The world’s greatest basso

Here’s an ad from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for both Heintzman pianos and an upcoming appearance by an opera singer.

Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) was a Russian basso who often worked with composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. His signature role was the title role in Boris Gudanov. While based in Russia, he maintained two separate families, one in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg.

As a result of the Russian revolution of 1917, he remained outside of his home country after 1921, eventually settling in Paris. His Wikipedia page states, “He was renowned for his larger-than-life carousing during this period, but he never sacrificed his dedication to his art.” Good for him!

He passed away in 1938, and was buried in Paris. In 1984, his body was transferred from Paris to Moscow in an elaborate ceremony. YouTube has some recordings of him, including this one from 1931.


The first mother

Here’s an ad from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star in which Bovril was endorsed by the first mother to swim the English Channel.

Amelia Gade Corson (1897-1982) was from Copenhagen, but emigrated to the United States in 1919. She swam around Manhattan Island and from Albany to New York before first attempting the English Channel in 1923. She got to within two miles of her goal before the tides pushed her a further five miles away.

In 1926, Ms. Corson’s swim was financed by a businessman who paid $3000 in expenses and then made a $5000 bet with Lloyd’s of London that she would make it across, collecting $100,000 when she did it. Her feat earned her a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

Ms. Corson’s Wikipedia page claims that her husband, rowing behind her, fed her hot chocolate, sugar lumps, and crackers as she swam the Channel. I suppose that the hot chocolate might very well have contained Bovril.


Masterpieces for sale

Here’s a photo from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a 13-year-old boy making his living selling paintings in Paris.

Searches turned up no references to Rene Seguin, either as a child or as an adult. I have no idea what happened to him, but if he was selling paintings at the age of 13 instead of being in school, I fear that life was tough for him.


From Albany to New York

Here’s a photograph from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a woman who was planning to swim the Hudson River.

A search for Charlotte Moore Schoemmell (known as Lotty or Lottie) turned up a number of results, including:

  • Her Find a Grave entry, which indicated that she was born in 1895 and passed away in 1966. By the time of this photo, she was the mother of a seven-year-old child (after having her first child die in infancy).
  • Her entry in the Openwaterpedia website, which mentions that she swam the 251 kilometres down the Hudson River over 11 days, eating lumps of sugar soaked in whiskey for energy. In 1926, she also swam around Manhattan Island.
  • A page with a lot of links to stories about Ms. Schoemmell, including that she floated for 31 consecutive hours, swam for 72 consecutive hours, was sued by her sister for recovery of swimming-related expenses, and left her sister a dollar in her will. She also preferred to swim wearing a bathing cap, a whole lot of axle grease, and nothing else, which some considered scandalous.

The last link is to a page on a site that claims that distance swimmer Diana Nyad is a fraud. Her Wikipedia page doesn’t contain any accusations of fraud, but does mention that she is a descendant of the inventor of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup and that she attempted several times to swim from Cuba to Florida when in her sixties.


British secretary

Here’s a photograph of a somewhat severe-looking woman that appeared on the front page of the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.

A search for her turned up the following useful information:

  • A biography of her on the Women in Peace website. Ms. Gardner was born in Leeds, England, in 1863, so she would have been 63 years old at the time of this photograph. She passed away in 1944.
  • A description of a COPEC conference in Birmingham, England, in 1924. Fifteen hundred attendees were at this conference, including Ms. Gardner, who apparently fell out of bed the first night of the conference in a state of ecstatic delirium.

Son of James Monroe

Here’s a photo from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who claimed to be the son of an American president and to be 111 years old.

Needless to say, there was no definitive documentary proof that Major Monroe was who he said he was or that he was as old as he claimed to be. President Monroe had three documented children, born between 1786 and 1802; if Major Monroe had been born in 1815, he would have been born when the president’s wife was 47 years old. (There’s no record of whether the major claimed to be a legitimate or illegitimate son.)

A search turned up the following:

  • His Find a Grave entry, which states that he passed away in 1949 at what he claimed to be 133 years old, and that he was buried in Gravely Hill cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • An article that states that Major Monroe is not, in fact, buried in Gravely Hill.
  • A photo of Major Monroe going for his morning swim in 1924, when he was claiming to be 109.


Direct descendant of Jenny Lind

Here’s a photo from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a woman who was a descendant of the famous Swedish opera star Jenny Lind:

A search turned up very little on Lucille Chalfant, except the sad news that she committed suicide in Berlin in 1932. She had the leading role in Greenwich Village Follies in 1922; a recording of her from that year exists.


Canada’s outstanding gun value

At earlier times in Toronto’s history, guns were more easy to buy than they are now. As proof, consider this ad from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

The firm of Allcock, Laight & Westwood turns out to have been a long-term fixture in Toronto, with their primary specialization being fishing tackle. This blog post indicates that the firm first opened its doors in the city in 1854. The 1867 Toronto city directory lists it as Allcock & Laight. By 1880, Benjamin Westwood had added his name to the firm; he remained in charge of the Toronto operations of the company until about 1920.

The firm moved to its 230 Bay location sometime in the 1920s after being at 78 Bay at the start of the decade. It remained at 230 Bay until about 1960. By 1963, it was operating out of its factory location in Leaside; by the end of the decade, it was gone.

The Toronto Public Library has a collection of some of the firm’s catalogues.


Stephen Leacock’s new home

Here’s a photograph from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of the palatial new home of humorist Stephen Leacock.

Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) was widely considered the most famous English-speaking humorist in the world between about 1915 and 1925, and is still considered a Canadian cultural icon by many. His most famous work is probably Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, published in 1912.

His political viewpoints were controversial and possibly even contradictory. He opposed giving the vote to women and was staunchly pro-British to the point of being racist. On the other hand, he strongly supported social welfare and wealth distribution legislation.

The house shown in this photograph is now the Stephen Leacock Museum. Tours are available.


Peggy’s fifth capture

Here’s a photograph from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring a Scottish peer who was possibly about to marry again.

The “Peggy de Joyce” mentioned here is almost certainly Peggy Hopkins Joyce, who had been married four times by 1928 and was single at the time this photograph was taken. (She has appeared in this blog before.) But David Carnegie, the 11th Earl of Northesk (1901-1963) did not marry her – he married Elizabeth Vlasto in 1929.

The Earl won a bronze medal in the 1928 Winter Olympics in the skeleton event. During the Second World War, he served in the Intelligence Corps. He died childless; his cousin succeeded him as the Earl of Northesk.