Lotta Crabtree

Lotta Crabtree

Lotta Mignon Crabtree.(November 7, 1847, – September 25, 1924, , was an American actress, entertainer and comedian.

Born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree in New York City to British immigrants, Lotta Crabtree would go on to become one of the wealthiest and most beloved American entertainers of the late 19th century. From her beginnings as a 6-year-old red-haired ball of energy until her retirement at the age of 45, she danced and jigged and sang her way into becoming "The Nation's Darling".

Early life

Her father, John Ashworth Crabtree, a book seller, left for San Francisco in 1851 to join those seeking fortune in the California Gold Rush. Lotta and her mother followed two years later, joining John in the boomtown of Grass Valley. While in Grass Valley, the Crabtrees ran a boarding house. Lotta soon attracted the attention of a neighbor, the dancer and actress Lola Montez, who encouraged Lotta's enthusiasm for the performance.

The Crabtrees moved again and set up another boarding house, this time to Rabbit Creek, forty miles north. Soon after, Lotta made her first professional appearance at a tavern owned by Matt Taylor. She began touring throughout California, and Nevada, making a name for herself as a dancer, singer, and banjo player in the mining camps. In 1856, the family moved back to San Francisco. By 1859, she had become "Miss Lotta, the San Francisco Favorite".

Lotta's mother served as her manager and collected all of Lotta's earnings in gold and carried it in a large leather bag. When this became too heavy, it was transferred to a steamer trunk.

Later career

Having made a name in California, in 1863 Lotta left to tour the east coast where she began acting in plays such as "The Old Curiosity Shop", "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Little Nell and the Marchioness". With her petite size, she became a favorite for her portrayals of children. By 1875, Lotta was touring the nation with her own theatrical company.

Mary Ann was still managing Lotta's affairs: booking plays, finding locations, and organizing troupes of actors. When the steamer trunk became too heavy, she invested Lotta's earnings in local real estate, race horses and bonds. As well as investing, some of the money was used to support local charities and build fountains. Lotta's Fountain, the most famous of these fountains, still stands at the intersection of Market and Kearny Streets in San Francisco, and is the site of meetings every April 18 marking the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Lotta traveled abroad with Mary Ann and her brothers, where she learned French, visited museums and began painting. Lotta's mother had a 22 room summer cottage built in Breslin Park, a wealthy neighborhood at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, which was called Attol Tryst. Lotta gave parties, drove horses, and pursued her painting. She found life among the elite at Lake Hopatcong rather dull, and the prominent ladies of the time found Lotta rather eccentric. Her trademark black cigars prevented her from becoming a member of Sorosis, the ladies social group, much to her mother's chagrin. After Mary Ann's death in 1905, Lotta never lived at the cottage again.


Her career left her little time for romance, and Lotta never married. In 1891, Lotta retired from the stage and settled in New Jersey where she became a virtual hermit. She made one final appearance in 1915 for "Lotta Crabtree Day" in San Francisco at the Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Lotta later purchased the Brewster Hotel in Boston, where she lived until her death in 1924. In her obituary, The New York Times called her the "eternal child". She was described by critics as mischievous, unpredictable, impulsive, rattlebrained, teasing, piquant, rollicking, cheerful and devilish.

Her personal fortune was estimated to $2 million and her estate, worth about $4 million, was left to many charities, which included veterans, aging actors and animals. The estate ran into complications when a number of people contested the will. It was finally settled and a trust remains for humane and educational purposes of the young.

She was the Vice President of the Professional Women's Association in New York.


* Mazow, Leo G., (2005), "Picturing the Banjo", Penn State Press.

External links

* [http://www.zpub.com/sf/history/crab.html Lotta Crabtree]
* [http://www.ncgold.com/History/LottaCrabtree/lotta.html Lotta Crabtree, Fairy Star of the Gold Rush]
* [http://gettysburg.cdmhost.com/u?/p126301coll1,22 Lotta Crabtree Photograph part of the Nineteenth Century Notables Digital Collection at Gettysburg College]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Home of Lotta Crabtree — Infobox local1 | name =Home of Lotta Crabtree chisl = yes caption = location= 238 Mill Street Grass Valley, California lat degrees = lat minutes = lat seconds = lat direction = long degrees = long minutes = long seconds = long direction =… …   Wikipedia

  • Lotta's Fountain — The cast pillar with a drinking fountain at its base was donated to San Francisco by the entertainer Lotta Crabtree. It served as a meeting point during the 1906 earthquake and fire.Commemorations of the earthquake, including a dwindling pool of… …   Wikipedia

  • Crabtree (surname) — The surname Crabtree may refer to: Arthur Crabtree (1900 1975), a British cinematographer Clyde Crabtree (1905 1994), an American college and professional football player Bill Crabtree (1915 2001), an Australian politician Don Crabtree (1912… …   Wikipedia

  • Crabtree, Lotta — ▪ American actress in full  Charlotte Crabtree  born Nov. 7, 1847, New York, N.Y., U.S. died Sept. 25, 1924, Boston, Mass.  American actress whose early days as an entertainer during the California Gold Rush led to her immense popularity as the… …   Universalium

  • Crabtree, Lotta — (1847 1924)    The pert, red haired, banjo playing, singing actress began her stage career as a child in the California mining camps of the 1850s. After winning popularity on the San Francisco stage, she came under the management of J. F. Whitman …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

  • Protean comic —    Lotta Crabtree and Sol Smith Russell were protean comics; that is, they could switch rapidly among very different characterizations. The term protean came to mean generally versatile, but because of the theatricality of the technique, most… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

  • List of California Historical Landmarks — This is a list of California Historical Landmarks. The official list may be seen [http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/listed resources/?view=all here] . NOTOC · =Alameda County= For more details, please see http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page id=21388.… …   Wikipedia

  • National Register of Historic Places listings in San Francisco, California — List of properties on the National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco, California: Map of all coordinates from Google Map of all coordinates from Bing …   Wikipedia

  • Grass Valley, California — Infobox Settlement official name = Grass Valley, California settlement type = City imagesize = image caption = The historic Holbrooke Hotel and Restaurant image mapsize = 250x200px map caption = Location in Nevada County and the state of… …   Wikipedia

  • San Francisco — San Franciscan. /san freuhn sis koh, fran / a seaport in W California, on San Francisco Bay: earthquake and fire 1906; United Nations Conference 1945. 678,974. * * * City (pop., 2000: 776,733) and port, northern California, U.S. San Francisco… …   Universalium