Stage Names, Given Names – What is a Performer to do?!

Edith Vail Ross changed her mind several times about her personal and stage name. When she was young she wrote her name without reservation. In this sample she was twelve years old when she wrote a short letter to her parents who were in Troy, New York while she remained in Rutland, Vermont cared for by her Grandmother Ross. She signed her name to the bottom of the page like this:

Edith's signature at 12 years old, 1891

Edith’s signature at 12 years old, 1891

I have found no writing samples from her teen years, but in 1902 at age 22 she writes letters to her parents in Vermont from her voice schooling in New York City and signs off occasionally as “Edyth” and other times “Edith”. Just a few days before her birthday she performed in Ossining, New York and was credited in the program with Edyth Ross:

May 1902 performance in Ossining, New York

May 1902 performance in Ossining, New York

Her letters home continue the alternating spellings but by mid-1903 the surviving letters almost all show “Edyth” as the spelling when she signs off. However, a program preserved in a letter from her early Summer performance in 1903 at the orphanage Five Points’ Sunday Service singing the highlight solo “Come Unto Him” lists her as “Edith Vail Ross”:

June 14, 1903 performance at Five Points, New York, New York

June 14, 1903 performance at Five Points, New York, New York

By the end of summer (during which she has scrawled Edyth on letters the whole time) she writes home and triumphantly declares that she is done with “Edyth” – she writes “I am not going to spell my name Edyth any more, but Edith. It looks silly to me now and when I do anything to be proud of I want to be “Edith Ross” as Edyth would sound like a chorus girl. What do you think of the change.

A P.S addition to a letter home August 3, 1903 from Edith Vail Ross in New York City to her parents in Rutland, Vermont.

A P.S addition to a letter home August 3, 1903 from Edith Vail Ross in New York City to her parents in Rutland, Vermont.

My guess is that her father was thrilled as he proudly carried his name Edward Vail Ross into his work at the Howe Scale Company and into his civic life as a Mason. The Vail and Ross sides of his family tree extended back to the first settlers of Vermont when the area was still in a tug of war between the New York Land Grants and the New Hampshire Land Grants created after the Revolutionary War.

However, the tides continued to change and upon her entrance into the Metropolitan Opera she consistently performed as Edith Vail, dropping the alternate spelling of Edith and her last name all together. This went on for a number of years before her marriage to Paul Josef Martin Eisler and while she enjoyed using her married name in letters:

Letter from Vienna, Austria to her parents in Rutland, Vermont, 1912

Letter from Vienna, Austria to her parents in Rutland, Vermont, 1912

She continued to use the name of Edith Vail when she sang:

Notation from a concert program at the Hotel Metropole, Vienna, 1910

Notation from a concert program at the Hotel Metropole, Vienna, 1910

At the 1910 program she sang “Moon Dear” and “It’s Nice to Have a Sweetheart” and while I have no recording of Edith singing anything (!) hear Ada Jones singing the female part of the duet in this vintage 1904 recording (by clicking on the Ada Jones link) and hear a tenor version of “Moon Dear”:

About Guenevere Crum

Guenevere Crum is an artist and a great granddaughter of Edith and Paul Eisler. She has been actively sleuthing her Eisler - Vail Ross heritage since 1999.
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3 Responses to Stage Names, Given Names – What is a Performer to do?!

  1. gpcox says:

    I wonder why she was never recorded. At least you have here history recorded for future researchers. Good post.

    • I am not sure why, but there remains a chance I just haven’t found it yet. I am always looking and throwing the idea out into the universe in case someone has something in some family attic/ closet of a grandmother or great aunt’s things “from back in the day”. I appreciate your faithful support and checking in on the posts, Thank you!

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