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.


Mrs. Courtland H. Young

The September 22 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included this photo of a woman in the midst of a divorce:


This led me to wonder: who was Courtland H. Young?

Apparently, he was a magazine publisher in the 1920s. I found a three-part article on his life and his magazines here Рit describes the divorce and court proceedings of Young and the former Dorothea Campbell in great detail, including that he allegedly beat her and was constantly drunk. He was 50 and she was 24 at the time of the photo above.

The divorce finally went through in 1928, and Young passed away somewhat mysteriously in 1930.


Found way to health

The September 22 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this patent medicine ad:


As usual with patent medicine ads that contained a Toronto name and address, I looked in the Toronto city directories to check whether this was a real person. I discovered that the 1926 directory listed Edson Bradshaw at 413 Wellesley, so he actually existed.

However, Mr. Bradshaw might have just had a change of fortune. The 1925 directory lists him as a painter and decorator at 159 Bleecker, but the 1926 directory lists him with no occupation. Either the directory compiler didn’t record his job, or he was now out of work; if the latter, he might have been more likely to offer a paid endorsement to Tanlac.

I tracked Mr. Bradshaw for a bit:

  • In 1927, he was still listed at 413 Wellesley with no recorded occupation.
  • In 1928, he wasn’t listed at all, which appears ominous, but he reappears in the 1929 directory at 419 Leslie, still with no occupation.
  • In 1932, he was at 60 Saulter without an occupation, but the 1935 directory lists him as a painter and decorator again, at 26 Walpole.

I hope this meant that his misfortunes were now behind him, and that he was in good health, with or without Tanlac.

The Weird Universe site has an entry on Tanlac. Apparently, it had been exposed as a fraud in 1915, but continued to be sold for at least another 30 years.


Missing from home

The September 22 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this plea for help:


A search through the Runnymede section of the Toronto city directories revealed that her name was actually Alice Collinson, and her address was actually 22 Jillson Avenue. She appears in the 1927 and the 1928 city directories, which I hope means that somebody found her.

22 Jillson Avenue still stands, but appears to have been remodelled.