Somewhere in the world are dramatic photographs of a costumed Edith Vail Ross from the summer of 1903. From her descriptions to her parents it seems that at least 5 maybe 6 dramatic and costumed photo scenes were made. From the letter descriptions I will name these the Madonna, the Page, the Shepherdess and the Gowns (which is either a 2-set or 3-set group of images). She credits the success of these photos to her dramatic lessons with Miss Collins and states that she could have never made such a photograph before her lessons started. She emphatically loves all of the poses and describes them and the reactions of others to the images with youthful exuberance and rapt attention to detail.
I have never found any copies of these items, which were surely in the Ross family attic when gutted by new owners. I have scoured vintage photo resellers, photo repositories and libraries but no luck yet in seeing a print. My hope remains high that somewhere in the world a photo still exists, as multiple copies of the results of the photography session were made. A complete set of prints were sent and received by her parents in Rutland, Vermont and another set was made for her cousin Kit Kilmer of New York City & Troy, New York. Her Grandmother Ross in Poultney, Vermont received one print of the “Madonna” image. A friend named Emily who left on a steamer bound for Europe received one of the “Gown” images with a Bon Voyage letter from Edith. Edith’s plans were to have different images made to distribute to friends or music directors with her calling card much like a modern day acting headshot would be distributed to agents and casting directors.
Adding to the Photo-Hunt Fun are the variations of possibilities for the name listed at the bottom of the photo card, a layout that would look much like these two examples:
Front runner, of course, is her actual given name of Edith Ross, which in 1903 she had also started to spell (occasionally) as “Edyth Ross” in an effort to distinguish herself from all of the other “Edith’s” of the time period. She additionally used “Edith V. Ross” and “Edyth V. Ross”, although I can find no record of her ever using “E.V. Ross” which was the professionally used initials of her father (Edward Vail Ross, an accountant) and also the initials of her paternal grandmother (Elmira Vail Ross). By 1904 she started to use a stage name of “Edith Vail” and sometimes used the alternate spelling of “Edyth Vail”, but it is unlikely that photos made in 1903 were printed as such….but it remains a possibility!
So just what am I talking about with costumed scenes? Look below you will see similar type cards for three female performers costumed for their photo shoots. The top row is both of Pauline Hall, so you can see how much the staging, costumes and dramatic manner changes the resulting image.
Cabinetcardgallery.wordpress.com has a wonderful collection of images displayed, visit their site sometime!
Meanwhile I am on the lookout for a Madonna, Page, Shepherdess, or fancy gown wearing Edith Vail Ross in some antique photo bin, somewhere in the world. If you spot one let me know!