MAUDE BRANSCOMBE: CELEBRATED BEAUTY AND ACTRESS

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Maude Branscombe was a very popular stage beauty and light opera singer. She was reported to be the most photographed woman of her day. Biographical information about her is sparse and more will be added at a later date. Her first appearance on the New York stage was in 1876 as Cupid in a revival of Ixion at the Eagle Theatre. The portrait at the top was photographed by renowned W & D Downey of London, England.

The second portrait  was cropped so the photographer is unknown.

The third portrait (Branscombe is wearing a necklace) is by L. Levin & Son of San Francisco, California.

The fourth cabinet card image was photographed by Sarony. Sarony was a well known celebrity photographer and more of his portraits can be viewed by clicking on the category of “Photographer: Sarony”. Sarony does an excellent job of capturing Branscombe’s beauty and her alluring eyes.

The fifth and sixth, and seventh cabinet card were photographed by another celebrity photographer, Jose Mora, of New York City. Interestingly, the fifth and seventh cabinet card captures Branscombe in the same costume as the second cabinet card. It is likely that the photographer of cabinet card number two, is also Jose Mora. To view other photographs by Mora, click on the category of “Photographer: Mora”.

The eighth cabinet card portrait of Branscombe was photographed by Howell, another New York City photographer with a studio on Broadway. Howell’s close-up photograph captures the actress’s beauty and her wonderful eyes. She is wide eyed and her hair is a bit mussed. These qualities add to the allure of Miss Branscombe.William Roe Howell was born in 1846 in Goshen, New York. He had a passion for drawing and painting and he directed his creative interest into the field of photography as a young adult. He opened a photographic studio in Goshen. In 1863 he moved to New York City where he joined Robert and Henry Johnston at Johnston Brothers Studio at 867 Broadway. In 1866 the firm became Johnston & Howell. In 1867, he became the sole proprietor of the gallery. By 1870, he was gaining much recognition in the field of photography. His great location in New York City gave him access to many fashionable upper class men and women as well as many celebrities. Among his photographic subjects were P. T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill, and Robert E. Lee. He opened a branch studio in Brooklyn. In 1873 he came one of five Americans to be awarded a special grand prized at the Vienna World Fair. He frequently received mention in the photographic journals. He published a book of cabinet cards that received much praise. He became a photographer for West Point, Princeton, and other notable institutions. He won many medals at photography exhibitions. In 1878 he moved his business from 867 to 889 Broadway and opened another studio with a partner (Meyer) at 26 West 14th Street. In 1880 he retired from photography due to health reasons.  In 1886 he moved with his family to Washington D.C. intent on opening a photography business there. He then disappeared. He vanished just two weeks before the grand opening of his new studio. He left his wife of 16 years (Fannie Scott) and his five children penniless. His wife stated that Howell was an eccentric man and that he must have got tired of business and family problems “and cut loose from us”.  He apparently returned home after a short duration of absence and his business appeared in the 1888 Washington D. C. business directory but not in the 1889 directory. He died of tuberculosis in New York City in 1890. He had been residing at the home of a colleague who ran a photography studio in Harlem. It is believed by some biographers that he had divorced his wife and returned to New York without his family.

The ninth cabinet card is another portrait photographed by Jose Mora. The actress’s costuming detracts from the overall appeal of the photograph. She seems lost in the swirl of her head covering. However, the photographer does an excellent job of highlighting Miss Branscombe’s seductive eyes. The phrase  “Maude Branscombe eyes” certainly rivals the phrase “Bette Davis eyes”.

Cabinet card number ten also comes from the studio of Jose Mora. She is well dressed in this portrait. It is not clear if she is dressed for a stage role or if she is attired for a jaunt around town.

ESTELLE CLAYTON: STAGE ACTRESS

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Estelle Clayton (1867-1917) is seen in the first and second Cabinet cards. She was a prominent actress as well as a librettist in the late 1800’s. In one of her roles, she starred in “Fayette” with E H Sothern. Clayton was the sister of actress Isabelle Evesson. In 1908, the two sister actresses filed suit against New York City for allegedly diverting land away from earlier generations of their family. In 1917 she died in New York City of heart failure. The photographer of both of these Cabinet cards is Sarony of New York City. The third cabinet card portrait of Clayton was produced by Newsboy as a premium for tobacco products. It is number 47 of a series. The barefoot Miss Clayton is in quite the risque pose in this image.

