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Next Sunday, June 16, is Bloomsday.

It has nothing to do with running through the streets of Spokane, and little connection with western Montana and the Missoulian, which is what Missoula Rewound is purported to be about.

There is one tenuous, delicious tie, though. Her name was Milly Bandmann Palmer.

Bloomsday is the annual celebration of the life of James Joyce, the Irish writer who based “Ulysses” on the wanderings of Leopold Bloom in Dublin on June 16, 1904. It’s an especially big deal in that city, with pub crawls, marathon readings of the 730-page novel and tours of the city based on Bloom’s route.

Literary circles in cities around the world mark their own Bloomsday festivals. Cassiopeia Books in Great Falls is hosting its fifth annual Bloomsday on Sunday evening.

“Ulysses” ranked No. 1 on the Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, and is probably close to the top among novels started but never finished.

Milly Palmer was an aging British actress in 1904. She was onstage at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin that night, and her name pops up in an evening chapter of Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness narrative.

Mr Bloom stood at the corner, his eyes wandering over the multicoloured hoardings (billboards). … Hello. Leah tonight. Mrs Bandmann Palmer. Like to see her again in that. Hamlet she played last night. Male impersonator. Perhaps he was a woman.

It's said Millie played Hamlet better than her ex-husband, Daniel Bandmann, and that’s one reason he left her.

“Herr Daniel” was an eccentric German-born actor who was among the famous names of American theater in the 1870s, when he was married to Millie and often performed with her. He was referred to as “an eminent tragedian” more than 30 times in Missoula newspapers after he settled here in 1887.

By 1893, Bandmann was 53 at least and married to 22-year-old Mary Kelly. That saga had been publicized in scandalous detail in early 1892 by A.B. Hammond’s Missoula Weekly Gazette. That paper referred to Kelly as “the pet pupil and protégé of Daniel E. Bandmann, the actor-rancher, the histrionic Hamlet, the plain, every-day despoiler of virtue.”

They lived on an 870-acre ranch with their two small children and would have two more before Daniel died there in 1905. Millie never lived here, and apparently had little contact with her husband after he took his Shakespeare company on a three-year worldwide tour in 1880.

Bandmann was no recluse on his ranch on Bandmann Flats, so it opened some eyes when this item appeared in the Missoulian on Saturday, June 3, 1893: “In District Court. Millicent Bandmann vs. Daniel Bandmann, divorce, alimony and restraining order.”

Then this, on July 17: “Millicent Bandmann, who recently had the divorce obtained by Daniel E. Bandmann set aside at Livingston, has brought suit on her own account in this city through her attorney … alleging unlawful relations with Mary Kelly.”

It took months to untangle it all. The Weekly Missoulian reported the resolution on Dec. 20, under the headline: “Bandmann's Switch. One of the Quickest Exchanges of Wives on Record.”

“Millicent Bandmann is at last free,” the story began. “Free from the legal bonds that have, since the month of February, 1869, held her as if in a vice, in matrimony with Herr Daniel E. Bandmann, actor, dairyman and stud horse raiser. Judge Woody yesterday signed the decree that granted to the lady, now residing in London, England, her freedom.”

That concluded, "Judge Woody was requested to tie Bandmann again for life, this time to Mary Kelly, to whom he supposed himself married a year ago," the Missoulian story went on. "The marriage license was quickly procured and the two principals stood up, hand in hand, in the presence of a few attorneys and a Missoulian reporter, and anxiously awaited for the presiding officer to pronounce the few words necessary on such occasions.”

The spectacle was an odd one. The 22-year-old bride was "pleasing to look upon, has a bright eye and a pretty red cheek." 

Daniel was dressed “in his customary garb, his frayed and ragged trousers half hidden in a pair of run down top boots, that would shriek in horror at the sight of a blacking brush, a bright red neckerchief tied carelessly around his neck, seemingly without regard to the fact that the soiled woolen shirt that covered the upper portion of his body had a collar attached to it, a grey, stubby beard of a few days' growth spreading over a face that wore a hideous grin of exultancy …”

The Bandmann ranch burned down a few years after Daniel died. Mary moved the family to 216 S. Fourth St. E. in Missoula, now a Missoulian parking lot  (there's a connection). Later she packed up the kids and moved to Spokane, where she taught dramatics at Gonzaga University and dabbled in silent motion pictures.

But back to 1904. Even as Millie Bandmann received a dose of immortality from Joyce on that first Bloomsday, her ex-husband’s extensive McIntosh apple orchards were blooming on Bandmann Flats. (A handful still do). Two days later Herr Bandmann gaveled to order a meeting in town.

Fully immersed in a double life as an actor and agricultural leader, he chaired a meeting of the Montana Farmers Institute in the Union Opera House. The main business of the day was to appoint a committee to take a hard look at establishing of a co-operative creamery in Missoula.

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Mineral County, veterans issues

Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment reporter at the Missoulian