“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1 – 13, Crane’s film studio in New York)

“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1 – 13, Crane’s film studio in New York)


USS Maine Tablet (1912) old Rochester, NY city hall. Fitzhugh Street

Scene 1: Havana, February 1898


from 1896 film, Boxing match or Glove Contest

Scene 2: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, February 1898


The Roosevelt Room in the White House

Scene 3: Washington, February 1898



Buffalo Soldiers in Montana, 1896

Scene 4: Montana, February 1898

Scene 5: New York, February 1898220px-StephenCraneandCora1899

Scene 6: The Cuban Countryside, February 1898



1893 edition

 Scene 7

Scene 8: Havana, May 1898

crank 2Scene 9, Siboney, Cuba June 1898

shafter on cart Scene 10

Scene 11negro troops



Scene 12 cuban flag

Scene 1420150312-Petes_Tavern-1_0

Scene 19

For background, see: (from War, Literature and the Arts)

“Infirm Soldiers in the Cuban War of Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Harding Davis”

“Strains of Failed Populism in Stephen Crane’s Spanish War Stories”

“Imperium in Imperio: Sutton Griggs’s Imagined War of 1898”

“The Spanish-American War as a Bourgeois Testing Ground: Richard Harding Davis, Frank Norris and Stephen Crane”

also On Spanish-American War Monuments and Rochester. And remembering the Buffalo Soldiers on Veteran’s Day

Scene Thirteen: Crane’s studio, New York, August 1898


Stephen Crane, Greco-Turkish War, Greece, 1897

Crane has converted an apartment into a small studio. He is tinkering with various film developing equipment.  Against the wall is the camera from Cuba. The phone rings.

Roosevelt: Hello, Stephen. Its Roosevelt. Back in Washington

Crane: Colonel!  It grand to hear your voice. Even when you are cursing Crane as a damned fool.  So all Four Musketeers [Crane, Roosevelt, Frank Norris and Richard Harding Davis] arrived home sans casket.

No bad tidings after all for Alice, Rebecca, Blix or Cora. Scene 11

Roosevelt: Nor Margharita Quesados.

(Crane is silent)


from the 1927 film version

Anyway Crane, how is the camera and the film going?

Crane: Teddy, I’ve never felt so alive. Rejuvenated. Reborn.

You see, when I write I envision words as the sharpest of the sharpest cut tip of a dart. That pierces reality — the dartboard.

Now, in film, my gaze looks at the dart stuck in the board. As a wordless picture. And I see the dart now in motion. Leaving my hand. In wordless motion.

Roosevelt: Bully, I guess. Stevie, your cinematic genius is too abstract for me. But as long as you get the story right.

And have you found ample funds in your bank account?  Money should be no object.  How about the footage you and the Vitagraph men took?

Crane: Alas that damned Cuban humidity. Much of it is ruined. We’ll be able to use some. But it doesn’t really matter. I have bigger plans.crank 2

[The extent and condition and quality of the actual footage has always been uncertain. In Two Wheels and a Crank, Smith is evasive on the question. In Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction film, Eric Barnouw explains:

When Albert E. Smith returned to New York for Cuba with his San Juan Hill footage, he was worried: in spite of Roosevelt’s posturings, it looked like a dull uphill walk in no way fitting the “charge up San Juan Hill” trumpeted by newspapers.


The Black Maria (/məˈraɪ.ə/ mə-RY-ə) was Thomas Edison’s movie production studio in West Orange, New Jersey. It is widely referred to as America’s First Movie Studio.

Meanwhile, theaters clamored for the Cuban material, already publicized. So Vitograph held off its distribution until Smith and his partner J. Stuart Blackton had shot a table top “battle of Santiago Bay” complete with prolific cigarette and cigar smoke, explosions, and cardboard ships going down inthe inch-deep water.  Combined with the shots brought from Cuba, it became the hit of the war coverage. The public apparently did not suspect its true nature. ]

Crane: Yes, ample funds indeed. Edison no doubt appreciates your munificence. His men have built me a mini-studio right here in Greenwich Village. And the equipment, stunning.  It was amateur hour with those Vitograph fellows.

