Jessie Harper Linde (1887-1965)
Inducted in 1987
Used by permission from the Arizona Historical Society
“I remember Jessie Linde for her indomitable courage. I remember that in the face of seeming adversity, she never wavered in her resolve to bring the finest music and artists to Phoenix, and to have in Phoenix, a concert hall that visually and acoustically would enhance the artists’ performances.”
— Mrs. Fred Blair Townsend, speaking at the dedication of the
Phoenix Symphony Hall’s Green Room to Jessie Linde, October 28, 1972.
“…the toughest and sweetest girl in Phoenix.”
— Charles Laughton
For over thirty years, Jessie Linde single-handedly brought fine actors, dancers, and musicians to Arizona, and she campaigned tirelessly for a concert hall. She and her husband, Archer E. Linde, gave freely of their time and money in order to insure that top entertainers would perform in the state.
Born Jeanette Harper on November 29, 1887 in Streator, Illinois, Jessie attended the St. Louis Conservatory of Music and sang with the very first St. Louis Opera Company. She married Archer E. Linde in 1916, and the couple moved to Chicago and had a daughter, Margaret Helen. In 1920, Jessie Linde traveled to Arizona, hoping the area’s climate would cure her arthritis. Realizing how much the Arizona climate improved Jessie’s condition, Archer moved the family to Phoenix and opened a grocery store.
Jessie began to work with the Musical Events group of the Phoenix Musician’s Club, which was directed by the famous western promoter L.E. Behymer. Her work was so successful that several managers in New York asked her to open an entertainment booking office in Phoenix. Jessie was worried about the monetary risk involved, but her love of the arts and her dedication to Phoenix’s cultural needs prevailed. She opened her box office in 1936 under the banner of Linde Box Office Productions.
Jessie Linde convinced stars, such as Vladamir Horowitz, Mario Lanza, Liberace, and Ella Fitzgerald to perform in Phoenix. She used the available performance space such as the Phoenix Union High School auditorium. Jessie also fought Arizona’s segregation laws in order to present performers. She invited Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, William Warfield, and other black performers to stay as guests in her home because they were not allowed to stay in hotels. She also refused to segregate audiences and would refund tickets to white patrons who refused to sit by blacks.
During the years Jessie sponsored over 750 programs in Phoenix, she helped found the American Association of Concert Managers and the Salt River Valley Community Concert Association. In the 1960’s, Maurice McCabe, a Navajo leader, asked Jessie if she would bring performers to the new Navajo Civic Center. She booked Guy Lombardo for the opening, which drew Navajos from sixty-miles away. The performances she promoted on the Navajo reservation always sold out.
Jessie never saw the completion of Phoenix’ Symphony Hall. In 1972, when the structure was finally dedicated, the City Manager unveiled a plaque in the hall’s Green Room which reads:
MRS. ARCHER E. LINDE
talented and tireless impresario who recognized this community’s desire to see and hear the world’s greatest musical and theatrical artists, and who for more than 25 years brought to Phoenix each season, at her own financial risk, a succession of top-level events which, prior to the maturing of our own Symphony Orchestra, gave this community cultural advantages it otherwise would not have been privileged to enjoy. For at least 15 years before death ended her career in 1965, she never failed, in each public appearance, to make a strong appeal for an adequate civic concert hall.
And now, sincerely and with well-merited gratitude, we lovingly dedicate this plaque to her memory.