Orchids, Tiaras, Minks, Ermines and Top Hats
My recent revelations about Florence Foster Jenkins



It was indeed a different era in American history for the American woman. It is also when manners were a virtue, a woman was a Lady and a man was a gentleman. Responsibility was not only held, but put in print in this 1935 advertisement purchased by the Hotel Iroquois and printed in the program for a Verdi Club event:

Hotel Iroquois
West 44th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue, New York City

American and European plan

Rooms with bath: $3 per day up
2 rooms with bath: $4 per day up

Special rates by the week
Special attention to ladies traveling alone


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Dreamer
Newspaper clipping from 1928

"For nearly 10 years, Mrs. Florence Foster Jenkins has given an annual song recital in Manhattan. Mrs. Jenkins was born some 60 years ago in Philadelphia where she studied to be a pianist. In Manhattan, she founded the Verdi Society to keep the name of the composer alive. Her father was a rich Wilkes-Barre lawyer who died 25 years ago. Mrs. Jenkins is well able to pay for a hall whilst which hired the Ball Room of the Ritz Carlton Hotel that smarty dressed New Yorkers fairly fought for tickets to get in and see Mrs. Foster Jenkins perform. Mrs. Jenkins appeared in flame-colored velvet with yellow ringlets piled high on her head. For a starter, she picked Brahms' Die Mainacht, a subtitle on her gilt program "O singer, if thou canst not dream, leave this song unsung." Mrs. Jenkins could dream if she could not sing. With her hands clasped to her heart, she passed on to "Vergebliches Standchen" which she had labelled the Serenade in Vain.

The audience as Mrs. Jenkins' audiences invariably do, behaved very badly. In the back of the hall men and women in full evening dress made no attempt to control their laughter. Didn't find gentle..." (end of clipping)

I find this clipping very enlightening as up until now, we never had any information as to what she sounded like early on in her career. Maybe she was just a mediocre singer.

This critic begins his article by saying "For nearly 10 years,..." and to me, this means he was aware of her concerts since (let's round it off to 10) 1918 (though she began gradually singing in public around 1912).

The second paragraph is very telling, especially by his use of the word "invariably". This means that audiences during most of her singing career behaved vary badly, behaviors that were expected or predicted. I thus conclude that she was never even mediocre and never had any vocal ability.


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Tableau

Butterflies

Cast of Characters
Butterfly: Mrs. Louis Dana Knowlton
A Rose: Mrs. Clarence Lee Hilleary
A Lily: Mrs. E.E. Patterson
A Daisy: Mrs. Paul Keil
A Tulip: Mrs. Harriet Riesberg
A Jonquil: Anna Krebs Culverwell

Photographs exist of Mme. Jenkins in costume for many of the tableaux but none of the productions with as many as 40 costumed and wigged people all gifted by Mme. Jenkins. I invite you to use your imagination in conjuring up what these tableaux must have looked like.

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Season 1936-1937

The 1936-1937 season of the Verdi Club announced its productions of no less than 15 social events (in the full sense of the word, all of which were funded by Mme. Jenkins. This included the rental of the halls, costume and wig rentals, singers, instrumentalists, pianists, accompanists and the commissioning of composers.

Celebrity Breakfast
The City Club
55 West 44th Street
Thursday, September 24, 1936, noon

Celebrity Breakfasts were described as "Celebrated writers and speakers will be heard at these..." They were produced by the Literature Committee of the Verdi Club

Celebration of Verdi's Birthday Luncheon
Hotel St. Regis
followed by Musicale
Friday, October 9, 1936, 12:30pm

The Verdi Birthday Celebration, more often than not, included the stagin of excerpts from such operas as Otello, La traviata and Rigoletto. It was described as "a luncheon followed by an elaborate musical program".

Song Recital
Grand Ball Room, Ritz-Carlton
Thursday, October 29, 1936, 8:30pm

Though Mme. Jenkins never sang at official Verdi Club events, her annual recitals (always at the end of October or early November) in the Grand Ball Room of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel were listed amongst the Verdi Club events. These recitals (which began at 8:30pm, not 8:00) contained between 9 and 15 selections by her. The rest of the program would consist of instrumental and chamber music selections and solos by her accompanist. In other words, she was not the only performer in these recitals.

