Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Lillian, or ?

Lillian, or ?

This week’s Sepia Saturday suggests newspapers and such, but I’m going for the headlines. Specifically, someone who made headlines: Lillian Russell.

Lillian Russell (12-4-1860 to 6-6-1922) was an American stage actress and singer of operettas, well known throughout America and Europe. During her heyday, she frequently starred in Gilbert & Sullivan comic operas. With roots in the American midwest, and a strong and independent mother (first woman to run for mayor of New York City), it is no surprise that the lovely nineteen year old was cast in her first role on stage in Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore.

She was both favored and plagued by her beauty and femininity, garnering headlines with her various marriages and divorces, including one marriage that was dissolved because her “husband” was already married to someone else. Her stage presence and clear voice helped her ride out the various storms, and when long distance telephone service was introduced, it was Lillian Russell’s voice to be the first broadcast over the distance. She in New York, serenaded Washington D.C. and Boston audiences by phone.

Her long and prosperous life garnered much attention. She was known as a sex symbol, even in her later years when she was rotund but still lovely (with the help of corsetry, of course). While she was only 62 at the time of her death, her legacy of beauty, grace and charm are still known in the 21st century.

The reason I selected the photograph above is that it bears a strong resemblance to a young Lillian Russell. See the image below of a known photograph of Lillian.

Lillian Russell circa 1880s

Lillian Russell circa 1880s

While I realize that my unidentified photograph is 99% certainly not Lillian Russell, the young woman depicted would have been known in her community as having the lovely round face, soft curly hair and curvaceous figure of her doppelgänger.

For other twists on the theme, click over to Sepia Saturday. You will be happy you did!

Read all about it!

6 thoughts on “Is that you, Lillian?

  1. gluepot says:

    Your portrait does suggest someone pretty self assured.


  2. She is lovely..and perhaps her look is inspired by Lillian:)


  3. Bob Scotney says:

    Lillian was a beautiful woman; the card photo appears too formal to me, Lillian’s picture looks so natural.


  4. kristin says:

    They do both have frizzy bangs.


  5. Before I read your post, I always look at the photo first and my initial impression was of an actress or performer. Something about the bare arms, the blond hair curls, and the necklace sets her apart from the typical 19th century lady found in photos from this age. Where was L.W.Cook’s studio?


  6. Little Nell says:

    You could be right although the first lady’s cheeks look much fuller.They are both interesting photographs and Lillian sounds like a force to reckoned with.


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