Posts Tagged ‘Niblo’s Garden (New York)’


Lulu, the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ unmasked as a boy

June 1, 2014

a carte de visite photograph of Lulu, the ‘female’ trapeze artist formerly known as the boy acrobat El Niño Farini, who was actually Sam Wasgate (1855-1939), the adopted son of William Leonard Hunt (1838-1929), known to the world as the tightrope walker and acrobat, The Great Farini.
(carte de visite photo: Sarony, 680 Broadway, New York, probably 1873)

‘NIBLO’S GARDEN [New York, 28 April-9 June 1873]
‘Entirely new and brilliant ballet spectacle pantomime,
‘Produced with entirely new scenery, gorgeous and elegant costumes, marvelous appointments, and a brilliantly beautiful transformation unequaled in any previous scenic display.
‘First appearance in America of the great sensation gymnast, LULU, LULU, LULU,
The marvel of the age. The eighth wonder of the world. In the most marvelous and thrilling exploits ever performed on any stage. The pantomime is presented with an exceptionally strong cast in the opening, and THE HARLEQUINADE will be rendred by the unrivaled quartette, Jas. S. Maffitt, W.H. Bartholomew, E. Valade, Mlle. Clara Leontine. The three grand ballets under direction of Madame Kathi Lanner [sic], with Mlle. Pitteri, the celebrated premier danseuse. First matinee of the new pantomime and Lulu, Wednesday afternoon, April 30 at 1 ½ o’clock.’
(The New York Clipper, New York, 3 May 1873, p. 39g, advertisement)

”’LULU.” – It is stated that the pretty ”Lulu,” who does the flying leap at Niblo’s, New York, over whom half the city is crazy, and who is advertised as a girl, is a boy. The gentle youth is said to have remarked the other day: ”The old man hain’t got more than a year or two more of the ‘Lulu’ business. I’m getting a moustache and ain’t near as pretty as I was, either.’
(The Daily State Journal, Richmond, Virginia, Saturday,14 June 1873, p. 1f)

Lulu’s appearance with Sanger’s Circus at Bath, Somerset, 1875
‘This week I paid Messrs. Sangers’ Circus another visit. Of course you guess why I did so. Lulu, whose name is in everybody’s mouth, drew me there. Where all the world goes, I must go. Now all the world – I mean the local world – has this week been tearing towards the Circus in Walcot-street each evening, impelled by the desire to see the ”eighth wonder of the world.” I had never seen the real and original Lulu before this week, and I was eager to behold the little lady who caused such a sensation in London not long ago by her wonderful athletic performances, the interest in which was increased in no small degree by her reputed graces and charms. I make use of the words ‘her’ and ‘feminine’ with a firm conviction that they are quite correctly applied, notwithstanding the report which one has heard so often repeated in Bath this week, that Lulu is not at all feminine, but masculine in sooth. If she is not ‘she,’ then I don’t know what a woman is at all. I must have grown up with very erroneous ideas respecting the natural distinctions of the sexes. If Lulu be not a woman, she bears a very striking resemblance to all the representations by best authorities of our mother Eve as distinguished from the representations of our father Adam. When one gets puzzled over questions such as this, it is well to go back to ”first principles.” I found the Circus filled in almost every part. The popular parts of the house were crammed. At an early stage of the entertainment Lulu made her entrance. There is much that is attractive in her personal appearance. She was effectively costumed in a rich crimson tunic and pink silk fleshings, her arms and neck being bare. She also wore pretty little shoes of white satin. Small in statue, but of comely proportions, agile as an antelope, with eyes like a gazelle’s, young, and well-featured, Lulu, as she lightly tripped into the arena and made her bow to the audience, created a most favourable impression at once. Everybody clapped her. Immediately afterwards she mounted aloft, and went through a number of feats on the trapeze, a minute description of which would sound odd enough, performed as they were by one of the fair sex. The spectators, however, were filled with wonder and delight at the grace, agility, and courage of Lulu. Her great feat, however, the one that was so much talked about at the time of her debut, is her vertical leap from the stage to a small platform, swung on ropes, about thirty feet above. Just as the leap takes place smell screams proceed from various parts of the house, but Lu-Lu [sic] invariably alights on the platform above. How this leap is effected is a question which always causes a good deal of speculation. I have my own opinion on the subject, but I would rather that my readers who have not yet see Miss Lulu should do so, and form a perfectly independent opinion.’
(quoted in an advertisement, The Era, London, Sunday, 21 February 1875, p. 13d)

