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Hildegardeusselmankraus

Hildegarde Usselman Kraus

Hildegarde Usselman Kraus was a longtime Fargo-Moorhead organist and entertainer.

Kraus was a significant part of the history of the Fargo Theatre, as well as the history of entertainment in Fargo-Moorhead.

She was the wife of Ed Kraus. The couple met in 1925 when Hildegarde was staff organist at the State Theatre, and they married after a whirlwind courtship. Ed continued to serve as the local representative of the American Amusement Company, while Hildegarde played the organ for silent films at all of the area theatres. In 1926, she went to Minneapolis for advanced organ courses at the McPhail School of Music. Upon her return, she began a series of live, remote broadcast programs over WDAY Radio with the organs from both the State and the Fargo Theatre.

Kraus, whose nickname was the "Incomparable Hildegarde," retired from WDAY in 1954. She later claimed to have "cried every morning for a year" after leaving, so deeply did she miss the work and her friends there. She came out of retirement in 1976 when the local chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society honored her at a Silent Movie Night event at the Fargo Theatre.

Following that evening, in which a retrospective of her career was presented, Kraus played more organ concerts at the Fargo Theatre and at Weld Hall as part of the Summer Cinema Film Series created by Ted Larson. Larson wrote in his letter of nomination of Hildegardge as YWCA Woman of the Year for 1983, "There is something more than superb artistry and dedication that makes Hildegarde's talent a truly unique one. It is the way she has, over the years, generously shared her music and encouraged so many to develop their abilities in the arts."

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