Vaclav Lenoch
Czech Story Teller

Vaclav Lenoch is buried in Chicago's Bohemian National Cemetery, Grave Row 1, Lot 979, Block 7, with a simple headstone. It is in an area of the cemetery which probably has settled over the past century, and is today very susceptible to shallow flooding during wet periods of the year. (1)


Vaclav Lenoch was the writer who shared stories of Czech theater, of Czech humor, and provided his readers insights into the lives of many Czechs who were early settlers in Chicago.  His articles continued to be published years after his death.  One story, written about Vaclav, has the author and Vaclav musing that, for all he was noted for, he would probably die and have few people attend his funeral.  Apparently, that would become true. Image Right (2)


Most records list Vaclav’s birth as 1846 in Mnich (Mnichov).  Finding the actual record has been very elusive. In 1868 or 1869 Vaclav Lenoch reached Chicago.  Upon his death, the local Chicago Czech language newspapers provided articles which helped to complete the story of the story teller.  (The same newspapers which Vaclav had contributed numerous articles over the course of decades.)

Most of his life was spent in Chicago.  But for a brief period of time he lived in Racine, Wisconsin, as noted by his obituary appearing in the newspaper, Slavie. (3)  Census records of 1880 reveal four separate Lenoch family listings for Racine. (4) It appears that Vaclav was a house painter, and that also appears in his 1900 Chicago census record. (5)

Lenoch is not first mentioned as a story teller, but rather as a performer, writer of, and translator of, plays for the stages of Czech halls.  An article in August Geringer’s “Amerikan Kalendar” indicates that 1869 was the first time Vaclav appeared on stage.  It was a Czech hall on DeKoven street.  Two years later Vaclav was on that stage on the day of the Great Chicago Fire.  The 1918 Amerikan Kalendar summarized that event. (2) (Using Google Translate)

“He played too on Sunday, October 9, 1871, when Chicago was engulfed in great fire. It was given at that time the play "Orphan of Lowood", and as Lenoch often told his friends, just as he first entered the stage, he saw the windows lit up by the night outside, and the next moment the call "Fire!" But it was right after theater, because everywhere he ran out on the street. The man who lived on Taylor Street at the time and was witness that hustle and bustle, fire that in several articles and treatises in various papers masterfully portrayed.”

(Images below: Advertisements for plays in which Vaclav Lenoch performed - Dennni Hlasatel, Czech Foreign Language Newspaper, Chicago, Illinois: 4-14-1915 and 5-26-1914.  Lenoch appeared in theatre performances, until it appears, he was no longer physically able to do so.)

The Czech language newspaper, Denni Hlasatel, published an article on the passing of Vaclav Lenoch.  It included a summary of his theatrical career. (6) (Using Google Translate)

“One of Chicago's oldest volunteers and a well-known storyteller died.  One week ago, one of the oldest settlers and in the past, the leading Chicago theater amateur, died after an illness of several weeks. Václav Lenoch, aged about 69 years. The whole of Chicago in the Czech Republic knew him, and he is certainly not the only older settler who, remembering the first times of our national life in this city, would also not remember Václav Lenoch's theatrical activities. He arrived in Chicago as a young man about 21 years old and already in 1869, he performed for the first time on our stage. Theater was his life; he dedicated his youth to him and remained faithful to him almost until his death. He played regularly in the old 'Slovanská Lípa, then the Sokol Gymnasium Unity and perhaps in every Czech hall in Chicago, and the oldest visitors to our theaters keep him in memory of one of the most capable amateurs who have ever performed on the stage. In his younger years, he could be equal to many professional actors, and the fact that he traveled as a leading actor with a certain excellent German company for one or two seasons proves that he really was. He enjoyed great popularity with the Czech theatrical audience at the time, and a number of his successful roles remain in the memory of many older settlers in their memory, along with the many styles he used to entertain the audience. Perhaps the last time he performed on the Czech stage was at the 50th anniversary of the Czech Theater in Chicago, when together with pp. Nedomou, Pregler and Kohn, took one of the old farces in which the young men performed many years ago.”