”’LULU!” ”LULU!” –
This Celebrated Gymnast, who created such a furore at the Amphitheatre, Holborn, is now on a final Tour of England, Scotland, and Ireland, previous to starting for India and the Colonies, and retirement from public life. Managers are therefore invited to make Engagements with this World-renowned Artiste, especially in those Cities and Town[s] not yet visited by Lulu.
for dates, terms, &c., apply to C. Hodson Stanley, Business Manager, en route.
BATH, October 18th, 1875.
PLYMOUTH, November 8th, 1875.
NOTTINGHAM, November 25th, 1875.
GLASGOW, January 3d, 1876.
LULU, the Marvel of the Age!
LULU, the Wonder of the Universe!!
LULU, the Embodiment of Grace!!! LULU, the Eighth Wonder of the World!!!!’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 17 October 1875, p. 13d, advertisement)

‘Lulu, the well-known acrobat, met with a shocking accident at Hengler’s Circus, Dublin, on Monday night. In the leap to the roof of the circus, the spring of the machinery by which she is impelled upwards failed to send her the requisite height, and she missed the cross bar. The netting which should shoot out under her failed to work, and she fell on the edge of the platform with great violence. She was carried from the place insensible. Several persons almost fainted, and there was a general cry from the audience to lynch the manager who had introduced her. A great panic prevailed in the theatre for several minutes after the occurrence. It is stated that Lulu is almost completely recovered from the effect of the severe fall. A shaking and an ugly bruise between the shoulders have been the only injuries sustained, and a few days’ rest is the only requisite for perfect recovery.’
(The Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 13 August 1876, p. 5a)

‘Lulu, ”the champion female trapezist of the world,” lately fell and dislocated her hip in London, The attending physician discovered that Lulu is a man!”’
(The Evening Star, Washington, DC, Monday, 11 September 1876, p. 3g)

MONDAY NEXT, November 6th [1876]
Eighth wonder of the World.
Free List (press excepted) entirely suspended.’
(The Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 5 November 1876, p. 4b, advertisement)

The Royal Cambridge Hall of Varieties, Shoreditch, London, November 1876
‘The ”star” of the company is the marvellously clever Lulu, whom some few years ago we christened the eighth wonder of the world, a title well earned and honourably kept. What Lulu’s performance is like everybody knows, or out to know. It has lots none of its charm, none of its daring, none of its accuracy; and the pleasure to be derived from witnessing it is enhanced by the presence of the magnificent nets fitted up under the watchful direction of M. Farini, and by the knowledge that all danger is thereby precluded. The upward flight through space is as startling as ever, and its accomplishment is nightly provocative of applause which we imagine may be heard at the Bank or at Kingsland-gate.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 19 November 1876, p. 4d)

‘THE LITTLE WHITE WHALE exhibited for one or two days at the Westminster Aquarium last week was an ”amusing little cuss,” as Mr. Henry Lee might say… . Whilst my friend, the artist, was sketching her, the whale blew from her blow-hole not only a good whiff of breath but also a diminutive eel which had, apparently, ”gone the wrong way.” Some other curious things were observed by the same keen-eyed Artist. Zazel was there off duty studying her rival, and chatting with Mr. Morris … ”Lulu” was there, too, looking at the whale; and the mystery of Lulu’s sex was solved. ”Lulu,” scented up to the eyebrows, looked very much like a German student – a pocket swell with long hairy and pale features, in which one could trace a resemblance to the daring young gymnast who, years ago, used to perform on the trapeze at the Alhambra, and sing out in a boyish treble, ”Wait till I’m a man!” …’
(The Penny Illustrated Paper, London, Saturday, 6 October 1877, 222a; on p. 217 is the sketch of Zazel chatting with Mr. Morris; the whale, ‘THE FIRST WHALE SEEN ALIVE IN LONDON’; and ”’LULU” IN MUFTI,’ showing the celebrated acrobat in pale trousers, frock coat and top hat)

* * * * *

After his retirement as an acrobat Lulu became a photographer and eventually settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he opened a studio.

