Jewish Settlers in Montana
Daniel E. Bandmann is one of the most celebrated figures in Missoula’s history. He was a world-renowned Shakespearean actor, who brought his theater art and teaching expertise to the region. His earliest Missoula performance took place at the opening of the Maguire Opera House, located on the south side of W. Main Street. In 1884, he bought acreage near Florence and a larger spread in Hellgate Canyon, now known as Bandmann Flats, where he both ranched and brought a new apple variety. He lived in an era of gold prospectors and settlers, barroom brawls and prostitution.
Daniel Bandmann made his debut at the age of 18 at the Court Theater of New Strelitz,
Germany. This is where he established his reputation for Shakespearian dramas.
While still a young man, Bandmann came to America with a German troupe, making his first appearance at the Alte Stadt Theater, New York, in 1862.
In January, 1863 he performed as Shylock, the miserly Jewish moneylender, in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” at Niblo’s Garden, New York. He starred in this role for five years, impressing Edwin Forrest so much that he selected him to play Hamlet in the 1864 Shakespeare tercentenary birthday celebration in Philadelphia.
In 1888, Bandmann disbanded his theatrical company and returned to Missoula. Purchasing two ranches totaling 320 acres in Hellgate Canyon in what is now known as Bandmann Flats, he then ordered Percheron mares from Minnesota and France. He purchased farm equipment on a large scale, only to lose most of the cattle when he was unable to acquire enough feed or time to build stables.
He lost most of his fortune in the 1893 stock crash. He successfully kept his ranch, however, after actress Louise Beaudet claimed ownership to it. Beaudet was a student and ward, who had been with him since his worldwide tours during 1869-1884.
Research: Bert Chessin and Kim Briggeman,
1943 Great Falls Tribune story of Bandmann.
Bandmann photos and historical reference:
Mansfield Library, University of Montana,
Our objective is to bring Leiser's Footsteps exhibit to museums around the NW United States.
You can hopefully see this exhibit sometime in the future
at the new Missoula Public Library. We will try to keep you informed about the opening date as soon as we get more information. In the meantime, please be safe.