KATE CLAXTON: STAGE ACTRESS ASSOCIATED WITH DEADLY THEATRE FIRE

Kate Claxton (1848-1924) is the subject of this cabinet card portrait. Claxton was an American stage actress who made her first appearance in Chicago with Lotta Crabtree in 1870. That same year she joined Augustin Daly’s Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York. In 1872, she became a member of A. M. Palmer’s Union Square Theatre in New York. She played mostly in comedic roles. She began starring in theatrical tours in 1876. In 1876 she was performing the play “The Two Orphans” at the Brooklyn Theatre (in New York City) when a fire broke out killing 278 people. Soon after the tragic fire, she was in a St. Louis hotel when it caught fire and she made a narrow escape. After the two fires, Claxton was viewed by some audiences and theater professionals, as bad luck and a performer to be avoided.  There are some interesting asides about Claxton. First, the town of Claxton, Georgia was named after her in 1911, Second, her father was Colonel Spencer W. Cone, who was the commander of the 61st New York Regiment in the American Civil War. This cabinet card was photographed by Schloss, a famous New York celebrity photographer. To view other photographs by Schloss, click on this site’s category “Photographer: Schloss”. The reverse of this card has a hand written notation stating “Empire Theatre”. Perhaps this photograph captures Kate Claxton in costume for a role she played at the Empire. The second cabinet card captures Claxton sitting on the ground during a snow storm. The staged scene in this image is likely from one of Claxton’s performances. This photograph is by Sarony, famed New York City photographer. To view other images by Sarony, click on Cabinet Card Gallery’s category “Photographer: Sarony”.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is fascinating. Your information is quite interesting! Just amazing trivia.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

    • Among stories of Kate Claxton, one of the more curious is her gravestone. It says only “Kate Claxton, Wife of Charles A. Stephenson, Died March 5, 1924” . But the marriage had ended 14 years prior in 1910 (after 32 years) and was officially annulled in 1911. In 1912, Stephenson fathered a daughter, Margot, who became well-known in her own right.


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