‘… You have in Bridgeport [Connecticut], Farini (the photographer), who so many years was ”Lulu” and electrified audiences in Europe and America as a beautiful and shapely young girl. At Niblo’s Garden [New York] ”Lulu” broke the hearts and woman many favors from rich men. ”Lulu” was hurled from the catapult. He was shot out of a cannon. From concealed springs on the stage at Niblo’s he was fired to dizzy hights [sic], and his graceful figure deceived the poor deluded men into offers of marriage. ”Lulu” made a living by his disguise… .’
(‘A Woman as a Locomotive Engineer,’ Pacific Rural Press, San Francisco, Saturday, 16 July 1887, p. 46d)


Lina Edwin, American burlesque actress and singer

May 11, 2014

Lina Edwin (otherwise, Lena Edwin, Mrs Bland Holt, 1846?-1883), American burlesque actress and singer.
(cabinet photo: Howell, 867 and 869 Broadway, New York, circa 1870)

‘A SOUTHERN LADY TAKES TO THE STAGE. – Miss Lina Edwin, who has just opened her theatre in New York, has a romantic history, according to the Brooklyn Union. ”She is a Southerner, well born, and highly educated. She lived on her paternal estates near Richmond, Virginia, and was brought up in the mollesse of the old southern aristocracy. During the war the paternal estates wee melted in the crucible of the Confederacy, and Miss Edwin turned pluckily to self-support. First she tried literature, and became well known in the internal newspaper world as a song writer. Then she set about writing music for her sons, and the orchestral world began to know her. She wrote waltzes and fantasias, and in all acquitted herself well. Next she took to the stage, and in two years or so from a brilliant beginning, reached the degree of manageress in her own right. An opportune legacy has set her right pecuniarily, but it did not arrive until she had got well into the expense list of her ledger on behalf of the public amusement, and now she will appear in her new capacity as manager.”’
(The Daily Phoenix, Columbia, South Carolina, Tuesday, 22 September 1870, p. 2b)

* * * * *

Notable among Lina Edwin’s first appearances were with W.H. Lingard and his actress wife, Alice Dunning, in the former’s production of H.J. Byron’s Orpheus and Eurydice (New York, 1 February 1869); and with Lydia Thompson and her troupe (including Harry Beckett, Pauline Markham, Alice Atherton and Eliza Weathersby) in the burlesque, Pippin; or, The King of the Golden Mines (Niblo’s Garden, New York, 4 April 1870). She subsequently gave her name to a theatre at 720 Broadway, New York, which became well-known for burlesques and other popular entertainment but in December 1872 was burnt to the ground. Meanwhile, in December 1871, Miss Edwin was in Ireland where she appeared as Doe Maynard in the comedy, Rank at the Queen’s Royal Theatre, Dublin. She became a great favourite there, remaining until October 1872. After returning to the United States, Lina Edwin then left for Australia at the close of 1876 in a company headed by Annie Pixley and Bland Holt. She continued her career in Australia until her death in 1883.

Melbourne, NSW, Australia, Thursday, 31 May 1883
‘Mrs Bland Holt, better known by her stage name of Lena [sic] Edwin, died to-day. About two months ago the deceased lady was seized with an apoplectic fit on the stage of the Theatre Royal [Melbourne], which resulted in paralysis, from which she was recovering, but to-day she was seized with a second attack of apoplexy, and rapidly sank. Mr. Holt is at present in Sydney.’
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, Australia, Friday, 1 June 1883, p. 7f)


Betty Rigl in The Black Crook, Niblo’s Garden, New York, 1866

September 29, 2013

Betty Rigl (1850-after 1903), Austrian-born American dancer, as she appeared as one of the principal dancers in the ‘Devil Dance’ in The Black Crook, a musical extravaganza produced at Niblo’s Garden, New York, on 12 September 1866
(photo: C.D. Fredericks & Co, 587 Broadway, New York, probably 1866)

