ESTHER RALSTON: TALENTED FILM AND EARLY TELEVISION ACTRESS

This vintage real photo postcard features beautiful actress Esther Ralston (1902-1994). She was born in Bar Harbor, Maine and was active in acting between 1915 an 1962. Her career started while she was still a child. She appeared in a family vaudeville act called “The Ralston Family with Baby Esther, America’s Youngest Juliet”. By the time she was 18, she was appearing in silent films including “Huckleberry Finn” (1920) and “Peter Pan” (1924). In the late 1920’s she appeared in many films for Paramount Pictures. She was successful enough to earn as much as eight thousand dollars per week Although she received good reviews for dramatic roles, Ralston primarily appeared in comedies, often in the role of spirited society girls. Esther’s image was initially “wholesome and fun-loving”. Florenz Ziegfeld Jr repackaged her as “The American Venus” after she appeared in the role of a beauty queen in the film, “American Venus” (1926). Miss Ralston made a successful transition to sound pictures but by the mid 1930’s she was usually appearing in supporting roles. Her final starring role was in “To the Last Man (1933) and her final film was “Tin Pan Alley (1940). That same year she retired from film and focused on stage and radio through the 1940’s. With the advent of television, Ralston spent time appearing in this new medium. Esther Ralston was married three times and divorced three times. All of her husbands worked in the entertainment industry. The imdb lists Ralston as having 108 credits as an actress. She certainly made an impact in the entertainment world and this is reflected by the fact that she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Esther Ralston’s obituary can be found at the web site of  “The Independent”. The obituary states that she was a “captivating blond beauty with an engaging sense of humor”. The article tells the story of Ralston’s reaction to co-starring with Clara Bow and Gary Cooper in “Children of Divorce” (1927) while Bow and Cooper were having an affair. In regard to Clara Bow, Ralston stated “I didn’t really dislike her, but she was pretty loose and I’d been brought up differently”. This photo postcard was pubished by Ross Verlag, a postcard publishing company based in Berlin, Germany. The postcard was produced for Paramount Pictures and is part of a series (No. 3393/1).

PORTRAIT OF A HANDSOME SOLDIER IN VIENNA, AUSTRIA

This cabinet card provides a portrait of a handsome uniformed Austro-Hungarian soldier. He is posing at the Rudolf Denk studio in Vienna, Austria. Note his high boots, sabre, and wrist watch. The soldier is wearing a couple of medals on his chest. His cap is on the table beside him. He is wearing a whistle which can be seen between his two breast pockets. The soldier is holding an open book. It is likely that this young man saw military action. World War I was not many years away from the time that he sat for this photograph.

Published in: on May 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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CARTES DE VISITE PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG GIRL IN GRONINGEN, NETHERLANDS

This carte de visite features a pretty young girl wearing a simple dress. She is posing in front of a window and alongside a chair in a studio setting. The photographer of this cdv image is the Bongenaar Gallery which was located in Groningen, Netherlands.

Published in: on May 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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PORTRAIT OF TWO VISITORS IN A CONVERTIBLE AT BALANCED ROCK, GARDEN OF THE GODS, COLORADO

This is one of those vintage real photo postcards that one stumbles upon and is compelled to learn more about. The postcard is a wonderful find. The photograph shows a young couple driving a 1920’s (?) car past “Balanced Rock” in the Garden of the Gods. The popular tourist location is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1859, two surveyors who were instrumental in setting up Colorado City, explored the area and one of them decided that it would be a great place for a “beer garden”.  The second surveyor responded to the suggestion stating it would be better to call it “Garden of the Gods” because it was “a fit place for the Gods to assemble”. Many Native American tribes are connected to this area including the Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Utes, and Pawnee people. The Garden of the Gods became a National Natural Landmark in 1971. This postcard does an excellent job of providing a portrait of the “Balanced Rock”. The natural geological formation is put in even better perspective by photographing an open car in front of it’s precarious pose. The viewer holds their breath hoping that the auto and it’s two occupants pass by safely. Note that there is a pennant hanging on the side of the car. Printed on the pennant is “Kansas City”, which is likely the home of the lovely couple in the convertible. This postcard was produced by the Paul Goerke studio in Manitou, Colorado. It is printed on Artura paper and was produced between 1908 and 1924 (presumably sometime toward the end of this span). The story of photographer Paul Goerke is quite interesting. In the 1890’s, Goerke purchased the land around Balanced Rock. Goerke and his son, Curt, took photographs of tourists by the rock and sold them for 25 cents apiece. At the beginning of Goerke’s business there was no charge to view Balanced Rock. They made their money by charging for the portraits. Among the props supplied by Goerke, were burros. As personal cameras became readily available, Goerke needed to change his business concept. Curt Goerke built a wooden fence around Balanced Rock and began charging 25 cents admission. He also operated a lunch counter adjacent to nearby “Steamboat Rock” and created picnic areas for the thousand of visitors who came each summer. In 1932 the city of Colorado Springs purchased The Goerke property and tore down the fence.

