CATHERINE FERGUSON AS MAD MARGARET IN “RUDDIGORE” : D’OYLY CARTE OPERA COMPANY

This vintage real photo postcard features actress and singer, Miss Catherine Ferguson ( 1895-1972). At first glance, this image appears to be a photograph of a pretty woman on a bad hair day. However, this is actually a photograph of Miss Ferguson playing the role of “Mad Margaret” in “Ruddigore”. The comic opera was also known as “The Witches Curse”. The production was presented by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and the music and libretto was written by Gilbert and Sullivan. It was first performed in 1887 for a run of 288 performances and was revived in 1920. During World War 1, interest in Gilbert and Sullivan was waning. The company’s main soubrette, Nellie Briarcliffe, left the company. In 1918, the company signed Miss Ferguson to replace Briarcliffe. Ferguson’s stage debut occurred in 1915, in “The Girl in the Taxi”. Ferguson took advantage of the opportunity at D’Oyly and she received much recognition and praise for her performances. In fact, it was thought that she had won the role of principal soubrette on a permanent basis rather than on an interim one. However, in 1919, Briarcliffe returned to the company and resumed her position as major soubrette while Ferguson was relegated to minor roles. Briarcliffe only stayed for one season, and upon her departure, Ferguson returned to being principal soubrette. She left the company in 1923 because of hearing loss. This photo postcard was published by Parkslee Pictures as part of a series (No. 36). This vintage postcard is in excellent condition (see scans). The Cabinet Card Gallery has another real photo postcard of an actress playing “Mad Margaret”. You can view it by placing the name, “Aileen Davies” in the search box.  

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GABRIELLE DEMOUGEOT : BEAUTIFUL OPERA SINGER : REUTLINGER : PARIS : (1909)

This vintage real photo postcard features opera singer, Gabrielle Demougeot. This is a color tinted portrait of the pretty opera singer. There is little biographical information readily available about Miss Demougeot. I was able to find a snippet review of one of her performances. The writer describes her as “a pretty coquette with the voice of a high soprano, of a somewhat sour tone, who was charming and …”. Unfortunately, the snippet stopped mid sentence. This postcard is a studio portrait from the renowned French photographer, Leopold-Emile Reutlinger. His studio was located in Paris, France. The postcard was postmarked in 1909. The front (image side) is in excellent condition while the reverse has a scrape near the center bottom of the card (see scans). 

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MURIEL FOSTER : ENGLISH OPERA SINGER : PORTRAIT BY ERNEST WALTER HISTED

This vintage real photo postcard features English contralto, Muriel Foster (1877-1937). Foster and her twin sister, Hilda, were trained at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1896, he made her debut in the production of “King Saul”. In 1899, the sisters performed in a series of duets. In 1900, Hilda retired after getting married. Muriel, who had the command of several languages, continued her singing and had a very successful international opera career. Muriel was photographed for this portrait by Ernest Walter Histed (1862-1947). Histed was born in England but achieved his success as a photographer in Chicago, and later, in Pittsburgh. He then returned to England and opened a photography studio there. His subjects there included Clara Butt (Opera Star) Pope Pius X, and the Empress of Germany. Histed returned to the US and opened a studio on Fifth Avenue in New York City. He later moved to Palm Beach, Florida and continued his profession until 1934. The Museum of the City of New York has a large collection of his work. The National Portrait Gallery (England) has 32 of his photographs in their collection. This postcard was published by London’s J. Beagles & Co. as part of a series (No. G386).The company was started by John Beagles (1844-1909). The company produced a variety of postcards including an extensive catalog of celebrity (stage and screen) portrait postcards. After Beagle’s death, the business continued as J. Beagles & Co. until it closed in 1939. This vintage portrait postcard is in very good condition (see scans).

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ADELINA PATTI SINGS THE PRAISES OF THE CHICAGO CORSET COMPANY (TRADE CARD)

