Category Archives: actors

Laurence Irving, by Ellis, 20 Upper Baker Street, London

Lawrence Irving, by Ellis
Lawrence Irving, by Ellis

Laurence Irving is the son of Henry Irving, the famous actor and theater owner who inspired one of Bram Stoker’s characters in Dracula (and for whom Bram Stoker worked). Laurence had a short life and tragic end, perishing in 1914 in a maritime disaster on the St. Lawrence River (an irony that I’m sure was lost on him). I’m guessing that in this photo he must have been in his 20s, so this would have been taken sometime in the 1890s.

Also fascinating is the photographers’ description of the studio address: 20 UPPER Baker Street, 20 doors north of Baker Street Station. Which puts it across the street more or less from 227 B Baker Street, the fictive home of Sherlock Holmes.

I have a photo of his father, Henry Irving, already in my collection:

Carte De Visite, Henry Irving, British Actor, by Elliot & Fry
Carte De Visite, Henry Irving, British Actor, by Elliot & Fry

Performers and People of the Theater

Peking Opera Performers
Peking Opera Performers

Peking Opera Performers
Peking Opera Performers

Circus Siblings, Gurney & Son, New York
Circus Siblings, Gurney & Son, New York

Trio of Boy Acrobats, by Drew & Maxwell
Trio of Boy Acrobats, by Drew & Maxwell – possibly the O’Briens?

Two Toreadors, by Fredericks of New York, Havana and Paris
Two Toreadors, by Fredericks of New York, Havana and Paris
Gullie & Lottie Tarkinton
Gullie & Lottie Tarkinton

Carte De Visite, Henry Irving, British Actor, by Elliot & Fry
Carte De Visite, Henry Irving, British Actor, by Elliot & Fry

Tintype, Violinist, in presentation mat
Tintype, Violinist, in presentation mat

Anonymous, Twin(?) brothers, ca. 1870
Anonymous, Twin(?) brothers, ca. 1870
Musical Duo, Boston
Musical Duo, Boston
Two actors in costume by Chas. H. Spieler, Philadelphia
Two actors in costume by Chas. H. Spieler, Philadelphia

C.T. Parsloe, Jr, Actor- by Brady. "Important if true"
C.T. Parsloe, Jr, Actor- by Brady. “Important if true”

Sallie Holman as Ike Pantington, by Fredricks
Sallie Holman as Ike Pantington, by Fredricks

Cross-dressed Women by Mattheson
Cross-dressed Women by Mattheson

I’ve selected this batch to group based on them being people of the theater or in theatrical performances of some kind. I excluded the circus freaks even though many of them were theatrical as well (Tom Thumb was a comic actor as well as a star of Barnum’s circus). I’m grouping the cross-dressed women in this because it may well have been a theatrical role they were playing, like Sallie Holman as Ike Partington. There are also acrobats in this grouping, as many of them performed in vaudeville halls as well as in circuses, so they count as theatricals in a way.

Take a look at the two violinists in the fifth row – I’m wondering if they aren’t in fact two pictures of the same duo, at different times.

Victorian Cross-Dressing and Circus Dogs

To take a break from the High Heel Race photos, here’s two new CDVs in the antique image collection.

Cross-dressed Women by Mattheson
Cross-dressed Women by Mattheson

This pair of women in men’s clothes are rather unusual for the time period (1860s-early 1870s). Without knowing any back-story behind the photo, it’s hard to tell if this was just a couple of friends on a lark dressing up like lads (the mustaches were added by the photographer, much as hand-coloring or gilding of jewelry would have been done, for an additional fee) or if this was a comic way of expressing a deeper relationship between these two women. Without knowing, I’m filing this in my collection under the category of “Performers”, because it certainly is a performance of gender and gender identity, and it COULD be a theatrical, like the Ike Partington photo I posted earlier. I don’t know if there was a comedic play of the time period that called for women to play men’s parts.

Jack Russell Dog in Circus Ruff, Uruguay
Jack Russell Dog in Circus Ruff, Uruguay

This is a CDV I bought from a vendor in Uruguay (on Ebay). These two photos kind-of go together in that the dog is wearing a ruff, so in some way he’s probably a circus performer. This is a heavily restored version of the CDV – the idiot seller shipped it basically in a plain envelope, with no protection, so it arrived with a MAJOR crack running across the CDV just above the dog’s head. I thought I’d at least preserve the image content and post it.