Morning Musicale
Hotel St. Regis
Wednesday, November 11, 1936, 11am

Morning Musicale programs were described as
"with rare artists and unusual programs". One of these Musicales consisted of a soprano, lyric baritone and a basso cantante, all hired by Jenkins.

Blue Bird Supper Dance
Hotel St. Regis
Tuesday, December 8, 1936, 10pm

The purpose of The Blue Bird Supper Dance was a fund raiser for The Blue Burd Fund, a self-charity to provide flowers for ill members.


Musical and Dramatic Afternoon
Hotel Plaza
Friday, December 11, 1936, 2pm

Musical and Dramatic Afternoons were quite varied in their content. They could have consisted of a handful of singers, lectures, dramatic readings and on-act plays.


New Year's Eve Supper Dance

The location and time of The New Year's Eve Dance was never announced, probably a perfect example of Mme. Jenkins superstitiousness.


Morning Musicale
Hotel St. Regis
Wednesday, January 6, 1937, 11am

Celebrity Breakfast
The City Club
55 West 44th Street
Thursday, January 21st, 1937, noon

Thé Dansante for Italian Philanthropic Fund
Hotel St. Regis
Wednesday, February 3, 1937, 4pm

This event appears only twice and is much like a Morning Musicale with various combinations of singing and chamber music.


Musical and Dramatic Afternoon
Hotel Plaza
Friday, February 9, 1937

Celebrity Breakfast
The City Club
55 West 44th Street
Thursday, March 4, 1937, noon

Annual Grand Opera Pageant and Ball of the Silver Skylarks
Hotel Plaza
Thursday, March 11, 1937, 8pm

This was perhaps the most spectacular of annual evenings presented by The Verdi Club. It was always a benefit for The Veteran's Mountain Camp, an American Legion camp on Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks. The audience would experience fully staged short operas (or extended excerpts from the full lenth operas) with orchestra. An important part of the program were the tableaux-vivants that Mme. Jenkins produced. To this particular evening in 1937, St. Clair Bayfield contributed stagings of two Pantomime Dramas.


Morning Musicale
Hotel St. Regis
Wednesday, April 7, 1937, 11am

Rose Breakfast Musicale and Dance
Westchester Country Club
Thursday, April 27, 1937, noon

Always in April, this must have been a rather beautiful event. As always,
"A prize will be given for the most beautiful rose or white ladies' costume". The musical portions of the program consisted of the usual combinations - singers, pianist, instrumentalists, etc.

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Tableau

The Legend of the Amethyst, by Essex Dane, a pantomime, was produced by pupils of Miss Mason's School, May C.D. Perry, dramatic director. Lenore Dickinsons scintillated as the Amethyst and Glenda Moreland as Venus, comely young women representing 6 precious stones and 30 more appearing minor parts. Much of the incidental music was adapted from Bizet, the orchestra being conducted by Mr. de Salle. This was a charming interpretation of a highly poetic subject and received much applause.

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Recital Given by Florence Foster Jenkins
Assisted by The Pascarella Chamber Music Society
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
46th Street and Madison
Thursday, November 2, 1933 at 8:30 pm

Trysting Time
Words by Florence Foster Jenkins
Music by Cosme McMoon
Accompanist: Edwin D. MacArthur

This must be one of the best examples to prove that Cosme McMoon and Edwin MacArthur were two different people, dispelling the false belief that MacArthur made up a name to not be associated with Mme. Jenkins. Moste definitely, MacArthur was not a composer.


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A number of years ago, there was a German website that claimed to have footage o Mme. Jenkins singing. Upon viewing it, it was obviously a fraud. But now, it is confirmed that there was at one time, movies made (we don't know if they were silent) of Mme. Jenkins' annual recitals at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It is possible that she had made a single filming and screened it repeatedly during the following three years, but it is rather astounding, not to mention, the height of chutzpah, that she had the wherewithall and foresight to do such a thing.


December 14, 1934
Moving picture of Mme. Florence Foster Jenkins' song recital in the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel November 8

December, 1935
Verdi Club Musical and Dramatic Matinee
A moving picture of Mme. Jenkins' concert given at the Ritz-Carlton October 30th will be shown. Come and see yourselves as you appear in a moving picture and bring your friends to hear one of the best programs of the winter.

Musical and Dramatic Afternoon
Friday, December 11, 1936, 2:00
Hotel Plaza
Operatic Program
A moving picture of Mme. Jenkins' concert on October 29th showing the artists and audience will be presented.

