, A History of the Theater in Texas, 1722–1900 (Ph.D dissertation, Baylor University, 1962). C. Richard King, "Texas' Theatrical Impresario," East Texas Historical Journal 4 (October 1966).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Business
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

C. Richard King, “Greenwall, Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022,

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February 28, 2018

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