Louisa Lane (Mrs. John Drew)

This is the third week of my year-long blogging project. See here for more details. Mrs. John Drew (Louisa Lane Drew, 1820-1897) was a doyenne of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century stage, as celebrated for her lengthy stage career as for her role as matriarch of the Drew family, one of the US’s oldest … Continue reading Louisa Lane (Mrs. John Drew)

Jean Margaret Davenport

This is the second week of a year-long blogging project. I’m proposing to blog on a different child actor for 52 weeks. See here for more details. Today I turn my attention towards the performer who first piqued my interest in child actors and actresses, Jean Margaret Davenport, and the scrapbooks documenting her colonial travels. … Continue reading Jean Margaret Davenport

Master William Henry West Betty

What follows is merely an introduction to Master Betty and his first appearance before London audiences. For a much longer treatment of his career, see Jeffrey Kahan’s excellent book cited below.  Master William Henry West Betty is arguably the first child celebrity of the modern era. I say arguably because much depends on how you … Continue reading Master William Henry West Betty

Hatching a plot

I’m a recent convert to Twitter and am thoroughly enjoying meeting new scholars working in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and reading about their work. It’s inspiring to see so many archive-bound, history loving scholars out there. And after some reflection, I’ve decided that I’d like to try something different next year – I’m going … Continue reading Hatching a plot

David Garrick in the mail

Today, I received a large brown box with David Garrick inside – well, ok, a Staffordshire figurine depicting him in the role of Richard III. I purchased him on eBay for 10 pounds, a pretty awesome deal for such a celebrated actor. He’s obviously been around for a while, as a slightly chipped nose and … Continue reading David Garrick in the mail

Celebrity c. 1849

I’m reading an article by Stella Tillyard on celebrity in Georgian England and she references the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of celebrity. According to the OED, the term “celebrity” wasn’t applied to a person until 1849. But I’m fairly confident that I came across descriptions of Master Betty as a “celebrity” in some of the pamphlets I … Continue reading Celebrity c. 1849

Jean D, is this you?

The other night, in preparation for my trip to Halifax, I fell down an eBay rabbit hole and spent about an hour looking at Staffordshire figurines. I ended up bidding on a really interesting figurine of David Garrick as Richard III (the tent scene just after he awakens from his dream) because it seemed relatively inexpensive. … Continue reading Jean D, is this you?

Halifax trip

Here are some more photos from my trip to Halifax. On Thursday, Dalhousie professor Shannon Brownlee took me out for an excursion to Peggy’s Cove. What a beautiful spot! And on Friday, I had a chance to walk through Halifax’s stately Public Gardens. It was like stepping back in time – appropriate for this project. … Continue reading Halifax trip

Precious Objects in Halifax

On Thursday night, I gave a lecture entitled “Precious Objects: The Material Culture of Nineteenth-Century Child Performers” at Dalhousie as part of the MacKay Lecture series. The audience seemed quite receptive (perhaps it was the slide with images from Us Weekly’s “Stars – They’re Just Like Us” pages) and I received some really excellent questions from students … Continue reading Precious Objects in Halifax

Getting ready for Halifax

On Wednesday, I leave for Halifax, where I’ll be giving a guest lecture as part of the MacKay Lecture Series at Dalhousie University. The theme this year is “Performance Across Boundaries,” which resonates so strongly with the research I’m conducting for this project, e.g. boundaries of age, gender, region, class, nation, human/nonhuman, object/subject. I’m really … Continue reading Getting ready for Halifax

Boston trip

Here are some photos from my recent research trip to Boston/Cambridge (Sept. 28-Oct. 3), where I worked in the Houghton Library at Harvard and also visited the University of Connecticut to give a talk about our new book with my colleague Joanne Zerdy.

The Woods

I just learned of this exhibit today – Candice Breitz’s The Woods at the Peabody Essex Museum. Sorry to have missed it! See here for a more detailed description of the three video installations and here for Breitz talking about her creative process.

Last day at the Houghton

Wow, this week has just flown by! I’ve seen so many amazing objects, manuscripts, photographs, and related material. Today, with the assistance of a generous archivist, I managed to find the illustration of Jean Davenport as Young Norval – the one Maclean references in his article (!!) – along with several playbills. They were all … Continue reading Last day at the Houghton

Getting ready for the HTC

Tomorrow I fly to Boston to begin a week of research in the Harvard Theatre Collection. This will be my first real visit to the HTC – I had a brief tour of the Houghton Library in 2008 as part of a conference but that was just a glance. Now I’ll be immersing myself completely for five … Continue reading Getting ready for the HTC

Phrenological wonder

This week I had a chance to follow a rather peculiar tip and fell down a most unusual rabbit hole. I’m beginning to think that an exploration of the material outlined below might make for an interesting conference paper or even eventually an article or book chapter… Clara Morris’s Head In her 1897 memoirs, actress … Continue reading Phrenological wonder

China’s “Dwarf Empire”

Just came across this provocative photo series by Sanne de Wilde, which documents “The Dwarf Empire” in China, a theme park populated by hundreds of “little people.” I can’t help but see connections to the nineteenth century performances of Charles Stratton, Lavinia Warren, and others.  For more, read Sean O’Hagan’s Guardian article here.

Snuff boxes

Another object of fascination: snuff boxes. I came across a large collection of snuff boxes bearing Master Betty’s image while I was doing research at the Folger Shakespeare Library several years ago but I haven’t had time to reflect on their significance until now. Though one of my next steps will involve looking for histories of … Continue reading Snuff boxes

Tables and chairs

I’ve become obsessed with tables and chairs lately, particularly tables and chairs  as they appear in images of Charles Stratton, Lavinia Warren, and other dwarf (or little person) performers of the nineteenth century. Now tables and chairs are rather common furniture items and figure prominently in nineteenth century portrait photography, especially photographs of middle-class families, wherein wives stand … Continue reading Tables and chairs

Researchers ready, set…

Today I met with my Research Assistants, Molly, Anthony, and Julie, who will be working with me on the project this year. I’m excited to see what we discover as we follow related research paths… More soon.

Canadian dolls for Canadian girls

As a tangent to this project’s exploration of performing children, I’ve become fascinated with contemporary children’s performances , not so much performances by professional child actors or singers but performances of consumption by “average” children. I’ve been working on an essay on American Girl’s May 2014 arrival in Canada, focusing on the “haul” videos made to … Continue reading Canadian dolls for Canadian girls

Upcoming research

In a few weeks I’m planning to visit the Houghton Library at Harvard where I hope to view several  Staffordshire figurines of Jean Davenport in a variety of roles. I’m also eager to see materials on Charles S. Stratton, Clara Fisher, Master Betty, the Marsh children, and many of the other child performers I’ve been tracking. … Continue reading Upcoming research

Unofficial launch

I am delighted to be unofficially launching the project website with this post. The designer, Brendon George, has done a fantastic job of equipping the site with a variety of tools I’ll need to represent the project research. And in case you were wondering, the colour scheme (purple) has been chosen with the period in … Continue reading Unofficial launch