Hugh Cameron

Hugh Cameron. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Comedy actor Hugh Cameron’s family moved to Duluth from Canada around 1891 (the image above is a sketch of Cameron from 1893). He was born in Grenville, Argenteuil, Quebec, Canada, on May 15, 1877, according to an 1893 Duluth newspaper article, although his birth date is often reported as May 15, 1879. His full name at birth was Coral Oscar Hugh Cameron, and he was known as Coral H. Cameron while in Duluth. Coral is first listed in the Duluth city directory in 1893, working as a clerk at J.E. Haynie & Co., a dry goods store located at 105-107 West Superior Street. Coral first gained public attention in 1893 when the Duluth News Tribune ran a contest in which people voted for their favorite saleslady, salesman, or office worker in Duluth. Coral Cameron won the male category with 11,579 votes. The first and second place women and men each won a week-long trip to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Coral got a taste of the big city and said in an article about his experience that, “coming back to Duluth was like going on a farm. It’s awful quiet here compared with Chicago.”

Coral Cameron left Duluth for San Francisco in the late 1890s and found work with the James O’Neill acting company, using the name Hugh Cameron. He toured with the company for several years, occasionally returning to perform in Duluth. Hugh began his Broadway career in 1903 in a play called The Bold Sojer Boy. Over the years, he appeared in nearly thirty Broadway productions, ending with the long-running Du Barry Was a Lady in 1939, in which he appeared with Ethel Merman and Bert Lahr. While he worked mostly on Broadway, Hugh also appeared in seventeen movies, from comedy shorts to full-length dramas. Some of his films include The Web of Deceit (1920), The Man Who Found Himself (1925), The Emergency Case (1930), Dublin in Brass (1935), and One Third of a Nation (1939).

Hugh’s brother Walter was a Duluth firefighter in the 1890s, and was later employed by the Northern Pacific Railway. He died in a railroad accident in Bemidji in 1901. Another brother, Daniel N. Cameron, was an employee of Zenith Furnace Co. and lived at 310 South 58th Avenue West for many years. Their mother Katherine lived in Duluth until 1908, when she moved to New York City to live with her son. Hugh Cameron died in New York City on November 9, 1941, leaving his wife, Louisa, and their daughter, Catherine.

Story by Judith Leibaert. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by Judith Leibaert.