Sallie Holman as Ike Partington

Sallie Holman as Ike Partington, by Fredricks
Sallie Holman as Ike Partington, by Fredricks

Another actor in costume photo from the golden age of CDVs. Miss Sallie Holman dressed as Ike Partington (if you couldn’t tell from the name, a comedic role involving gender confusion/cross-dressing). This one hits on all the notes – a great CDV of a performer in costume, cross-dressing, “gay interest”, celebrity photographer. This is somewhat equivalent to the famous Garbo-in-a-tux photo of the 1930s, or Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie.

CORRECTION: It is Ike Partington, so I have corrected the title and elsewhere to reflect that.

C.T. Parsloe, comic actor, by Brady

A CDV of C.T. Parsloe Jr., a 19th century American comic actor. The pencil script on the bottom says “Important if true”.

C.T. Parsloe, Jr, Actor- by Brady. "Important if true"
C.T. Parsloe, Jr, Actor- by Brady. “Important if true”

I love this image because it shows the power of photography to capture a fleeting moment of expression. This almost feels like it could be a still frame from a movie, unlike so much mid-19th century portrait photography where people are formally posed in elegant albeit highly conventional poses. It’s an image like this that shows Brady’s genius as a photographer – he was able, with 19th century wet-plate technology, to capture the essence of physical comedy. And you can still see the clamp stand behind Mr. Parsloe, which is a real testament to his power of posing, that he could do something so seemingly spontaneous while being physically restrained by the clamp!

I can’t find a lot of bio data on Mr. Parsloe, but he was born in 1836 in New York, and died in 1898, according to this page on the University of Washington’s digital collections archive – U.Wash. Digital Archive

I just discovered the University of Washington’s archive of photos of 19th century actors – it’s a resource I will be returning to to look up more CDV images as I keep collecting.

J. Gurney & Sons – Midget Actor

This is a cabinet card by J. Gurney & Sons of a midget actor in full theatrical costume. I wish I knew the identity of the actor. He must have been famous in the day, because he had Gurney photograph him. Going to Gurney would be somewhat akin to having Richard Avedon or Annie Liebowitz photograph you today. Well, maybe not Richard Avedon, as he’s dead now. But you get the idea.

Comic Actor by Gurney
Comic Actor by Gurney

The Native Americans

Just a quick recap of the Native American images I have in my collection.

Ambrotype, Penobscot Boy, 1857
Ambrotype, Penobscot Boy, 1857
Anonymous Asian-, Native-, or African-American boy
Anonymous Asian-, Native-, or African-American boy
Native American trio, El Reno, Oklahoma
Native American trio, El Reno, Oklahoma
Navajo Brave, Grand Canyon, attributed to Karl Moon
Navajo Brave, Grand Canyon, attributed to Karl Moon
Black Star, an Osage Brave
Black Star, an Osage Brave

There’s one more I’ll have to scan, but it is NOT an original image, rather a halftone reproduction pasted onto a vintage cabinet card stock. The image is of two southwest Indians of indeterminate tribal origin and quite honestly of indeterminate gender. It MAY be a vintage print, but it most certainly is not an original photograph. It’s a good illustration of the risks and pitfalls of antiques hunting – I found it in a little antiques mall in Delaware. The space was, while not poorly lit, definitely on the dim side. Enough so that I did not recognize the halftone dots. I paid $40 for the image, thinking at the time I was getting a great deal. I discovered the halftoning when I went to scan the image to email it to the National Museum of the American Indian to see if they could identify it better for me. When I zoomed in on the hi-res scan, the halftone dots popped off the screen! I was dismayed to discover this – I probably paid about $35 too much for it, given the fact it was a reproduction, but in the long run, I came out ahead. At the same time I bought it, I also bought another CDV of Lydia Thompson, a Victorian era actress, showing her in costume from a role she played in 1872. That one? I want to say I paid $5, but it was definitely less than $10. In the process of researching who she was I found a similar CDV of the same image on ebay, selling for $100. The object lesson here? Take a loupe with you when you go photo hunting. It could make the difference between paying original art prices for a poster-quality reproduction, or getting a good deal on an original image. It’s a variation on the old carpenters’ adage: Examine twice, pay once.