Usage conditions apply
This black and white print is a bust portrait of an actor Billy Florence wearing a suit and jewelry in the shape of a horseshoe. Below the print the words “Park Theatre, / Saturday, March 11th” appear to have been pasted on, but part of the printing is destroyed.
William J. (Billy) Florence (1831-1891) was an Irish American performer, song writer and playwright. He was born William Jermyn Conlin (his birth name is cited in some sources as Bernard Conlin) in Albany, New York and raised in New York City. He broke into show business working as a call boy at the Old Bowery Theater while rehearsing plays at night. Florence made his professional debut in Richmond, Virginia in 1849 in The Stranger and returned to New York to perform in Home in 1850. His unassuming charm, skill at imitating various dialects and ability to convey the humanity of his characters all helped him win over audiences. He married actress Malvina Pray (1831-1906) in 1853, and the two frequently appeared together, with Florence playing the part of an Irishman and Malvina Pray as that of a Yankee. In 1836, Florence launched a successful national tour starring in The Ticket-of-Leave Man, a detective melodrama about a former convict. He and Pray also scored a hit in an 1875 play called The Mighty Dollar, which was inspired by her observations of wealthy Americans abroad. They performed together in the play more than 2500 times during the 1870s and 1880s. In his later years, Florence formed a comedy act with actor Joseph Jefferson. His stage name was inspired by his love for Florence, Italy, where he had an apartment. Billy Florence was also a Freemason and has been credited with co-founding the Shriners, whose official name was the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
This lithograph was produced by the artist Joseph E. Baker and Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company. Joseph E. Baker (1837-1914) was a lithographer, cartoonist and pencil portraitist who became especially well known for an 1860 portrait of Abraham Lincoln. He began his printing career as an apprentice at J. H. Bufford & Co. in 1857, and eventually became John Bufford’s principal draftsman and illustrator of sheet music. During the Civil War Baker produced political cartoons and lithographs for Bufford. He also did playbills and advertisements for the Forbes Company. Baker later worked for Armstrong & Company, remaining active until 1888.
The Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company was founded by William H. Forbes (ca 1836-1915), who immigrated to the United States from Liverpool, England in 1848. Forbes became an apprentice in the lithography business while still a boy and established William H. Forbes and Company in Boston in 1861. The firm expanded to become Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company in 1875 with hundreds of employees and offices in Boston, New York, Chicago, and London. During World War II the company became a major printer of allied military currency but went out of business later in the twentieth century.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Florence, William Jermyn
Baker, Joseph E.
Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
image: 22 in x 17 in; 55.88 cm x 43.18 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
Peters Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object