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Sarah Bernhardt performs in Seattle on September 24, 1891.
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On the morning of September 24, 1891, actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), along with her company, arrives in Seattle on a special train to perform a four-act play, Fedora by Sardou.
The Divine Sarah
Bernhardt, called The Divine Sarah, was known as Queen of the French stage in classical and romantic tragedy. She arrived in a special 12-car train comprising three Pullman cars, two private cars, a day coach, five baggage cars, and the engine.
One of the Pullman cars was Mme. Bernhardt's personal car, a traveling home "fitted up in the most elaborate style" as "a palace on wheels." Her Pullman car, named Coronet, carried five traveling companions. Henry E. Abbey, Bernhardt's manager, and his wife and maid rode in the Pullman car named Hazelmere. Other members of the troupe rode in the third Pullman car, Alcatraz (Seattle P-I, September 24, 1891).
Bear Hunting in Seattle
Upon learning that bears lived in the vicinity, Sarah Bernhardt decided to go on a bear hunting expedition. Shortly after arriving in Seattle, she and a party of six plus three servants drove two carriages from downtown Seattle to the wilds of Green Lake. They rode through Woodland Park (owned by Guy Phinney) on their way to the Lake.
Before the hunt, Sarah Bernhardt went behind one of the carriages and changed out of her skirt into a "man's hunting attire -- [a white flannel shirt], a corduroy jacket and trousers, buckskin leggings and tan shoes ..." (Seattle P-I, September 25, 1891).
To top off her outfit, she chose a white cowboy hat from among the four hats she'd brought with her to the lake. Armed with numerous guns and a sumptuous lunch, the Bernhardt party got into boats and rowed along the west shore of the lake. They went ashore at a level grassy place shaded with trees.
"There lunch was spread out, the wine placed in a convenient spring to cool and all feasted heartily." After lunch Bernhardt and some of the party, with Seattle attorney Frank H. Jones as guide, went on a hunting expedition in the nearby "forest in rank profusion" (Seattle P-I, September 25, 1891).
They saw bear tracks but failed to sight a bear. After more than three hours in the woods, Sarah Bernhardt returned with a gray squirrel, a flicker, a blue jay, and several smaller birds. The party ended their excursion where they ate lunch. For a half hour they shot empty bottles thrown into the lake. The party returned to downtown Seattle shortly before 7 p.m.
A Brilliant Performance
That evening Sarah Bernhardt, a "woman of a thousand altering whims" gave a "brilliant performance" of the four-act play Fedora by Sardou (Seattle P-I, September 25, 1891). More than 1,500 attended a sold out, standing-room-only performance at Cordray's theater in downtown Seattle (located at 3rd Avenue and Madison Street). Tickets were expensive: Box seats sold for $50.00; first floor seats for $5.00; and balcony seats for $4.00 (front rows) and $3.00 (back rows). The tragedy in four acts is about Fedora, played by Bernhardt, avenging her lover's death.
The Play is in French
Few of the 1,500 in attendance understood the nuances of the play because it was performed in French. But the costumes were "rich, even magnificent," the scenery was "excellent," and the acting was, of course, supreme. Those in attendance gave "frequent and hearty applause" (Seattle P-I, September 25, 1891).
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 24, 1891, p. 8; Ibid., September 25, 1891, p. 8; The Seattle Telegraph, September 25, 1891, pp. 5, 12; Edwin Leonard Nelson, "The History of Road Shows in Seattle From Their Beginnings to 1914," (MA thesis, University of Washington, 1947), pp. 64-65.
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