 

Modern Photo Postcard of Balanced Rock

 

Published in: on May 23, 2017 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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PORTRAIT OF A SPUNKY BRIDE AND HER GROOM IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

 

Wedding photos are not an unusual find in the hunt for vintage photographs. This particular photograph is a bit special. It caught my eye because of the terrific expressions on the faces of the bride and groom, particularly the bride. The bride’s expression is priceless. I interpret her expression in two ways. First, she seems to be quite spunky. She has “personality galore”. Second, she shows a look of satisfaction, as if she is thinking “I finally snared the man I wanted to marry”. The groom also has a flair for the dramatic. He appears scared and uncomfortable. One of his legs is lifted off the floor in an awkward position (flamingo style). Is he using his knee as a platform for the bouquet of flowers that his bride is holding? I am truly uncertain as to the reason he is posed in this manner. Despite the groom’s weird “yoga pose”, I think the photographer did a great job composing this wedding portrait. I admire his ability to capture the vivid facial expressions of this young couple. The photograph was produced by the Pulaski Photo Art Company of Chicago, Illinois. The President/Manager of Pulaski was Max Prusinski (1883-?) and the Secretary of the company was John Prusinski. Interestingly, this studio produced another wedding portrait which can be found in “The Cabinet Card Gallery”. The image can be seen below. At the time I posted this photograph, I noted what an excellent job the photographer did in capturing the bride’s personality. In my description of the image I wrote “She is exhibiting a playful smile and appears to be a vivacious young woman”. The bride in the image below also appears to be quite spunky. It is likely (based on a small sample of two photos) that the photographer (s) from the Pulaski studio strived to spice up wedding portraits by capturing the personalities of the wedding couple.

 

Published in: on May 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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PRISCILLA DEAN: TALENTED SILENT FILM ACTRESS AND LESS TALENTED “TALKIE” ACTRESS

Priscilla Dean (1896-1987) was a popular American actress who appeared in both silent films and theatre productions. Her career spanned two decades. She was born in New York to a theatrical family. Her mother and father were actors. She attended a convent school until she was fourteen and than launched her film career. Priscilla made her stage debut at the ripe old age of four and, as previously stated, her film debut at fourteen in films produced by Biograph and several other studios. She was signed to a contract by Universal (IMP) in 1911 and soon gained popularity as the female lead in the comedy series of Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran. She reached stardom after appearing in “The Gray Ghost” (1917). The advent of sound to the film industry impaired Dean’s career. She was relegated to low-budget films for minor independent studio during the 1930’s and her career fizzled out. Priscilla Dean has been called “an unlikely Diva”. She was described as being a plain woman, but cheerful. She is said to have had heavy features, a crooked smile, and an “unfashionably curvaceous figure”. However, her intensity on screen was considered “unmatched”. Dean was married to actor Wheeler Oakman (1890-1949) who was also under contract at Universal. The couple appeared together in “The Virgin of Stamboul”  (1920)and “Outside the Law” (1920). The pair divorced in the mid 1920’s and a few years later she married Leslie Arnold, a famous aviator. Dean died at the age of 91. Perusal of Miss Dean’s filmography reveals that she has 95 credits as an actress between 1912 and 1932. To view Miss Dean in the talkie film “Behind Stone Walls” (1932), click the You Tube link below. Keep in mind that she was considered a significantly better silent film actress than a “talkie” actress. This postcard was published  by Ross Verlag of Berlin, Germany. It was part of a series (No. 547/2) and was produced for Universal Studios. It was published sometime between 119 and 1924. The photographer of this portrait was Roman Freulich (1924-1974). Freulich was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States at the age of 14. He learned his trade from New York photographer Samuel Lumiere. He moved to Hollywood in the mid 1920’s where his brother Jack was a portrait photographer at Universal Pictures. Roman became a still photographer for Universal and produced many portraits of their major stars. He stayed at Universal until 1944 when he moved to Republic Studios. After Republic stopped production, Freulich did much work for United Artists.

