The Warner Brothers

There were four Warner brothers, Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack who entered into to the entertainment business in 1903. They were the sons of a Polish shoemaker who brought his family to America in 1889 to escape the Russian control of his homeland. From Baltimore the family moved to Canada and in 1896, settled on the north side of Youngstown, Ohio. 15 year old Harry and his father earned enough repairing shoes to secure a loan to open a meat counter and grocery store in the downtown area. In 1899, Harry opened a bicycle shop in Youngstown with his 15 year old brother, Albert. In addition to repairing bicycles Harry and Al opened a bowling alley together which closed shortly after it opened. Harry then accepted an offer to become a salesman for a local meat franchise, and sold meat in the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. By his nineteenth birthday, however, Harry was reduced to living in his parent’s crowded household.
Albert Warner stayed in school longer than any his three brothers. In 1900, Albert entered Youngstown's Rayen High School, where he served as quarterback for the school's football team. After dropping out of school, Albert got a job in Chicago as a salesman for the Swift Soap Company. During this time Sam Warner formed a business partnership with another Youngstown resident and "took over" the city's Old Grand Opera House, which he used as a venue for "cheap vaudeville and photoplays." The venture failed after one summer. 15 year old Sam then secured a job as a projectionist at Idora Park, a local amusement park. He persuaded his family of this new medium's possibilities and was able to negotiate the purchase of a Model B Kinetoscope from the Idora Park projectionist. The purchase price was $1,000. Sam's interest in movies came after seeing Thomas Edison's The Great Train Robbery while working at Cedar Point Pleasure Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. During this time, Albert agreed to join Sam and together the two displayed showings of The Great Train Robbery at carnivals throughout the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania; Sam would run the film projector and Albert would sell tickets while sister Rose provide the music on a rented piano.
In 1905, Harry agreed to join his two brothers and sold his Youngstown bicycle shop. Through the money Harry made by selling the bicycle shop, the three brothers were now able to purchased a building in New Castle, Pennsylvania. The brothers named their new theater
The Cascade Movie Palace. The Cascade was so successful, that the brothers were able to purchase a second theater in New Castle as well. This makeshift theatre, called the Bijou, was furnished with chairs borrowed from a local undertaker. In 1907, the three brothers acquired fifteen additional theaters in the state of Pennsylvania and located their movie business to Pittsburgh. Two years later the brothers sold the Cascade Theater for $40,000, and decided to open a second movie business in Norfolk, Virginia. This was when 18 year old Jack officially joined his three brothers and was sent to Norfolk to serve as Sam's assistant. In 1910, the Warner brothers would sell the movie business to the General Film Company, for "$10,000 in cash, $12,000 in preferred stock, and payments over a four-year period for a total of $52,000". And this, in a nutshell, is the way the gigantic picture-talkie industry controlled by the four Warner Brothers of Youngstown, Ohio, was started.
Of the four brothers, Sam Warner was the first to die in 1927 from a sinus infection. He was only 40. He has been credited with procuring the technology that enabled Warner Bros. to produce the film industry's first feature-length talking picture,
The Jazz Singer. Sadly, he died the day before the film's enormously successful premiere in New York City. Four years later Youngstown’s beautifully decorated Warner Theatre (now known as the Powers Auditorium) had its grand opening in Sam’s memory.
In May 1956, the three brothers announced they were putting Warner Bros. on the market and sold their stock. However, in an under-the-table deal Jack bought back all his stock. As the company's largest stockholder, Jack appointed himself as the new company president. By the time Harry and Albert learned of their brother's dealings, it was too late. Albert never spoke to Jack again, but he did later rejoin the company's board of directors to keep Jack "from stealing the stockholders blind."
Harry died in 1958 at the age of 76. Prior to his death Harry had not been on speaking terms with Jack either because of Jack’s selling the Warner Bros.' pre-1949 films to
United Artists Television. "This is our heritage, what we worked all our lives to create, and now it is gone," Harry exclaimed, upon hearing of the deal. Later Harry’s wife was heard to say, “Harry didn’t just die, Jack killed him.”
Although Albert had always been the company’s treasurer, he had never adopted the upper class lifestyle of his brothers. In 1908, Al Warner had married Bessie Krieger, in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Krieger died in 1923 from influenza and on April 23, 1925, Albert married Bessie Siegal, the widow of his friend, Jonas Siegal. After selling his stock in 1956 Albert retired to Florida where he died in 1967. Albert was interred in
Brooklyn, next to his first wife Bessie. (Yes, both wives were named Bessie.)
In 1978, Jack Warner died of a heart inflammation (edema). He was 86 years old. A front-page story in the Youngstown Vindicator on September 11th told of the family's pre-Hollywood struggles in Ohio and described how Jack Warner drove a wagon for his father's business when he was only seven years old. The late movie "mogul" was widely eulogized for his role in "shaping Hollywood's 'Golden Age'".