Founder of Verdi Club Gets Bust From Friends
Tea at Pladza Honors Works of Mrs. Florence F. Jenkins (1938)
...Motion pictures taken during one of Ms. Jenkins' concerts last October 27 was shown and the 250 guests attended a reception after the program.

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This is a list of well-known celebrities that are strategically sprinkled throughout the printed programs of Mme. Jenkins and The Verdi Club.
"In Memoriam - Enrico Caruso, Honorary Member" appears as often as possible. Also found in these programs were personal advertisements purchased by singers, teachers, various theatrical, social and artistic establishments. Invariably, at the top of the advertisement, was a dedication to Mme. Jenkins in the most over-the-top praise, admiration, respect, etc.

Mr. and Mrs. Pasquale Amato, Patrons
Mr. and Mrs. George Arliss, Patrons; Advisory Board
Mr. George Arliss, with whom St. Clair Bayfield formerly was associated with...
Mr. Dale Carnegie, Boxholder
Enrico Caruso, Honorary Member
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Chandler Christy, Patrons
Miss Katherine Cornell, with whom St. Clair Bayfield was formerly associated with...
Doris Doe, Patron
Mr. Carlo Edwards, Advisory Board
(Giacomo) Lauri-Volpi, Honorary Vice President
Mme. Gota Ljundberg, Patron
Mme. Margaret Matzenauer, Guest artist
Mme. Gina Pinnera, Special Patron
Mme. Rosa Ponselle, 2nd Vice President
Miss Marie Powers, Honored Guest
Miss Marion Talley, Guest Arist
Mr. Deems Taylor, Special Patron
Mme. Thelma Votipka, Patron
Miss Henriette Wakefield, Patron; Stage Director

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Costumes from Miss Ethel, Importer
54 West 57th Street, New York

It used to be thought that the identity of her costume and dress maker was a secret. Maybe it was Miss Ethel.

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Here is the entire contents of the program for the annual "Ball of the Silver Skylarks", March 6, 1941.

This must have been one of the most extravagantly-produced annual events, including a tableaux representing 37 characters, icons from stage, screen and music.

For the tableaux, which were accompanied by orchestra,, I think one could assume there was a curtain available (or installed for the occasion) and that after some character introduction was relayed to the audience, the curtain would then open to reveal the personage. While the character posed (probably motionless) the hostess would reveal more about the character. The curtain would then close and moments, it would open again presenting the next character. The variety of this cast is also remarkable. Numbers 31 and 35 portrayed themselves. I am in need of a pair of eyes to locate #22.

Also during this evening was most likely the first performance of the tableaux "Stephen Foster Play. The cast of 6 characters and who portrayed is vivid and an example of a by-gone era.



Ball of the Silver Skylarks
Given for the Benefit of the Veteran's Mountain Camp
Hotel Plaza
March 6, 1941, 8:00pm

(photo of Jenkins with fan, turban)
Mme. Florence Foster Jenkins, Founder and President

(ad)

To Mme. Florence Foster Jenkins and The Verdi Club with my sincere best wishes for continued success, Giovanni Martinelli
(photo of Martinelli)
Giovanni Martinelli, member of the Advisory Board of The Verdi Club

(ad)

Compliments of Hotel Plaza
Henry A. Rost, President and Managing Director

(ad)

To Lady Florence, In loving appreciation for her great work and carrying on
(photo)
Henriette Wakefield, soprano, Metropolitan Opera as Suzuki in Madame Butterfly. She sang at the Verdi Club Musicale, February 19, 1937 Chairman of the Ball of the Silver Skylarks

Programme

The Verdi Club Grand Opera Company presents "Pagliacci" by Leoncavallo
Scene is laid in Calabria, Il Montalto on the Feast of the Assumption, 1865

Prologue
Greek Evans

Act 1
Entrance to village, on right traveling theatre.
Act 2
The play - curtains drawn aside
Nedda: Vivienne Beloin
Canio: Frederick Schweppe
Toni: Greek Evans
Silvio: Giovanni Camajani
Peppe: Joseph Li Vecchi
Musical Conductor: Gabriel Simeoni
Stage Manager: Charles Treier
Di Salle's Orchestra

The Pageant of Stars
Written and Directed by Mrs. Owen Kildare
Stars from Opera, Stage and Screen, in Favorite Roles will be seen, depicted as they appear in the cast, when presented from first to last

