ADELINA PATTI SINGS THE PRAISES OF THE CHICAGO CORSET COMPANY (TRADE CARD)

corset

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.

corset 2

 

 Adelina Patti

004                              Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The                                                 Metropolitan Museum of Art
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So glad I live in an era where women can breathe free from restraint 🙂

  2. No, it’s not a mistake in my view. Today people have a choice on whether or not to wear one or not. I find the style very pleasing to the eye. I would not suggest by any means that someone would do it for a lengthy amount of time. I left out modern words that might give expression to this style. It’s attractive as long as people don’t take it to the extreme.


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