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Kate Claxton

Kate Claxton

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This black and white print is a bust portrait of the actress Kate Claxton. She is wearing a high neck top, her dark hair loose in the back, and a hat that appears to have an attached blonde hair piece attached on top. Her signature is used as the title and is written below the portrait.
Kate Claxton (1848-1924) was born Kate Elizabeth Cone in Somerville, New Jersey. After making her stage debut in Chicago in 1869, she played with two stock companies, Daly’s Fifth Avenue Company and the Union Square Company in New York. She frequently played comic roles but sealed her reputation as a serious actress in 1874 starring as the blind woman Louise in The Two Orphans. She toured with the play until 1903 and eventually sold film rights to the director D. W. Griffith, who adapted it into his final epic film under the title Orphans of the Storm. In 1876 a fire broke out during a performance of the play at the Brooklyn Theatre in New York, and although the cast tried to carry on with the show, the panicked audience began to stampede. More than 200 people were killed, and the theater was destroyed. Claxton escaped a second deadly fire in a St. Louis, Missouri hotel in 1877, as well as other minor fires, causing some people to call her “the fire witch.”
The illustrator Thomas Nast tried to defend her reputation in a celebrated Harpers Weekly cartoon, but the claim that she was a source of bad luck continued to haunt her career. She tried to overcome the stigma by turning to production and theater management and eventually resumed performing in The Two Orphans . She suffered a series of tragedies in her private life, including the death from pneumonia of one son and the suicide of another. She also was forced to declare bankruptcy twice. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of seventy-four.
This lithograph was produced by Armstrong and Company. The firm was established in Boston in 1872 by Charles Armstrong. Armstrong was born in London in 1836, came to the United States in 1836, and worked for the lithographer Louis Prang from 1869-71 before going into partnership with John E. Green and Daniel McLellan in Boston. Their trade card described them as "artistic lithographers." They specialized in chromos for scientific works as well as sporting subjects. Their head artist was William Harring von Ammon, who signed his prints W. Harring. They closed their business in 1897.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Claxton, Kate
Armstrong and Company
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
image: 17 in x 16 1/2 in; 43.18 cm x 41.91 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Peters Prints
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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