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Gladys Cooper photographed by H. Goulton May, circa 1904

September 17, 2013

a photograph of Gladys Cooper (1888-1971), English actress, taken when she was about 16 years old
(photo and privately printed postcard: Henry Goulton May, 11 Hill Rise, Richmond-on-Thames, Surrey, circa 1904; this postcard was posted in Richmond on 1 December 1909, the sender having written on the reverse: ‘The sweetest Girl that ever was’)

Gladys Cooper began her acting career in 1905 by which time she was already an experienced photographer’s model; her earliest poses date from about 1894. It is not known how long her association with H. Goulton May lasted, but to judge from the number of images by him of her to have survived it must have been more than fleeting.

Henry Goulton May, one of the children of Benjamin Oliver May (1813/14), a grocer, and his wife, Mary Ann (née England) was born in 1850 at Teignmouth, Devon. The 1871 Census records that he was both an assistant to a grocer (presumably his father) and a bookseller’s assistant. By 1881 he had moved to London where, described as a portrait artist, he was boarding at 12 Wellington Street, Islington. He seems to have turned his attention to photography in the mid 1880s; in 1886 he registered a copyright photograph of Ellen Terry, who was then probably the most famous actress on the English stage, giving his address as 199 St. John’s Street Road, Clerkewell (National Archives).

H. Goulton May moved to 11 Hill Rise, Richmond, Surrey, probably in 1892, the year in which he was married to Annie May Hawkins by whom he eventually had five children. He exhibited work at the Royal Photographic Society’s exhibitions of 1899 and 1900 and for some years his business seems to have flourished. By 1911, however, he had become publican of The Foresters Arms, Redhill, Surrey, and less than two years later, at the time of his death on 3 February 1913, he was publican of the Rose and Crown, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire.

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