PORTRAIT OF A PRETTY UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS IN NEW YORK CITY

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This portrait features an attractive unidentified actress. This woman seems to love texture. Note the fabrics she is wearing. She has a wonderful feathered hat and a  shaggy stole. At least I think its a stole but I am uncertain and welcome intervention from a cabinet card gallery visitor knowledgeable about woman’s fashion. The woman looks quite handsome in her high collar dress and lovely accessories. The photograph was taken at Fredricks Knickerbocker Family Portrait Gallery in New York City (770 Broadway). To learn more about Mr. Fredricks and to view more of his images, click on the category “Photographer: Fredricks”.

 

Published in: on January 21, 2013 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  
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YOUNG ACTRESS WITH SAD HAUNTING EYES

A pretty young actress with sad and haunting eyes and a polka dot dress poses for her portrait. She exudes a dramatic air and its likely no coincidence that this photograph was found in a collection of theatrical cabinet cards. The photographer of this image was the Murillo studio of St. Louis, Missouri. One source reports that the Murillo studio was operated by Jesse J Ferguson and existed at least between 1910 and 1919. To view other photographs by Murillo, click on the category “Photographer: Murillo”.

Published in: on October 20, 2012 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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PRETTY ACTRESS TRYING TO GET LUCKY IN PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

A beautiful young actress poses for her portrait at The Sparks studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is wearing a horseshoe broach which probably was supposed to bring her good luck. This actress’s name was Marion Elmore. She was born in 1860 in a tent in Sandhurst, Australia. Her parent were English and they were in Australia because they were hoping to hit it big in the Gold Rush. Elmore began her acting career at age three. She played in Rip Van Winkle with touring American actor, Joseph Jefferson. In the 1870’s she was a member of Lydia Thompson’s famous burlesque troupe. “The Blondes” performed a risque mix of songs, dance and comedy. They also were very well known for showing a great deal of leg in their revealing costumes. She came to the United States in 1878 with the troupe but soon went off on her own as an actress and vaudeville performer. Her first starring role was in Chispa (1883). This play was poorly reviewed. The “Virtual Dime Museum” quotes the journal “Music and Drama” which wrote that the play “was dramatic rubbish, and that it does not fit Marion Elmore any better than her straw hat, which was continually falling off”. The New York Times (1882)  also lambasted the play. The critic had mixed feelings about Miss Elmore, but stressed her negatives. He blamed actress Maggie Miller for perpetuating a type of actress that he found abhorrent. These actresses were seen as stock actresses who rose to “money making dignity” by performing in troupes like Lydia Thompson’s Blondes. He described Elmore as a “vivacious exponent of the high art of leg burlesque”. The critic asserts that the craze surrounding Lydia Thompson, and other similar troupes, was one of the worst stupidities of the stage” and that he was pleased that the popularity of this type of entertainment had become “extinct”. On the positive side, the critic enjoyed Elmore’s sense of humor and her “brightness”.  One fortuitous outcome of her acting in Chispa was that she fell in love with, and in 1884, married her co star, Frank Losee. Another actress in Chispa was Lina Merville. Her portrait can be found in the Cabinet Card Gallery via the search box. As Elmore’s career continued, she acted in many plays in the New York area. She was active through the 1890’s and the early twentieth century. She died at age ninety in 1950. To view other photographs of actresses by Sparks, click on the category “Photographer: Sparks Photo Publishing Co.”.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS WEARING A RAIN SLICKER HAT IN NEW YORK CITY

This cabinet card features a pretty young actress wearing, what appears to be, a rain slicker hat. The photograph is a bit risque for its time. The actress’s  neckline may not be plunging, but it leaves a lot uncovered. She was photographed at the studio of celebrity photographer, D. H. Anderson, in New York City.

Published in: on December 10, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments (3)  
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UNIDENTIFIED PRETTY ACTRESS POSES FOR HER PORTRAIT: BRADLEY AND RULOFSON IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

An unidentified actress poses for her photograph at the studio of Bradley & Rulofson, 429 Montgomery Street, in San Francisco, California. The actress is quite beautiful.Bradley & Rulofson was a well known photographic gallery. The reverse of the card advertises the fact that the studio had won local, national and international photography competitions, including a medal from Vienna, Austria (1873). To learn more about this photographic studio, click on the category “Photographer: Bradley & Rulofson”.

