These two Cabinet cards present quite a mystery. The dramatically dressed and attractive young woman in the top cabinet card is simply identified as “Etta”. She appears to be an actress and my research reveals a large number of actresses named Etta who were stage performers around the turn of the century. I have been unable to determine this actresses identity, but a leading candidate might be Etta Butler (1879-1903). Etta Butler was a well-known actress and impersonator. She began her career at age 19 with the Tivoli Chorus in San Francisco. A year later she became a member of the “Around New York in Eighty Minutes” company. She was later featured in Frohman  comedies. She was last seen in “The Liberty Belles” at the Madison Square. Because of her popularity and promise, she was retained by David Belasco in a long term contract. She died of Typhoid fever in Roosevelt Hospital, in New York City at age 24. This mystery lady was photographed by Bradley and Bulofson of San Francisco, California. The bottom cabinet card has an inscription on the reverse signed by “Etta”. Are these two cabinet cards, taken by the same photographer, portraits of the same woman? One can see enough resemblance between the two images to hypothesize  that they are likely the same “Etta”. Take a look at another cabinet card by these photographers by clicking on the category “Photographer: Bradley & Rulofson”. That very same click will provide the reader with additional information about the photographers of this image.

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 12:01 am  Comments (14)  
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  1. This cant be that Etta Butler then, since this photograph is from the 1880s. Definitely an actress, though, with that skirt length and pose.

  2. I am a defendant of Rulofson who most likely was the photographer he died in 1878.

    • Yes, Etta Butler was too young. Would you check out burlesque star Marion Elmore? … who I believe is fortunately posted elsewhere in the Gallery, possibly a little younger.

      • Great detective work on your part. The photograph I incorrectly identified as possibly Etta Butler, looks very much like Marion Elmore. However, the name “Etta” is written on the reverse of the photograph. The question remains. Who is Etta?

  3. Wondering if these photos could be of a young Etta Hawkins, stage actress and comedienne? She was born in 1865, so that fits in with the time these photos seem to have been taken. She married the stage actor (and later, producer) William Morris in the 1890’s. Etta Hawkins Morris and William Morris were the parents of Chester Morris, the popular screen actor.

  4. The woman in the photos are a young May Robson(1958-1942). These were most likely taken just after she came to America from her native Australia in the 1870s. She is quite beautiful. Most Golden Age film buffs know Robson as an old lady in numerous movies from the 30s and 40s.

  5. I realize May Robinson was born in 1858 only a typo but I have other questions. The only photo I could find thru goggle imagery is said to been taken 1883-1910. In my family this is a picture identified as taken by Wm H Rulofson and he died in 1878. I found no reference to May Robson referred to as Emma. Her birth name is said to be Mary Jeanette Robinson. That is interesting as Rulofson’s daughter was Mary Jeanette/

    • This photo truly remains an interesting mystery in regard to identifying this actress. The mysteries surrounding each cabinet card is part of what makes them so intriguing.

  6. I’ve learned to sometimes disregard writing on photo-cards. Not always but sometimes. They can be misleading as they might not refer to a sitter by their actual name but by a ‘nickname'(at the request of the sitter) or by a ‘role’ they played on the stage. It may sound outrageous but ‘alias’ names may also be used by women involved in extramarital affairs and may not want to be identified by her husband. They refer to themselves to their lover by an alias name. While names and writings on cards are undoubtedly helpful; I sometimes also rely on identifying the person visually, especially if they are an actress.

  7. Etta Butler is here:
    Cyanotype print made on an old photographic enlarger directly from an analog film (35mm negative film) without using a conventional contact printer and digital negative processing

  8. “Ap 16 Sentinel 1931: Mrs Etta Martin 72 Cleveland, born Medina ran away 1872 age 13 became best-known Shakespearean actress Etta Henry. Her father, a drover, wanted her to apprentice to a dressmaker or be a housemaid, she wanted to study music, she joined a troupe in Cleveland that had a child’s part. For 7 years her name was not mentioned in her father’s house. She reached stardom in NYC. Billboards all over the country hailed her. In 1879 she was welcomed home in a great reunion by age 20. Her husband Luke Martin was her stage manager. When he died in 1915 she retired.” Etta Henry, actress known in private life as Etta Martin, died in Cleveland Height age 72. When she was 13 she ran away from home to go on the stage and became one of the best-known Shakespearean actresses in the US. She acted with Otis Skinner, Mme Modjeska, and Chauncey Olcott et al. Obits in papers throughout US, Texas, etc. In 1930 Cleveland Census, Etta Martin b 1860, widow, parents born England. NY paper: funeral of Mrs Etta Martin 72 of Cleveland Heights to be held in Medina Ohio. Clevelander was a nation-wide toast long ago when she appeared on many stages as Etta Henry, one of foremost Shakespearean actresses. Etta Henry Martin 1859-1931 buried in Spring Grove.

    • Thanks so much for providing the interesting information concerning Etta Martin. Were you able to locate any photographs of her? If so, do they resemble or match the photographs above? Thanks again for your comment.

      • I havent found photos yet and I’m not sure this is your Etta but still looking

      • Thanks. Please keep us informed.

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