And the technology is going leaps and bounds.  The Edison men say soon enough films can have sound right along with the pictures. The pzzzzzzzzzzt of the bullet. And one day those pictures will be in color. The crimson red of the wound.


A drawing of the interior of Black Maria (1894)

Roosevelt:  Yes, yes, think big Crane. Think big.

Crane: I’ll rescue a little of the San Juan footage. But mostly it will actors. We’ll use Edison’s Black Maria Studio in West Orange, New Jersey.

We”ll recreate the whole Rough Riding gang. Cowboys and Indians. I want Bisbell, the half-Cherokee, to play himself. As for that Jewish trooper, I’ll personally find the best looking Israelite in vaudeville. And as for your college men from Harvard and Princeton, I’ll round up my chums from Syracuse and Lafayette.rr 2

Roosevelt: And who will play me?rr 3

Crane: I’ll get the finest actor on Broadway. A man who has played, hmm, Marc Anthony! How’s that sound?

Roosevelt: Excellent. But I’ll need a Cleopatra in my tent. And who will be Mr. Stephen Crane?

Crane: And you call me risqué! Why, Crane will be Crane. Didn’t you yourself say the film was also about me?  Crane, America’s first real movie director, playing Crane. Scene 10

bd2fac6ad04e1355f6c6bf5ea0d50284_f6803Roosevelt: You are sounding absolutely Faustian.  Also, I am sending along the manuscript of The Rough Riders I am now composing. And two pictures I am including. Also, Dick’s [Richard Harding Davis] manuscript. They should give you the right material to form the story. And I do think the title should be The Rough Riders.

Crane: (distracted and only half listening)  Yes, yes, by all means. That’s fine. Anyway its back to work, old boy.


Evangelina Cosio y Cisneros (September 23, 1877 – April 29, 1970) was the focus of events that played out in the years 1896–1898 during the Cuban War of Independence. Her imprisonment as a rebel and escape from a Spanish jail in Cuba, with the assistance of the reporter, Karl Decker from William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal, created wide interest in the United States press, as well as accusations of fraud and bribery.

Crane hangs up the phone. Then picks it up again and dials.

Crane: Is this Mr. Hearst’s secretary. Its Stephen Crane. Why, thank you sir. I am delighted the account of my daring escape with Margarita Quesdas went through a dozen printings.

Speaking of Miss Quesedas,  how can I reach her now that she is here in New York? Might do a follow up.  You don’t have an address but know where she can be found, you say. Recently joined the Anti-Imperialism League. And they are having a rally tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden. And William Jennings Bryan is speaking.  Thanks much, old sport. Give Mr. Hearst my greetings.

 lee bryan photo

Colonel William Jennings Bryan and Major General Fitzhugh Lee, Camp Cuba Libre

The Anti-Imperialist League was first organized in June 1898 to advocate against American overseas colonial ambitions. Prominent literary members were Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Henry and James, as well as his brother William James.


Editha is a patriotic young lady who convinces her lover, George, to join the army to fight in the Spanish-American war — a war she claims is “just” and will, once justly fought, raise their status in society. George in killed in battle.

Williams Jennings Bryan was not an official member of the League. In 1896, as the Democrat/Populist candidate, Bryan had lost to McKinley. In 1898, he supported intervention in Cuba, serving himself as Colonel in the so-called, “Silver Regiment” of Nebraska that never saw action in Cuba during the war. In 1900, Bryan ran again against McKinley (with Roosevelt as his running mate), this time on an anti-imperialist platform, and again lost.

In 1905, William Dean Howell wrote the widely-read “Editha,” an anti-war short story.

Although Twain supported the intervention in Cuba, he quickly became an anti-imperialist. In 1901, he wrote, To the Person Sitting in Darkness , a vitriolic attack on American imperial pretensions.

to the person

In 1910, William James wrote “On the Moral Equivalent of War” that still resonates today. See below.

On Veteran’s Day at Buckland and Highland Parks. And the Moral Equivalent of War

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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