1. Giannini as Aida: Mrs. Owen Kildare - Pageant Commentator
2. Geraldine Farrar as Musetts: Mrs. Ross Raymond Sigsbee
3. Helen Jepson as Mimi: Naomi Williams
4. Emperor in Chu Chin Chow: Michael Rosner
5. Julia Marlowe as Mary Tudor: Clara Thorward
6. Prince Yamatora (Madame Butterfly): Claude Lapham
7. Emmy Destinn as Madame Butterfly: Melissa Watson
8. Lillian Russell in Wildfire: Blanche Haas
9. Blanche Bates (Girl of the Golden West): Jean Wilkins
10. Prime Minister Chu Chin Chou: Barett Deana
11. Mrs. Leslie Carter as Zaza: Mrs. W.E.D. Dillabough
12. Anna Sten as Nell Gwynn: Unaria Fodor
13. Caruso as Don Alvara: Franklin Schalk
14. Galli-Curzi as Gilda: Mrs. Oliver Pittman Cooke
15. Giuseppe Verdi, composer: Paul Koch
16. Bori as Violetta in Traviata: Dorothy Lawrence
17. Tita Schipa as Germont: Henry Appleyard
18. Pavlowa - Blue Danube Waltz: Margaret MacDonald
19. Gigli as Chevalier Des Grieux: Holmes Washburn
20. Alice Neilsen in Singing Girl: Helen Garner Reed
21. D'Oyle Carte - Pirates of Penzance: Edward Feruggia
22.
23. Kalid of Baghdad - Abu Hassan: Lewis Dana Knowlton
24. Clara Louise Kellogg - Songstress: Clare Strackosch
25. L'Aiglon in L'Aiglon: Henry Steigner
26. Adelina Patti as Lakme: Agata Boris
27. Emma CalveĆ’foe;> as Carmen: Caroline Bamboschek
28. Schubert, composer: Henri Van Den Andel
29. Jenny Lind, Swedish Nightingale: Marion Stehlik
30. Rudolph Valentino, Sheik of Araby: Feodor Nikanov
31. Yvonne De Troiville, Rosina - Barber of Seville: Yvonne De Troiville
32. Mary Garden as Salome: Natalya MacDonald
33. Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette: Mrs. Louis Dana Knowlton
34. Pinza as Ramfis in Aida: William Darian
35. Edna May, Belle of New York: Lola Deven Kildare Kristman
36. Mario Cozzi as Toreador: Mario Cozzi
37. Fanny Davenport by Mrs. Edith Bridge

Tableau
Lady Hamilton: Margaret Louise O'Brien

Tableau
Dolly Madison: Virginia MacCart

Tableau
Stephen Foster Inspired by the Angel of Genius
Reproduction of the picture painted by Howard Chandler Christy

(Characters in order of their appearance)
Angel of Genius: Florence Foster Jenkins
Stephen Foster: Adolf H. Pollitz
Ol' Black Joe: Randolph Symonette
Darkie from the Swanee River: Paul Kwartin
Suzanna: Rosea Lee
Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair: Lilian Kaiser

Directed by St. Clair Bayfield
Suggestions by Howard Chandler Christy
Orlando's Orchestra

(ad)

To Lady Florence, a wonderful artist, whose interpretations of voice are most appealing
Rosea Lee, soprano, Gotham Opera Company, Rossini Opera Company Breathing Class - Wednesdays, 7:30pm
Breath Is Life
141 West 72nd Street, New York City
Phone: ENdicott 2-906

(ad)

To Mme. Florence Foster Jenkins with deep admiration to the "Lady of Music" who carries the banner of music ever on high. Mrs. Raymond Douglas MacCart

(ad)

Larry Steinberg
Feathers and Masks
43 West 47th Street, New York
Bryant 9-3960
Theatrical Effects, Fans, Plumes, Trimmings

(ad)

St. Clair Bayfield
Chairman of Drama of The Verdi Club
Teaches Pronunciation of English by the system of L'Association Phonotique Universale
Recent Roles:
The Bishop in "Father Malachi's Miracle"
Commandant Rutzstein in "Glorious Morning"
The Missionary in "Captain Brassbound's Conversion" with Jane Cowl
The Reverend Gentleman in "Autumn Crocus" with Frances Lederer
The Priest in Vincent Carooll's "Old Foolishness" at the Windsor Theater, 48th Street
The City Club
55 West 44th Street, New York City
MUrray Hill 2-8250