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This item is a vintage trade card advertising corsets for the Chicago Corset Company. The card dates back to the 1880’s. The wasp waisted women seen in a number of the photographs of the cabinet card era, didn’t get that way from going to Jenny Craig and the gym. Their secret weapon was wearing a corset. This trade card utilizes a “celebrity spokesperson”.  Adelina Patti, a famous opera singer, sings the praise of Ball’s Corsets which were manufactured by the Chicago Corset Company of Aurora, Illinois. She ordered eight corsets and testified that she wished that she had known about them sooner. The company advertising on the card brags that “they need no breaking in” and that they provide “health and comfort”. This particular trade card is also advertising the T. J. Elcock & Company which was a Dry Goods, Carpet, and Notions store in Mechanicsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here is a little information about the Chicago Corset Company, The business is cited in Robin Shepard’s “The Best Breweries and Brewpubs of Illinois (2003). The author writes that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Aurora was considered the corset capitol of the world. There were at least three corset companies operating their factories there and one of the largest was the Chicago Corset Company. In fact, I read elsewhere, that the company was the second largest corset company in the world. At one point, the business employed 600 people and produced 2 million corsets a year. The word “corset” began to be used in the English language in about 1828. “The Ladies Magazine” described it as a “quilted waistcoat”. The primary reason for using corsets was to slim the body and help it conform to a fashionable silhouette. Generally speaking, the corset reduces the waist and exaggerates the bust and hips. Apparently there were “overbust corsets” and “underbust corsets”. Sometimes, corsets were used for medical or for fetish purposes. I’ll refrain from elaborating about the medical and fetish purposes and leave detailed explanation to your imagination. The corset company’s spokesperson on this trade card is Adelina Patti (1843-1919). She was a celebrated 19th century opera singer who earned a great deal of money for her performances at the height of her career. She sang in both Europe and America and is probably one of the most famous sopranos in history. She was born in Madrid. Her father was tenor Salvatore Pattie and her mother was soprano Caterina Barilli. Her parents were Italian and she grew up in the Bronx, New York. She sang professionally from childhood. At sixteen years of age, she made her operatic debut at the Academy of Music in New York City. At age eighteen she began performing in Europe. She later performed “Home Sweet Home” for President Lincoln and his wife shortly after the death of their son, Willie. The bereaved parents requested an encore. She was associated with the song for her entire career. In her prime, Adelina Patti demanded to be paid five thousand dollars a night. She asked to be paid in gold, prior to each performance. She demanded top billing and that her name be in bigger font than others in the company. She also demanded that she not be obligated to attend rehearsals. Did someone say, DIVA? It was reported that she trained her parrot to say “Cash, Cash”. Be sure to look below to see some interesting images pertaining to corsets as well as an image of Miss Patti. This vintage trade card is in very good condition (see scans).                   

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Adelina Patti
Corset Shop Window
Polaire was famous for her tiny, corseted waist, which was sometimes reported to have a circumference no greater than 16 inches (41 cm)
A woman models a corset in this 1898 photograph.

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Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

AILEEN DAVIES AS MAD MARGARET IN “RUDDIGORE” : D’OYLY CARTE OPERA COMPANY

This vintage real photo postcard features actress and singer, Miss Aileen Davies (1902-1981). At first glance, this image appears to be a photograph of a pretty woman on a bad hair day. However, this is actually a photograph of Miss Davies playing the role of “Mad Margaret” in “Ruddigore”. The comic opera was also known as “The Witches Curse”. The production was presented by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and the music and libretto was written by Gilbert and Sullivan. It was first performed in 1887 for a run of 288 performances and was revived in 1920. The “Gasbag” (2006) quotes a review of Miss Davies performance in a 1926 revival of “Ruddigore”. In regard to the actress, the reviewer admires “her prissy delivery and skittish style” and describes her “wonderful sexy lift ” into song. This photo postcard was published by Parksle Pictures as part of a series (No. 157). Davies is best known for her role in The Mikado (1926). The YouTube video below presents Beatrice Elburn, Elsie Griffin, and Aileen Davies, performing a song from “The Mikado”. This vintage postcard is in very good condition (see scans). SOLD

MAUD D’ORBY : BEAUTIFUL COMIC OPERA STAR : RISQUE MODEL AND FASHION MODEL FOR THE MOST PROMINENT FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHERS

This vintage postcard features Spanish model and operetta star, Maud d’Orby (1851-1929). She performed during the Belle Epoque era. d’Orby was born in Valladolid, Spain. She began her career as a comic opera singer toward the end of the nineteenth century. It is unknown whether she performed in Spain, she only appeared in the French press from that period of time. She worked in Paris (theaters included La Cigale, Scala, Olympia, Lyric) and Brussels (Folies Bergere, Theatre du Vaudeville). She received praise for her acting talent and for her singing ability. She was described as having a “melodious cheerful voice”. She often played the role of “La Commere”. This role involved being the character who narrated the opera’s story and connected the adjacent scenes. One writer stated that she was successful in this role because of her “playful and cheerful way” and her “eye-catching appearance”. d’Orby was also a successful fashion and postcard model. She was photographed many times by Leopold Reutlinger. These photos were published in the most popular fashion magazines. She looked phenomenal in her beautiful clothes, large feathered hats, and magnificent jewelry. At the exhibition of 1900 in Brussels, her photographs were exhibited and well admired. d’Orby was also a model for Jean Agelou, a prominent photographer who specialized in taking erotic photos. The photographer of this postcard’s photo is also an esteemed lensman of his era. The photograph was taken by Henri Manuel (1874-1947). In 1900, Manuel opened a portrait studio in Paris with his brother Gaston. He quickly became well known for his portraits of politicians, artists, and athletes. His images were used by news agencies . His studio became the largest studio in Paris and it attracted many young photographers who sharpened their skills there. In 1925 the brothers expended their business to include fashion photography. They worked for such designers as Chanel, Patou, and Lanvin. The studio shut down during World War II and many of their photographic plates were destroyed. Manuel was the official photographer for the French government from 1914 through 1944. The publisher of this postcard was CCCC (Charles Collas et Cie, Cognac). CCCC was established by Charles Collas (1866-1947) in Cognac, France. It began operating at the end of the 19th century as a bookstore and printing business. He began to produce postcards in 1894. The company also produced books and maps. By 1914, the publisher employed 500 people. CCCC postcards are cherished by serious collectors today. In 1914, the firm was taken over by Fleury & Cie. This vintage postcard is in very good condition (see scans).

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MARIA VANONI: PRETTY STAGE ACTRESS AND SOMEBODY’S “TRUE FRIEND”

New York City celebrity photographer, Benjamin Falk, produced this photographic portrait of stage actress Maria Vanoni. The reverse of the cabinet card appears to be inscribed by the actress who wrote “Your true friend, Maria Vanoni”. Miss Vanoni received mention in Folio (1884) when she appeared in “Orpheus and Eurydice” as a member of the Miles & Bartons Opera Bouffe Company. She was described as “a graceful sprightly actress of the French school”. “Opera Bouffe”was a genre of late 19th century French operetta. This genre was known for its components of comedy, satire, parody, and farce. This cabinet card portrait is in good condition. Note the crease in the center right area of the image (see scans).  (SOLD)

NELLY MARTYL : SINGER, NURSE, WAR HERO, AND PHILANTHROPIST

This vintage real photo postcard features French singer and nurse, Nelly Martyl (1884-1953). Nelly was born in Paris. Her mother was English and her father was French. She was trained as a singer at the Conservatoire de Paris. Martyl was a soprano opera singer in Paris who made her professional debut in 1907 at the Grand Opera in Paris. . She joined the Opera-Comique in 1909. She sang many parts there and performed in several premieres. She sang in London’s Covent Garden in 1910. She was a frequent model in fashion magazines (notably, Les Modes). She advertised gowns by famous Paris designers. She became a French heroine by working as a Red Cross nurse during World War I. She served in the 1916 Battle of Verdun and earned the nickname of “la fee de Verdun” (the fairy of Verdun). She also worked as a nurse during the Second Battle of the Aisne in 1917. She didn’t just do “cameo roles” at military hospitals. She heroically worked in dangerous, close to the front, hospitals. Her nursing career included being wounded and gassed several times. She was awarded the “Croix de Guerre” for her dangerous work during the war. After the war, she was a nurse to victims of the 1918 flu epidemic. Later, Martyl partnered with an automobile racecar driver in creating a charitable medical foundation Somehow, Nelly found time to have a personal life. She was married to French artist George Scott (1873-1942). This photo of Miss Martyl was taken by the studio of Boyer & Bert. Paul Boyer (1861-1908) operated his studio in Paris. He was very talented and won many awards. He produced many portraits of theater performers as well as other celebrities. This postcard was published by Societe Industrielle de Photograpie (SIP) of Rueil, France, as part of a series (no. 2075). It is in very good condition (see scans).

