Jun 3, 2017

A familiar face and some cake on the floor

I got this postcard at Tolworth Postcard Fair.  I was so excited when I saw it, as this is a familiar face. If you remember from one of my previous posts, I was wondering who this girl was. On this postcard you can see the whole picture and -lo and behold- her name: Miss Edna May! Edna May Pettie (September 2, 1878 – January 1, 1948), known on stage as Edna May, was an American actress and singer. A popular postcard beauty, May was famous for her leading roles in Edwardian musical comedies.

May was born in Syracuse, New York to Edger and Cora Pettie. Her father was a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier. At the age of 5, she played Little Willie Allen in a production of Dora. The next year, her performances "charmed a number of audiences lately with her child voice". By the age of 7, she had joined a children's opera company and performed Gilbert and Sullivan productions in Syracuse. She studied music at the New York Conservatoire as a teenager.

May made her professional debut in 1895 in Si Stebbings in Syracuse. She then moved to New York to take the small role of Clairette in Oscar Hammerstein's Broadway show, Santa Maria. That year, she married Fred Titus, who held a world record for cycling. They had no children and divorced in 1904.

In 1897, May played Violet Grey in The Belle of New York with only moderate success. The following year, the production played in London, becoming a hit and running for 697 performances, making May a star. May was known for her beauty and received tremendous attention from male admirers. She was involved in a passionate but failed relationship with Prince Raj Narayan Bahadur (of the erstwhile kingdom of Cooch Behar in India) but could not marry him due to his parent's disapproval as she did not belong to one of India's royal families. Finally, in 1907, she agreed to marry millionaire Oscar Lewisohn and retired from the stage. The couple settled in England. They had no children, and Lewisohn died in 1917.

May lived at Winkfield in Berkshire during her retirement, but made brief returns to the stage in 1911 benefit performances of The Belle of New York at the Savoy Theatre in London and 1915's The Masque of Peace and War in London. Also in 1911, she appeared in the film Forgotten; or An Answered Prayer. She starred in a 1916 film called Salvation Joan, donating the proceeds to charity. She died in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the age of 69.

The postcard was sent on 23 August 1904 from London and it reads: 'Tea for 4 on the balcony overlooking the river. The cake on the floor is not in the picture. Yours w.s. Charlie'. Take note of the placement of the stamp, I will make a post about this in due course.

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