Post 4. On the Continent and to Australia

In this post you will see more photographs from Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. Also some in Holland where some children are seen accompanying Vulcana.  We then move on to the Australia tour!

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Visiting famous landmarks.

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Here they are outside a theatre called Le Scala, Paris. (above) It was a hall of 340 m 2 and contained about 1400 seats. It was topped by a removable glass dome.

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The Olympia Music Hall Paris (above) was opened in 1889 but was given the name Olympia in 1893.

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As well as France they travelled to Holland and Spain. The next four photographs are in Holland.

(Thanks to a kind reader of this blog I now know that one or more of these photos below is the De Noord windmill in Rotterdam)

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The next four pictures show Vulcana with a baby and a young child. I think this may be in Spain as it is recorded that they performed there but I have no idea where. The first two show her with what looks like a nanny who has a baby in her arms. I know Vulcana travelled with the children when they were small. The wonderful fountain in the background has eluded me so far and I would love to know where it is so if anyone out there knows where it is please tell me! It has a least four raging bulls who look about to leap over the waterfall and must be so impressive in real life. (I have just discovered with the help of one of my readers that this beautiful fountain is actually in Marseille, it is The Palais Longchamp Marseille) The next picture is with the same baby and nanny in front of a monument in Marseille called the Monument Des Mobiles.

Here in the fourth photograph we can see she has a small girl of about four or five years old with her and at least some of her companions are members of the troupe.

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The Palais Longchamp in Marseille, France.

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Above is the Monument Des Mobiles, a war memorial built in memory of solidiers from Marseille who died in the Franco-Prussian War.

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Above Vulcana with one of her daughters and friends or troupe members.

1903

This is the year the troupe left Britain for Australia. It seems a very big leap to go from the continent to the Antipodes but I figured out how this happened! Whilst doing some research I read the book “Marie Lloyd – Queen of the Music-Halls” by Richard Anthony Baker. In it he states that Marie was booked to appear in Australia by Harry Rickards. This man had been a comic singer in the Music Halls but had got into financial difficulties and was declared bankrupt in the 1860’s.

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He fled to Australia to avoid his creditors and there he found success as an impresario, eventually opening the Tivoli in Sydney in 1893 where he booked many British Music Hall artistes at top rates. In time he paid back all the money he owed in England. Apparently Marie Lloyd was not keen to visit Australia but Rickards made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. “Sign up with me for three months and if you aren’t absolutely struck with Australians and their country, if you have one homesickness pang, then I will release you on a moment’s notice and pay you for the full three months” (Lloyds Sunday News 1922) Marie was offered £250 per week and her lover was paid £100 per week to support her. This was a phenomenal amount for that time. I checked on a currency inflation site and was staggered to find that £250 in 1901 is equivalent to £24,472.02 today. So she earned over £24,000 pound per week!! The boyfriend got £10,988.81 to accompany her. I was absolutely shocked when I read this.

So as you can imagine I began to think perhaps it was this man who asked Atlas and Vulcana to appear in Australia. It was only when I managed to get the glass slides converted to photographs that it was confirmed. There are many pictures of the troupe outside the Music halls owned by him so it was Harry Rickards who tempted them to travel so far afield. They may not have commnded the same sort of fee but I imagine it was an astonishing amount that was offered with the same promise that he would release them from the contract if they wanted to return home. So it was decided to take the troupe half way around the world. The family story is that on the voyage Vulcana was so sea sick that she almost died. They must have had some stopovers on the way. At that time steam ships were in use and it is possible that they traveled via the Suez Canal which had reduced the duration of travel to around 35 to 40 days. To someone who suffered dreadful sea sickness it must have seemed an eternity to be a sea for around six weeks! The couple of photographs below appear to be in Indonesia somewhere as the clothing of the natives indicates, so perhaps this was a stopover. The onlookers seem rather bemused at these Victorian sightseers with their camera!

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This last picture is of Vulcana sitting with four older men on the deck of a ship which appears to be part steam and part sail. Which voyage this is isn’t clear, I doubt if it is the one that took them to Australia but it may be one of the ships that ferried the troupe around the coast of Australia on their tour.

Here is the photograph that proved my theory true, that it was Harry Rickards that invited them to Australia. It is the “New Tivoli Theatre” in Sydney which he had opened in 1893. His name can be seen above the theatre name.