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GITTA ALPAR: RISQUE PORTRAIT OF GERMAN ACTRESS

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alger2 This vintage real photo postcard features Hungarian actress Gitta Alpar (1903-1991). She starred in operas and operettas. This photograph is risque relative to the time it was taken. Miss Alpar is wearing a tight bathing suit. Note that the swim suit has a nice design on it’s front. She is posing in front of a large rattan chair. Gitta was born in Budapest, Hungary. She was the daughter of a Jewish cantor. From an early age, she studied singing and piano at the Academy of Music. In 1923, she made her debut at the Budapest State Opera House. She had a long career and she performed at the great opera houses of Vienna, Berlin, an many other international venues. Alpar’s first films were made in Germany. In 1931 she married an actor, Gustav Frohlich. Their marriage ended in 1935 because Alpar was Jewish and the marriage was against the law in Nazi Germany. A related fact is that both of her brothers, a pianist, and a violinist, were concentration camp survivors. Alpar appeared on Hitler’s anti semitic “hit list”. She left Germany in 1933, and then did some globe hopping. She first went to Austria, followed by Hungry, England, and the United States. She continued her singing and film career in the US. The IMDb credits Alpar with nine acting credits from 1932 through 1941. Alpar’s accent ruined her chance to be a successful Hollywood actress. After the war, she primarily worked as a singing teacher. For a sample of Miss Alpar’s singing voice and acting, click on the YouTube segment below. This postcard was published by Ross Verlag and is part of a series (no.6683/2). Alpar’s photo was taken by FFG  (Froehlich-Flm GmbH). This postcard is in very good condition (see scans).

 

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Published in: on December 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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HELEN BERTRAM: COMIC OPERA STAR WHO LIVED A LIFE CHOCK FULL OF SCANDAL

This cabinet card portrait features comic opera star, Helen Bertram (1869-1953). As I researched her life, I became more and more interested in her experiences and character. She was a person who’s life itself was a drama. More on that later. She was one of America’s leading prima donnas of her era. Bertram was born in Illinois.  Her father was a wealthy grain merchant. She trained at the Cincinnati College of Music and at age 20 began working as a lead singer for a number of opera companies, including Abbott, Conried, and the Bostonians. In fact, she worked for many opera companies because she tended to switch allegiances when offered better salaries. She had much impact on comic opera. Influential roles in “The Gingerbread Man” and “The Prince of Pilsen” contributed to that impact. The St. Paul Daily Globe (1887) printed a review about a very early Bertram performance  with the Abbott company. The review states that she sang with ‘such exquisite art as to win the hearts of her audience”. The article also describes Miss Bertram as a brilliant debutante in opera, and states that she had an “exceedingly handsome face, pretty figure, graceful movement, and sweetness”. Her off-stage life was tumultuous and her scandals were covered closely in American newspapers. Plainly said, her personal life was a disaster. In 1893, news articles revealed that she and actor, Edward Henley, were having an affair. Both were married and their affair caused both of their spouses to file for divorce. At first Bertram denied her extramarital relationship saying “Oh my! Mr Henley has had so many sweethearts, it seems too bad that I should be made the scapegoat for all this.”  In 1894, Bertram and Henley announced plans to marry. They were not married long because Henley died. The St. Louis Republic (1901) reported that Bertram had thrown a locket containing Henley’s ashes off a balcony. The rationale for pitching the ashes was that she had fallen in love with another man. Bertram denied tossing the ashen remains of her husband. In 1903 she married her third husband, matinee idol Edward Morgan. He had a sensational history of stormy marriages and relationships. At some point in time, Bertram had a relationship with George d’essauer, a wealthy French nobleman. George got himself into some trouble concerning a forgery scandal. After being indicted, he fled to Europe were he was arrested for other charges. The St. Louis Republic (1905) ran an article about Bertram being taken to court for unpaid bills. She claimed she was bankrupt as the reason for non payment. In 1906, her third husband, Edward Morgan died. He died from a fall in his hotel room, but the coroner theorized that the fall was due to his well known morphine addiction. From 1908 into the 1930’s she announced several retirements only to return to the stage. Later roles included vaudeville and concert tours with provincial orchestras. Bertram also had a movie career and the IMdB lists her as appearing in three movies including “The Lightening Conductor” (1914) and “Rhythm on the River” (1940). Back to the cabinet card seen above. The studio that produced this photograph was the Aime Dupont gallery. Dupont (1842-1900) founded his photography business in 1886 in New York City, New York. He was formerly a sculptor and he was of Belgian origin. His American wife, Etta Greer, was also a photographer. She was well respected for he work as a portraitist of opera singers in Paris, France. She was educated in Paris and spent much of her childhood there. She also met and married Dupont in Paris. The couple was very talented and they became very popular as portrait photographers in New York. Among their society and celebrity clients were many singers who were appearing in New York. After Dupont’s death, his wife, and later his son (Albert), operated the studio. His wife kept the name of the studio the same, after the death of her husband. In 1906, the Metropolitan Opera hired its own official  photographer, resulting in diminished portrait work in that sector. The studio went bankrupt in 1920.