Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Miss Suzanne Sheldon and picture cards I would have collected in 1903

I have to confess that if I had been 15 in 1903 I would have been saving up to buy one of these picture postcards.

They come from a series variously marketed as Play Pictorial, and Celebrities of the stage, and serve to remind us that a fascination for celebrities is not new.

That said I suspect it would not have been Dane Leno or the other popular male actors and stars of the Music Hall that I would have collected.

No, it would have been the likes of Miss Suzanne Sheldon, Gertrude Elliot and perhaps Constance Collier, all of whom brightened the stage in the closing years of the 19th and opening decade of the 20th centuries.

Now as ever this picture of Miss Sheldon aged 28 is just a starting point which might take in the Great War, a Salt Lake City newspaper and what at present is a puzzle.

But first to Miss Sheldon who was born in 1875 in Vermont to a wealthy family, acted both here and in the States and was for a while married to the actor Henry Ainely.

And that at present is about it.  In 1911 she was living with Henry at 1 Grove End Road in Marylebone in a 9 roomed property and employed a cook and domestic servant and had only just got married.

Sadly little else has turned up except a newspaper article from the Deseret News for August 28th 1915.   

What makes this a bit of a puzzle is that the Deseret News was published in Salt Lake City in Utah, and among along local stories and the war news from Europe it  included  a piece on “NOTED ACTESS WORKING AMONG SLUM CHILDREN” in London, “Suzanne Sheldon American, Trying to Make Better Little Citizens Out of Tots in Squalid District, Reads Plays and Poems, to Boys and Girls Brigade [and] Shows them How to Improve Their Wretched Homes – Nurse to Wounded Soldiers.”

The article runs over several columns includes a reference to her accompanying a friend to the war zone and a report on how she tended to sick German soldiers having already done the same in Britain for British wounded servicemen.


It is an intriguing story but one that seems to have been lost and so far this is all there is.
She was just 40 when she was engaged in what the paper called her “war work” and only 49 when she died in 1924.

She was a well known actress who had acted with Ellen Terry and Henry Irving in many popular plays including If I were a King set in medieval France in which she played Hugnete.

The play was written by the Irish nationalist, Justin Huntly McCarthy who served as an M.P from 1884-92, haing first entered Parliament at a by-election when he was returned unopposed as the Home Rule League member for Athlone in Leinster.

All of which is a long way from a picture postcard from 1902, but interesting enough.

Picture; HUGNETTE, MISS SUSANNE SHELDON, TABARIE, MR. W.R. STAVELEY... TEASING HIM, from the series, PLAY PICTORIAL IF I WERE KING SERIES II, 1903, issued by Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, http://tuckdb.org/








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