‘The Ballet and the Ladies.
‘The New York correspondent of the Mobile Advertiser writes as follows of the ballet:
The Black Crook, as a play, is the silliest trash I ever listened to. Any ordinary school boy could write a better dialogue, and the plot is the same that we have seen in dozens of devil dramas before. But the scenery and transformations are too gorgeous to be described. Nothing approaching them was ever witnessed in New York. And the ballet! Ah! that is the attraction. It is beautiful, ravishing, glorious – and indecent – particularly the latter. I have no time for details, but must mention one dance – the dance – the ”Demon Dance.” this might be called the ”model artist” exhibition. Four beautiful and magnificently formed girls (from Paris [sic]) come on the stage in tights and dance for ten or fifteen minutes. A part of their bodies is encased in red silk jiggers of some sort, but that only makes them the more attractive. I was astonished to see hundreds of fashionable and very respectable looking ladies watching this exhibition with the deepest interest. There was a time when American ladies would leave the theatre at once if such a scene were presented to them. But our ladies visit Paris oftener now than of yore, and begin to like Paris customs very well indeed. A woman who would consider herself greatly insulted if asked how she liked Adah Menken in Mazeppa, will take indefinite delight in looking at the ”Demon Dance.” And yet I am not sure the Menken exhibition is really more indecent than the one I saw at Niblo’s on Saturday night. The Menken was not fashionable; the Parisians are, and perhaps that explains why our belles take their opera glasses to Niblo’s every night.’
(Public Ledger, Memphis Tennessee, Monday, 5 November 1866, p. 1c)

* * * * *

According to the United States Census of 1880, Betty Rigl was born in Austria in October 1850. She arrived in America in 1860, presumably accompanied by her sister, Emily Rigl and together they appeared in 1866 in The Black Crook at Niblo’s under the management of William Whitney (d. 1898). Betty Rigl subsequently married Whitney (apparently in 1874) and she appears to have retired a year or two after fulfilling an engagement during 1875 at the Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, at which time she was described as having been ”’première danseuse” of the Imperial Opera, Vienna’ (The Morning Post, London, Wednesday, 28 April 1875, p. 5e). London critics were impressed: Mdlle. Rigl ‘is perhaps the best artist in her line who has appeared amongst us since Mdlle. Henriette d’Or, whose dancing in Babil and Bijou [Covent Garden, 29 August 1872] cannot well have been forgotten. But the style of Mdlle. Betty Rigl is altogether different from that of Mdlle. D’Or. The one is distinguished for her ”point,” and the other was remarkable for her ”elevation.” These are the two principal arts of ballet dancing. Although the skill of ”elevation” is one rarely attained, and is, of course, the more fascinating to the beholder, it is an open question if a through proficiency in ”point” is not a more valuable gift. Mddle. Betty Rigl has not all that airy and fairylike grace of the great exponents of her art; she does not possess that charming abandon of style which so captivates the beholder. But the ”tip-toe” dancing could scarcely be excelled and the movement of the foot from the ankle downwards is the very perfection of ease and neatness. Well, indeed, did the lady deserve the rounds of applause with which her dancing was greeted. It was hearty enough when she danced with M. Jousset, the celebrated ballet master, but when she executed her steps alone a hearty encore was inevitable.’ (The Era, London, Sunday, 9 May 1875, p. 4d).

At Christmas, 1876, Betty Rigl was seen in a ‘Snow Ballet’ in the pantomime, Robinson Crusoe and his Man Friday at the Theatre Royal, Manchester.


Miss Amalia sings ‘Dolly Varden,’ early 1870s

September 5, 2013

Miss Amalia (1859-1911), English actress, singer and dancer, as she appeared in the early 1870s singing G.W. Hunt’s song, ‘Dolly Varden,’ which was inspired by the character of that name in Dickens’s novel, Barnaby Rudge.
(carte de visite photo: G.J. Tear, 12 Clapham Road, London, SW, probably 1871)

Amalia, usually billed as Mdlle. Amalia or Miss Amalia, was one of the daughters of Scipion Brizzi (1835?-1899), a commercial traveller and sometime clerk to a parliamentary agent, and his wife Annie (née Michael), who were married in London in 1856. Miss Amalia’s daughter, Ethel Constance Brizzi, who was born in 1882, married in May 1911 at St. George’s, Hanover Square, Thomas Robinson Stavers (1877-1957). She died in 1940.

* * * * *

‘Mr. G.W. Hunt, the popular composer of comic songs, has just written a new and original song for Mdlle. Amalia, entitled ”Dolly Varden,”’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 8 October 1871, p. 9d)

‘MDLLE. AMALIA, the Celebrated Juvenile Burlesque Actress, Vocalist, Pianiste and Danseuse, OXFORD THEATRE OF VARIETIES, BRIGHTON, To-morrow, Twelve Nights. Metropolitan, London (Six Weeks) to follow. Royal Princess’s Theatre, Christmas. Niblo’s Garden, New York, next August. Sole Agents, Messrs. Parravicini and Corbyn. ”Dolly Varden” (Copyright) will shortly be published.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 29 October 1871, p. 16a)

