gladys wallis_0003Gladys Wallis, theater star, is the subject of this portrait by celebrity photographer B. J. Falk. Miss Wallis appears to be very young when she posed for this cabinet card photograph. The image is numbered 16 in a series and has a copyright date of 1893. In fact, she was just eighteen years old when she sat for this portrait. Glady Wallis (1875-1953) lived an interesting life. The Florence Times (1932) tells some of her story in an article that is predominately about her husband Samuel Insull (1858-1938). The article was quite disparaging of  Insull and in the lead of the story the reporter writes “The keen brain of Samuel Insull built a 4,000,000,000 public utilities empire but he failed when he attempted to bring about his wife’s come-back as an actress after her 26 year absence from the stage”. The attempt cost him 200,00 dollars. Gladys Wallis’s was originally named Mary Bird. She was of Irish descent and upon becoming an actress was determined to be viewed as a respectable woman. She was anti alcohol and reportedly, anti sex. Insull had originally seen her as a “starry eyed and raven-haired young ingenue in an 1898 theater production in Chicago. She was just a teenager and he was 36 years-old starstruck admirer. They later met at a dinner party and two years later, they married. Gladys quickly retired from the stage and became a society lady. She had a number of estates and servants, was active in fund raising for charities, went to high society affairs and functions, and wore expensive clothing and jewelry. It is reported that she wasn’t an easy person to get along with and was not very well liked among the ladies of society. She and Insull reportedly had a tempestuous relationship and among their issues was her disinterest in sex. Insull supported her temperance beliefs. The couple had a son who eventually attended Yale University. In 1925,Wallis revealed her desire to return to the stage because of her desire for “self expression”. Her husband funded the theatrical endeavor and its proceeds were to be directed toward charity. Society turned out in mass for the opening night of what was to be a two week engagement where Mrs. Insull played the “coquettish role”of Lady Teazle. Attendees included Marshall Fields, the Armours, the Drakes, and the Pullmans. The success of this limited engagement spurred Wallis to return to Broadway. Wallis may have felt ready for Broadway but apparently Brodway wasn’t ready for Wallis and she returned to Chicago in 1927. She was not yet done with acting so she took a five year lease on a Chicago theater and established a performing company. This project failed and before long he company was operating at a loss of more than a thousand dollars a day. Things also did not go well for Mr. Insull. The depression severely impacted his business and eventually there were even charges filed against him. He fled to Europe with his wife where they entered “voluntary exile”. He was eventually deported from Europe but was well defended in a Chicago trial and found innocent of all charges. However, the Insulls had lost their fortune and at the time of his death, his estate was quite meager. There are a number of books available about Mr. Insull and they probably make quite interesting reading. This photograph was taken by B. J. Falk, New York City celebrity photographer. To learn more about this photographer and to see more of his images, click on the category “Photographer: Falk”.



A young woman poses for her portrait in a staged study at the Schneider studio in Chicago, Illinois. She is surrounded by standard studio props including a desk, fur, plant, and curtain. The desk has a dragon design. Schneider’s studio was located at 2135 Archer Avenue. The Lakeside Directory of Chicago (1876) lists a photographer named George Schneider who was located at 219 & 221 North Avenue. It is unknown if he is the same photographer that operated on Archer Avenue and produced this photograph.

Published in: on May 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A well dressed handsome man poses for his portrait at the Whitley studio in Elmira, New York. He has a well groomed attractive beard and an exceptional mustache. A pocket watch chain is evident under his jacket and he appears to also be sporting a tie pin. To view other images of fantastic mustaches, click on the category “Mustaches (Only the Best). The photographer of this image is John H. Whitley. He was born in Candor, New York in 1831. He was a photographer in Oswego, New York, from 1858 through 1861. His next position was working with photographer C. C.Doty in Elmira, New York. After a short time he left his employ to work for the Erie Railroad car shop in Elmira. When the shop was destroyed by fire, he returned to photography and worked with Elmira photographer A. P. Hart. By 1864, Whitley had opened his own photography gallery in Elmira. To view more photographs by Whitley, click on the category “Photographer: Whitley”.

Published in: on May 28, 2014 at 5:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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SWEET GIRL_0001A sweet young girl with her arms crossed leans against a chair at the V. Whitbeck studio in Hudson, New York. One wonders if Whitbeck ever noticed the major pattern clash between the fabrics of the girl’s clothing and the chair.  The reverse of the photograph has advertising that indicates that Whitbeck was successor to a photographer named Forshew. Frank Forshew (1827-1895) established his photography business in 1850 in Hudson, a small city on the banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York. He began as a daguerrian and progressed through the stages of photography, eventually producing cdv’s, cabinet cards, and stereoviews. He sold his business to Volkert Whitbeck (1843-?) in the early 1890’s. Whitbeck had joined the business after his discharge from the Union army in 1863. Whitbeck had enlisted into the 14th NY Infantry (Co K) as a corporal. Before his mustering out on 5/23/1863, he had reached the rank of sergeant. Records indicate that he remained in the reserves and continued to rise in rank reaching Captain. Whitbeck appears in the 1880 US census and at that point in time he worked as a photographer and shared his name and residence with his father. His father was a physician. Whitbeck’s photography business is listed in many Hudson city directories. The latest one appears to be 1913.




