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.

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PORTRAIT OF MADEMOISELLE LILIAN GRENVILLE: EUROPEAN/AMERICAN OPERA STAR

This vintage real photo postcard features pretty opera star, Madmoiselle Lilian Grenville. The caption on the postcard indicates that she was appearing at the Opera de Nice when this photo card was published. Miss Grenville is wearing a pink dress, and a pink flower in her hair. She is also wearing a fur draped over her right shoulder. Hearst International (1909) reported that there were a number of Americans in Europe trying to “make a name” for themselves in opera. One of these Americans was Lilian Grenville (1888-?). She was born in New York. Her family name was Goertner. She was educated at the convent of the Sacred Heart in Montreal. Her mother took her to Paris and Milan to study singing. She started singing with Algier and Aramis in Paris between 1903 and 1905.  She made her debut in Nice, France playing “Juliet” (1906). She was then chosen by Puccini to create the title role in his “Manon Lescout”. In 1909 she sang in Nice, Naples, and Rome. Grenville made her American debut in “La Boheme” (1910) in Chicago. She was a lyric soprano with extensive range. This postcard was published by E. Le Deley (E. L. D.). The firm was active in Paris between the 1890’s and 1930. The company published, printed, and created postcards. E. L. D. was founded by photographer Ernest Louis Desire le Deley (1859-1917). Le Deley’s sons operated the business after their father’s death, and in 1930, the company went bankrupt. This postcard is part of a series (no. 4057). The card has a Swiss stamp.  SOLD

 

Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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MISS VIOLET ESSEX: A FORGOTTEN OPERA STAR

 The pretty subject of this vintage real photo postcard is actress and opera singer, Violet Essex (1893-1941). The English born Miss Essex appears in a web site entitled “Forgotten Opera Singers” which is written by Ashot Arakelyan. Essex sang during World War I when there was a demand for “lighter music”. Essex, a soprano, fulfilled that need. She recorded under her own name as well as under “Vera Desmond”. Miss Essex was known for her performances in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas. She starred in the comic opera “Chu Chin Chow” during its five and a half year run in London. She was married to Charles Tucker, an English theatrical producer. She died just six months after moving with her family to Beverly Hills, California. This postcard portrait shows Miss Essex as Emmeline in the Edwardian musical comedy “The Sunshine Girl”. The show was first produced by George Edwardes at London’s Gaiety Theatre. The musical opened in 1912 and ran for 336 performances. The show introduced the tango to British audiences. Violet  Essex was in the original cast. The play also had a Broadway run in 1913 at the Knickerbocker Theatre. The photographer who took this photograph of Miss Essex is Alexander Bassano (1829-1913). He was a leading royal and high society London photographer and more of his images can be seen by clicking on Cabinet Card Gallery’s category “Photographer: Bassano”. This postcard was produced around 1912 and is part of a series (41243 8). To hear a recorded performance (Dear Heart) by Violet Essex, click on the link below. 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 14, 2017 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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ADELINA PATTI SINGS THE PRAISES OF THE CHICAGO CORSET COMPANY (TRADE CARD)

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Perhaps this entry into the Cabinet Card Gallery is a mistake on my part. I began this blog in 2008 and for many years all the photographs that the gallery displayed were Cabinet Cards. Having difficuly putting reins on my vintage photography interests, I added cdv’s, real photo postcards, and vintage post cabinet card photographs to the collection. I must have trouble setting limits because today I am entering a “non photograph” into the blog. I feel a need to provide you with a rationalization. The entry today is a vintage trade card advertising corsets for the Chicago Corset Company. The card dates back to the 1880’s. The question remains, what is this “non photograph” trade card doing in the gallery? Here is my explanation. There are many entries in the cabinet card gallery that discuss the use of corsets. The wasp waisted women seen in a number of the gallery’s photographs didn’t get that way from going to Jenny Craig and the gym. Their secret weapon was wearing a corset. Therefore, it seems a brief discussion of corsets is appropriate content for the Cabinet Card Gallery. 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 advertising for T. J. Elcock & Company which was a Dry Goods, Carpets, 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), I’m not kidding about the reference. 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 wist 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.

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 Adelina Patti

004                              Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The                                                 Metropolitan Museum of Art

PAULINE HALL (1860-1919): BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL THEATRE STAR

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The top cabinet card features Pauline Hall (1860-1919), one of the most popular turn of the century prima donnas. She began her career as a dancer in Cincinnati, Ohio at age 15. She joined the Alice Oats Opera Company but left to tour in plays with famed actress Mary Anderson. By 1880, she worked for well known producer Edward Everett Rice in musical productions. Early in their association, he gave her a role in “Evangeline”. Her shapely figure allowed her to take male roles as she did in “Ixion” (1885). Her greatest success came in the title role of the first American production of  “Erminie” (1886). She played in more than two dozen Broadway operettas. Her final role was in the “Gold Diggers” (1919). This photograph was taken by famed celebrity photographer, Elmer Chickering of Boston, Massachusetts. Other photographs by Chickering can be seen by clicking on Cabinet Card Gallery’s category of “Photographer: Chickering, E.”. The second cabinet card, photographed by B. J. Falk, of New York City, captures Pauline Hall in stage costume. The photograph is #305 in a series from Newsboy. The tobacco company (Newsboy) gave away cabinet cards as a premium with the purchase of their products. This cabinet card shows a copyright date in the 1890’s. The exact date has become illegible over time. To view other Newsboy or Falk cabinet cards, click on the categories “Photographer: Falk” or “Photographer: Newsboy”. The third cabinet card portrait was also photographed by Falk. Ms. Hall looks quite beautiful in this image. She is wearing earrings and an interesting hat. The photograph is a bit risque. Much of her neck and shoulders are exposed. In addition, her dress accentuates and reveals significant cleavage. Is the material at the base of her scoop neckline part of her dress; or was it added in order to make the photograph less provocative? Perhaps a visitor to the cabinet card gallery will be able to provide an explanation. The fourth cabinet card image, once again photographed by B J Falk, features Miss Hall wearing a dark dress, long gloves, a lovely hat, and a purse. Pauline Hall certainly was a stage beauty as attested by this photograph.