Metropolitan music hall, London, November 1871
‘Miss Amalia, who is a new comer here, is in great favour. She looks a bewitching little woman as ”Dolly Varden,” and as a smart Prince causes much amusement by singing of ”Promenading the Spa,” imitating Mr. George Leybourne’s manner of rendering the strain ”After the Opera is over,” and by other clever vocal efforts. As usual, she dances excellently and charmingly.”
(The Era, London, Sunday, 19 November 1871, p. 12c)

‘NEW MUSIC … Dolly Varden, By G.W. Hunt… . Dolly Varden, founded upon a pretty waltz melody has already become very popular, and, together with Amalia’s comical singing, is found wonderfully attractive just now. Many other singers are also adopting the air in the various Music Halls.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 14 January 1872, p. 4c)

The East London music hall, week beginning Monday, 3 November 1873
‘Miss Amalia, whose good looks and ability increase with her years, on the evening of our visit appeared first as a pretty little ”Dolly Varden,” and secondly in the garb of a bewitching representative of that honest-hearted race over whose lives a sweet little cherub has been specially appointed ”up aloft” to keep watch. She not only sang well, but danced in a style which somewhat astonished us. She, too, retired amid well-merited marks of approbation.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 9 November 1873, p. 11c)

* * * * *

‘AMALIA, MISS, burlesque actress, made her début on the London state at the Surrey Theatre, December 26, 1869, in the pantomime of St. George and the Dragon. She subsequently played in other pantomimes, securing, conjointly with Miss Violet Cameron, the full honours of the evening on December 27, 1873, at Drury Lane Theatre, ”for her acting and singing in a ballad called ‘Buttercup Green,”’ introduced into the burlesque opening. More recently Miss Amalia has been engaged at the Gaiety, and has played in many of the extravaganzas of Mr. Byron on which that theatre mainly, and for the most part profitably relies as its principal attraction.’
Charles E. Pascoe, editor, The Dramatic List. A Record of the Performances of Living Actors and Actresses of the British Stage, London, 1880, p. 3)


Charles Fechter as Hamlet

June 25, 2013

Charles Fechter (1824-1879), Anglo-French actor, as Hamlet
(photo: Boning & Small, London, circa 1872)

Charles Albert Fechter’s first appearance as Hamlet in England took place in March 1861, prompting The Athenaeum (23 March 1861) to write, ‘Mr. Fechter does not act; he is Hamlet.’ He afterwards played the part many times, including at Niblo’s Garden, New York, at the beginning of 1870 previous to a tour of the United States, visiting Boston, Philadelphia and other cities.