Published in: on November 16, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments (6)  
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RISQUE PORTRAIT OF AN ALLURING WOMAN IN NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK BY JOSE MORA (ACTRESS JEFFREYS-LEWIS?)

This cabinet card features an alluring woman lying on a divan in a very provocative pose. Note the leopard skin on the divan. This woman is likely an actress. She appears to be dressed like she is part of a harem. Rather than an actress, she may be a member of a circus act. The photographer is the famous celebrity photographer, Jose Mora. This image is risque for the time that it was made. To view other photographs by Mora, click on the category “Photographer: Mora”.       ADDENDUM: An informed visitor to the cabinet card gallery has identified the subject of this cabinet card as being actress  Jeffreys-Lewis. See the comment below to learn the interesting details.

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments (4)  
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PRETTY DANCER PHOTOGRAPHED BY SARONY IN NEW YORK

This cabinet card is a photograph of a young dancer/actress photographed by the famous celebrity photographer, Sarony of New York. She seems to be in a dancers pose and costume. The reverse of the card has a handwritten identification of the subject. The name listed is Sara Belle; and preliminary research has revealed nothing about her. In fact, the existence of an actress/dancer by that name has not yet been confirmed. Interestingly, Napoleon Sarony’s daughter was named Belle. In regard to the date of this photograph, Sarony opened his Broadway studio in 1866 and moved to 37 Union Square in New York City in 1871.  Therefore this photograph was taken between 1866 and 1871. Perhaps a visitor to this site can shed some light on the identity of the woman in this photograph. Additional images by Sarony can be seen by clicking on the Cabinet Card Gallery’s category of “Photographer: Sarony”.

Published in: on March 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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“A BRILLIANT FUTURE SACRIFICED FOR A LIFE OF EXCITEMENT” (1894): STAGE STAR MARION MANOLA

Marion Manola (1865-1914) is the subject of this cabinet card photograph by celebrity photographer, Benjamin Falk. Manola was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She was a popular comic opera star during the late 1880’s and 1890’s. The New York Times (1894) featured a headline stating “A Brilliant Future Sacrificed for a Life of Excitement” referring to Ms. Manola. The newspaper reported that the theatrical community was upset by the actress’s “insanity”. She was described as one of the more popular singer/actresses on American stage. She was known to be a bit eccentric but she was “heartily liked by everybody”. She was described as light hearted, having a joyous nature, and as vivacious. She was discovered by Colonel John A. McCaull, who cast her in a comic opera company. She aggressively pursued her career and had “late suppers”, “early rehearsals”, and worked hard. The stress of her theatrical life caused her to become irritable, fretful and difficult to manage. When her theatre company dissolved, she joined De Wolff Hopper’s company where she became the prima donna. After about a year she lost her job because of difficulty with a manager. She then went to Europe where she played the role of Maid Marion in “Robin Hood”. While in Europe she met her soon to be second husband, John Mason. Mason had his own personal problems including a great deal of debt. They joined a comic opera company in Boston but they quickly lost their jobs due to problems getting along with management. They organized their own company but it went bust. Manola’s mind began to fail and it became known that she had a opium habit. The press had a field day covering Ms. Manola’s psychiatric and substance abuse difficulties, as well as her entry into a rehab facility. Does any of this sound familiar? Think about the press coverage of Lindsay Lohan or a number of other celebrities of today who experience emotional or addiction problems.  Manola also made her mark in the courts. In fact, Judge Louis Brandeis, one of America’s great Justices,  was involved in an interesting and important case Manola brought to the legal system. The actress brought suit against a theatre manager and a photographer because she was photographed on the stage, without permission, while wearing an outfit (tights) she felt were too immodest to be photographed in. After being photographed, she ran off the stage in distress. The court supported Ms Manola’s suit and forbid the photographs from being distributed. The court took the position of there being a need for morality in the press. Some skeptics felt that the actresses real issue with the photographs had more to do with her not getting financially compensated for the photographs, rather than her claims that her privacy was violated. To view other photographs by Benjamin Falk, click on the category “Photographer: Falk”.