 

TWO COOL DANDIES HAVING SOME COOL BEERS

This vintage real photo postcard features two young men seated at a table having some beers. These guys seem relaxed and quite self assured. They are clearly not intimidated by the camera. The men are well dressed, one more formally than the other. They are wearing great looking hats. Take note of the urn under the table. I wonder if it has some meaning in this photograph or if it was just an available prop. It certainly looks out of place. The photographer, the studio, and the subjects are all unidentified.

 

 

 

Published in: on May 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  

PORTRAIT OF A FASHIONABLE YOUNG WOMAN (THE BUTTON LADY)

This cabinet card portrait features a well dressed young woman. She appears to be in her late teenage years. Her dress is adorned with an abundance of buttons as well as webbing and lace . She apparently liked jewelry as she is wearing a collar pin, a pin on her dress, and a couple of rings. She has very curly hair which she wears high on her head. She is displaying a half smile. The name of the photographer and the location of the studio are not listed on the photograph. This relatively close-up photograph has nice clarity and an unusual and interesting staging.

Published in: on May 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

PRETTY PRIMA DONNA: MINNIE ASHLEY

This vintage real photo postcard features theater actress Minnie Ashley (1878-1946). She was one of the great “stage beauties” of the end of the 19th century. She was a talented singer and dancer and she was featured in the madcap musical “1492” (1892). In Boston she performed with the Museum Company and in New York she was a member of the Augustin Daly Company. She had many successes including her performance in “A Country Girl”, “Wang”, and “San Troy”. Her acting resulted in a medical problem. The prolonged exposure to theatrical arc lights caused vision problems. In 1902 she left her acting career and married politician William Astor Chanler who was an affluent grandson of John Jacob Astor. Medical treatment did not help her vision problems and Miss Ashley than put her efforts into sculpting. Chanler and Ashley separated in 1909. She made an attempt at returning to the stage in 1911 but soon opted to pursue her sculpting. During her artistic career she worked under the name of Beatrice Ashley Chanler. In addition to the sculpting, she was active in philanthropy. The book “Famous Prima Donnas” (1900) by Lewis Clinton Strang, devotes a chapter to Minnie Ashley. He describes her as having “artless girlishness, remarkable personal charm, and skill as an imaginative dancer scarcely equalled on the American stage”. He adds that these talents explain her “sudden success” in musical comedy. He describes her dancing as “artistic in every sense” but asserts she was not exceptionally talented in the realm of acting and singing. However, Strang is very complimentary of Ashley’s appearance. He states “nature was indeed good to her when it endowed her with a most fascinating personality, a pretty piquant face, and a slim graceful figure. This postcard was published by the Rotograph Company (New York) and was part of a series (no. B 174).

PORTRAIT OF AN ADORABLE LITTLE GIRL ON A SWING IN DEADWOOD, DAKOTA TERRITORY

 

This cabinet card portrait features an adorable little girl sitting on a swing. The child is smartly dressed and her outfit includes a necklace, earrings, and a hairband. The bale of hay in the background is consistent with the location of the studio where the photograph was taken. The Pollock and Duganne studio was located in Deadwood, Dakota. The date that the photograph was taken was before Dakota became two states.The Dakota Territory was established in 1861. The territory was divided into North and South Dakota in 1889 which informs us that this image was produced sometime before that date. The town of Deadwood was located in South Dakota. It was named after the dead trees found in a local gulch. The birth of the town of Deadwood was illegitimate. It was built in the 1870’s on land that had been granted to Native Americans in an 1868 treaty with the Lakota tribe. In 1874, Colonel George Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills and announced the discovery of gold there. This resulted in the Black Hills Gold Rush and the lawless town of Deadwood quickly grew to five thousand people. Prostitution, gambling, and the opium trade flourished. Murder was common and one of the town’s murder victims was Wild Bill Hickok. In 1876 the town was struck by a small pox epidemic and in 1879 there was a major fire destroying more than 300 buildings. When panning for gold was replaced by deep mining, the town became more peaceful. Little information was found about the photographers of this image. Albert Pollock (1840-1899) came to the Black Hills in 1877 and his studio was established as early as 1879. He retired to ranching in 1886. No biographical data could be located about Mr Duganne.

Published in: on May 11, 2017 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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