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.
Here is Henry Irving, the celebrated English thespian, who owned and operated the Lyceum Theater in London. He was the first actor ever to receive knighthood. He hired Bram Stoker to be his stage manager at the Lyceum, and is allegedly the inspiration for the stage manager character in Stoker’s Dracula novel (a character notably absent from all the Dracula movies).
You’ll notice on the verso of the carte the coat-of-arms for the Order of the Garter. From my biographical research on Mr’s Elliot & Fry, they ran a very successful high-end studio in London, doing portraits of public and social, artistic, scientific and political eminences of the Victorian era. The studio operated for over 100 years before being bought out by another notable photographic firm. Most of their negatives were lost during the bombings of London in WW II. Neither Mr. Elliot or Mr. Fry were members of the Order, so the logo on their card must have been a sales pitch to their clientele to suggest the status by association. For those not in the know, the Order of the Garter is the highest possible social honor one can receive from the Queen of England. At any moment in time there are no more than 24 members of the order plus the Queen/King and the Prince of Wales. Membership is by nomination from current members, and at a minimum qualification you must already be knighted by the Queen.