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.

Retirement

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.

References

* 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]


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