Bert Williams and George Walker: photograph slide show and gallery, 1896-1909 » Bert Williams and George Walker, 1896 “Old Virginia Cheroots” costumes (1)

Bert Williams as Shylock Homestead, In Dahomey, c. 1902-1903, NY (3) Williams & Walker, from Just an Old Friend of the Family sheet music cover, 1907

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Daniel Atkinson
    Nov 13, 2020 @ 16:22:09

    Do you know where the original is housed? I’m starting to hone in on the early days of Williams and Walker and there may be some clues in the metadata or writing on back of the original photograph.

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    • musicdoc1
      Nov 15, 2020 @ 02:45:00

      Hi Daniel,

      Good to hear from you. Hope you’ve been well. Are you still working on that book on George Walker? I’m afraid that I don’t recall the source of the image, and I don’t know where the original is housed. Also, have looked through my old image files and it appears that I didn’t keep the original file name, which could have revealed the source. I’ll take another look soon and see if I can come up with something.

      Yesterday I did find another image of Williams & Walker where George is wearing essentially the same outfit, with some minor differences (different hat, no ribbons on his cuffs, different color lapel flower, for example), at Wikimedia Commons, here. This second image is of much lower quality than the other, but it was evidently used to create the 1897 “Enjoy Yourselves” sheet music cover illustration.

      Regards,
      doc

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    • musicdoc1
      Nov 15, 2020 @ 14:56:00

      This second image is included in the 1943 edition of the book Negro Musicians and Their Music, by Maud Cuney-Hare (1st edition, 1936), in Chapter VIII Musical Comedy. While the “About This Edition” section at the end of this digital copy of the book says “Images that appeared in only one edition have been annotated,” and “Footnotes have been collected at the end of each chapter,” the only annotation I’ve found merely identifies the image as “Williams and Walker” and the location (1943 edition only) as “between” pp. 158-159.

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  2. Daniel Atkinson
    Jan 11, 2021 @ 15:55:32

    Doc,

    Sorry for the delay. I believe that the image above predates the image from “Enjoy Yourselves,” because of George’s trademark monocle. Once he started wearing it, he almost never took it off until reviewers grew tired of it at the end of the second In Dahomey tour in 1904. Also, the jacket that Bert is wearing in the above image was shared between the two of them. It was also worn by George in the first images of him from 1897 as featured in the sheet music cover of Bob Cole’s composition A Hot Coon from Memphis and in Cosmopolitan Magazine in September of the same year. If Williams and Walker were still sharing clothes, it must have been very early on, especially when one considers the fact that George brought twenty-one suits with him to Lawrence in August of that year. It was his first trip home since 1893 and he wanted to show out!

    The ‘Cosmo” image was made by the Joseph Hall studio in Brooklyn as indicated at the bottom of it. The interesting part is that Hall’s bread and butter was a contract with the American Tobacco Company for which he produced baseball cards to be inserted into packs of cigarettes and cigars. I recently found one in Australia and it’s on its way to me. My question now is, when were they made? One way that I have tried to determine what studio made the original portraits is by cross referencing the backdrops that were used. I know that backdrops and negatives were prized commodities and when studios were bought out, those were the first things to be snatched up. That’s why I asked the original question.

    Onward and upward,

    Daniel

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    • musicdoc1
      Jan 12, 2021 @ 01:24:07

      Daniel,

      Hi there! It’s clear that your investigation into the details of George’s life has taken you far deeper than I’ve gone. For example, I wasn’t aware at all of George’s attachment to the monocle for a period of years, or the impressive size of his wardrobe at a particular time. I do notice, though, that he’s wearing a monocle in only one of the six or seven Cavendish Morton photographs from 1903 (In Dahomey) that I’ve included in my Williams & Walker gallery. I don’t know if I’ve seen the sheet music for “A Hot Coon from Memphis” or the Cosmopolitan image from September 1897 that you mention, and was unable to locate them in quick searches just now, so I’ll take your word regarding the sharing of clothes by Williams and Walker, etc. I agree that the backdrops might be helpful in identifying the studio and dating the images.

      It was my understanding that the American Tobacco company images from which came the Old Virginia Cheroots lithographs, postcards, and trading cards (as I detailed here) were taken in 1896. Has that been established? If so, then these may very well chronologically precede the cited Maud Cuney-Hare photograph, and the similar images on the 1897 sheet music covers for “I ain’t ‘bliged to stan’ no [“n” word] foolin’” and “Enjoy Yourselves,” all of which have George in a similar outfit, but Bert dressed very differently than in the ‘Cheroots’ images.

      I might have found the ‘Cheroots’ photo, with both Williams and Walker in fancy dress, in an Google Books preview or a PDF file. If so, then I’ve likely included a link to the book or article in the resources sections of my Williams, Walker & Walker index and this Bert Williams page on the site. I’ll try to find some time to check those ASAP, although wrt Google Books there’s no guaranteeing that preview content previously available is still available.

      Regards,
      doc

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    • musicdoc1
      Jan 13, 2021 @ 19:56:22

      Daniel,

      I just found today a small but extraordinary collection of digital images, all portraits, the majority of which I hadn’t seen copies of before. I’d like to share these with you, but not here. These are of from a later date than the images we’ve been discussing. I’ll email you soon.

      ~doc

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  3. Daniel Atkinson
    Jan 15, 2021 @ 17:11:32

    Doc,

    The confusing thing about Williams & Walker in the early days is that they used some of the same photographs over and over again for a number of years. They worked like that until about 1900 when they started making new batches of photos every year for each show.

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    • musicdoc1
      Jan 15, 2021 @ 20:57:35

      Right, I guess it’s possible that the ‘Cheroots’ photo (the image above), and the Maud Cuney-Hare photograph, from which the illustrations on the 1897 sheet music cited above were evidently created, were each taken in 1896. Is there any possibility that they were taken before 1896? A later example of reuse of old photos would be a certain pair of images of Williams and Walker found on the cover of the 1899 sheet music for “He’s Up Against the Real Thing Now” being used again on the covers of 1901, 1902, and 1903 sheet music. Anachronistic use of Aida Overton Walker images occurred as well.

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      • Daniel Atkinson
        Jan 16, 2021 @ 13:17:30

        The photo session that produced the image from “Enjoy Yourselves” probably took place between 12/1896 & 2/1897, just before their first trip to London in mid-April. No later than 2/20 though because they were published in The Standard Magazine on that day. Anytime before that, they had no money and were sharing clothes because they were nearly lynched in Boulder, CO in late 1895 and had their costumes stolen by White miners. 1896 was a total bust until they got to Koster and Bial’s in late October of that year and it took a while for the money to come in.

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