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A poster for Atlas & Vulcana can be seen on the left of the balcony.

In the next three pictures you can see another of his theatres. I am not sure what town or city this is but they performed in his theatres in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Freemantle and smaller venues in-between.

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Above poster from Coolgardie, Western Australia.

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Above are a couple of posters, one for the New Tivoli Sydney and the other for another of his theatres in Coolgardie Western Australia.

Vulcana and Atlas must have enjoyed their trip to Australia and seeing Harry Rickards. Whether they knew him before he left for Australia I don’t know but he had been a star of the British Music Halls and was a boisterous and impressive character whose real name was Benjamin Leete. His image was known for his huge side burns and moustache, the side burns reached mid chest and his specialty was comic songs. Now he was a successful impresario with a chain of theatres and he cashed in on the spread of Music Hall popularity down under. He paid off his debts in Britain and gained a reputation for being a generous employer. He enticed many British artistes to his halls including the Melbourne Opera House.

I believe these next pictures are of Vulcana with Harry Rickards who now has a large white beard.

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The second picture below shows Vulcana with what appears to be a white cockatoo on her shoulder and it is possibly at Rickards home.

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The above is an interesting photograph as it shows Vulcana and Atlas in a car called a De Dion Bouton “Vis a Vis” it is said that this was the first car imported to New South Wales in 1900. There was no steering wheel, but a tiller system instead, and the 3.5 horse power engine could produce speeds of anything up to 25mph. The four-seater French-made Vis-a-Vis vehicle was so named because the seats were made facing each other.
It is strange to see two passengers sitting facing the driver and it appears that Vulcana is driving it as she has her hand on the tiller instead of a steering wheel. I don’t know if she ever drove any car but she was game enough to try I am sure!

The Vulcana  sculptures

She must have caused a stir among the Australian public as she was asked to sit for a famous Sydney sculptor called Nelson Illingworth. He made two busts of Vulcana whilst she was in Australia and the following photographs show the process and results.

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Here we can see the hair ornament used in the sculpture.

These pictures are of the one sculpture which was the most detailed. The five photographs show the progress of the bust modelling by the sculptor. The hair decoration is one she often used and can be seen in other photographs. My father vividly remembers holding this hair decoration in his childhood.

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This photograph clearly shows the hair ornament modeled in the sculpture.

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2 thoughts on “Post 4. On the Continent and to Australia

  1. Hi! First of all, thanks a lot for putting up this website and sharing so much info on Kate/Vulcana and all those glorious photos. It’s priceless for someone interested in Victorian/Edwardian times and women of those eras. Before finding your site I wasn’t even aware that strongwomen existed back then. It makes her life’s story even more incredible when you put it in that perspective, to think that she had managed to have such life and career in dark times when women were looked down upon as ‘the weaker sex’ (also mentally), devoid of career opportunities and right to vote.
    Also looking from 21st century perspective we can appreciate the fact that Vulcana like all weightlifters/sportspeople of sports in her time exercised and build her muscles naturally, that is without using any nutrients, anabolics, supplements etc like all the Misters and Misses Olympias of current, ‘chemical bodybuilding’ era which is still raging on. She looked natural, because she was natural. What really makes her strong woman to me though, is not her muscles and weight-lifting feats but how she managed to balance her (crowded) family life* with such illustrious career.

    I did a bit of detective work to identify the places in some of these photos.

    1. That windmill is De Noord and that city is Rotterdam.
    2. That magnificent fountain is at the center of Palais Longchamp in Marseille.
    3. The column, that’s Marseille again, it’s Monument Des Mobiles, a war memorial built in memory of soldiers from Marseille who died in Franco-Prussian war.

    Again, thanks for the good work you did already. I’m looking forward to read Vulcana’s biography one day.

    All the best,
    Marcin

    *giving birth and bringing up 6 (SIX!!!) children is a feat in itself that no strongman can ever best!

    1. Thank you so much Marcin for your very informative comment. I have been swamped with spam and have only just found your comment which gives me so much information about the pictures and where they are situated. You have been so helpful and I am very grateful to you as now I have some one who wants to write a book and I will be providing her with all this information. I just hope it goes ahead in the near future> Bet wishes, Jane Hunt

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