This lithograph is a black and white bust portrait of the performer McKee Rankin. Below the portrait are the words “Opera House / Friday and Saturday Evenings / January 17th and 18th / Matinee Saturday (2 P?)" on the datebill, which is a label with the location and date of the performance. Unfortunately name of the opera house is missing.
Arthur "McKee" Rankin (ca 1841-1914) was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He made his theatrical debut in 1861 in Rochester, New York, using the name George Henley. He moved on to starring roles on the Philadelphia and New York stage, then headed west to California, where he established a repertory theater in San Francisco. Rankin was married to the actress Kitty Blanchard, and they became known as one of the nation’s most popular husband and wife acting teams. He appeared in a wide variety of roles, including Shakespearean dramas, minstrel shows, melodramas, Broadway productions and motion pictures. He was also a playwright, director, theater owner, and acting coach who became especially celebrated for his frontier dramas. An 1877 play about California miners, titled The Danites, or The Heart of the Sierras , featured a Mormon sect bent on avenging the death of their prophet Joseph Smith. The play has been hailed for injecting a new note of realism into American theater. A later play,49, was inspired by an uncle who joined the California Gold Rush in the mid nineteenth century and worked in a mining camp similar to those where Rankin performed as an actor. Although hailed as a daring and innovative artist, Rankin's risky financial investments and heavy drinking left him impoverished in his later years. Rankin's three daughters all married into noted theater families. Daughter Gladys married Sidney Drew, adopted son of Louisa Lane Drew. His daughter Phylis married Harry Davenport, the son of E. L. Davenport and brother to Fanny Davenport. His illegitimate daughter Doris married Lionel Barrymore, who was a grandson of Louisa Lane Drew.
This lithograph was produced by Henry Atwell Thomas. Henry Atwell Thomas (1834-1904) was an artist, portrait painter, and lithographer especially well known for his theatrical portraits. His New York firm was called H. A. Thomas Lith. Studio until 1887, when it became H. A. Thomas & Wylie Lithographic (sometimes cited as Lithography or Lithographing) Company.
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