Les frères MACMAHON




macmahon james portrait macmahon charles portrait 02  

(Sandhurst, 1858-Petersham, 1915)

([1861]-Melbourne, 27/06/1917)

(Bendigo, [1861]-Auckland, 22/11/1918)

Jean-Claude SEGUIN


Patrick MacMahon épouse Mary Ann [MacMahon]. Descendance :

  • Mary Ann MacMahon (Bendigo, [1850]-North Cartlon, 19/01/1888)
  • Thomas MacMahon (Irlande, 1853-Melbourne, 06/01/1854)
  • James "Jimmy" MacMahon (Sandhurst, 01/11/1857-Patersham, 29/04/1915)
  • Charles MacMahon (1861-Melbourne, 27/06/1917)
  • Joseph Travers MacMahon (Bendigo, [1861]-Auckland, 22/11/1918 épouse Violet Isabel Gorman.
  • William Henry MacMahon (Bendigo, 19/08/1854-Rookwood, 04/07/1923)


Les origines (1858-1893)

James MacMahon est né à Sandhurst, dans l'état de Victoria, comme il l'indique dans une interview de 1888 :

I am an Australian by birth, having been born at Sandhurst, Victoria in 1858.

The Northern Miner, Chartes Towers, mardi 4 septembre 1888, p. 2

Son frère Joseph naît trois ans plus tard, en 1861.

Après ses premières études, il  rentre comme stagiaire dans un cabinet d'avocat :

Mr. James MacMahon was born in Sandhurst, Victoria, in 1858, in which city, after leaving school, he made his first start in life by entering a lawyer's office as an articled clerk.

Table Talk, Melbourne, vendredi 15 août 1890, p. 5.

Peu intéressé par cette formation, il se lance d'abord dans le journalisme, puis dans le monde du théâtre :

The necessary studies proving any thing but agreeable, the youth abandoned all. notions of achieving legal distinction, by incontinently plunging into journalism, which, in its turn, was thrown over in favor of theatrical management. Mr. MacMahon liked his work as a junior reporter well enough, but, as he never made more, or seemed likely to make more, than two pounds a week at it, his restless disposition prompted him to look about for something more payable, and at seventeen he embarked on the troubled sea of theatrical management. He was successful enough in a small way, but, by degrees, as the months went by, he launched into greater undertakings, and in 1877 entered into an engagement with Mrs. Scott-Siddons to pilot her on an American tour. His journalistic experience served him well during his sojourn in America, as it enabled him to keep on good terms with more than one cantankerous editor by supplying that gentleman with odds and ends of news.

Table Talk, Melbourne, vendredi 15 août 1890, p. 5.

La rencontre avec la célèbre actrice britannique, Mary Frances Scott-Siddons, a lieu lors du séjour de l'artiste en Australie en 1876. James MacMahon est alors directeur du Royal Princess' Theatre de Bendigo.

Scott-Siddons_mary_1871_portrait.jpg  macmahon 1876 theatre
Mary Frances Scott-Siddons (1871)
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Bendigo Advertiser, Bendigo, samedi 14 octobre 1876, p. 1. 

Il va devenir ainsi son manager et secrétaire personnel pendant sept ans tant en Europe qu'en Amérique :

For seven years he continued with Mrs Soott-Siddons, alternating between Europe and America, and during this time managed six seasons in the United States and Canada, the summer seasons in the United Kingdom, and a season at the Haymarket, London. His indomitable perseverance brought him under the notice of Mr. Henry Irving, with whom he was next associated in the provincial production throughout England, Ireland and Scotland of Romeo and Juliet. Mr. MacMahon won a brilliant financial success, as well as an extended reputation, for the shrewd, and practical way he " worked " the tour—no easy matter, when it is remembered, that Irving's company consisted of forty-five people, while the scenery and effects weighed over one hundred tons.

Table Talk, Melbourne, vendredi 15 août 1890, p. 5.

C'est vers 1890, que James McMahon et ses trois frères Charles, Joseph et William vont se faire connaître sous le nom de "McMahon Brothers" :

There has been rumour for some time of a gigantic operatic enterprise in the air, and it now appears that the enterprising McMahon Brothers are the leading spirits in the matter. Towards the end of March next they will inaugurate at the opera bouse a season which will perhaps prove the most important ever attempted in the colonies. Miss Nellie Stewart, who in the course of a few months will proceed on a professional tour through Great Britain, wilt make the occasion of her farewell appearance in Australia a remarkable one by the presentation of a series of operas on a lavish scale, and she will have associated with her the famous contralto, Madame Burton, Mr. Snazelle, both artists of high repute in the famous Carl Rosa opera company. The opening opera will be Paul Jones, the latest London success.
The Hay Standard and Advertiser for Balranald..., Hay, mercredi 12 février 1890, p. 2.