Duch Casu, a Chicago newspaper which existed for decades, published a number of Vaclav Lenoch's poems and other articles related to the arts. (7)


Lenoch’s stories describing those early Czech settlers also appeared in the Czech language publication of his time: Duch Casu. They were published under “Ze Starych Vzpominek” (From Old Memories) between 1906 and 1909.  Many times those articles included a series of early Chicago settlers' names and a short piece of information on each.


One of this writer’s favorites, is Vaclav’s summary of the life of Jan Kristufek, also an early settler in Chicago. (8) (CSAGSI published the story of the Kristufek family to our society web site.)


Below, captions which appeared above the articles written in Duch Casu by Vaclav Lenoch.

The Amerikan Kalendar also published articles written by Lenoch.  The articles were stories of individual Czechs or short stories written for entertainment.  The first discovered article appeared in 1903. Another was in 1908 about Vaclav.  Then Kalendar even published articles of his, years after his death (1919, 1920, 1921, and 1929). (First page of each article, shown below, in order of publication.) (9)

Vaclav married Mary Vanek in Chicago in 1891.  They had eight children.  After Vaclav died in 1917, Mary Vanek Lenoch married Fred Nevoli on 11-19-1918.  Vaclav, wife Mary, and children James and Otto are interred in the same gravesite.

Lenoch Family Census Records: (10)

1880 Lenoch Families in Racine, Wisconsin
Racine, Racine, 166 Page 30 at 257 Stebair
John 36, Anna 30, Oscar 7, Mary 5/12
Many Wansek 20 (SIL)

Racine, Racine, 166 Page 31 at 258 St. Elvie
Frank 38, Elizabeth 38, Louise 2
Wanasek Step Children
Annie 16, Fannie 14, John 10, Anton 8

Racine, Racine, 163 Page 1 Center St.
Wenzel 30

Racine, Racine, 166 Page 49 at 413 Nelson
Joseph 39, Katie 26, Millie 1

1900 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 26 D0807 Page 30 at 2242 N Claremont
James Teusch 53, mary 40, Anna 5, Mary, Betsy 8/12, Otto 4, Ladislaw 7

James is a house painter

1910 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 11 D0557 Page 2 at 1512 18th St

James Lenoch 62, Mary 41, ladislav 16, Annie 15, Otto 13, Mary 11, Bessie 9, Jaroslav 7, John 3

1920 Illinois Cook Chicago Ward 12 D0703 page 6 at 2510 Sawyer
Fred Nevoli 59, Mary 50, Amelia 24, otto 22, Bessie 19, George 17, John 13, Jim 9

Vaclav Lenoch articles found in the Newberry Library website - Foreign Language Press Survey (11)


Theatrical Anniversary Denní Hlasatel, Jan. 28, 1913

Yesterday we mentioned the fact that this year is the year for Bohemians in Chicago to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Bohemian amateur theatricals in Chicago. According to some of us, the first performance in Chicago took place March 17, 1863, which date is given in Mr. Václav Lenoch's "Pamĕti" (Memoirs), and will be found even in some of the old records of the Slovanská Lipa [name of the oldest Sokol unit in Chicago--meaning Slavonic Linden Tree]. It seems, however, that our historians of the theater have made an inadvertent error. Announcements in some of the preserved issues of contemporary newspapers indicate that the first performance was given February 22 of that year in the former dance hall on Canal and Van Buren Streets. Of course, they had no stage scenery at that time, and no doubt many other necessary properties were missing. But in spite of all this, the show was a success, which is proved by the fact that several more were put on during that season.

