Lina Merville: Burlesque Queen


This Cabinet card photograph presents Lina Merville, a burlesque star. More research is required to learn more of her biographical details, so at least for now, a picture has to be worth a thousand words. The photographer is Emil Scholl of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 10:43 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. Lina Merville was referred to as a sister of Marion Elmore in reports in the early 1880s, and they were on occasion in the same shows. Personal information seems pretty sparse.

    • Thanks for pointing out the possible relationship between Lina Merville and Marion Elmore. Take a look at cabinet card gallery’s photograph of Miss Elmore. Put her name in the search box, click, and see if you note a family resemblance. I didn’t see a resemblance but resemblance is a better method for determining the existence of a relationship than for determining the non existence of a family relationship. Of course either way, its pretty unreliable.

      • Hey, I got lucky … found an obit for Marion Elmore … page 2, The Herald Statesman, Yonkers, Oct. 3, 1950 … says, “She accompanied her sister, Lena Mervillea, a star of Lydia Thompson’s English Company, to America”. Names in the family are puzzling … Marion’s was born Marion Nathan in Australia…but they were all show people, her father a manager. Also stumbled on a great story related to Lena (or Lina, both were used) as a swimmer! She was awfully good at keeping personal information to herself, to put it mildly.

  2. A research report by Joseph “Skippper” Fundereburg regarding the spectacular cover illustration on the August 18,1888 issue of the National Police Gazette…known as ‘Sandwich Island Girl’.…and related to women surfing… states: {I located a reference to Lena Merville, Yachting on the Briny Blue, Asbury Park, dated July 7, 1888. The best lead I got was on September 2, 1888, an article titled ‘How Actresses Swim’ by Lord Chumley Lewis. Lewis wrote that the article “refers back to an article a few weeks ago.” The article describes a group of women on Coney Island, NY, swimming in the surf. The article goes on to quote, “Lena Merville is as full of get up and go, plunge down and splash in the water as she is on the boards.” My interpretation is the writer is grouping “get up and go, plunge down, and splash” together and saying Ms. Merville is as full of those things in the water as she is on the boards. In 1888, plunge meant diving and on the boards meant on the stage. In the New York Times, September 12, 1889 issue it was reported the sprightly soubrette Lena Merville was appearing on stage in New York City. Lena Merville reminds me of SIG (‘Sandwich Island Girl’)}. Well, whether or not Lena helped inspire SIG, she was apparently, for those times, avant-garde at the beach. Lina was often misspelled Lena, even on programs, and later consistently became Lena. She retired from the stage about 1906 and died, reportedly at age 63, on Jan 5, 1920, at the home of her sister, Marion Elmore Losee. There is no indication that she ever married. For more on SIG and the NPG cover, check out …‎

    Lena Merville (Elmore) was born at sea on the ship Caucasia in the Indian Ocean while her parents were on their way to Australia. Her stage career began at age 5 with Joseph Jefferson’s world-traveling company, for which her father, Barnett N. Elmore, had become a manager. The whole family took part. Her sister, Marion Elmore, was said to be born in a tent in the Australia outback and was on stage by age 3.

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