Les images animées (1894-1897)

Le kinetoscope (1894-1896)

L'intérêt commercial des frères MacMahon pour les images animées semble remonter à 1894. C'est cette année-là en effet que le célèbre homme de théâtre James Cassius Williamson se rend aux États-Unis afin d'acheter un kinetoscope Edison. À son retour, l'appareil est installé au nº 148, Pitt Street (Sydney). C'est alors que rentrent en scène les frères MacMahon qui vont être associés à l'installation et au fonctionnement de ce "kinetoscope parlor" :

The kinetoscope, which the Messrs. M'Mahon have just introduced to Sydney, is another materialisation of Edison's genius. Entering the building in Pitt-street, half a dozen steps above King-street, you see five cabinet-shaped stands. Each is a separate kinetoscope. Glancing through the aperture fixed for the eyes, you have a view of one of the most striking and marvellous novelties that scientific invention has yet produced.
The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, samedi 1er décembre 1894, p. 9.

James et Charles MacMahon sont probablement les responsables du local de Pitt-street comme l'indiquent certaines coupures de presse :

"The Haunted Swing" has succeeded its brother miracle, "The Kinetoscope," in the tenure of that gaudily-advertised shop in Pitt-street. The other day, James McMahon, Esq., with one of his alluring smiles, induced us to get into the swing, where were also ensconced two bosom friends from way back.

Truth, Sydney, dimanche 17 février 1895, p. 2.

Si l'on ne connaît pas de photographie de ce "kinetoscope parlor" constitué de cinq appareils semble-t-il, The Daily Telegraph publie une gravure qui pourrait être une évocation lointaine de ce salon.

sydney kinetoscope 1894 decembre 02
The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, samedi 1er décembre 1894, p. 9.

Si James reste à Sydney, c'est son frère Charles McMahon, en association ponctuelle avec Arthur Garner, qui organise une tournée dans le pays dont Hobart constitue la première étape dès le début du mois de février :

The kinetoscope, under the management of Messrs. Arthur Garner and Charles MacMahon, attracts a good deal of interest, and a sunflower show is announced for Monday.

The Mercury, Hobart, samedi 9 mars 1895, p. 2.

Pendant plusieurs mois Charles MacMahon va ainsi parcourir l'Australie afin de présenter le kinetoscope : MelbourneBendigoBallaratGeelongBrisbaneCharters Towers, Adelaide... À l'occasion, il présente également un kinetophone (Rockhampton).

Le phonoscope (1896)

Dès 1895, quelques essais avaient été effectués avec un kinetophone. Dès les premiers jours de l'année 1896, Charles MacMahon qui présente un spectacle au Theatre Royal (Adelaide), dont le manager est Wybert Reeve, va exploiter un phonoscope - sans doute un kinetophone - dans un local de la Rundle-street :

The success achieved by the kinetoscope has induced Mr. Charles MacMahon to present to the public the phonoscope, which is the reigning success in America at the present. By this wonderful instrument the picture of actual living persons are presented, with most lifelike movements, and at the same time their voices are heard, the intonation bing most natural. During the season there will be some 50 to 60 subjects to select from, but to-day the management will show at Rundle-street three-one representing an Amercain live stock auctioneer knocking down the goods consigned to him, another an American dancing girl, and the third a comic singer.

The Advertiser, Adelaide, samedi 18 janvier 1896, p. 5.

Les séances vont se prolonger jusqu'au 15 février, puis Charles MacMahon se rend à Broken Hill où, semble-t-il, il cède l'exploitation du phonoscope à Frank St Hill.

Les cinématographes (1896-)


James et Joseph McMahon, chacun de leur côté, vont se lancer dans l'aventure de l'exploitation de cinématographes.

