In my last post I mentioned a postcard sent by Jack Galley to his sister-in-law Edith Smith which had a portrait of Edwardian actress Miss Mabel Gilman on the front. In her postcard collection Edith had several other portraits of Edwardian celebrities. As well as being very popular with the public, postcards were used extensively by actors, actresses and all those involved in theatre and entertainment for publicity and promotional purposes.
Mabel Gilman was born in California in 1874 and commenced her theatrical career in London in 1896. Later that year she opened on Broadway and for the next ten years she had a very successful career in a number of hit shows. In 1905, at the height of her career she met steel millionaire William Corey who lavished gifts on Mabel including jewels, a chateau in France and a million dollars. Corey persuaded his wife to agree to a quickie divorce in Reno before the new couple established a high-society life style at the chateau entertaining many guests in the years before the First World War. The marriage didn't last and Mabel was divorced from Corey in 1923 although she kept the chateau. She was interned by the Nazis in 1940 but released in 1942. She died in 1960 aged eighty six.
Gertie Millar, a very famous theatrical star of the day, was born in 1878 in Bradford where her parents worked in the textile industry. As a child she appeared in pantomime before starting out as a singer and dancer in the music halls. She re-located from Yorkshire to London to appear in variety shows and she became a Gaiety Girl. These were the chorus girls of musical comedies and originated in the 1890s at the Gaiety Theatre in London. The girls were very popular because they appeared on stage in bathing costumes and in the latest fashions. They were respectable, elegant young women who were at the centre of London's night-life. Many of the girls were so popular that wealthy gentlemen would wait at the Stage Door for the opportunity to take one of the girls out for dinner after the show. In some cases marriage and even entrée into the nobility was the result. Gertie began to star in musical comedies and in 1902 was married to the theatrical composer Lionel Monkton who wrote several hit songs for her. She continued to have starring roles in a number of musical plays and was even sent to appear on Broadway. She became one of the most photographed women of the Edwardian era. With changing tastes after World War One, Gertie retired from the stage in 1918 and her husband died in 1924. Two months later she married the Earl of Dudley who himself died in 1932. Gertie survived him and remained Countess of Dudley for another twenty years and died in 1952 aged 73 years.
This Edwardian celeb was Miss Phyllis Dare. Born in 1890, she was the youngest of three children. Her father was a solicitor's clerk and the family lived in Chelsea, London. Phyllis made an early arrival on the theatrical stage aged just nine years when she played one of the Babes in "Babes in the Wood" alongside her sister Zena as the other babe. She continued to perform for the next couple of years and then she left the stage to concentrate on her studies. When she was only thirteen she received a marriage proposal from Lord Dalmeny but his family did not approve and he was sent away from London. Two years later Phyllis was back on the stage but again left suddenly and re-located to a Belgian convent to continue her studies. Any rumours that she was pregnant remained just that. She returned to London the next year to take over the lead in "The Belle of Mayfair" and aged just sixteen she was established as a major player on the London stage. She went on to star in plays, pantomimes and musical comedies and fell in love with the composer Paul Rubens. He had written several songs for her and they became engaged. Unfortunately Rubens died of consumption in 1917 before they could marry. Phyllis went on to star in several further musical shows before turning to straight plays and films in the 1930s. She retired to Brighton in 1951 and died there in 1975 aged eighty four years.
I've added some more postcards of Edwardian Celebs to Postcards for Miss Smith in the Archives plus some beautiful Raphael Tuck "Connoisseur" series that have never been used but were a part of Edith's collection.
I'm a former primary school head teacher now enjoying family history, e-publishing and gardening. I'm the author of "Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood" and was delighted when the book became an Amazon 2015 bestseller in the Social History category. I'm the founder of Spurwing Ebooks which is at http://www.spurwing-ebooks.com for book details and information about new releases and special offers. Details of my books are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-Murray/e/B009R7CRVC and the other books I've published are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Murray/e/B007AQZMZK