Bohumila Ludvik

The "Amerikan Narodni Kalendar", a yearly publication of August Geringer, Chicago, Illinois, published in 1933, pages 205 - 206, an article on Bohumila Ludvik. Numerous articles related to Bohumila, included one of her death, (June 1932, pages 314 and 322) appear in the Zenske Liste, an all woman Czech language newspaper published in Chicago by Josefa Zeman.

She died on May 31, 1932, in Chicago.  Below, using Google Translate, is a summary of portions of those articles.

Bohumila Novotny, born in 1855 at Liblan, near Jicin, for sixty years, for nearly sixty years, participated in Bohemian Theatre.  She first appeared in 1872 in Dobrovica, Mlada Boleslav in a school performance.  A theater director happened to be at the performance and Bohumila accepted to work for Director Zoelner at the Sourek Theater.  In time Bohumila was in Prague where she met and married Frantisek Ludvik, who had recently become a theater director.

1893 proved to be a pivotal year for the Ludviks and a number of their fellow actors and actresses.  An offer came from a group of influential Czechs living in the United States, led by August Geringer of Chicago.  They providing funding for the Ludvik group to travel to America, and they arrived on March 20-21, 1893 in New York City.  The Amerikan Kalendar article describes that just days later they put on a play "The House Keeper".  It appears after that performance, the troupe did a whirlwind tour, putting on plays in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit before arriving in Chicago on April 28, 1893.

The first know performance of the Ludvik troupe in Chicago, was April 30, 1893 at the Haymarket Theater.  "The Battered Bride" by Smetana, though quickly organized, received decent reviews in the Chicago Tribune.  Again the Ludvik troup was traveling.  Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska before planning to return to New York and Bohemia.

While some of these Bohemian performers would return to the homeland, many would not.  Frantisek Ludvik had the opportunity to become the Thalia Hall theater director.  Frantisek, his wife Bohumila, and the others who followed them to Chicago became the first permanent Bohemian Theater in Chicago, most commonly described at "Ludvikovo Divadlo".

The 1900 census for the Ludvik family lists them as living at 548 Blue Island Avenue, with Frank, Bohumila, and son Frank all listed as actors. (Frank 55, Basnila 44, Frank 34, Millie 13, Algay 12, Otto 10)

Husband, Frantisek, died on October 24, 1910.  He is interred in Bohemian National Cemetery.  The death of her husband did not end Bohumila's or her family's involvement in the theater.  After her husband's death, it appears that Bohumila continued with that and also entered into other endeavors within the Bohumian community of Chicago.

Plays continued to be performed at the Thalia or other Chicago theaters.  Son Frank, for a period of time, became manager of the group.  Ludvikovo Divadlo still traveled to other states in the Midwest for stage performances.  The online web site, lists more of these ventures for Nebraska than other states.  In 1917, Omaha, Nebraska Czech language newspaper Pokrok published a picture of the troupe.

The 1920 and 1930 census records indicate that Bohumila continued to be listed as an actress, along with other members of the family being involved in the theater.

1920 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 10 D0622 Page 12 at 1801 Blue Island Avenue
Millie Ludvik 63 (Actress)
Frank Ludvik 43, (Theater Manager) Marie 38, (Actress) Marie 15, Olga 10


1930 Illinois Cook Chicago D0929 Pg 30-31 at 1801 Blue Island Avenue
Bohumila Ludvik 75 (Actress)
Frank Ludvik 54, (Theater Manager) Marie 48, (Actress)  Olga 20 (Actress)
Olga Bezdek 15



The Official Website of the City of Dobrovice


Bohumila Ludvíková - Czech theater in America

Bohumila Ludvíková and Czech theater in America

A few years ago, Nové Dobrovick published an article about the founders of the Czech theater in Chicago. (Today you can find it on the city's website under the section "city history - personalities"). The initiators of the departure of the theater company to America were Mr. and Mrs. Ludvík. Mrs. Bohumila Ludvíková came from Dobrovice. Because   she corresponded with her relatives all her life, we can get a picture from this correspondence of what life the first generation of immigrants led, how they were   welcomed, what impression America made on her. At the end of the nineteenth century, huge numbers of people went overseas in search of work and a better living. For these immigrants, Czech actors came to play and convey messages from their native land. In 1893, they arrived in New York and after completely sold out shows in New York and then in Chicago, they went on a big tour of the American West, to the Czechs, Moravians and Slovaks. Mrs. Ludvíková described her impressions as follows:

“We left Chicago on Saturday by way of the Central. A few miles beyond Chicago appeared a rich, fertile landscape. Similar to this or that region in Bohemia. The comparison just flashes in the head, the remnants of the forest are already alternating with cultivated land. Enormous confusing mountains border the romantically spread out plain, and immediately before your eyes a huge dome, like our Ruins, of an Indian burial ground. We drove all day, until at half past eleven in the evening we arrived in St. Paul. A large number of Czechs were waiting for us at the station. We were led to a prepared banquet where the music greeted us with our national anthem as we entered. There I met my compatriot Demut, who comes from Luštěnice. We lived with Povolný. The lady comes from Nymburk. St. Paul is a beautiful town, located on both banks of the Mississippi River. There are about 1,500 Czech families there. The compatriots traveled with us throughout the area, at the Minnehava waterfall we bought sand in beautiful natural colors for the collection of the Dobrovice school. On our return, a deputation from the nearby town of Minneapolis was waiting for us from the local Czechs to organize at least one show for them. We were happy to oblige and drove on to New Prague. I can't describe to you the feelings when we saw the crowded station of our people. From afar, you recognize that cheerful Czech face, which, despite the freedom and well-being it secured for itself across the distant ocean, cannot forget that inch of land from which it was torn by bleak conditions. As they waved their hats joyfully, a "hello" sounded as if from one mouth. This old lady is calling you please, where are you from? None of us? I'm from Tábor, I'm from Budějovice, another calls, and you can see how everyone wishes we were from his heritage, so he could learn something about those he'll probably never see again. It is very strange. And now the description of New Prague. Imagine about 4 square English miles, on which the houses of our compatriots are built. The Czechs here are mostly farmers, everyone has a nice house, a garden around it and inside the facilities that even the district judge doesn't have here. They have a nice church here, a rectory, priest Mr. Tiché. A beautiful theater, two schools – one Czech and the other English, Czech city council. In short, you don't hear a word of English, so it doesn't even occur to you that you are several thousand miles from your homeland. Farmers come to the theater from a distance of 12 to 15 English miles. They are excited to show their children how advanced the Czech nation is. Perhaps he will not see Czech play until his death. The next stop after New Prague was the town of Owatonna with a population of about 3,000. No sooner had we appeared on the step than we bared our heads, and from a hundred throats a roaring Hail, we welcome you, greeting God. Ladies cried, kissed us. Pharmacist Hovorka welcomed us with an enthusiastic speech, pointing out the significance of our pilgrimage for the entire American Bohemia. A crowd of curious Americans gathered around us in such a way that in a few seconds the crowd grew to several hundred and when it was explained to them that we had come all the way from Europe, from Bohemia to our people, to play a theater for them in our speech, with respectful admiration for them and for us congratulated The theater was packed. Czechs gathered up to 40 English miles, 140 million from here. We had to stay another day to play for those who didn't get in. The town is beautiful, the Czech people are good, but it's a shame that we will lose it in future generations"...

The company came to America in 1893, at the time of the World's Fair. It is not uninteresting to read what Mrs. Ludvíková wrote about visiting the exhibition:

Dear ones, I am writing under the impression of my first visit to the exhibition. I cannot find words and expressions suitable   for the feelings that came over us when we crossed the borders of the magnificent world exhibition. A massive colossus stood over us proclaiming the glory and creativity of not only the new, but which managed to concentrate in its metropolis the sum total of human ingenuity of the entire and old world. Eighty million dollars was raised as the basic capital of the world exhibition, i.e. two hundred million gold coins. And it was money that managed to create with human hands what no mortal could have imagined three years ago. Consider that where today the domes of the pavilion proclaiming the progress of all nations rise, a year ago there was a huge lake, of which today there is not even a trace, except for a modified channel around the industrial palace, on which steamboats and gondolas representing the Italian Venice pass. It all seemed like a dream. We first entered the horticultural pavilion, in the middle there is a huge amount of exotic flowers   about the height of our church and exactly the same volume, you walk around and wonder how it was possible to fix that wonderful flower basket there at that height and our huge tree trunk is already attracting attention the Indian, who stares so that you anxiously await the moment when he finds himself at our feet. Everything is arranged with such mastery that even a layman will immediately recognize which region is being represented. In it, you see how the audience pours over a primitive bridge into a hidden cave and you casually walk behind them, jump over a marshy island and enter the underground dungeon, the entrance of which is a slightly larger hole   . You are in the famous crystal cave, beautiful, dazzling, you can't even believe that it was all arranged by human hands. You go through the cave, it takes about 20 minutes and you come out the other side. The horticultural pavilion takes up about as much space as our castle with the entire factory, and there is   also a gallery in the central dome where you can find artificial and printed flowers. I was so dazed  when one of the employed workers approached me. Please, aren't you Mrs. Ludvíková? I am, I am surprised - you are Czech and you know me? Well, no, I'm a carpenter from Poděbrady, I'm employed here at the exhibition. I was so genuinely happy that I can't even describe it to you. From there we went to the industrial palace. A huge building with a length from our school to half of the park, the height is as if they put another one that big on our national theater. There are so many things piled up here that perhaps it wasn't even in the entire exhibition. We spent 7 hours there until the evening and just looked at everything casually. All I can say is that the most beautiful department is French and the poorest seems to me to be Austrian. You can think that we looked around for everything Czech. I shout at once and happily read: J. Jíra, production of Czech garnet goods, Munich-Prague-Kolín. Everything gathered around, the Americans asked in amazement what was going on and when it was explained to them that we were happy that our people were also represented here - they nodded willingly. Not far away, again with a Czech sign: Jan Hakl Jilemnice, then B. Fura Patent jewelry, Kutná Hora's own inventions, and suddenly you will be amazed and won't believe your eyes. Let's look for the word patriot for so many years, he exhibits his products with the title V. Červený and sohns, Königrätz Bohemia 1842 – 1892, shame!!! That's national pride, huh? If Mr. Red could see what a sad   role he plays with his German title! Well, we did everything possible, Mr. Jíra immediately made a decent deal, and we warmly recommend everyone a gift from the exhibition of Czech grenades. It's not quite expensive there, but we   still have to go at least 20 times if we want to see the whole exhibition...

In another letter, she wrote a note about conditions in Chicago. Chicago is   alone 6 million big, it's life indescribable here. Everyone is chasing that dollar. What meat is thrown away in Chicago, the whole of Austria would not eat. So often I think of our people who don't even eat enough. Here they have free lunch. There is a great bargain here in clothes and shoes. Only the beer is expensive…

Mrs. Bohumila Novotná was born in Lebanon in 1855. The family soon moved to Dobrovice near Mladá Boleslav. In 1872, the actor Šourek, director of Eliška Coellnerová's theater company, visited his birthplace in Dobrovica. The students were just organizing the performance "Parisian Cloth" and seventeen-year-old Bohumila Novotná also played in it. She impressed him with her performance so much that he offered her a position. Bohumila did not think twice and took the opportunity. She herself narrates: "I was armed with self-confidence, indeed I did not lack presumptuousness, but I paid dearly for the desire for independence. Today, I can no longer understand how I managed to overcome all the disappointments and hardships that are the order of the day in the acting profession". She gradually got to the Svoboda company, then the best company in the Czech countryside. She was accepted to the first major, i.e., she played tragic lovers and heroines. "After poor beginnings, I was richly rewarded by the favor of the directorate and the audience that   accompanied me from town to town. I married František Ludvík in Hradec Králové. When director Svoboda dissolved the company in the summer of 1876, he forced the entire ensemble of his leading colleague Ludvík to take over the leadership. This was the beginning of Ludvík's company, not promising and not very easy. There was a lot of enthusiasm, but little money. With varying fortunes we played in the old country until 1893. We worked our way up from meager beginnings into a good company. In 1886, I received an offer from the National Theater to perform in one of my roles. The performance was supposed to decide whether I was hired by the National Theater. At first I was excited, but after sober reflection, especially when my husband pointed out what marriage would be like - me at the National Theater and him with his company, I decided to continue life by his side. My husband was beckoned by America, but the execution rested on me. I found great support from  the chairman of the Central Union of Czech Actors, Slukov, who helped where he could. And when he said goodbye to us at the National Theater when we were leaving, he pressed my husband's right hand and exclaimed "I'm so glad, but so glad that it's you, Ludvíčka, you wouldn't believe what you go there. You are my guarantee that, no matter how it really turns out, you will not let the moral decline of the Czech games"

