“The Rain-Dears” and “The Bathing Girls”

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.

Aunt Blanche Townsend in France
postcard from my great aunt to great grandmom from France. May 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.)

interview_with_Neva_Amyar_july_14_1907_Oakland_Tribune

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:

Cincinnati_Enquirer_jun_21_1909

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.[10]

Neva_Aymar_OConnor_Buried__Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle__Brooklyn__NY__Thu__4_Feb_1932__page_2

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.

J. Mennie

A months ago, while surfing around Ebay, I stumbled across a painting of a Scottish Loch that caught my attention. My husband and I have traveled to Scotland twice since 2013, so I was interested in buying an antique painting that reminded us of our trips there. We were especially enamored by the Quiraing in the Isle of Skye. If you’ve ever been to Scotland and visited Skye, you know what I’m talking about. The views are breathtaking, and it’s hard to put into words all of the feelings that well up inside you while on that trail on the Quiraing.

 

I was actually looking for an old oil painting of these views, when I stumbled across this painting from the 1880’s by a J. Mennie. I liked this painting, and it’s impressionism. I ended up buying the painting because it was so cheap and figured that it didn’t matter who the artist was, only that I liked the painting.

Usually, when you buy an antique painting, you know a little about the painter, and the more information that is available on a painter, the more the painting is worth. There was absolutely nothing online about this painter! Only one website referenced him and the art that they had of a James Mennie born in 1825. The painting is titled, “Haddon Hall, Derbyshire c. 1877”  it was donated to The Lytham Saint Annes Art Collection in Lancashire UK, and the painting was located in the same area where I bought mine.

mennie_orig
Painting by a J. Mennie, donated to the The Lytham saint Annes Art Collection. source

It’s noted on St. St. Anne’s webpage, here  that the artist was known as a “lithographer master”.

Here is some info from their site about his Lithography –

The Aberdeen Herald and General Advertiser of the 23rd May, 1857 wrote-
“Plan of Manchester – We have received through Messrs. Gifford , a very beautifully designed plan of Manchester, with views of all the principal buildings in that city artistically arranged around the margin of the plate. The plan is the work of Mr. James Mennie, a young draughtsman belonging to Aberdeen, now engaged in one of the principal lithographic establishments in Manchester, and, its execution bears out the promise which he early gave of being the possessor of no common ability.”
These detailed maps and buildings, designed and drawn by J. Mennie, may be seen on The University of Manchester Library website.

mennie-3

I wasn’t sure if the painting that I had was the same artist, so I put an email out to St. Anne’s to ask.  They were going to have their curator check the signatures for me but it was going to take a week or so to get an answer.  While I waited for their response, I tried comparing the 2 signatures myself. I had to play around with the exposure and brightness in Photoshop on the painting from St Anne’s to see his signature correctly.

See the comparison below:

It’s pretty hard to make out Mennie’s signature on the left because the painting was so dark, but I’m pretty sure that they are the same painter! Look at the “M” and ‘e” and “n” Very similar.

Once St. Anne’s returned my phone call they sent me a photo of the signature on their J. Mennie painting, and I’m confident in saying that they are the same painter! Below is the photo of their painting’s signature. You can see that the “J” and the “M” and the “e’s” are all the same. I was so excited!!

j mennie photo from museum

I had to do this same type of  investigation when I was researching my grandmom’s John Moran painting, as the original appraiser said that her painting was done by a John Leon Moran.  But her appraisal was done in the 1970’s and not much info and comparisons were out there about John Moran. Most historians only knew about his other distant relative John Leon. John Leon was known for his portrait painting, but his style was much different than John Moran’s. I saw this right away when researching, and fell across one of John Moran’s art pieces (which are very rare since he was a photographer, not a painter), and saw that his signature and style was exactly like the painting I have.

I think that being a graphic designer helps me with this part of my research, as in school we were taught to recognize typography and the very slight differences in text.

I’m proud to have found this painting, and I’ll forever cherish it as a piece to hand down to my own children.

 

 

The Talented Thomas Dudgeon

Around the same time I started this website, I was also looking around online for some oil paintings to possibly add to my collection at home. Usually when I look for a painting, I’m most interested in it being an antique, and I usually look for artwork that may tell a story.

