British stage actress, Cissy Grahame is the subject of this portrait by the famed London photographic studio W. & D. Downey. She looks quite beautiful in her lace scarf and feathered hat. Grahame was born in 1862. She was the daughter of an actress and she took her first stage role at the age of thirteen. Three years later she was hired to the stage by Mr. Wilson Barrett and soon thereafter by the Kendal’s. As she progressed in her theatrical career she added theatre management to her repertoire. To view other photographs by the Downey studio, click on the category “Photographer: Downey”.
Violet Cameron (1862-1919), was an English stage star. She was the niece of burlesque legend Lydia Thompson. Cameron began her stage career as a child in 1871. She played several child roles at the Drury Lane Pantomime theatre. As an adult, she played many prominent roles in the most important English theatres. In 1886 she came to America and played in “The Commodore” and “Kenilworth”. In 1893 she had great success in the stage play “Morocco Bound”. She was involved in several scandalous love affairs during her stage career. The top cabinet card was a product of Elliot & Fry, a prominent London photography studio. The second cabinet card was produced at the studio of W & D Downey in London, England. The third portrait of Violet Cameron is also by Downey. She looks lovely in her ruffly dress and her plunging neckline (relative to the cabinet card era) highlights her necklace. The reverse of the cabinet card has the stamp of Charles Ritzmann of New York City indicating that it was once owned by the esteemed purveyor of theatrical photographs. The fourth photograph of Miss Cameron once again comes from the Downey studio. She appears to be wearing a wedding dress in this cabinet card portrait. To view other photographs by these two studios, click on the category Photographer: Elliot & Fry or Photographer: Downey.
A little boy wearing a sailor suit poses for his portrait in London, England. The boy is adorable and he is posed beautifully sitting on a faux rock with his arms folded against his chest. He is wearing a straw hat and a terrific grin. The photographer is the W & D Downey studio. This studio was well known and highly respected in England. They advertised themselves as photographers specially appointed to photograph the imperial and royal families of Europe. To view other photographs by this studio, click on the category “Photographer: Downey”.
Maude Branscombe was a very popular stage beauty and light opera singer. She was reported to be the most photographed woman of her day. Biographical information about her is sparse and more will be added at a later date. Her first appearance on the New York stage was in 1876 as Cupid in a revival of Ixion at the Eagle Theatre. The portrait at the top was photographed by renowned W & D Downey of London, England.
The second portrait was cropped so the photographer is unknown.
The third portrait (Branscombe is wearing a necklace) is by L. Levin & Son of San Francisco, California.
The fourth cabinet card image was photographed by Sarony. Sarony was a well known celebrity photographer and more of his portraits can be viewed by clicking on the category of “Photographer: Sarony”. Sarony does an excellent job of capturing Branscombe’s beauty and her alluring eyes.
The fifth and sixth, and seventh cabinet card were photographed by another celebrity photographer, Jose Mora, of New York City. Interestingly, the fifth and seventh cabinet card captures Branscombe in the same costume as the second cabinet card. It is likely that the photographer of cabinet card number two, is also Jose Mora. To view other photographs by Mora, click on the category of “Photographer: Mora”.
The eighth cabinet card portrait of Branscombe was photographed by Howell, another New York City photographer with a studio on Broadway. Howell’s close-up photograph captures the actress’s beauty and her wonderful eyes. She is wide eyed and her hair is a bit mussed. These qualities add to the allure of Miss Branscombe.William Roe Howell was born in 1846 in Goshen, New York. He had a passion for drawing and painting and he directed his creative interest into the field of photography as a young adult. He opened a photographic studio in Goshen. In 1863 he moved to New York City where he joined Robert and Henry Johnston at Johnston Brothers Studio at 867 Broadway. In 1866 the firm became Johnston & Howell. In 1867, he became the sole proprietor of the gallery. By 1870, he was gaining much recognition in the field of photography. His great location in New York City gave him access to many fashionable upper class men and women as well as many celebrities. Among his photographic subjects were P. T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill, and Robert E. Lee. He opened a branch studio in Brooklyn. In 1873 he came one of five Americans to be awarded a special grand prized at the Vienna World Fair. He frequently received mention in the photographic journals. He published a book of cabinet cards that received much praise. He became a photographer for West Point, Princeton, and other notable institutions. He won many medals at photography exhibitions. In 1878 he moved his business from 867 to 889 Broadway and opened another studio with a partner (Meyer) at 26 West 14th Street. In 1880 he retired from photography due to health reasons. In 1886 he moved with his family to Washington D.C. intent on opening a photography business there. He then disappeared. He vanished just two weeks before the grand opening of his new studio. He left his wife of 16 years (Fannie Scott) and his five children penniless. His wife stated that Howell was an eccentric man and that he must have got tired of business and family problems “and cut loose from us”. He apparently returned home after a short duration of absence and his business appeared in the 1888 Washington D. C. business directory but not in the 1889 directory. He died of tuberculosis in New York City in 1890. He had been residing at the home of a colleague who ran a photography studio in Harlem. It is believed by some biographers that he had divorced his wife and returned to New York without his family.
The ninth cabinet card is another portrait photographed by Jose Mora. The actress’s costuming detracts from the overall appeal of the photograph. She seems lost in the swirl of her head covering. However, the photographer does an excellent job of highlighting Miss Branscombe’s seductive eyes. The phrase “Maude Branscombe eyes” certainly rivals the phrase “Bette Davis eyes”.
Cabinet card number ten also comes from the studio of Jose Mora. She is well dressed in this portrait. It is not clear if she is dressed for a stage role or if she is attired for a jaunt around town.
Julia Neilson (1868-1957) was an English actress remembered for her numerous performances as Lady Blakeney in “The Scarlet Pimpernell” and for her roles in many tragedies and historical romances. In addition, she is also known for her portrayal of Rosalind in “As You Like It”. She became noticed after acting in a series of plays by W. S. Gilbert in 1888. She then joined the company of Herbert Beerbohm Tree, where she remained for five years. She married actor, Fred Terry and their daughter became a well known actress, Phyllis Neilson-Terry. From 1900 through 1930, Neilson and her husband became noted producers of plays. The photographer of this cabinet card was W. & D. Downey of London, England. To view other p;hotographs by the Downey studio, click on the category “Photographer: Downey”. This cabinet card captures Ms Neilson in her role as “Drusilla Ives” in “The Dancing Girl”. The photograph was taken in 1891.
This Cabinet Card photograph captures English Actress Edith Chester (1861-1894). She made her debut in America in 1885. The photograph was done by W & D Downey of London, England. This studio was renowned for celebrity photographs.