The Ludvíkovs managed to secure the financial support they absolutely needed to make the trip. They won the trust of influential and wealthy Czech-Americans, who paid for the crossing of 22 people and at the same time paid Mr. Ludvík 800 guilders through Živnostenská banka for preliminary releases, but with the condition that as soon as the company started playing, they would pay back the travel fees and the advance paid in advance.

On February 27, 1893, a telegram arrived saying "The journey is guaranteed - the money will be paid by Živno Consul Clausenius, Chicago" and on March 8, 1893, the ship America with the "First Czech Theater Company" set off from Bremen's shores. On March 20, the ship approached New York Harbor.  On Sunday, March 26, they performed the first performance, Housewife Rob, at the Central Opera House in New York. Then followed nine more performances in front of a packed auditorium. On April 6, the company set off as a traveling theater   on a pilgrimage across America. Baltimore, Pittsburg, Alleghan, Cleveland, Detroit. Then to Chicago.

Theatrical Letters, Bohemian Dramatic Journal, Chicago, May 1893, stated:

"On Friday, April 28, 1893, our theater guests - Ludvíkova's company - arrived in Chicago on the evening train. Several representatives of volunteer corps and personal friends went out to meet them. The welcome was warm and even warmer at the station where the committees were waiting with carriages. The weather was not favorable, it was raining, almost   pouring, when the train entered the station. There was no time for introductions. It got into cars. Soon, everyone gathered in the hall of Slovanská Lípa. The mediators also participated. The two-way acquaintance did not take long, as in a few moments the ladies invited the nice guests and the present volunteers and representatives of the press to the prepared refreshments. Director Ludvík thanked from the bottom of his heart for the attention paid to the company from all sides". On April 30, the plays opened at England's Haymarket Theatre. Attendance at the show was huge. It was played daily in all the Czech halls in the city. After several months of preparations, The Bartered Bride was performed on the stage of the Haymarket Theatre.   After three reprises, the company left for Wisconsin on July 16 and opened plays in Milwaukee, then traveled to Kewaunee, to Manitowoc, Menominee, again to Milwaukee, Racine, and to Chicago to prepare for the hospitality plays of Mr. Josef Šmaha, a member of the National Theater from Prague .

Then the company left for a trip west. September 21 played in Minnealpolis, 23 in New Prague. Thence   to Owatonna, Iowa City, Omaha. Plattsmouth, Dogde, Linwood, Wahoo. Marching to Wilber, Milligan, Humboldt. The next day via Omaha and Cedar Rapids back to Chicago. On December 2, the first performance of The Taming of the Shrew and ten other plays were performed. On January 7, the games in Chicago were finished and it was off to New York. This is where the file split up. However, most of the actors returned to Chicago under the direction of the director. Director Ludvík concluded that a decent Czech theater would find an existence among the Chicago Bohemians. He was not wrong. The desire of all actors was to play in their own theater. The Ludvíkovs partially fulfilled their wish only in 1903. However, they had to share the Hall of Thalia with an American company. This is how the beginnings of Ludvík's company in America are described. When František Ludvík died in 1910, he was replaced in the director's chair   by his wife Bohumila "Mille" and later  by their son František, who married another native of Dobrovice, Maria Barcalová. In 1932, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the theater's activity in America, the daily Svornost wrote in lofty words: "If we are to impartially assess the overall scope of Ludvík's theater, we must first take into account the unfavorable conditions under which the question of its existence was solved. Obstacles and difficulties that the company had to overcome before this bold idea could be implemented in a practical sense. For decades, Ludvík's theater managed to warm the soul of the Czech-American person with its art, awakened in it love for the native land, elevated it with noble entertainment, and gave courage to the difficult struggle for existence".