Three Musketeers Svornost, Jan. 13, 1890

The theatrical performance given yesterday by the capable dramatic Club, "Thalia", in the hall of the "Ces. Angl. Svob. Skola", (Bohemian-English Liberal School), was not so well attended as was expected, nevertheless, in view of the unfavorable weather it was satisfactory and for those who came there was certainly arranged a nice enjoyable evening.
The drama, "Three Musketeers", is new on the local stage, based on Historical facts and boundless ecclesiastical intrigues in the court of Louis XIII. The scenes portrayed are artistic and truthful and the entire play so well arranged as to compel the spectator to wait for the finish to see how it ends.
The leading roles were in the hands of some of our older proven actors and were well acted. The Three Musketeers (Jos. Jurka, F. Taraba, and E. Benes) D'Artagnan, the novice (Vac Lenoch), Richelieu (Mr. Adamek), Willers (Mr. Mayer, Anna (Miss Kucera), Constance (Miss Bedlanova) and Lady Winters (Mrs. O. Tradovaska) are all deserving of praise for their work.

[Gymnastic Exhibition a Great Success] Svornost, November 25th, 1878

The Gymnastic exhibition given by the active members of our "Telocvicne Jednota Sokol" (Gymnastic Society Sokol) last Saturday was successfully produced and afforded the guests a great deal of pleasure.
The acts of the performers were remarkable because of the fact they were carried out within a limited area; particularly pleasing were the Pyramidal and Buck performances.
The singing of Mr. Lenoch, Zajicek and Jurka was also greatly appreciated by those present. Later dancing was continuous till early morning.

Vaclav Lenoch Dies Denní Hlasatel, Apr. 11, 1917

After only a few days of illness, Vaclav Lenoch, one of Chicago's oldest Czech amateur actors, passed away recently. He was known to every older resident of our settlement, and in earlier times was declared to be our best story teller. He came to Chicago when he was twenty-one years old. In 1869, he appeared on the stage, became active as an amateur, playing mostly in the old Slovanska Lipa (Slavic Lindentree club), but finally he played alternatively in almost every hall of the Chicago Czech community. His high artistic level would easily have enabled him to become a professional actor. There was ample proof for his excellent qualities, for he passed through a considerable period as the first actor of an outstanding German theatrical company.
During his later years, he wrote a goodly number of short stories, some of which were reprinted in the calendar of the Denni Hlasatel; many memoirs depicting the life of the early Czech immigrants issued from his pen. One play, "Zelena Pepicka," portrays our early settlers. He translated "Robert and Bertram," a comedy known later as "Lisak A Smola." He also was a newspaperman, having spent some time with the editorial staff of the Denni Hlasatel.  He will be buried in the Bohemian National Cemetery.

Images below: Obituary and rememberance published in Denni Hlasatel 4-11 and 4-12-1917.  (12)



  1. Image taken by author.
  2. “Amerikan Kalendar", August Geringer Publisher, Chicago, Illinois, 1918, Page 283.
  3. “Slavie”, Czech language newspaper, Racine Wisconsin, Publisher Vojtech Masek, 4-13-1917, Page 5.
  4. Ancestry and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.
  5. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
  6. “Vaclav Lenoch Mrtev”, Denni Hlasatel (Chicago Czech Language Newspaper), Published by Denni Hlasatel Printing and Publishing, 11-4-1917, Page 1.
  7. Duch Casu, Czech Language Newspaper, editor at the time, Frantisek Zdrubek, Publisher, August Geringer, Chicago, Illinois.
  8. “Ze Starych Vzpominek” – “Jan Kristufek” – Duch Casu, Chicago Czech Language Newspaper), Published, Chicago, Illinois, August Geringer, Editor – Frantisek Zdrubek, 9-27-1908, Page 19.
  9. “Amerikan Kalendar", August Geringer Publisher, Chicago, Illinois.
  10. Census Records By Decade - United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
  12. Chicago: Denní Hlasatel Printing and Publishing, 1891-1994, Chicago, Cicero, Berwyn.