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Finding Aid for Portraits of Performers, 1870-1951, undated, bulk 1870-1935
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Collection Overview
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The collection comprises 385 studio portraits dating from the 1870s to the 1930s of variety show artists including vaudeville, burlesque, minstrel and stage performers. The card-mounted portraits, primarily cabinet cards, depict sketch, character and comedic actors; singers; dancers; acrobats; gymnasts; contortionists; clowns; acrobatic cyclists; jugglers; aerialists and trapeze and wire artists; ventriloquists; minstrel singers and players; comedians; male and female impersonators; strongmen and strongwomen; show riders and other performers hailing from and photographed across Europe, the United States, Egypt, and Latin America.
The present collection was assembled by an unknown collector or collectors. It was formerly part of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center collection, where it had been donated in 1998 by Mark Story. It is not known how Story obtained the collection or whether or not he was in any way responsible for its assembly. There are two sets of similar or often identical brief French annotations written on most of the versos of the photographs. One set is written in a shakier hand, often in pencil and could belong to the original assembler. The second set is written, usually in ballpoint pen, on brown paper labels adhered to the versos. These appear to be the more recent annotations. Parts of two distinct large collections are present in the overall assembly. One group hails from Edmund Desbonnet's Collection athlétique and the other from Mike Teller's collection of stage personalities and performers, both of which were originally amassed in the vaudeville era. The remainder of the items would seem to have been collected piecemeal by the unknown collector.
7.4 linear feet (7 boxes)
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