ADA SIDNEY: PROBABLE STAGE ACTRESS OR OPERA SINGER

ada sidneyThe reverse of this cabinet card identifies the subject as Ada Sidney. Judging by her costume, she appears to have been an opera or stage actress. This photographic portrait was taken by the Marc & Schlum studio in New York City. Research revealed no information about Miss Sidney or the studio photographers.

Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. I just wasted a couple of hours of my life with this lovely picture… I might as well share my findings! To me, the shoes and the outfit suggested she looked more like a circus performer, maybe an aerialist (but the sleeves might get in the way for a trapeze artist).

    I can’t find an Ada Sydney, but I found an Ada, “the aerial phenomenon” who was in the New York area in 1882. The New York Clipper, February 18, 1882, as quoted by the Circus History website (http://www.circushistory.org/Clipper/Clipper1880s.htm), says:
    “Ada, the aerial phenomenon, is disengaged for coming season. This is her first appearance in America. Address A. P. Roche, as per card.”

    By looking up Ada and Roche, I found this – still on the circus history website (http://www.circushistory.org/Query/Query06a.htm): “WF Wallett 2nd was actually born 1869 to Clifford and Fanny Wallett at Hull Yorkshire England and had sisters Ada, who married Dave C Loughlin, and Elizabeth Ann, who married Albert Roche.” So there is an Ada Wallett, born in England in a famous British family of circus performers, who happens to have a brother-in-law named A. Roche.

    Now looking up Ada Wallett in the same website (http://www.circushistory.org/Olympians/OlympiansC1.htm), one can find:
    CASTELLO, ADA [nee Ada Wallett]. See Dave Castello, Sr.

    And for “CASTELLO, DAVE, SR. [r. n. Dave C. Laughlin]. (1860-October 16, 1922). Jockey and bareback rider, and 2-horse carrying act performer. Native of Norfolk, VA. apprenticed to Dan Castello and took his name[…]. Castello, Sr. retired to his home, Henderson, NC.

    1882, married 19 year old Ada Wallett, member of a famous English circus family, a native of Birmingham, performer of the “Zazel” act. After their marriage, she developed the skill art of bareback riding. 1885-86, the Four Castellos, Dave, wife and two of his brothers, George and Willie, rode with W. H. Harris Circus Cole’s; Cooper, Jackson & Co., 1882-83; W. H. Harris’ Nickel-Plate, 1885-87, 1891; Albert Hose’s, 1893; somersault riding act, Robert Hunting’s, 1894-95; Stickney & Donovan, Central and South America, 1897; VanAmburgh & Co., 1896; Norris & Rowe’s, 1908.
    Ada continued to ride for about a dozen years, usually with David, Jr. Castello, Sr. she died on October 15, 1929, also in Henderson.”

    There is a recent article (Monday Sept 16, 2013) in the Winston-Salem journal “Henderson celebrates local family” that mentions “Dave became a bareback rider with the circus. When he married Ada Wallet, they became an act” called the Flying Castellos.

    Now, searching for images of the Flying Castellos or Ada Wallett, I found that there should be a picture of her in the historical Circus magazine Bandwagon, Vol. 47, No. 5 (Sep-Oct), 2003.
    “Wallett, Ada, wife of Dave Castello, equestrienne, Zazel act, pp. 22-24 (photo)”. The index of the journal is online, but unfortunately not the photo.
    However, I found a poster for sale:(http://www.vintaga.com/Posters/Circus/19791606_7M869t/1555281895_bfTsPtc#!i=1555281895&k=bfTsPtc&lb=1&s=A) of the Ringling Bros, with an inset picture of the Daring Madam Ada Castello. Well….
    She could very well be the lady on your picture. Same close-cropped brown hair, long arched down-slanting eyebrows close to the eyes and very defined mouth… Take a look!

    They travelled to South America in 1894-5, maybe Sidney, Australia too?? Anyway, I may be completely wrong but it was a nice way to spend a couple of hours.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your extensive research. You clearly are a persistent and analytical person. In addition, you are certainly a curious person. Curiosity is a trait that I am certain is shared by most of the visitors to the cabinet card gallery. It is one of the attributes that brings them to this site. I don’t know if the Daring Madam Ada Costello and Ada Sidney are one and the same, but it is an interesting theory. I appreciate your investigation and your outlining how you went about it.

  2. She’s a mystery. I could find nothing on her either. Even tried Ada as her second name. Nothing fits.

  3. Marc Gambier, from what I’ve been able to find, formed the “Marc and Schlum” studio along with JJ Schlumberger between 1879 and 1881, jettisoning his partner in 1881. So I would think that narrows down the likely dates for this image. (I came across this page while looking for information on a cabinet card of an ancestor which was made by Marc & Schlum.)

  4. The outfit sure looks like ‘burlesque; as flourished in the 1870s and into the1880s and as defined by Lydia Thompson & Co.

  5. Compare to portrait of Kate Everleigh … which is in the Gallery. Interesting.

    • Thanks for the great observation. Ada Sidney and Kate Everleigh are certainly wearing similar costumes and this supports the idea that the two actresses were involved in performing on the burlesque stage.


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