Cabinet Card of Actress May Steel

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Excllent cabinet card of May Steel by Hastings of Boston, Massachusetts. Identified in period hand mount recto with reference to Rice's Corsair.

'In 1887 Edward E. Rice a musical tenuously based an Byron's poem The Corsair. Adhering to the prerequisites of the form, the hero was played by a woman, Annie Summerville, who wore an abbreviated costume with fleshcolored tights. Set in Istanbul (scenic exotica was always a necessity), the tale related how fair Medora, about to be sold into slavery is rescued by the gallant Conrad the Corsair. She eventually returns the favor by saving his life during a mutiny led by Birbanto, his second-in-command. The Corsair began its New York run at the Bijou Opera House (on Broadway between Thirtieth and Thirty-first Streets) on October 18,1887.The program heralded RICE'S BURLESQUE COMPANY/ 65 ARTISTS/ Who Will Appear in Rice and Dixey's SUMPTUOUS PRODUCTION of the Fascinating, Spectacular, Byronical, Operatic Burlesque or Opera Bouffe in Three Acts, Replete with Original Music, Fascinating Novelties and Bewildering Situations. The more tolerant New York Times, however, welcomed it as 'a splendid example of contemporary burlesque. It has neither sense nor sentiment, but it is pretty and entertaining and anatomical.' Little more was apparently needed: The Corsair had a successful five-month run. The New York Dramatic Mirror condemned the show as being as imbecile as most of the miscalled burlesques of today. It has no story, no wit, no point, no humorónothing save nudity and slang and silliness to recommend it....The nude in art we do not object to, but the nude in an apotheosis of imbecility is rank and smells to Heaven. The more tolerant New York Times, however, welcomed it as 'a splendid example of contemporary burlesque. It has neither sense nor sentiment, but it is pretty and entertaining and anatomical.' Little more was apparently needed: The Corsair had a successful five-month run.'

From the Taggart Collection. This wonderful collection celebrating the world of 19th century Theatre, Opera and Ballet was compiled by brothers Harry and William Taggart of Philadelphia in the last quarter of the 1800s. Though the collection consists mainly of cabinet cards (125+), some autographed, there are also several letters, advertising cards, commemorative programs and homemade items all pertaining to the Philadelphia and Broadway theatre. The brothers were the Editors and Publishers of Taggarts' Sunday Times which had offices at 819 Walnut Street in that city. On the masthead of the paper they billed themselves as, John H. Taggart's Sons. John was apparently a prominent correspondent with the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1860s.

Performers who appeared at The Walnut Street Theatre, America's oldest theatre still in operation, appear throughout the collection, not a surprising fact given that the offices of Taggarts' Sunday Times was located on the same block. I've wondered if this collection would have even existed if the Sunday Times' office had been, say, on the 200 block of Walnut Street.

$100  No. 3343
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