Agreement on April 4, 1932: "3. on April 1932 Mrs. Ludvíková celebrated 60 years of activity at the theater. The Sokol Slávský Court, the largest Czech hall, was completely filled on the ground floor and in the galleries with an audience that came to pay mass tribute to the oldest and most deserving Czech dramatic artist in America. The director actually played for three generations. The auditorium filled up long before the show started. An amplified orchestra was placed under the stage under the direction of the old conductor of the Ludvíkov family, Mr. Juřena, and a hearty mood reigned everywhere. But not behind the curtain. There, until the last minute, they were worried that the game would not be played. The old lady's health was failing and she was overcome by sudden weakness and fainting. After a while, the headmistress gave the signal to start. However, she played with extraordinary confidence on stage. After the second meeting, a standing ovation was organized for the jubilant, in which the entire audience participated. Many leading figures of public life came to congratulate. The mayor of Chicago Čermák also joined in the congratulations. Unfortunately, her health deteriorated rapidly. Mrs. Ludvíková died on May 31, 1932.

After the First World War, the standard of living of the population in our republic was very poor, and people accepted any help. Mrs. Ludvíková organized a collection of clothes, shoes and food, which she sent to Dobrovice. She herself came for a visit of several days in 1920. In her honor, falconers, volunteers, singers, legionnaires and firefighters organized   a festive evening in the hall of the Town Hall. The attendance was huge. Mrs. Mille returned to Czechoslovakia once more in 1927. As the president of the Association of Czech Women in America, she came to Czechoslovakia with a large delegation of American women and on that occasion also visited her relatives in Dobrovica.

Thank you for lending material from a private archive. M. Vacková



Bohumila Ludvik Articles from the Foreign Language Press Survey

Ludvik's Theater - Denní Hlasatel, Nov. 5, 1917

The Ludvik theatrical group returned to the Thalia auditorium, where it gave Moliere's classic play, "The Miser," last night. A large audience welcomed it at this performance, which is its first this season. Mrs. Bohumila Ludvik, widow of the former director, was in charge of the stage management. The play is a novelty as far as the Chicago Czech stage is concerned, although it is a product of the seventeenth century. It is a play that requires detailed acting in order to please the audience as much as it does the reader.

The performance was evidently a success, judging from the frequent applause. This was good proof of the care that the performers took to depict this classic.

Harpagon, the title role, was played by Mr. J. Skalicky, who has again appeared after an absence of several years from our stage. He was greeted as a skillful actor who is again to be a valuable asset to the group. He presented a character into whose traits he had delved very thoroughly; it is really the only important role of the play, though other figures are also depicted in an interesting fashion. These other characters were cleverly represented by Mmes. Splavec, Ludvik, Horlivy, Novak, and Stetina, as well as by Messrs. Dvorak, Stach, Klapka, Horlivy, and Brejla. Professor Capek directed the orchestra. The audience had to pay the war tax for the first time, and did it with obvious pleasure.


Convention of Bohemian Freethinkers - Denní Hlasatel, May 30, 1920

A lengthy discussion followed in which the following delegates took part: Mrs. Bohumila Ludvik, Mrs. Marie Smrcek, Mr. Karel Smiricky, and Mr. Jan Pecha. Finally, it was resolved that each delegate shall have the right to as many votes as the number of organizations which he represents.

Delegates Work Diligently on Amendments to the Constitution Denní Hlasatel, Sept. 8, 1920

A week of urgent work commenced yesterday for the delegates to the convention of the Jednota Ceskych Dam (Bohemian Ladies' Unity). The brilliant days of the golden jubilee celebration being over, the convention set about its work again, and a whole week will be devoted to consultations and to amendments to the constitution. Apparently it will take a great deal of work, because each article of the constitution is being considered, each article is being discussed by many of the delegates, and therefore it is certain that the convention will last until next Tuesday as the program indicates.

Yesterday's session was called to order at 9:30 A. M. by the chairman, Sister Bohumila Ludvik. Almost all of the delegates were present. The chairman then mentioned the death of Vaclav Snajdr, Nestor of Bohemian-American journalists, who also did a considerable service for the Jednota Ceskych Dam at the time when the order was just established. The delegates showed respect to his memory by rising.

