ISABELLE URQUHART: COMIC OPERA AND MUSICAL COMEDY STAR (PHOTOGRAPH BY NEWSBOY)

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This cabinet card features actress Isabelle Urquhart (1865-1907). She was an American stage actress and contralto who appeared in mostly comic operas and musical comedies. Urquhart was born in New York City and claimed to have been educated in a convent. She made her first stage appearance in 1881. She performed as a chorus girl at the Standard Theatre in New York City. She than appeared in a number of small roles. From 1882 through 1883 she joined Augustin Daly’s company and acted in productions including “The Passing Regiment” and “The Squire”. In the latter production she was only seventeen years of age but played a ninety-seven year old woman. She returned to light opera because of it’s better compensation although she stated she preferred legitimate drama to comic opera. She had much success in major roles in light operas including in the hit operetta  “Erminine” which ran from 1886 through 1888 at the Casino Theatre. She also had success in other productions by luminaries such as Gilbert and Sullivan. In her leading lady role in “Erminine”, she started a fashion trend by not wearing petticoats in order “to accentuate her gorgeous figure”. Urquhart later appeared in vaudeville. Blue Vaudeville (2004) states that in a sketch at the Union Square Theatre, she “did little more than display her form in a handsome gown to the utmost advantage”. Urquhart also performed in several Broadway plays including “The Diplomat” (1902), “Arms and the Man” (1906), and “How He Lied to Her Husband”. This cabinet card was published by Newsboy and was number one i a series of photographs that were distributed as a premium accompanying tobacco sales.

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Jessie Bartlett Davis: American Actress and Opera Singer

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Jessie Bartlett Davis (1859?-1905) was an American actress and operatic singer from Illinois who was billed as “America’s Representative Contralto”.  Her father was a farmer and country school master and she was one of ten children. She was discovered when she was performing locally and was taken by traveling managers to perform on the west coast.  In 1879 she made her debut in the opera H.M.S. Pinafore. She performed with several opera companies before joining the new Boston Ideal Opera and remained with this troupe until 1901 performing as their prima donna. She is most well known for her role as Alan a-Dale in the 1890 opera Robin Hood. She also toured performing opera in Europe one season and in 1897 she opened on Broadway in The Serenade. She played Broadway again in 1903 in Jakobowski”s operetta Erminie. This versatile performer also performed vaudeville, wrote songs, stories and poems. She had a home in Chicago and summer home in Indiana where she raised horses, collies and fox terriers. In 1905 she died of Brights disease and is buried in Chicago. The photographer of this portrait is renowned theatrical photogarpher Benjamin J Falk of New York City.