The subject of this cabinet card portrait is stage actress Josie Ditt. Research indicates that she was a minor actress with a number of small role appearances in a number of major theater shows. The New York Dramatic Mirror (1892) announced her appearance in a “10,000 dollar production”, adding “No more, No less, No Bluff”. Will Wilson’s play, “The Man About Town” was playing at the Lyceum Theater. The show was a “Comedy, Vaudeville, Farce”. The New York Times (1894) advertised her appearance in the cast of “Little Christopher Columbus”. The Cornell Daily Sun reports her appearance in “Circus Girl”. This cabinet card was produced by the Conly studio in Boston, Massachusetts. To view other photographs by Charles F. Conly, click on the category “Photographer: Conly”. This particular photograph was once owned by Culver Pictures, a business that supplied celebrity images to the mass media for a fee. A stamp on the reverse of the photograph attests to Culver’s ownership.
This cabinet card is an image of a gentleman dressed in his fraternal organization uniform. He has badges on his sash as well as on his jacket. Two of the badges have words on them that can be deciphered. The lower badge on his sash states “In Hoc Signo Vinces” which is the latin rendering of the Greek phrase, “with this as your standard you shall have victory”. This motto has been used on many coat of arms and banners including those belonging to families, cities, regiments, sport teams, and even pall mall cigarettes. More relevant to this photograph, the motto appears on the “Knight Templar Cross” in the York Rite branch of free masonry. The second readable badge is the one located below the gentleman’s left shoulder. The badge states the name “Hugues De Payens”. Hugues De Payens (1070-1136) was a frankish knight who was the cofounder and first Grandmaster of the Knights Templar. This cabinet card conjures up thoughts of the “Da Vinci Code”. The photographer of this cabinet card is Conly of Boston, Massachusetts. Charles F. Conly went looking for a job at age 20 and found a help wanted sign in the window of famed Boston photographer, Warren (see category Photographers: Warren). Ten years later he succeeded Warren as the proprietor of the studio. He had a meteoric rise from office boy to entrepreneur. At the beginning of his career he spent some time in the theatrical profession and he thus became the favorite photographer of Boston’s theatrical performers. Conly’s obituary appears in the 1893 edition of Anthony’s Photographic Bulletin. Interestingly, the article states that Conly was a prominent secret society man and that delegations from the Elks, Odd Fellows and the Royal Arcanum and Columbian Lodge of Masons were represented at his funeral. To view other photographs by Conly, click on the category “Photographer: Conly”.