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Stars Of The Gaslight Era
( Article orginally published December 1953 )
Sam Stratton, publicity man of Hartford, Conn., was offered some lithographs of the gaslight era by a friend. Stratton was entranced with the beautiful colors and the history involved in the specimens, so he decided that he would pursue the subject still further. As a, result he has built up a fine collection centered mostly around the theatrical stars of yesteryear.
There is an interesting lithograph of George Thatcher's Minstrels. Thatcher first appeared in 1865 at the New Idea Concert Hall, Baltimore, Md. His greatest hits were the San Francisco Minstrels in New York and Moore and Burgess Minstrels, London. About 1875 he managed the Arch Street Opera House, Philadelphia, and later organized his own group of minstrels.
All lovers of theatrical history remember the name Richard Mansfield (1857-1907) who achievad success in a repertoire ranging from Ko-Ko to Richard III. One poster in the Stratton collection shows Mansfield in the roles of Don Juan, Beau Brummell, Richard III, Baron Chevial, Mr. Hyde and Brutus.
Rose Coghlan (1853-1932). one of the bright lights of her day, is shown in a gaily colored lithograph. Miss Coghlan made her debut in Scotland, was a hit in London as Tillie Price in "Nicholas Nickelby." She came to America in 187?. and starred with Wallack.
An appealing, youthful picture is shown of Maude Adams, born November 11, 1872, and who recently passed away. The poster was made about 1892 when she was leading lady with John Drew, with whom she acted until 1897.
Characters of the old west are represented by lithographs of William Frederick Cody (Buffalo Bill), who was born in 1846 and died in 1917. Cody was a Government scout and guide, and member of the Kansas Cavalry in 1861. In eighteen months, during 1867 and 1868, he killed 4280 buffalo to feed laborers engaged in construction of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, thus earning the name Buffalo Bill.
We learn from the Stratton collection, too, that they had burlesque queens in the gaslight era. Pictured via a lithograph is M'lle Delia, who was typical.
For the circus devotee there is a picture of Louise Montague (1871-1906) who was a well known circus beauty. When she was eighteen, she was chosen the most beautiful girl in America. The contest had 11,000 candidates. In the Adam Forepaugh circus parades, she was the center of attraction in her golden chariot.
As soon as Stratton receives a lithograph which he considers suitable far his collection, he mounts it on linen and includes it in a large loose-leaf book.