I fell across 2 paintings by an artist named Thomas Dudgeon (1804-1880 Scotland). One was titled Loch Lomond & Ben Lomond From Mount Misery, T. DUDGEON 1878″, and the other “Brodick Castle Arran Marine Waterfront 1878”. I was most interested in finding a painting of Scotland and the Highlands. Thomas Dudgeon painted a lot of views of lochs and castles in Scotland and England during his time. His paintings were very bright and colorful, and all of them almost have a “cartoonist” approach without it feeling too elementary. Many of his artworks seem to tell a story, or have figures featured in them going about their daily lives in the 19th century. The painting below sparked my curiosity so I went ahead and purchased it. (after of coarse making sure it wasn’t a fake or reproduction by comparing signatures and talking to the dealer).

Dudgeon 1

dudgeon 3When the painting arrived, it was beautiful and the colors very vibrant! The artist sure was a catch in regards to paint collecting. The dealer told me that he had another painting by Dudgeon, and the 2 were originally bought together by the 1st owner in the 1880s and have never been separated. When the first painting arrived, I felt a pit in my stomach when I realized that the other painting was truly it’s sister, and probably never should have been separated. (Do paintings have feelings? Because seriously I felt like they did, either that or it’s 19th century owner was giving me a pretty good guilt trip from the other side if you know what I mean)

After I acquired the second one, I did a little more thorough research into the artist, and was quite shocked at what I found about him! I found most of my information on a blog named “The Artistic Adventures of Thomas Dudgeon” by a woman named Pauline who lives in Australia. I’ve been communicating with her via email about the paintings , and I sent her photos of them so that she could see his work. She created the blog because Dudgeon was her Great Great Grandfather. Thanks to her research, I was able to discover 2 important things about these paintings.

  1. The 1st painting that I purchased named “LOCH LOMOND & BEN LOMOND From MOUNT MISERY” was painted in extreme close proximity to the house that Thomas Dudgeon was raised in until he was 6 years old.
    map-01
    A map I created to show where Thomas Dudgeon’s home was in comparison to this painting’s view. Thomas’s house can be found on the lower left. The painting is a view of Loch Lomond while  standing on Mt. Misery.

    He very well may have visited this place many times, and it probably was one of his most emotional spots for him to paint. I believe that you can tell this by seeing that painting. It’s HAPPY, quaint, timeless.  This was the exact story I was hoping on discovering when I started my research into these paintings.

  2. Not only was Mr. Dudgeon Amazing at landscape oil painting but he was also a very popular painter for local theaters. Throughout his life he remained employed by local theaters in Glasgow Scotland. One of them being the Theatre Royale in Glasgow.

    “It is interesting that many notable British artists began their career as house painters and decorators and at some point they chose the career path they wanted to take whether it be continuing with house painting, or extending their talents to decorating, theatre scene painting, or landscape painting. David Roberts RA (1796-1864) and William Leighton Leitch, (1804-1883), both renowned Scottish artists began their careers as house painters and decorators. Both these artists became scene painters for the Theatre Royal, Queen Street in Glasgow, Roberts in 1819 and Leitch in 1824.” Source: Artistic Adventures of Thomas Dudgeon 

    He even painted backdrops for Dioramas (moving stories).  The first being “The Great Diorama of Ireland” and then the “Royal National Diorama of Scotland”. I found this bit of info important to me as my Great Aunt spent the majority of her life in theatre and created costumes that went with whatever painted scenes they had to tell a story to the audience. Somehow I ended up with 2 paintings where the artist also contributed to the theatre industry! If that’s not fate then I don’t know what is!!

If you’d like to read more about Thomas Dudgeon’s exciting adventures, then I highly recommend checking out Pauline’s site about her Great Great Grandfather. She’s put a lot of heart and soul into her research, and she’s shared with me that she has a lot more information that she’ll be adding this coming year.

https://artisticadventuresofthomasdudgeon.blogspot.com/

 

 

Postcards from Germany (part 2) The Kern family

In continuation from my original post here , I’ve transcribed more of Great Great Grandmom’s postcards from Germany.