(ad)

John E. Meyer, Inc.
Stationers, Printers, Engravers
1047 6th Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets, New York
Christmas, Birthday and Easter cards in season
Club and program printing are specialty
All printing done on the premises
This program was printed by us

(ad)

Compliments of the Hotel Seymour

(ad)

To Lady Florence with the golden personality - Mrs. Owen Kildare, author, lecturer, publicist, director
205 West 57th Street, New York City
Appointments by Phone: Circle 7-542

(ad)

(photo of Lawrence as Marguerite)
Dorothea Lawrence, soprano
Concert and Opera
512 Stella Avenue
Plainfield, New Jersey

(ad)

Lovingly, from The Manhattan Study Club
Mrs. Edwin DeWolfe Morris, Founder
Enrico D'amici, baritone of distinction
Teacher of voice by appointment
Open for tour engagement
Carnegie Hall, New York
Columbus 5-1153

(ad)

Cosme McMoon
Composer, Pianist, Teacher
Composer of Valse Caressante
"the most beautiful Waltz aria of 1940" and Spanish songs dedicated to Mme. Jenkins

(ad)

Cordial greetings from The Ways and Means Committee
Mrs. Lewis Dana Knowlton, Chairman
Mrs. N. Sabello
Mrs. Owen Kildare
Baroness Margret LeFevre

Benefit is given by the Verdi Club for the Veteran's Mountain Camp and a check has been sent.

Notice: Initiation fee of $5 will be removed for one day only at the Rose Breakfast. Why not make an Easter gift of a membership in the Verdi Club to a friend
Dues: $10

In Memoriam
Mrs. Charles Dorrance Foster, mother of the President of the Verdi Club
(photo)
(in ink) 1840-1930

Verdi Club Rose Benefit and Dance
Thursday, April 29
A prize will be given for the most beautiful rose or white ladies' costume

(announcement)

The Rose Breakfast and Dance
Tuesday, April 29th
Westchester Country Club

Boxholders
Mrs. George Washington Roeblin 1
Miss Henriette Wakefield 2
Mme. Henriette Wakefield 3
Mrs. Lewis Gunther 4
Mrs. B.L. Draper 5
Mme. Teresa Luisa Geri 6
Miss Dorothea Lawrence 7


Navy Box 8
Mme. Francesca Carrone
Mr. and Mrs. Irving Burdick
Captain and Mrs. F.G. Stapler
Chief of Staff, 3rd Naval District U.S.N.
Captain and Mrs. F.G. Reinecke, U.S.N.
Admiral Reginald R. Belknap

Navy Box 9
Col. Walter C. Guthrie
Colonel and Mrs. George Chase Lewis
Captain C.C. Agate
Miss Leila Baird
Mrs. Frank Roth 10

Army Box 11
Brigadier-General Lewis W. Stotesbury
Major Milo G. Cary and Mrs. Cary
Major Robert S. Nourse and Mrs. Nourse
1st Lieut. Earl K. Anthony and Mrs. Anthony

Army Bo 12
Col. Thomas A. Rottweil, U.S.A.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Chandler Christy
Lieut. Commander and Mrs. W.V. O'Regan, U.S.N.
1st Lieut. Henry Untermeyer and Miss Peggy Austin
Prince Michael Galitzen 14
Mme. Florence Foster Jenkins 15
Col. and Mrs. H.C. Rubio 15

Patrons and Patronesses
Mrs. William Fox
Mr. Joseph Lederer
Miss Katherine Terrel
Mr. Max Nezol
Mr. and Mrs. Salvatore Mario de Stefano
Mrs. Raymond Douglas MacCart
Dr. Paul V. Winslo
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Clifford MacDougal
Col. Sydney C. Haight
Capt. Edward Page Gaston

Chairman of Programs
Mrs. Marie C. Jones

Committee
Mrs. Maude Beard
Miss Leila Baird
Miss Isabel Hill
Miss Rosea Lee

Ushers
Mr. Edward Bonomo
Mr. Lewis Dana Knowlton
Major Arthur Procter

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Mme. Jenkins' legions of loyal admirers were disconsolate when she failed to make an appearance as "The Angel of nspiration" in "The Stephen Foster Play" founded upon the painting by Howard Chandler Christie. They had to be content with the program portrait of Madame in the role. We suspect that due to the...
(end of clipping)