Phonostalgia presents...


A Century in Passing
(December 12, 1910—December 12, 2010)

Frank C. Stanley

            One hundred years have passed since the recording industry lost one of its greatest pioneers, William Stanley Grinsted, better known as "Frank C. Stanley." The amount of material he waxed in such a short time from 1891 to a few days before his passing is outstanding. Not only is he remembered for his profound bass solos (patriotic, religious, popular, sentimental, speeches, etc.), but for his duets with Corinne Morgan, Elise Stevenson, Grace Nelson, Byron G. Harlan, Harry Macdonough, and Henry Burr. He also made sketches with Cal Stewart and Byron G. Harlan, comedy solos as "Fred Lambert" on Zon-o-phone, banjo solos and accompaniments (under his own name, as well as "George S. Williams"). He was the bass singer for the Columbia/Peerless Quartet (including several descriptive sketches and minstrel recordings), the Metropolitan Trio, the Mendelssohn Mixed Quartet, the Lyric Quartet, the Trinity Choir, and countless other records in which he participated without label credit.

            But Stanley was more than just any studio artist. In his hometown of Orange, New Jersey, where he was known as W. Stanley Grinsted, he was an alderman, a school commissioner, a free mason, and a Knight Templar. He was a member of the Orange Common Council, the Corinthian Lodge, the Democratic Committee, and just before his passing, he was the choirmaster at the Central Presbyterian Church in New York City. He was so well-known and respected throughout the city of Orange that flags were flown at half staff after his passing, mourning a loyal friend of the community.

            Exactly four months before his burial (December 15, 1910), Stanley signed his Last Will and Testament:

Frank C. Stanley's will

One of his close recording partners, Henry Burr, signed it as a witness under his real name, Harry McClaskey:

Witnesses (including Henry Burr as "Harry H. McClaskey")

Months later, on December 6, 1910, Stanley gave his final public performance at a concert featuring Caro Roma and Ernest R. Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Stanley often went by his real name, W. Stanley Grinsted, in public appearances and concerts:

Frank C. Stanley's last public appearance
Courtesy of Tim Gracyk.

After the concert, while carrying his coat in cold weather, Stanley returned to his home in Orange, New Jersey. He caught pneumonia as a result, and died six days later:

Frank C. Stanley's death certificate

A Trip to Frank C. Stanley's Grave

Rosedale Cemetery
Orange, New Jersey

Frank C. Stanley and a few of his family members reside in one of the city's oldest cemeteries, not far from the Edison National Historic Site, where Stanley recorded during his early years. A few small lot markers surround the Grinsted family plots, all of which are located in Lot #798. Here's one of them:

The Grave of Frank C. Stanley:

Stanley is buried under his real name, W. Stanley Grinsted. His monument remains in remarkably good condition considering its age and location (there are several vandalized monuments a few yards away). But Stanley is not alone in his resting place—his father, Augustus T. Grinsted, lies a few feet behind him:

Stanley's mother, Loretta Green, lies next to her husband Augustus:

Stanley's first child, William Stanley, Jr., lies to the right. William, Jr. also had a son named in honor of his father, Frank Stanley Grinsted:

The world has changed significantly since Frank C. Stanley closed his eyes for the last time 100 years ago. Many parts of Orange, New Jersey still remain beautiful and scenic as they must have been during his lifetime, but alas, everyone he knew had come and gone, and Mr. Grinsted's contributions to the community are either forgotten, or no longer existent. Only in recorded sound can he be resurrected, for his prolific and versatile bass contributions on countless discs and cylinders remain unsurpassable.

The Grinsted family at Rosedale Cemetery

Text and images by Ryan Barna

© 2010 Phonostalgia