My great aunt Blanche Townsend worked as a dressmaker for the Rain-Dears Co. in the early 1900’s till about 1913/1914. While organizing her cards, I discovered that she traveled with them mainly throughout the US, and for a few months here and there in the UK during the winter of 1908 and the summer of 1909.
Here is a card she sent my Great Grandmom Braun while she arrived in Paris, France in the early summer of 1909.
Out of the many vaudeville cards that I had from my great aunt, there were a handful that were only young girls, and they had the name “Rain Dears Co 1908/1909” handwritten on them. For months I thought that “The Rain Dears Co.” was the name of Jos Hart’s ACTUAL company. When in fact, in Vaudeville, the word “Company” is actually used to name an act that is being performed in theatre. So, “The Bathing Girls” would also be named “The Bathing Girls Company.”
The girl’s names weren’t showing up in old newspapers or anywhere else when I researched them. The women were all wearing the same type of costumes, or they were either in bathing suits or posing with stuffed toys. Upon further research, I discovered that these women are actually Blanche’s co-workers for whom she created vaudeville dresses for. There were a dozen girls that acted and danced in the “Rain-Dears Co.” and the “Bathing Girls Co.” After reading up on these two Vaudeville acts, the bathing-suits and the stuffed animals in the photos all made sense. I posted a few months back about one of these ladies – a Vera Conckles (which I am assuming is her name because the handwriting was hard to make out). You can see her cards here from my earlier post. She is obviously wearing one of the Rain Dears Outfits in her cards, but she is also quite noticeable in Joseph Hart’s Bathing Girls acts that were featured in old newspapers, even though they don’t give her name. Here are a few of those articles along with one of her cards as a reference. Can you spot her?:
Below are all of the other cards in my aunt’s collection with references to the Rain Dears:
“The Rain Dear’s” season ran from 1908-1909, below is a short description of the act:
“The act is in four scenes, and special scenery and costumes are provided in each. The scenes are: “Toyland”, “Dreamland”, “Iceland” and “Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield”. The musical numbers are “Heine Klein”, “Down the Line with Arabella”, “My Reindeer” and “Rain Dears”. The Last Scene is in the cornfield and the dancing is while the girls are dressed in oil skins and the rain pouring upon them.” Scranton Republican March 15th, 1908.
(Oil skins are what they called Raincoats in the early 1900’s.)
As noted earlier, The Rain-Dears act was owned by Joseph Hart, with Francis Sullivan as manager and it was one of Ned Wayburn’s Vaudeville Attractions. Little was found online about Francis Sullivan, (I already filled you in on Joseph Hart here) but I did find this on Ned Wayburn:
Seems that Mr. Warburn guided many Vaudevillians to success in Vaudeville and later, silent film.
The only Rain Dears girl that was mentioned across all newspapers was a Miss Neva Aymar, whom I discovered caused quite a scandal (of it’s time) in the summer of 1909.
Miss Aymar had been engaged to a Jimmy Britt, who was a professional Boxer from San Francisco, CA.
Jimmy Britt (October 5, 1879, in San Francisco, California – January 21, 1940) was a boxer from 1902 to 1909. He fought Joe Ganstwice for the World lightweight title but lost both bouts. In a career spanning 23 bouts, Britt met 6 different Hall of Famers for a combined total of 10 fights; going 4-4-2. After retiring from boxing in 1909, Britt toured the United States as a vaudeville performer, then later worked as a WPA superintendent.
From what I was able to find, once Jimmy fell head over heels for Miss Aymar, he slowly put boxing on hold and traveled with Neva in Vaudeville. Jimmy accompanied Neva on her Europe tour, but still took up boxing gigs while there. It was in France that she secretly fell in love with another man – a jockey named Winnie O’Conner. But The Rain Dears were set to leave for the states in June 1909 because their Eruope tour was coming to a close. So Neva decided to stay behind to be with her new love and to leave the Rain Dears hanging.
It seems Neva had a tendency to fall in love and fall out of love while engaged. This would be the second time she canceled an engagement for another man. It was also the second time she left a Vaudeville company in the dust. (See the article below.)
Neva’s abrupt departure put Joseph Hart, Francis Sullivan and I’m sure my aunt as well in a huge bind. So, my Aunt set off back to the U.S via the SS St. Louis, without the star of the show. Neva didn’t join her on the boat. The newspapers interviewed my aunt about Neva being missing when she arrived back in the states, and she went on to describe what happened and how owner, Joe Hart reacted:
While rummaging through Blanche Townsend’s cards, I also found a letter from her to my Great Great Grandmom before she set sail in June 1909 on the St. Louis. She goes on to to explain that this is the boat she is to set sail on, and to look for it in the newspapers once she reaches New York. Oh how I wish she could tell me her stories! I’m sure she had many when she came back from this trip to the US.
To finish up my researching, I dug a little deeper into Miss Amyar’s history, and discovered that she did in fact wait for Mr. O’Conner to divorce his first wife, Edna Loftus whom he married 2 years earlier in 1907. Winnie and Neva married following the divorce and were happily together until Neva died in 1932 and Winnie died on 6 March 1947 after losing his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929.
But we’re still left with a huge gap about all of the other girl’s histories! Even though I successfully figured out that these ladies were Rain Dears and Bathing Girls, I am still left with the question about their stories. I do know for sure that they were in the same company as my Aunt. For instance, Lily Cotay, Becky Wood, Francis Sullivan, Harry Mars and my aunt were listed on a ship manafest for the RMS Ivernia from Boston to the UK on december 9th, 1908 for their Europe Tour. See below:
I hope someone can spot these names and help me to further my research, or atleast fill in the gaps for these beautiful faces. I’ve been so blessed so far to have reached so many people, I just hope this story can help us find out more about these lives, and their lost adventures that have been silent for so long.