Ninth Convention of the Jednota Ceskych Dam - Denní Hlasatel, Sept. 15, 1920

Yesterday was the last day of the jubilee convention of the Jednota Ceskych Dam (Bohemian Ladies' Unity). During the morning session, various important matters were debated, of which the most significant were the creation of a jubilee fund which will be used for organizational purposes, and the appropriation of generous monetary gifts to our Bohemian schools and to many other good causes. The afternoon session was dedicated exclusively to farewells.


The last session of the ninth convention of the Jednota Ceskych Dam was called to order by the chairman, Sister Bohumila Ludvik, at 9 A. M. After the roll call, proposals of the resolution committee concerning monetary gifts for the benefit of various good causes were read and debated. First it was resolved to appropriate the sum of five hundred dollars to the jubilee arrangement committee, and then the following monetary gifts were appropriated:

Ninth and Tenth Sessions - Denní Hlasatel, Aug. 26, 1922

In its ninth session, the sixth convention of the Sesterska Podporujici Jednota (Bohemian Sisterhood [herein after referred to as the Jednota])continued its work of yesterday. The session was opened by the president, Mrs. Marie Hajek, who, after ascertaining that the password was given by every delegate and visiting member, ordered a reading of the roll call by the convention secretary. The roll call revealed that all the delegates and officers of the convention were present. The reading of the minutes of the previous session followed, and except for a few minor corrections the minutes were approved as read. ……..

The guests will be greeted in the name of the Union by the president of the Grand Lodge, Sister Anna Brychta. The second item on the program will be a recitation by an inmate of the Bohemian Orphanage, followed by a soprano solo by.Miss Helena Weiner. Then our well-known dramatic artist, Sister O. Splavec, will give a reading. Mr. Milos Bezdek will sing a solo. The festive event will end with an address by the chairman of the festivities committee of the Union, Sister Bohumila Ludvik.

A Banquet in Honor of the Delegates of the Bohemian Sisterhood - Denní Hlasatel, Aug. 28, 1922

Our ladies have set an example worth following. The Sesterska Podporujici Jednota (Bohemian Sisterhood), which held a week's convention in our city, worked tirelessly and zealously for the good of the Jednota, for the furtherance of Free Thought, and the unity of our people. This was appreciated not only by the members of the Jednota, but also by our other great (really the greatest) women's organization--the Jednota Ceskych Dam (Bohemian Ladies' Union.) The latter organization shows great wisdom in not considering the Jednota a competitor but an ally, and in rejoicing when its good work proves successful.

To express its feeling of friendship for the Jednota, the Bohemian Ladies' Union arranged a banquet in honor of the Jednota delegates. The event took place yesterday in the Sokol Chicago hall, and its purpose was not only the honoring of the Jednota delegates but all its own diligent workers as well as those of the Bohemian Ladies Union. As with everything else undertaken by our ladies, so this banquet, too, was a complete success. Every single detail of it was thoroughly thought out and faultlessly executed. The results of the whole affair were such as to bring great joy to the participants, which, in turn, surely produced enthusiasm of benefit to both organizations. It was a banquet such as one rarely sees. More than six hundred persons sat down at tables which were literally groaning under the weight of the many delicacies which only Bohemian cooks know how to prepare. Not less efficient were the handsome and sprightly maidens who attended to the service; their every move was beautifully purposeful, contributing to the pleasure of the guests.

As an aesthetic complement to the banquet its musical and other features are worthy of mention. The musical program began with an overture played by the orchestra of the Ceska Utulna a Sirotcinec (Bohemian Old People's Home and Orphanage) under the baton of Mr. Rubringer. The youthful musicians bore themselves well, and deserve the applause which greeted their efforts. The president of the Grand Lodge of the Bohemian Ladies' union, Mrs.Brichta, greeted the delegates and all other guests with a hearty address. Other items on the program were a song by....Mrs. Splavec, poems recited by two inmates of the Bohemian Orphanage, a song by Miss Weiner, who was accompanied at the piano by Mrs. Macek, and a dramatic reading by Mr. Bezdek. Mrs. Bohumila Ludvik, as chairman of the entertainment committee, thanked all those whose efforts made this affair a success, and the program ended with a musical number played by the orchestra of the Bohemian Orphanage.

The last-named institution will also profit by this banquet, a collection having been made, among the guests for its benefit. The amount of the collection was $84.