Le cinématographe de Joseph McMahon (août-septembre 1896)

Joseph McMahon organise une présentation réservée à un public d'invités, le 27 août 1896, au Criterion Theatre de Sydney, où il présente des vues animées provenant du catalogue Edison, comme The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. En septembre, il en fait de même à Brisbane

Le Chronophotographe Demenÿ de James McMahon (novembre-décembre 1896)

À la fin du mois d'octobre, la presse annonce que James McMahon, de retour en Australie, vient de faire l'acquisition d'un cinématographe (Chronophotographe Demenÿ) :

The well-known theatrical manager, Mr. James MacMahon, returned from a flying trip to Europe on Saturday by the R.M.S. Arcadia. One of the objects of his visit was to secure the very latest machines for the production of animated photographs, which, as the cinematograph, are exciting such interest just now all over the world. For the better achievement of his purpose Mr. MacMahon visited all the principal cities of the Continent, and finally secured In Paris the instrument of M. Deminy [sic], a French inventor. Mr. MacMahon has the machine with him, together with a large number of novel and interesting subjects. He has furthermore been able to procure the necessary apparatus and blank films for taking and reproducing local subjects, and intends beginning with the Melbourne Cup. The Instrument is said to be one of the most elaborate and perfect up to date, and up to the time of Mr. Mac-Mahon's leaving London (September 11) had not been exhibited there, not withstanding its great vogue in Paris.

The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, lundi 26 octobre 1896, p. 6.

L'inauguration a lieu le 7 novembre au nº 237 de Pitt-street.


Jimmy M'Mahon is running the first cinematographe with terrific success throughout Maoriland.Melbourne Punch, Melbourne, jeudi 26 novembre 1896, p. 9.

MR James MacMahon has secured a new Cinematographe with colour effects. One of the pictures shows Miss Loie Fuller's serpentine dance.Table Talk, Melbourne, vendredi 13 novembre 1896, p. 14.

"JIMMY" McMAHON is running the first cinematographe with terrific success throughout Maoriland.Melbourne Punch, Melbourne, jeudi 26 novembre 1896, p. 9.

Et après (-)


macmahon charles portrait
Mr. Chas. MacMahon, of the MacMahon-Darrell Company
New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1er avril 1905, p. 67.


Mr. James McMahon, the well-known theatrical manager and amusement promoter, died yesterday morning at a private hospital in Petersham, Sydney, at the age of 56 years. Mr. McMahon, who was born in Bendigo, entered the theatrical enterprise at an early age, and formed the firm of McMahon Brothers. He toured extensively in England and America in search of artists. The firm brought out John L. Sullivan, the boxer, the Evangeline Company, and many distinguished dramatic and musical artists. Mr. McMahon brought the first phonograph to Australia, and was one of the first to introduce the Biograph. He was also identified with the Opera House (now the Tivoli Theatre) in Melbourne. Three brothers survive him.Bendigo Advertise, Bendigo, samedi 1er mai 1915, p. 9.

macmahon james portrait 02
The New Zealand Observer, vol. XXXV, nº 36, samedi 15 mai 1915, p. 6. 



30/11/1894-<05/02/1895 Australie Sydney 148 Pitt-street Le kinetoscope
05/02-12/03/1895 Australie Hobart Exhibition-building Le kinetoscope
16/03-08/06/1895 Australie Melbourne Bourke-street Le kinetoscope
11-[18]/06/1895 Australie Bendigo The Albion Chambers Le kinetoscope
19-26/06/1895 Australie Ballarat Academy of Music Le kinetoscope
28/06-01/07/1895 Australie Geelong Exhibition Theatre Le kinetoscope
06-27/07/1895 Australie Sydney Pitt-street Le kinetoscope
13-27/08/1895 Australie Brisbane Exhibition Building/The Organ Hall,  Le kinetoscope
07-[12]/09/1895 Australie Charters Towers Mosman street Le kinetoscope
*[18]/09/1895 Australie Townsville   Le kinetoscope
27/09-[03]/10/1895 Australie Rockhampton East street Le kinetoscope
04->05/10/1895 Australie Rockhampton East street Le kinetophone
08-10/11/1895 Australie Adelaide Exhibition Building Le kinetoscope
11/11-02/12/1895 Australie Adelaide Hindley-street Le kinetoscope
03-29/12/1895 Australie Adelaide Rundle-street Le kinetoscope
30/12/1895 Australie Adelaide Glenelg Town Hall Le kinetoscope
31/12/1895-06/01/1896 Australie Adelaide Rundle-street Le kinetoscope
10-[14]/01/1896 Australie Ballarat Exhibition Buildings Le kinetoscope
18/01-15/02/1896 Australie Adelaide Bundle-street The Phonoscope
22-[26]/02/1896 Australie Broken Hill Cosmopolitan Hall The Phonoscope
25/09-10/10/1896 Australie Brisbane Royal Arcade The Cinematographe
07/11/1896 Australie Sydney Salon Cinematograph/Pitt-Street The Cinematographe