Memorable Manitobans: William Blake Lawrence (1870-1918)
Born at Gainesville, New York on 23 February 1870, son of George D. and Sarah E. Lawrence, and raised in Detroit, he worked his way up to become manager of the Detroit Opera House. In 1906 the American company of Drew and Campbell acquired the Winnipeg Theatre and dispatched Lawrence to Manitoba as its manager. He brought a theatrical stock company with him (renamed the Winnipeg Stock Company), and soon leased the Grand Theatre and the Dominion Theatre.
By 1910 he was a major figure on the Winnipeg theatrical scene, becoming manager of the Walker Theatre as well as others. Soon afterward he joined up with Alexander Pantages, and he managed the Pantages Theatre upon its opening in 1914. Lawrence was local agent for a number of leading theatrical circuits as well as manager of several local stock companies. He was a key figure in live theatre in Winnipeg for a decade, until he suffered a stroke in 1916.
He died at his Winnipeg home, 184 Oxford Street, on 15 May 1918 but was buried in Detroit.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
Death registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Wm. B. Lawrence dies, following year of illness,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 May 1918, page 8.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 1 January 2022