I’ll be grouping all cards by family name to make for easier following.  This post will contain all cards from Peter Kern, Gerhard Kern, and Finchen. (Finchen is the German diminutive of Josefine. This name is rarely used as an official German given name, which probably means that Finchen’s real name is not Finchen). Per these cards, I’ve discovered that Peter is either GG Grandmom’s Brother, or Finchen is her sister. Finchen is referred to as a sister in the first card, but all of the correspondences come from Peter, not Finchen, at-least so it seems since Peter’s name is always listed first at the bottom of the card. I’m pretty sure that Gerhard is their son, as he is listed in German address books as living with Peter Kern in 1920 in Essen, Germany at Peter’s address on these cards. They were both listed as being “Locksmiths”.

You’ll notice that GG Grandmom Braun (Maas) is also referred to by her German relatives as Saetken. I’m not sure if Saetken is her given name, or a name like Finchen, where she was called that name when she lived in Germany long ago, and now goes by the name of Elizabeth (Lizzi for short in America).  Also Super confusing – Both Blanche Townsend, and Elizabeth Braun (Maas) go by the name Lizzi. So try not to get confused!!

The transcriptions aren’t 100% exact but I tried to keep it as close as possible. The problem is that some German words do not have an English equivalent, as The German language tends to use one word for a sentence or a phrase. For instance: the German word Fernweh means “distance pain”. And Verschlimmbessern means “To make something worse by trying to improve it.”  The German language is made of MANY words like these, which makes translating a little harder. Plus when 2 words are combined the wrong way it can totally change the meaning of a sentence. I applaud anyone who has learned the German language, as it’s quite difficult to nail down!

Postcards from Peter Kern

Postcard 1 (Written to My GG Grandmom Braun (Maas)

Translation:

Rodenkirchen, Germany  August 25, 1913

Dear Lizzi,
We are here on the beach and send Friends the heartiest greetings.
Greetings – Peter and Finchen your sister 
(written on side) Hello to all. 

Postcard 2 (Written to Great Aunt Blanche)

Translation:

Dear Lizzi!
Thank you for the beautiful card. 
I’m sending you from here warmest greetings from 
Uncle Peter and Finchen 

Essen West. December 21, 1913 
We are all healthy 

Postcard 3 (Written to GG Grandmom)

Translation:

Dortmund, Germany  December 23, 1913

Dear Saettken.
Best greetings from here Sent from Peter, Fina and Gerhard. We hope you are still quite healthy, we wish you with all our heart. With us everything is as it always was. We are all healthy. Please greet all friends of us.

Right: Prosit New Year

Left: letter will follow

With pencil: I wrote Lizzi also a post card to New York.

Postcard 4 (Written to GG Grandmom)

Translation:

Greetings from here.
Peter

Postcard 5 (Written to G Aunt Blanche)

Translation:

Essen, Germany  November 8, 1913

Dear Lizzi,

We received your card and we were very happy about it. We are still doing quite well, which we hope of you too. Greeting to all of our relatives. To seeing you again soon!
Uncle Peter, aunt Fine and Gerhard.

Next time I’ll write more. 

written on side of card: A greeting to Mama Saetken.

Postcard 6 (Written to both GG Grandmom and Great Aunt Blanche while they were in Germany visiting and staying at Peter’s House)

Translation:

Wiesbaden, Germany July 3, 1913

Mis. Setken Braun

and Lizzi Townsend
Essen West
Margarethen Strasse 30
My dears,
I must extend my spa stay for 8 more days. Greetings from Peter
Bottom: Greetings from Finchen and Gerhard

Obit for Peter Kern. Saved in my GG Grandmom’s files. 

2018-03-08 18-41-29
The funeral for the late Mr Peter Kern is on Thursday, 1 July 1926,  one half past 3. Funeral service will be held quarter of an hour before

 

Of the few photos that I have of GG Grandmom’s German relatives, Here are 2 that I’m hopeful that Peter Kern and Finchen are in.  The one directly below, only has one man in it, and that man is obviously a relative to GG Grandmom. I just wish I knew who it was!

peter kern 2
GG Grandmom Braun (Maas)’s family. GG Grandmom Mass is on the far right. 
Peter Kern.jpg
German relative of GG Grandmom Braun (Maas). 

I’m still doing my research on the photo above. He’s obviously wearing German attire, but I have yet to determine who this is in relation to Great Great Grandmom, and what time period this photo was taken in.

I will continue my research on the Kern family and will update this page with any new information I find. 🙂

Thanks for reading!!!

The Postcards from Germany

Along with all of the Vaudeville postcards I inherited from my Grandmom, there were also postcards from My Great Great Grandmom’s family in Germany. I didn’t know much about my Great Great Grandmom’s family, other than stories I was told when I was a kid.

