Monsieur R. Bertin dans son Imitation de l'Excentrique "Polaire" (verso)
About the collection
Approximately 380 postcards portraying cross-dressing and female and male impersonators in France, Sweden, Austria, Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Italy, and Romania. Postcards include photographic and photomechanical prints, some hand-colored. All are printed between circa 1900 and 1930 and depict performers on amateur, café-concert, music-hall, and legitimate stages at the high-point of cross-dressing as a form of entertainment. Many depict gallant visual narratives of women being wooed by other women dressed as men. Additional postcards include humorous images, popular genre narratives, promotional portraits of theatrical and music-hall male and female impersonators, as well as World War I POW camp theatrical productions. Two postcards are credited to female photographers, Ilse Magenmiller (German) and Jessie Westbrook (American). Sets of postcards depict narrative sequences, including Joan of Arc, Les Cerises, Chasé-croisé, Idylle à Trianon, and Une Amourette Louis XV. One such sequence, Pierrot et Columbine (circa 1900), portrays a sexual ending with Columbine represented nude (in a pink body suit). Male and female impersonators featured include Robert Bertin, Jeanne Bloch, Leopoldo Fregoli, Monte Verdi, Louis Vernassier, Sarah Bernhardt, Gaby Deslys, John Graffton, Betti Kuhn, Hetty King, Zena Dare, Vesta Tilley, Winifred Ward, and Huntley Wright, among others.