* * * * * * * *

‘The poet – his name is of no consequence – has defined the evening as
‘“The close of the day when the HAMLET is still.”
‘Evidently he was a bucolle, and not a metropolitan poet. Otherwise he would have remembered that the close of the day, or, to speak with mathematical accuracy, the hour of eight P.M., is precisely the time when the HAMLET of a well-regulated theatrical community begins to make himself vocally prominent. A few nights since, we had no less than three HAMLETS propounding at the same time the unnecessary question, whether to be or not to be is the correct thing, The serious HAMLET of the eagle eye, and the burlesque HAMLET of the vulpine nose, are with us yet; but the rival of the latter, the HAMLET of the taurine neck, has gone to Boston, where his waggish peculiarity will be better appreciated than it was in this Democratic city.
‘The late Mr. WEGG prided himself upon being a literary man – with a wooden leg. Mr. FECHTER aspired to be a HAMLET – with a yellow wig. Mr. WEGG had this advantage over Mr. FECHTER, that his literary ability did not wholly depend upon his ligneous leg. Mr. FECHTER’S HAMLET, on the contrary, owes its existence solely to his wig. The key to his popularity must be sought in his yellow locks.
‘There are, it is true, meritorious points in Mr. FECHTER’S Dane. One is his skill in fencing; another, the fact that he finally suffers himself to be killed. Unfortunately, this latter redeeming incident takes place only in the last scene of the play, and the Fat Prince has therefore abundant previous opportunity to mar the superb acting of Miss [Carlotta] LECLERCQ. Why this admirable artist did not insist that her OPHELIA should receive a better support than was furnished by Messrs. BANGS, [Milnes] LEVICK, and FECHTER, at Niblo’s Garden, is an insoluble mystery. She must have perceived that absurdity of drowning herself for a Prince – fair, fat, and faulty – who refused to give her a share of his “load,” and denied, with an evident eye to a possible breach of promise suit, that he had given her any “bresents.”
‘That Mr. FECHTER speaks English imperfectly is, however, the least of his defects. If he could not speak at all, his audience would have reason for self-congratulation. We might, too, forget that he is an obese, round-shouldered, short-necked, and eminently beery HAMLET, with a tendency to speak through his nose. But how can we overlook his incapacity to express the subtle changes of HAMLET’S ever questioning mind? One of his admirers has recently quoted RUSKIN in his support. Mr. FECHTER gives no heed to RUSKIN’S axiom, that all true are is delicate art. There is no delicacy in his conception of HAMLET. True, he is impulsive and sensitive; but this is due to his physical and not to his mental organization. A HAMLET without delicacy is quite as intolerable a spectacle as a Grande Duchess without decency.
‘What, then, has given him his reputation? The answer is evident: – His yellow wig. NAPOLEON gilded the dome of the Invalides, and the Parisians forgot to murmur at the arbitrary acts of his reign. Mr. FECHTER crowns himself with a golden wig, and the public forgets to murmur at the five acts of his> ‘In all other respects Mr. FECHTER’S HAMLET is inferior to that of his rival Mr. [George L.] FOX. It is not nearly as funny, and it is much less impressive. Both actors are wrong, however, in not omitting the graveyard scene. To make a burlesque of Death is to unlawfully invade the province of Messrs. BEECHER and FROTHINGHAM.
‘The popularity of Mr. FECHTER is only a new proof of the potency of yellow hair. It is the yellow hair of the British blonde, joined to that kindliness of disposition with which – like a personification of Charity – she “bareth all things,” that makes her a thing of beauty in the eyes of R.G.W., and a joy for as many seasons as her hair will keep its color. It is because Mr. FECHTER decided that the hair presumptive of the Royal Dane must have been yellow, that his name has grown famous in England.
‘The veracious chronicler relates that, on one occasion, Mr. VENUS deprived his literary friend with a wooden leg of that useful appendage. But the act of constructive mayhem did not destroy Mr. WEGG’S literary reputation. Can Mr. FECHTER’S HAMLET endure an analogous test? If he has confidence in himself, let him try it. He has gone to BOSTON for a change of air. When he returns to NEW-YORK, let it be for a change of hair. When he succeeds in drawing full houses to see him play HAMLET with raven curls, we shall believe that he is something more than simply a HAMLET – with a yellow wig. Until then we shall be constrained to class him with other blonde burlesquers.’
(Matador, Punchinello, New York, Saturday, 2 April 1870, p.7)

* * * * *

Fechter died in America on 5 August 1879.


Laura Joyce Bell

April 22, 2013

a carte de viste photograph of Laura Joyce Bell (1858-1904), American actress and singer in comic opera before her marriage in 1883 to Digby Bell
(photo: Sarony, New York, circa 1878)

‘Notwithstanding the decree of the New York Court, which granted a decree of divorce to Mrs. Digby Bell and prohibited the husband from marrying again, that gentleman made his appearance at a Chicago hotel on Sunday with a new wife, known to the stage as Miss Laura Joyce, who was herself divorced a short time ago from James V. Taylor, a wealthy New Yorker. Bell and Miss Joyce were married in Pennsylvania.’
(Decatur Daily Republican, Decatur, Illinois, Saturday, 17 March 1883, p. 2d)

‘Haverly’s Theatre, Chester, Pennsylvania, January 1885.
‘Monday evening the McCaull Opera Company will present Gilbert & Sullivan’s esthetic [sic] opera Patience in a brilliant manner, with new scenery, a large and thoroughly drilled chorus, and the following cast: J.H. Ryley will be Bunthorne; Digby Bell, Grosvenor; C.W. Dongan, Colonel Calverley; George Roseman, Major Murgatroyd; George R. Appleby, the Duke; Mary Beebe, Patience; Irene Perry, Lady Angela; Emma Ellsner, Lady Saphir; and that pronounced favorite, Laura Joyce Bell, the massive Lady Jane.
‘In this series of revival Manager McCaull has determined to produce the operas in the very best possible manner, selecting from his various companies those artists who are best adapted for the different roles. The present company could not be surpassed, all being especially fitted from their respective parts.’
(Chester Times, Chester, Pennsylvania, Monday, 12 January 1885, p. 3b)

