PORTRAIT OF A STRIKING YOUNG WOMAN BY B. J. FALK (VINTAGE REAL PHOTO POSTCARD)

striking

This vintage real photo postcard features a portrait of a very beautiful young woman. She has long hair and is wearing a spanish style scarf. The photograph was taken by the great American celebrity photographer B. J. Falk. His name is in very small print slightly to the left and above the bottom right corner of the postcard.  The publisher was A. G. Steglitz  (NPG) in Berlin, Germany.  The postcard is used and is postmarked 1905.

striking 2

CUTE LITTLE GIRL IN CINCINATI, OHIO (PHOTOGRAPH BY MARCEAU)

cute girl

A little girl dressed in big girl clothing looks adorable as she posed in the Marceau & Bellsmith studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. The child is wearing an elaborate hat and a large collar pin. She is also wearing a very cute expression which includes a half smile. Colonel Theodore C. Marceau (1859-1922) operated a studio at 285 Fifth Avenue in New York City. The studio was known for producing many celebrity portraits. Marceau was also known for pioneering the creation of national chains of photographic studios in the 1880’s. He became nationally known at the ripe young age of twenty-two when he served as a US government phot0grapher in Santiago, Chile. He was part of an 1882 expedition that recorded the movement of Venus. Later, he served on the staff of Governor Foraker of Ohio, then Governor Markham of California. After leaving public service he lived in Cincinnati (1885-1886) and executed a business strategy that he repeated several times over the years. He would capitalize and build photographic studios, take on a talented local photographers as a partner, build the business, and then sell it to his partner. His first venture took place in Cincinnati and his partner was Randolph “Ralph” P. Bellsmith. The pair produced the photograph seen above. Marceau eventually had branches in Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Boston. His partner in San Francisco was Frederick Bushnell who later built his own chain of studios on the west coast. In 1891 Marceau married a widow named Amanda Fiske and their marriage had a deleterious effect on Marceau’s finances and emotional well being. The marriage was of short duration and Marceau took on his wife’s debts and was rewarded by her habitual infidelity. Marceau took custody of his son and became embroiled in publicity generating divorce proceedings that lasted four years. In 1900 Marceau made New York City his primary operation. For about ten years he ran the Otto Sarony and the Marceau Studios out of New York. Using the Sarony name caused Marceau to fight Jonathan Burrow (purchaser of the Napoleon Sarony Studio) in court. Marceau was described as a skilled raconteur and he became very active in the photography world in New York. In 1905 he cofounded the Professional Photographers Society of New York with Pirie McDonald. Marceau, MacDonald, and B. J. Falk organized the Copyright League to give photographers stronger rights protection of their work. Marceau was quite successful financially. He employed profits from his studios to buy a large amount of New York City real estate. His name appeared in New York’s “Blue Book”. His estate was worth millions of dollars upon his death. His son, a Yale trained lawyer, took over the operation of his father’s studio after his father died but he sold it in 1922. To view the work of Marceau’s Cincinnati partner and to learn more about him, click on the category “Photographer: Bellsmith”.

 

PRETTY YOUNG STAGE ACTRESS GLADYS WALLIS (PHOTOGRAPH BY B J FALK)

gladys wallis_0003Gladys Wallis, theater star, is the subject of this portrait by celebrity photographer B. J. Falk. Miss Wallis appears to be very young when she posed for this cabinet card photograph. The image is numbered 16 in a series and has a copyright date of 1893. In fact, she was just eighteen years old when she sat for this portrait. Glady Wallis (1875-1953) lived an interesting life. The Florence Times (1932) tells some of her story in an article that is predominately about her husband Samuel Insull (1858-1938). The article was quite disparaging of  Insull and in the lead of the story the reporter writes “The keen brain of Samuel Insull built a 4,000,000,000 public utilities empire but he failed when he attempted to bring about his wife’s come-back as an actress after her 26 year absence from the stage”. The attempt cost him 200,00 dollars. Gladys Wallis’s was originally named Mary Bird. She was of Irish descent and upon becoming an actress was determined to be viewed as a respectable woman. She was anti alcohol and reportedly, anti sex. Insull had originally seen her as a “starry eyed and raven-haired young ingenue in an 1898 theater production in Chicago. She was just a teenager and he was 36 years-old starstruck admirer. They later met at a dinner party and two years later, they married. Gladys quickly retired from the stage and became a society lady. She had a number of estates and servants, was active in fund raising for charities, went to high society affairs and functions, and wore expensive clothing and jewelry. It is reported that she wasn’t an easy person to get along with and was not very well liked among the ladies of society. She and Insull reportedly had a tempestuous relationship and among their issues was her disinterest in sex. Insull supported her temperance beliefs. The couple had a son who eventually attended Yale University. In 1925,Wallis revealed her desire to return to the stage because of her desire for “self expression”. Her husband funded the theatrical endeavor and its proceeds were to be directed toward charity. Society turned out in mass for the opening night of what was to be a two week engagement where Mrs. Insull played the “coquettish role”of Lady Teazle. Attendees included Marshall Fields, the Armours, the Drakes, and the Pullmans. The success of this limited engagement spurred Wallis to return to Broadway. Wallis may have felt ready for Broadway but apparently Brodway wasn’t ready for Wallis and she returned to Chicago in 1927. She was not yet done with acting so she took a five year lease on a Chicago theater and established a performing company. This project failed and before long he company was operating at a loss of more than a thousand dollars a day. Things also did not go well for Mr. Insull. The depression severely impacted his business and eventually there were even charges filed against him. He fled to Europe with his wife where they entered “voluntary exile”. He was eventually deported from Europe but was well defended in a Chicago trial and found innocent of all charges. However, the Insulls had lost their fortune and at the time of his death, his estate was quite meager. There are a number of books available about Mr. Insull and they probably make quite interesting reading. This photograph was taken by B. J. Falk, New York City celebrity photographer. To learn more about this photographer and to see more of his images, click on the category “Photographer: Falk”.