2018-02-24 15-24
From left to right: My Great Aunt Anna, GG Grandmom Braun (Maas) and Great Aunt Blanche, on-board the SS Baltic March 25th 1913. This was probably taken when they arrived home from their trip to Germany. This photo always makes me smile, because you can just feel how happy my GG Grand-mom is to see her daughter Anna, and to be home again with her family.

My Grandmom Waldt (Braun) would often talk about her Grandmom Elizabeth Braun (Maas), Grandpop Christian Braun, and her aunts and uncles. She’d tell me about my Great Great Grandmom and her family, and how my Great Great Grandmom was from Germany. From what I recall, she said that my Great Great Grandmom’s parents were from the Mauser family. (The famous German Mauser rifle family). Somewhere along the line she was disinherited from the Mauser family’s money because of an unapproved marriage. (Which may explain why she has a different last name)  It wasn’t until My GG Grandmom visited Germany with her daughter Blanche, when she was very young, that they were re-united. Great Aunt Blanche helped them do this. I’ve been doing much research into that family line for the past year, and although I have not yet been able to prove that she was from the Mauser Line, I did learn a lot more about her family then I ever though I would.

GG Grandmom Maas and family
GG Grandmom Mass is the woman on the far right. This photo was taken around 1912-1913, when both my GG Grandmom and aunt Blanche traveled to Germany to visit family.

The postcards from Her family though were all written in German. Throughout the years, my grandmom Walt and my dad tried to have these postcards translated, but no one could do it. We were always told that the cards must be a different language or a strange German dialect. This past year, through research, I found out that the cards were German, but they were written in “Old German Script”, so it was hard to decipher by someone who spoke New German. I then searched around online, and found a nice lady in Germany who could read Old German Script. But she could not speak English (and I only could read a little German)! So the both of us used Google Translate to communicate with each-other. She transcribed the cards for me into New German and I then transcribed them from new German into English. Whew! I FINALLY was able to read these cards!

After the cards were translated, I discovered that GG grandmom Maas was related to the following people: a brother or uncle named Peter Kern (lived in Essen, Germany), A brother (or sister) Christian Eisenmenger, and his/her children Maria, Otto and Franz Eisenmenger (lived in Essen). A relative named Robert and Anna Weiss (from Meiderich, Germany, Robert possibly being her brother), a sister named Auguste Radembacher, her husband Johann and their daughter named Auguste Radembacher (lived in Essen). I was able to clearly identify a man who was named on a lot of the cards, Ewald Maas. He turned out to be my GG Grandmom’s little brother. I found through immigration records that my GG Grandmom and Great Aunt Blanche visited Germany in 1879 and brought Ewald back with them to the states. Ewald later served in the US army and fought in the Spanish American War and married a Mary from New Jersey. Upon my research on him I found this interesting article listed in the Philadelphia Inquirer in April 18, 1918

Ewald mass article
reenlistment notice for Ewald Mass to help fight in WW1. Source

When WW1 began, he was already retired from the Army, but never never registered as a German immigrant when he was suppose to because he was a U.S veteran. I knew this was the same Ewald from my records because the home listed in this article is his home address listed in his nationalization records, which my Great Uncle was a witness for.

Back to all of those German postcards….Below is one of many cards that were transcribed by my nice German friend. You’ll notice that the older woman on the far left is also in the photo above. From what I was able to find out from her postcard, she is my GG Grandmom’s niece, Elizabeth.

Translation from postcard above from a niece to GG Grandmom Maas:

Duisburg, the 12.12.1913

Dear Aunt Saetken!!!
I love your card. I am very pleased that you are still quite healthy. Everything here is still just as always. The photography of Lizzi (Lizzi was Aunt Blanche’s nick name) has not arrived yet.

We cordially wish you all a right- froeh christmas. We hope to see you soon again.
When you read this card, think that you are with us.

Many greetings from your parents and siblings but especially from your niece Elisabeth

This was the card that made me realize that GG Grandmom Mass’ parents were still alive in 1913! But to this day, I still have not been able to find her parents or any of these people other than Ewald on ancestry.com or other similar sites. I only have these cards as proof. I’m sure that time will lead me to them, but my one hope is that someone will find themselves on this site, and recognize these faces and names from my distant family in Germany.