Grand Opera House, San Antonio, Texas, 31 December 1896
‘Tonight and Tomorrow Matinee and Night.
‘Hoyt’s greatest comedy, A Midnight Bell, which portrays more accurately than any other of its rivals, the charms, sweetness and fragrance of New England life, will be presented in this city shortly with an ideal cast of metropolitan favorites, headed by America’s foremost comedian, Dibgy Bell, and the famous comedienne, Laura Joyce Bell. An entire carload of scenery has been painted by the celebrated artist, Arthur Voegtlin. New music has been specially arranged by Victor Herbert, author of Prince Ananias and The Wizard of the Nile and leader of Gilmore’s famous band.’
(San Antonio Daily Light, San Antonio, Texas, Thursday, 31 December 1896, p. 5a)

Laura Joyce Bell Once Popular Comic Opera Star.
‘Chicago, May 30 [1904]. – Announcement from new York city yesterday of the death of Mrs. Laura Joyce Bell, the comic opera singer, saddened scores of theatrical people who had known her when she was in the height of her popularity and success.
‘Mrs. Bell was the wife of Digby Bell, the vaudeville star.
‘Mrs. Bell had been ill for nearly a year. She suffered from fatty degeneration of the heart.
‘Laura Joyce Maskell was born in England. She received her musical education at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Her first appearance in America was in Niblo’s Garden in New York in 1872. In 1882 she was married to Digby Bell. Mrs. Bell was 46 years old.’
(The Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois, Monday, 30 May 1904, p. 3d)

‘Because the Girl Ran Off and Got Married.
‘New York, Oct. 21. – ”I give and bequeath to my daughter, Laura Seymour Bell, for her sole support and separate use, $1.” In these words Laura Joyce Bell, the actress, wife of Digby Bell, by her will, cut off her daughter from participation in her estate except as stated. The will was drawn may 3, 1904. Only a short time before that Miss Bell eloped from the normal college on the eve of her graduation and was married, her name now being Wilson.’
(The Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois, Friday, 21 October 1904, p. 1c)

For further photographs of Laura Joyce Bell, see NYPLDigitalGallery and University of Louisville, Digital Collections.


Franz Ebert

February 20, 2013

Franz Ebert (b. 1868?),
German born American actor and comedian
(photo: probably Pach, New York, early 1890s)

Franz Ebert, the leading comedian of “the Liliputians,” is the concentrated essence of humor. He is a delightfully quaint, droll little fellow, with a face that is comedy in itself. His method is simplicity and quietude. You do not find him sinking to burlesque; he never descends to gymnastics. He accomplishes all his effects with a look, sometimes helped out with an intonation. He possesses a marvellous smile. That nature gave him; but he gained through art a walk which tells more than a ten-minute soliloquy. Franz Ebert, who was born in the Fürstenwalde, a suburb of Berlin, about thirty years ago, is one of eight children, of which family he is the only dwarfish member. He came to this country with the Liliputians in 1890 and appeared for the first time at Niblo’s Garden, New York, on September 15 of that year. It was the intention of the company to play for six months in the United States, but so great has been their success that they have remained her four years.’
(Marwell Hall, editor, Gallery of Players from The Illustrated American, Lorillard Spencer, New York, September 1894, p.42)

Franz Ebert
(photo: Pach, New York, early 1890s)

‘Frantz [sic] Ebert, the Liliputian Actor, Has Just Been Naturalized.
‘The tiniest native of Germany has just renounced his allegiance to the Kaiser and taken out his naturalization papers as a citizen of the United States. He is the smallest American gentleman on earth, and his name is Franz Ebeling, comedian and man of the world, better known by his stage name, Franz Ebert, of the “Liliputians.” This diminutive person stands just 3 feet 6 inches high and is 31 years old. Little Ebert had an amusing experience when he appeared before the clerk of the naturalization bureau of the supreme court in New York the other day. He was introduced to the clerk by a friend, who stood more than 6 feet high. The clerk at once said: “We don’t naturalize children here. You had better bring the boy back when he is nine or ten years older.” The clerk apologized for his mistake when Ebert’s big friend explained who he was. The little comedian signed his name with a flourish. He was anxious to have is papers, he said, because his troupe was about to sail for Europe, and he desired to be able to call himself an American.’
(The Massillon Independent, Massillon, Ohio, 5 October 1899, p.2a)