This cabinet card features a portrait of burlesque actress and impresario, Ada Richmond. Richmond was from Chicago and when her businessman father died she was sent to Boston to study music. She was encouraged by a theater manager to try the burlesque stage and she became very successful in that genre of theater. The Milwaukee Daily Journal (1885) has an article in it’s theater section about the opening of Ada Richmond’s American Burlesque Company’s version of “The Sleeping Beauty”. She headed the company and performed in it. She was known as the “handsomest woman” on the burlesque stage. The article also points out that Ada Richmond was the widow of Billy Bost, a well known New York politician and “sporting character” who was shot and killed three years earlier in a political dispute. This cabinet card was photographed by celebrity photographer, Gurney. Ada Richmond looks quite angelic in this portrait and is wearing exquisite matching jewelry. The photographer’s logo on the reverse of the photograph has a symbol with the following words “I have chained the sun to serve me”. This likely is an advertisement for the studio’s electric lights which would improve the quality of customer’s photographs. A stamp on the reverse of the cabinet card notes that it was part of the “Harold Seton” collection. Harold Seton was a journalist, author and collector of theatrical photographs. He wrote a column for Theatre Magazine. To learn more about Seton and to see other photographs that were part of the collection, click on the category “Harold Seton Collection”.
This risque (lots of cleavage shown for this era) cabinet card is a portrait of Pauline Markham (1847-1919), a singer and burlesque dancer during the civil war period in the United States. She was born in England where she made her stage debut as a child. She came to New York and appeared in “Black Crook” and “Pinafore”. She was a member of the Lydia Thompson troupe (British Blondes). After the civil war, she had relations with Northern Generals and Reconstructionists In the 1870’s she formed her own stage company and in 1879 she took her company on a tour of the West during which they performed Gilbert and Sullivan. A member of that troupe was Josephine Marcus, who later married lawman, Wyatt Earp. She retired from the stage in 1889 after breaking her leg. She must have taken the old show business saying of “break a leg” literally. This cabinet card was photographed by Fredricks, of Brooklyn, New York. It is possible that the photographer is Charles DeForest Fredricks (1823-1894) who was an innovative American photographer. Fredricks learned the art of daguerreotypes from the great photographer , Jeremiah Gurney (see category “Photographer: Gurney”). Fredricks worked in South America through the early 1850’s and then he operated out of Charleston, South Carolina; and Paris, France. He was the first photographer to make life-size portraits, which he then hired artists to color them using pastel. He then returned to New York City and rejoined Gurney. In 1854 he developed a new enlarging process and in 1855 he ended his association with Gurney. In the late 1850’s Fredricks ran his studio in Havana, Cuba, and in the 1860’s he opened a studio on Broadway, in New York City. He retired in 1889. Research has not confirmed that Fredricks ever had a studio in Brooklyn, so it is quite uncertain whether the Fredricks who photographed Markham is actually Charles D. Fredricks.
Agnes Ethel (1853-1903) was briefly one of the more popular and promising actresses of her time. She made her debut in New York in 1869 playing Camille. Augustin Daly signed her and she appeared in Play (1869). Daly’s biographer described Ethel as “a slender figure, candid eyes, flowing auburn hair, an oval face, and regular features always lit up by an expression of childish appeal.” Her biggest success was in Daly’s Frou-Frou (1870). In 1873, he retired at the height of her career when she married Francis Tracy, a millionaire from Buffalo, New York. She stated her reason for leaving the stage was to aim “for quiet domesticity”. She spent post retirement supporting charities and helping struggling actors and actresses. When her husband died, she was involved in a nasty legal dispute about his will. She was eventually awarded his entire fortune. The photographer of this Cabinet card is the well known studio of Gurney & Son.