The Witch of Tremont Row, 1900

As you can see, this is a cabinet card photograph of “Zoe Stouadenewich, Witch of Tremont Row. L. B. Walker, Manager.” The photograph is by Elmer Chickering (fl. 1885–1915; see his Wikipedia page here).

As you can see below, on the back of the card we are told that “Duplicates of the picture [are available] at any time” from “The Original Chickering Photographic Studio”: “Elmer Chickering, 21 West Street, Boston, Mass.” So, when you are in Boston, just pop down to West Street if you want one.

I have not been able to discover much at all about Zoe Stouadenewich. Another photograph of her appears in the McGown collection of 2540 theatrical photographs of circus and vaudeville acts, where it is catalogued here) as “Stouadenewich, Miss Zoe, The Kindergarden Co., 12.23.1889″ [i.e., 23 December 1889]. (Her photo is in Box 45, folder 11 of this collection.)

I have found a couple of newspaper references to “The Kindergarden Co.” in action giving “theatrical entertainments” in 1886 thanks to http://www.fultonhistory.com. The first reference, recorded in The Fulton Times, was “at the opera house … before small audiences … The actresses were each good in their respective parts, while the songs and duets were mostly new and well rendered.” The second, in The New York Dramatic Mirror, simply records that the company was in Buffalo NY.

A bit of digging online reveals that L. B. Walker was manager of the Nickelodeon, aka the Nickelodeon Musee and Parlor Theatre, 51–53 Hanover Street, Boston (which was established 1894). In 1900 the City Council granted a licence to “LB Walker (referred July 17), for a license for the Nickelodeon, for vaudeville entertainments and exhibition of freaks, at 51–53 Hanover St.” Also, The New York Clipper (8 May 1901): 239, informs us that Walker was presenting “The Fat Woman’s Bicycle Race … including six of the most ponderous riders in the world.” So, Walker was a vaudeville manager of freaks, fat ladies, and witches!

Tremont Row had been the home of photographers (in the 1840s Josiah Johnson Hawes opened Boston’s first photography studio there) and artists (the New England Art Union had its home at No. 38 in the 1850s, and Charles Hubbard kept a studio there from 1848 to 1856). By the late nineteenth century, through to the early twentieth century, numerous vaudeville and burlesque theaters made their home in the area—which (according to this site) eventually attracted the attention of Boston’s vice squad and after WW2 the whole area was flattened and redeveloped into a series of municipal government buildings!

Bringing this meagre amount of information together: it seems likely that Zoe was—from a young age—an actress, singer and vaudeville entertainer; that she was a member of a small theatre company that toured upstate NY in the late 1880s and a decade later had settled in an area of Boston thick with vaudeville theatres and entertainers.

We can assume that she adopted the moniker “The Witch of Tremont Row” for much the same reason as “la Sorcière Isoline”—”Le Voyante Musicienne” [The Witch Isoline—The Musical Visionary], who sang and told fortunes, or, as one of her promotional cards put it, she would reveal one’s “Destinée; Consils sur Héritages, Procès, Successions, Mariages, etc.” [Destiny; Inheritance, Lawsuits, Successions, Marriages, etc.]. For my two posts on Isoline see here and here.

The photograph does not contain the sort of witchy paraphernalia that we might expect today, but neither do the photographs of la sorcière Isoline. My attention was, however, captured by the above wishbone brooch.

* * * * *

The wishbone is symbolic of good luck and has been popular since the Victorian period. I have seen many silver and gold wishbone brooches, but they also came in gilded brass, either plain, or covered in seed-pearls, garnet, obsidian and other semi-precious stones, set with a large central stone, or combined other symbols or motifs. Below are a handful of examples from the Victorian/Edwardian period onwards (NB, below right, wishbone with citrine, seed-pearls, etc). Unfortunately, it is not clear what symbol or stone has been added to Zöe’s wishbone. (Shape-wise, the closest match is the brass and citrine brooch—available for only USD34.00 here.)

Wishbone brooches were popular as memento or Mizpah jewellery. As this site says, “Since [the Victorian/Edwardian period] was an era of great exploration and travel over vast distances, many pieces of Mizpah jewellery was made”: so we find examples with national symbols attached, as above left (clover-leaf for Ireland, map of Australia and Koala for Australia, thistle for Scotland).

The message is, then, good luck from/in Ireland/Scotland/Australia etc. Like convict love tokens (see here), these pieces of jewelry carry a message of affection for or from loved ones who have been left behind. In more recent times, below, we get cheap tourist memento pins which carry a similar but uch more superficial message, and usually in a more literal way “[good luck from] Plymouth” or “Edinburgh”. Others (as above, bottom left) have unrelated symbols, such as a banjo, which may mean something like “good luck playing the banjo”!

* * * * *

Returning to Zöe, it is quite possible that she is wearing a good luck charm from her homeland. With a name like Stouadenewich she could be from many places in Europe: Germany, Norway or Sweden: Stauden being “perennial” in German and Staden being “town” or “city” in Norwegian and Swedish. Then again, it could be a more general good luck charm—appropriate for a witch—or it could just be decorative. Certainly, Zöe herself is quite attractive and the wishbone looks lovely on her.

[And if anyone claims—as they have previously about Isoline—that Zöe is a man in drag, I will scream. Although this site is called sexy witch, not every woman on it who is not eye-poppingly gorgeous is a man in drag!]

4 Responses to “The Witch of Tremont Row, 1900”

  1. Well, you’ve asked for it. I live near a region in Suebia called “the Stauden”, the name represents the typical perennial plants there:

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staude

    Here are some photos:

    http://www.panoramio.com/user/4655069

    What are the odds, the name of the user means “Witch from the Stauden”. For a good reason, the capital of the region was an epicenter of the German witchhunt. Our most famous witch was Agnes Bernauer:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Bernauer

    Called a witch for being sexy… now I’ll try to pull a bunny out of my tophat… Tadaaa!

    An Italian B-movie based on the story of Agnes Bernauer:

    http://www.cinemedioevo.net/Film/cine_strega_rodano.htm

    Magic? Did I already mentioned that one of my ancestors was actually a witchhunter? :-D

  2. Update: A French B-Movie.

  3. Update: I was looking for a DVD, here’s a description in English:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0137856/

    And the “remake” features ONE sexy witch, Brigitte Bardot:

    Yes, delete these comments and make a blog entry from that… ;-)

  4. I think she IS beautiful. Magazine cover models have one kind of beauty, and Zoe Stouadenewich has another kind. She doesn’t look anything like a man.

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