"As Time Goes By - Odebolt Centennial, 1877-1977",
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle, May, 1977
Three sisters from Marion, Iowa – Effie, Addie, and Jessie Cherry – became known from coast to coast during the 1890’s. Starting with performances at Marion and Cedar Rapids, they took their act to the famous Hammerstein Opera House in New York City in 1896, where the attendance was estimated at 4,000.
An event that must be recorded in the history of Odebolt is the visit of these Cherry Sisters in February 1898, not so much for their appearance here (in Odebolt) but for the comment by Billy Hamilton, the outspoken editor of The Odebolt Chronicle. They appeared in other towns in the state and usually instead of applause received a barrage of stale fruit and vegetables, so Odebolt was not the only place to give them derision.
We quote Billy Hamilton’s critical analysis. “Effie is an old jade of 50 summers, Jessie a frisky filly of 40, and Addie, the flower of the family, a capering monstrosity of 35. Their long skinny arms equipped with talons at the extremities, swung mechanically, and anon waved frantically at the suffering audience. The mouths opened like caverns, and sounds like the wailing of damned souls issued therefrom. They pranced around the stage with a motion that suggested a cross between the “danse du ventre” and a fox trot – strange creatures with painted faces and hideous mien. Effie is spavined, Addie is stringhalt and Jessie, the only one who showed her stocking, has legs with calves as classic in their outlines as the curves of a broom handle”.
Hamilton’s article was reprinted by the Des Moines Leader and several other Iowa newspapers.
The Cherry Sisters brought libel suit against the Des Moines Leader and The Chronicle for $15,000 in the Polk County District Court. The Judge had seen their act and stated, “Any performance to which the public is invited may be freely criticized. Also any editor may publish reasonable comments on that performance.” The verdict was in favor of the defendants. The Sisters then appealed the case to the Iowa Supreme Court and on May 28, 1901 the Supreme Court upheld the lower Court’s decision. (Cherry Sisters v. Des Moines Leader, et al, 86 N.W. 323, Iowa 1901)
- J. C. Barkley (1977)
CHERRY v. DES MOINES LEADER et al., 114 Iowa, 298, 86 N. W. 323, (Supreme Court of Iowa. May 28, 1901)
Articles from The Odebolt Chronicle about the Cherry Sisters and the lawsuit, February 10, 1898 - May 30, 1901
Read more about Billy Hamilton
Read more about the sisters off-site:
Cherry Bomb, the Story of the Awful Cherry Sisters, by Irwin Chusid