PORTRAIT OF BEAUTIFUL ACTRESS HELEN STANDISH (PHOTOGRAPHED BY B J FALK)

STANDISH F_0016

This cabinet card portrait features pretty actress Helen Standish. Famed celebrity photographer B J Falk produced this image and Miss Standish’s choice to wear a dress showing some cleavage, makes this photograph somewhat risque for it’s era. In addition, her expression can be interpreted as being enticing. Research revealed very little about Helen Standish or her career. She appears in number of cigarette card series including one produced by Dukes Cigarettes (“Leading Actors and Actresses”) which can be seen below. Her name appears in the New York Times (1887) review of the play “The Pyramid” which appeared at the Star Theater. The reviewer states that Miss Standish and another actress in the play “were not equal to the demands of their roles”. Ouch! The reverse of the cabinet card has a stamp from “Culver Service” which was a New York City company that charged the media for the use of photographs coming from their vast image archives. The reverse of the photograph also has the stamp of photographer J. M. Russell, 126 Tremont Street, in Boston, Massachusetts. Russell was a well known music publisher in Boston and it is possible that he also was involved in the sale of celebrity cabinet  cards.

4 (1)

store

CORINNE: FAMOUS CHILD ACTRESS AND SUBJECT OF A SENSATIONAL CHILD ABUSE CASE

CORRINE_0003

corinne_0002

The actress pictured in these cabinet cards is Corrine.  Corrine, like Elvis or Selena, was a performer that received national recognition and was known by just her first name. In the top portrait by celebrity photographer B. J. Falk, Corrine looks to be teenager or young adult. She is dressed in theatrical costume. Corinne was the daughter of actress Jennie Kimball. Kimball acted in the theater between 1865 and 1873. The year of her retirement, she became the mother of Corinne, who the New York Times (1896) labelled “the most famous of all the child actresses of this country”. It is not clear how Kimball and her husband came to raise Corinne, but is was speculated that she was adopted as an orphan. Kimball trained her young daughter for the stage. Corrine debuted in the theater at age two and a half.  At five years of age she played the part of  “Little Buttercup” in the Boston production of “Pinafore”. She played the role more than one hundred times. At fifteen years of age she was traveling as head of her own theater company. Jennie Kimball doubled as Corinne’s mother and manager. The New York Times (1896) reported that Corinne “was a goldmine” during her early days for Mrs. Kimball and remained a major money producer through the time the article was written. At the time the article appeared, Corinne was twenty-two years old.  Jennie Kimball’s successful management of her daughter’s career wasn’t appreciated by all observers. The New York Times (1881) asserted that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children objected to the way Corinne was being raised and successfully pursued custody of the child. During the custody hearing, eight year-old Corinne was put on the stand and interrogated by the society’s lawyer. He asked her how many times she was photographed and she didn’t know but said “she was never photographed in tights nor with her limbs and breast exposed”. The lawyer’s questioning revealed that the child had never attended school. However, Jennie Kimball did give her “lessons” each morning. The lawyer then gave Corinne an impromptu writing/spelling test during her testimony. The attorney also prompted the child to say she had never attended sunday school and didn’t know what a bible was nor had she ever been taught anything about Jesus Christ. The society lawyer was initially able to convince the judge to remove the child from the custody of Mrs Kimball because she was “unlawfully exhibited and employed” in dancing, singing and acting on the theatrical stage. Mrs. Kimball was allowed to take her daughter for a brief period to change her clothing but was assigned an escort to insure that the child would be brought to the society. Mrs Kimball was advised by George Hackett, the manager of a Providence opera house that if she took her daughter from New York to Jersey City, New Jersey; the girl would be out of the courts jurisdiction and she could keep her daughter. Mrs. Kimball followed his suggestion, and allowed a man to spirit the child out of state. As a result, Mrs. Kimball was charged with abduction and she ended up back in court. After a short time, the judge considered all the testimony that he heard and decided to return Corinne to her parents (he called them guardians). He believed that they were loving toward the child and responsible enough to continue raising her. Interestingly, he had something to say about the religious angle pursued by the society lawyer. The judge wrote that the the US constitution protected Corinne’s parents from being punished for not providing religious education to their daughter.  Corinne continued her acting career and eventually became involved in burlesque theater. The New York Times (1894) wrote “Corinne has grown up and proves a lively and entertaining performer. The article adds that “she has no large share of original talent, musical or dramatic, but she can sing and dance “well enough”. The second cabinet card picturing Miss Corinne was published by Newsboy (#20 of a series). She is wearing jewelry galore and flowers in her hair. What is that contraption that she is wearing around her waist? Is it a pouch? If so, what is it meant to carry? Hopefully some cabinet card gallery visitors with fashion expertise can explain her unusual dress.

store

KATHARINE GREY (1873-1950): THEATRE ACTRESS

gray

Katherine Grey (1873-1950) was an American theatre actress who appeared in more than 25 Broadway shows between 1895 and 1940. In the top cabinet card, she is photographed by Sarony, of New York City, the famed theatrical portrait photographer. Note the daisies on her hat.In the bottom cabinet card, Grey is photographed by celebrity photographer B. J. Falk, also of New York City. In this image she is holding the bottom of her dress in her right hand. The photograph is dated 1893.