This photograph features a couple of gangsters and their molls enjoying their dinner on the beach in Havana, Cuba. In reality, these gangsters are probably just law abiding tourists, but I like the gangster story better. This is a souvenir photograph from “La Playa de Marianao” (The Beach of Marianao).  Marianao is one of 15 municipalities in the city of Havana. It is the home of the famous Tropicana Club which opened in 1939 and still operates today. However, it can be safely said that this photograph was not taken at the Tropicana. An inscription on the reverse of the photo asserts that the picture was taken in 1937 and one of the subjects is named Dagmar. Dagmar is generally a feminine name and originates from Scandanavia or Germany. This photograph has a number of interesting features. The image captures two couples eating a restaurant meal on the beach. If you magnify the photograph you can see their meal quite clearly. In fact, seeing the bread on the table made me hungry. Other diners and servers can be seen in the background. The appearance of the four individuals at the table spark speculation. The very pretty blonde woman is wearing shades and sitting in a manner in which she can show off her shapely legs (did I just say “shapely legs”?…..sort of creepy!). Her companion is informally dressed with an open shirt and jacket compared to the other man who is wearing a suit. The woman with the sun glasses and the informally dressed man are a cool looking couple. Maybe she’s Dagmar. The second woman is seated at the table with her handbag secured behind her on the chair she is sitting on. On the ground, under the table, is a large straw bag which likely contained beach supplies or the days haul from a day of shopping. To view other Cuban photographs, click on the category “Cuba”.



Published in: on May 24, 2014 at 11:40 am  Comments (3)  
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A very cute little boy with ringlet curls is the subject of this portrait by the Tonkin studio in San Francisco, California. He is wearing an interesting dark sailor suit  and a collar pin. He seems comfortable on his perch atop a piece of furniture. A magnified close up image of this unidentified adorable child can be found below. Herbert Tonkin is the photographer who produced this image and to learn more about him and to view other photographs from his studio, click on the category “Photographer: Tonkin”. 





Published in: on May 22, 2014 at 11:45 am  Comments (1)  



A young mother and her two children pose for their portrait at the Johnson studio in Pullman, Illinois. It is interesting that the children are not in closer proximity to their mother. The distance may be due to the photographer’s direction or perhaps a more intimate pose was not part of this family’s makeup. Mom seems disconnected from her kids. The child furthest back in the image does have his hand lightly resting on his mom’s shoulder. Mom is wearing a pretty patterned dress and a wonderful hat. She is looking at the camera in an untrusting manner. One must also consider the possibility that the woman in this picture is actually the children’s older sister and not their mother. There is no information available to clarify this family’s constellation. The photographer of  this cabinet card, Thomas S. Johnson,  has an interesting biography which is very much connected to the history of the town of Pullman. Johnson was born in Chicago in 1850.He was raised on a farm in Thornton, Illinois. At the age of fifteen he attended Chicago University. He studied there until 1867. He then studied painting for a short time but in 1869 became a photographer. He married E. I. A. Fortier in 1874. She died in 1877 and he returned to farming. In 1879, while in Thornton, he reentered the field of photography. In 1880 he moved his business to Crete, Illinois and by 1882 established his business in Pullman. In 1881 he married Mary C. Whalen of Indiana. In Pullman, Johnson worked for George Pullman and he was tasked with using his photography skills to document Pullman’s factory, town and workers. Thomas Johnson was the first known photographer hired by Pullman to photograph his town and railcars. A number of photographers besides Johnson worked in the same capacity on a part time basis. Johnson published a book about Pullman; “Picturesque Pullman”. Obviously, Pullman, Illinois was named after George Pullman. The community was located in the south side of Chicago. It was built in the 1880’s by Pullman to provide housing for the employees of his company, “The Pullman Royal Palace Car Company”. The business manufactured railcars. Pullman created behavioral standards that residents of his houses had to meet in order to live in the houses that he rented to them.  (SOLD)


DERBY LADY_0006A lovely young woman poses for her profile portrait in Derby, Connecticut. It is clear from the image that the subject took some pains to prepare her hair for her day at the photography studio. The photograph has been trimmed so the photographer’s name is not identifiable.

Published in: on May 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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JUGGLING_0003A young boy, looking quite unhappy, poses for his portrait at the William Meyer studio in Chicago, Illinois. His arms are folded across his chest but it looks as if they won’t stay there long because standing in front of him are a pair of Indian Juggling Clubs. It is as if the boy is preparing to give a juggling exhibition or to exercise. Juggling these pins was a good workout as they were quite heavy.  some exercise. Clubs like these were very popular during the health mania of the late Victorian period. A picture of a pair of Indian clubs from the late nineteenth century can be seen below (Source: Wikipedia). William Meyer is listed in a number of the Chicago business directories including 1880,1885, and 1892. His address in 1892 was Clybourn Avenue which indicates that this image was produced before that date.




Published in: on May 19, 2014 at 10:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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horse frontThis cabinet card features a bearded old man holding a chain in order to control his horse. There are two men and a dog in the background of this unusual outside photograph. Although the gentleman handling the horse and the photographer are unidentified, the style of the cabinet card indicates that it is likely of European origin. To view other cabinet card images of horses, click on the category “Horse”.


Published in: on May 18, 2014 at 12:21 pm  Comments (1)