Sunday, July 24, 2011

a famous opera singer traveling America in her own Pullman Palace Car, perhaps one of the most elegantly decorated, described below (anyone got pictures?)

Apart from the great legend of her voice, Adelina Patti was a very much larger-than-life character ... and a very astute business woman, she traveled the global for her work. But such travel then had it's hazards - not the least being the assurance of payment of a fee after a performance. For Patti, $5000 a night at the height of her powers.

The diva's solution was was novel and affective - that was to insist on her salary in gold before going on stage. Once, when offered only half before a performance, Patti put on one shoe and one foot on stage ... and declared she'd don on the other and begin the performance when the rest arrived. It did.

it remained for the Mann Boudoir-Car Company, to produce in Adelina Patti's car a decor which would have gratified Hollywood today and which assuredly popped the eyes of a less sophisticated generation of admirers. Oscar Lewis is authority for the statement that whenever her professional occasions brought her to the Golden Gate and her car was spotted at Oakland Mole, scores of San Franciscans were in the habit of making the ferry trip across the bay just to gaze on its glossy exterior and speculate on its internal wonderments.

The car was built on contract for the Mann Company by the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Company of Troy, New York, and delivered in December 1883. It was only 55 ft. long, almost diminutive by twentieth century standards, with three rooms en suite and a bath with tub.

During one of her San Francisco visits, Mme. Patti permitted the car's interior to be described by a reporter as follows:
 The hammered gold and silver effect of the sides and ceiling was in a design of morning glories. The parlor was lighted by plate glass windows and a gold lamp which hung from above. The windows were ornamented with designs representing the four seasons. The hand-carved piano of natural wood corresponded with the rest of the woodwork in the room. There was a couch with satin pillows ornamented with bows and lace tidies opposite the piano. A Square table covered with plush, stood in the center and all around were easy chairs of luxurious depth. Mme. Patti's bedroom was largely pink. The paneling was of satinwood, inlaid with ebony, gold and amaranth. Bevelled mirrors were abundant and the couch had a silk-plush cover of gold embroidered with trailing pink rosebuds and with the monogram "A.P." in the same delicate shade. Over the velvet carpet, beside the bed, was a leopard skin. A stand was mounted with silver and a small bathtub was concealed from view by mirrored doors. There was a closet containing the table service of solid silver, china and glass -- all with the diva's monogram.

a limited number of notabilities were allowed to inspect her car, which had cost L12,000. It was without doubt the most superb and tasteful coach on wheels anywhere in the world. The curtains were of heavy silk damask, the walls and ceilings covered with gilded tapestry, the lamps of rolled gold, the furniture throughout upholstered with silk damask of the most beautiful material. The drawing-room was of white and gold, and the ceiling displayed several figures painted by Parisian artists of eminence. The woodwork was sandal wood, of which likewise was the casing of a magnificent Steinway piano, which alone had cost 2,000 dollars. There were several panel oil paintings in the drawing-room, the work of Italian artists. The bath, which was fitted for hot and cold water, was made of solid silver. The key of the outer door was of 18-carat gold.

The car was rented to MMe. Patti on a per diem basis and carried her name both as a tribute to the occupant and as publicity for the Mann Company. When Pullman took over Col. Mann's company and its useful patents in 1889, the Pullman Company retained its original name and continued to rent it to the singer for her tours and it was at this time that the discovery was made that papier-mache had been extensively used in its interior appointments that had hitherto been believed rare woodwork. On December 23, 1901, the Adelina Patti, by now shorn of the glory of that name and plainly known as Coronet, was sold for $3,800 to Fitzhugh & Company, who specialized in circus and carnival equipment, and it disappear from human ken.

Mme. Patti lived up to every implication of artistic temperament suggested by this decor and once, during the Pullman ownership of the car, complained that the faucet leaked and ruined a number of costumes reposing in the tub at the moment.

Adelina Patti fees were stupendous, and one agent protested that she was asking more per month than the President of the U.S. got per year. "Well, then," said Patti stonily, "let him sing."

Thanks Mary!
If anyone has pictures, please email me !

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