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.”.

PAULINE MARKHAM: TURN OF THE CENTURY BURLESQUE ACTRESS

This risque (lots of cleavage shown for this era) cabinet card is a portrait of Pauline Markham (1847-1919), a singer and burlesque dancer during the civil war period in the United States. She was born in England where she made her stage debut as a child. She came to New York and appeared in “Black Crook” and “Pinafore”. She was a member of the Lydia Thompson troupe (British Blondes). After the civil war, she had relations with Northern Generals and Reconstructionists In the 1870’s she formed her own stage company and in 1879 she took her company on a tour of the West during which they performed Gilbert and Sullivan. A member of that troupe was Josephine Marcus, who later married lawman, Wyatt Earp. She retired from the stage in 1889 after breaking her leg. She must have taken the old show business saying of “break a leg” literally. This cabinet card was photographed by Fredricks, of Brooklyn, New York. It is possible that the photographer is Charles DeForest Fredricks (1823-1894) who was an innovative American photographer. Fredricks learned the art of daguerreotypes from the great photographer , Jeremiah Gurney (see category “Photographer: Gurney”). Fredricks worked in South America through the early 1850’s and then he operated out of Charleston, South Carolina; and Paris, France. He was the first photographer to make life-size portraits, which he then hired artists to color them using pastel. He then returned to New York City and rejoined Gurney. In 1854 he developed a new enlarging process and in 1855 he ended his association with Gurney. In the late 1850’s Fredricks ran his studio in Havana, Cuba, and in the 1860’s he opened a studio on Broadway, in New York City. He retired in 1889. Research has not confirmed that Fredricks ever had a studio in Brooklyn, so it is quite uncertain whether the Fredricks who photographed Markham is actually Charles D. Fredricks.