Jessie Bartlett Davis: American Actress and Opera Singer

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Jessie Bartlett Davis (1859?-1905) was an American actress and operatic singer from Illinois who was billed as “America’s Representative Contralto”.  Her father was a farmer and country school master and she was one of ten children. She was discovered when she was performing locally and was taken by traveling managers to perform on the west coast.  In 1879 she made her debut in the opera H.M.S. Pinafore. She performed with several opera companies before joining the new Boston Ideal Opera and remained with this troupe until 1901 performing as their prima donna. She is most well known for her role as Alan a-Dale in the 1890 opera Robin Hood. She also toured performing opera in Europe one season and in 1897 she opened on Broadway in The Serenade. She played Broadway again in 1903 in Jakobowski”s operetta Erminie. This versatile performer also performed vaudeville, wrote songs, stories and poems. She had a home in Chicago and summer home in Indiana where she raised horses, collies and fox terriers. In 1905 she died of Brights disease and is buried in Chicago. The photographer of this portrait is renowned theatrical photogarpher Benjamin J Falk of New York City.

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