JENNIE WINSTON: INTERCONTINENTAL COMIC OPERA ACTRESS

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The top cabinet card features early theatre actress, Jennie Winston. Unfortunately, biographical information concerning Ms. Winston appears to be sparse, and further research is necessary. An 1881 publication reveals that Jennie Winston was a native of Scotland and moved to Australia to join W. S. Lyster’s Italian Opera company. Her tenure with this company was seven years. She next went ot America under engagement to “Mr Maguire”, for whom she worked for one season’s duration. She then formed her own traveling opera company which journeyed to the western United States and British Columbia. The “Dramatic News” described Winston as “unsurpassed as a comic-opera artist by anyone in this country”. The photographer of this portrait was the studio belonging to Gilbert & Bacon. This studio was well known for their quality work as well as their work with local and visiting celebrities. To view other photographs by this studio, click on the category of “Photographer: Gilbert & Bacon”.

The second photograph, also by Gilbert & Bacon, captures a costumed Jennie Winston playing the mandolin. Note the backdrop  used in this photograph. The backdrop was an excellent choice for the photograph as it is compatible with Ms. Winston’s costume. It was also a good choice technically; the actress does realistically appear to be standing on a winding stone road.

The third photographic portrait features a sultry looking Jennie Winston, and is by celebrated photographer, Marc Gambier (1838-1900). The fourth cabinet card portrait was also photographed by Gambier. Miss Winston is in costume for an unnamed theatrical performance. She is acting in the portrait. Note her provocative and coy appearance. Gambier was born and educated in Paris, France. At the age of 19, he came to America for a very short stint of time. He returned to France and became a student of the great painter, Le Creton. Subsequently, he became a student of another great painter, Camino. He then returned to America and for five years, studied and worked under esteemed photographer, Sarony (view Sarony’s photographs by clicking on the category “Photographer: Sarony”). He then launched his own photography business in New York City. He divided his time between his first love, painting, and his business of taking and selling photographs. Gambier was known as a great historical painter. He was a veteran of the French Army and while in the service, he sketched and painted several important battles. Research reveals that Gambier was listed in the 1880 US census. He was forty-one years old and living in New York City with his family. He is listed as living with his wife Emilie (age 28), daughters Louise (age 10) and Emilie (age 7), and son M. L. (age 2). Also in the residence was a young woman (age 25) who worked as a servant. Gambier was known for the many theatrical photographs he produced as well as for selling postage stamp sized portrait photographs, that people attached to their letters and postcards.

PORTRAIT OF ETTA MILLER ORCHARD: NOTED SOPRANO

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The pretty and well dressed woman featured in this cabinet card portrait is noted soprano, Etta Miller Orchard. Her photograph appears in “The International (1901)”. In addition, she is mentioned in “The Musical Courier (1902)” for her performance in a Good Friday service at the Marble Collegiate Church in Boston, Massachusetts. Interestingly the photographer of the image seen in “The International” is Aime Dupont, the same photographer who created the portrait seen above. Dupont is a well known New York City photographer who took many photographs of celebrities. To view more of his images and to learn more about him, click on the category “Photographer: Dupont”. The cabinet card is stamped on the reverse with the name “Charles L. Ritzmann”. Ritzmann was a well known collector and retailer of celebrity cabinet cards. To view more of Ritzmann’s photographs, click on the category “Charles Ritzmann Collection”.

PORTRAIT OF BEAUTIFUL METROPOLITAN OPERA PERFORMER: ISABELLE L’HUILLIER

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The beautiful woman in this cabinet card portrait is opera singer Isabelle L’Huillier. She made her debut during the 1908/1909 season with the Metropolitan Opera Company as Musetta in “La Boheme”. She concluded the season with a role in “The Bartered Bride”. Miss L’Huillier is beautifully dressed in this photograph. She is wearing a fur and a pretty hat. The photographer of this cabinet card photograph is celebrity photographer Aime Dupont. To learn more about Mr Dupont and to view more of his images, click on the category “Photographer: Dupont”.  (SOLD)

PORTRAIT OF SOPRANO ETELKA GERSTER, BY NEW YORK CITY CELEBRITY PHOTOGRAPHER, JOSE MORA

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This cabinet card portrait features Hungarian soprano Etelka Gerster (1855-1920). She debuted in Italy in 1876. In 1878 she performed at the Academy of Music in New York City. She earned great international acclaim during her singing career. She unfortunately lost her voice after the birth of her daughter and never sang again. She became a voice instructor and taught singing in Berlin, Germany between 1896 and 1917. She died in Bologna in 1920. This cabinet card portrait was produced by celebrity photographer Jose Mora of New York City. To learn more about him and to view more of his photographs, click on the category “Photographer: Mora”.

Published in: on October 16, 2014 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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MADAME BUTTERFLY IN KLAGENFURT, AUSTRIA

MADAME BUTTERFLY_0008 This image features an attractive actress playing Madame Butterfly in a 1909 production. The preceding information comes from an inscription on the reverse of the photograph. The photographer is Hans Wanderer and his studio was located in Klagenfurt, Austria. Madam Butterfly is an opera by Giacomo Puccini. The story was originally written by James Long (1898). David Belasco dramatized the story for theater. The operatic version of Madame Butterfly premiered in Milan, Italy in 1904.