The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M. B. Curtis

The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M. B. Curtis
Hardcover, 6 x 9, with 61 black-and-white images; Paperback, 6 x 9, with 61 black-and-white images, 332 pages; 320 pages.
ISBN: 9780967820453.

By Richard Schwartz

Bronze Medal (Biography), Independent Publisher Book Awards

As the Statue of Liberty stood unlit and unloved by American politicians in 1886, one of her saviors was creating a theatrical sensation at New York’s Fourteenth Street Theatre. Actor M. B. Curtis, who had achieved overnight success in Sam’l of Posen, a groundbreaking play that transcended the common stereotypes of Jewish characters current at the time, was basking in public accolades at every curtain call when he came to Lady Liberty’s aid. Curtis’s rise to the top of his profession and his resulting fall from grace is a dramatic arc that rivals anything created for the stage. Actor, producer, real estate developer, promoter, hotelier, benefactor, and murder suspect, Curtis reached the highs of celebrity and fame as well as the lows of failure, illness, and a faltering career. The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty rescues his story from the dusty archives of forgotten history and reexamines an actor whose creativity and cultural influence still resonate today.


“Schwartz’s intriguing portrayal of celebrity, status, and desperation illuminates the underbelly of an exciting, rapidly changing time.” BookLife
“Schwartz does a magnificent job of resurrecting Curtis, reintroducing readers to a man who was, in his time, one of the theater’s biggest stars. A well-researched, lively biography.” David Pitt, Booklist
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Category History

About the Author

Richard Schwartz

Richard Schwartz

Richard Schwartz is a historian and the author of Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old BerkeleyEarthquake Exodus, 1906Berkeley 1900The Circle of Stones; and The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty. An outdoor enthusiast and animal lover, he worked on a Pennsylvania Dutch farm before heading west to find higher mountains. He now lives in Berkeley, California, where he works as a building contractor and documents early Native American sites in the Bay Area. Visit his website at

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