KATE CLAXTON: STAGE ACTRESS ASSOCIATED WITH DEADLY THEATRE FIRE

Kate Claxton (1848-1924) is the subject of this cabinet card portrait. Claxton was an American stage actress who made her first appearance in Chicago with Lotta Crabtree in 1870. That same year she joined Augustin Daly’s Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York. In 1872, she became a member of A. M. Palmer’s Union Square Theatre in New York. She played mostly in comedic roles. She began starring in theatrical tours in 1876. In 1876 she was performing the play “The Two Orphans” at the Brooklyn Theatre (in New York City) when a fire broke out killing 278 people. Soon after the tragic fire, she was in a St. Louis hotel when it caught fire and she made a narrow escape. After the two fires, Claxton was viewed by some audiences and theater professionals, as bad luck and a performer to be avoided.  There are some interesting asides about Claxton. First, the town of Claxton, Georgia was named after her in 1911, Second, her father was Colonel Spencer W. Cone, who was the commander of the 61st New York Regiment in the American Civil War. This cabinet card was photographed by Schloss, a famous New York celebrity photographer. To view other photographs by Schloss, click on this site’s category “Photographer: Schloss”. The reverse of this card has a hand written notation stating “Empire Theatre”. Perhaps this photograph captures Kate Claxton in costume for a role she played at the Empire. The second cabinet card captures Claxton sitting on the ground during a snow storm. The staged scene in this image is likely from one of Claxton’s performances. This photograph is by Sarony, famed New York City photographer. To view other images by Sarony, click on Cabinet Card Gallery’s category “Photographer: Sarony”.

BIJOU HERON: BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN STAGE ACTRESS

This Cabinet Card presents the image of American stage actress Bijou Heron (1863-1937). She was the daughter of composer Robert August Stoepel and actress Matilda Heron. She began her career as a child. She married Broadway producer, writer, actor, and director, Henry Miller (1858-1926). Her son, Gilbert Miller became a very successful Broadway producer. The photograph was published for the Union Square Theatre Company. The photographic studio was Bradley & Rulofson in San Francisco, California. The reverse of the card indicates that the studio has the only “Elevator Photography” in the world. Perhaps a visitor to this site can explain the meaning of “Elevator Photography”. Research reveals that in 1872 the partners installed what they claimed to be the first hydraulic elevator ever to be associated with a photographic studio. The elevator cost them four thousand dollars. Henry William Bradley (1813-1891) and his partner William Rulofson (1826-1876) were partners in a photographic studio that photographed many notable Californians. Bradley was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. He opened his San Francisco studio in 1850 and took in his partner in 1860. When he retired in 1878 his studio was considered the best on the west coast and won first prize at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876. Mr Rulofson had quite a controversial and interesting life and associated with many famous people including Ambrose Bierce.  Rulofson died in a fall from the roof of his studio and was heard to say during the descent, “I am killed”. You can view a second cabinet card of an actress by these photographers by clicking on the category “Photographer: Bradley & Rulofson”. Ms. Heron is dressed in costume for this portrait. It is likely that she was appearing in San Francisco with a touring company from the  Union Square Theatre. The costume that she is wearing is one that she wore in the play “The Two Orphans” in which she appeared with actress Maud Harrison circa 1880. This cabinet card indicates that Bijou Heron was a strikingly beautiful woman.