12-29-2016 Early member of Marx Brothers act had Coloma and Hartford ties; researcher seeks local fa

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Early member of Marx Brothers act had Coloma and Hartford ties; researcher seeks local family history

By Karl Bayer

A former resident of Hartford and Coloma, Fred Klute, has been mentioned in a book released this fall, Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage.

Before film made them international comedy legends, the Marx Brothers developed their comic skills on stage for twenty-five years. In Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage (Cloth, $35.00, October 2016), Robert S. Bader offers the first comprehensive history of the foursome’s hardscrabble early years honing their act in front of live audiences.

FRED KLUTE, EARLY MEMBER OF MARX BROTHERS ACT… This is the only known photo of the Six Mascots. Pictured (from the left): Aunt Hannah Schickler (sister of Minnie Marx, the mother of the Marx Brothers), Fred Klute, Julius (Groucho Marx), Milton (Gummo) Marx, Minnie Marx (mother of the Marx Brothers), and Arthur (Harpo) Marx.

Fred Klute performed with them as part of a larger group called the Six Mascots in Vaudeville (see photo).

Researcher Robert Moulton contacted the Tri-City Record in 2015 seeking information on Klute without disclosing the Marx Brothers connection. He did find some information in the local papers, including Klute’s obituary in the Watervliet Record, January 1948. The obituary mentioned Klute owning the Coloma Tavern, and a surviving grandmother Mrs. Lena Klute of Hartford and a sister, Anna Sherman also of Hartford.

In 2015, Moulton wrote the Tri-City Record, “As part of a research project on vaudeville I am looking for information on Fred C. Klute. Mr. Klute was born in Chicago on October 20, 1892, died in Coloma, Michigan on January 4, 1942, and was buried in Chicago. His father was a saloonkeeper in Chicago, and in about 1937, Fred Klute moved to Coloma and became the saloonkeeper of the Coloma Tavern at the corner of US-12 and Church Street. I believe the US-12 is now the I-94. Mr. Klute’s wife was Laura Beyl who lived in Coloma till her death in the late 1950s.

“Mr. Klute entered vaudeville at least as early as 1910 and performed till the mid teens, his biggest success being a part of the act Bennett, Klute & King. He may also have performed under the name Hutchins. I would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone with information on Mr. Klute in this time period and/or has photographs of him.”

Recently Moulton again wrote the Record reporting some success. “All doubt was removed when I found his obituary in local papers that made a reference to participation in the act.”

Moulton is continuing his quest to find information after the completion of the book.  He wrote recently, “My interest here is to see if I can flesh out the story of Fred Klute for future editions of the book on the Marx Brothers. Or come upon any photos, reminiscences, or anything else that may have been saved by the family. For example, even finding out the full names of the other members of ‘Bennett, Klute, and King’ or ‘Bennett, Klute, and Pierce’ could help, because then I might be able to trace those families. Fred Klute is harder to trace as he appears to be an only child and had no children of his own.

“I’m hoping now to find a relative who may be able to give me better information.”

Moulton shared what he knows so far… Fred Klute was of interest because he is a previously unknown partner of the Marx Brothers during the earliest days of their vaudeville stage career.

Fred C. Klute was born on October 20, 1892 in Chicago, where his father was a saloonkeeper. In November 1909, the Marx family relocated from New York to the center of small-time vaudeville: Chicago. The Klute family lived nearby and when the new Marx Brothers act, the Six Mascots, debuted in December 1909 Fred Klute was a member. The act consisted of three Marx Brothers: Julius (Groucho), Arthur (Harpo), Milton (Gummo), their mother Minnie and her sister Hannah. Fred Klute was the sixth Mascot. Fred stayed with the act for one year during which time the Marx act transformed from a musical act with some comedy to a comedy centered act. This time period was