Merry Martha Sleeper Jewelry & Fashions

At first I was going to post this photo of Clara Bow posing by a Christmas tree because of the fabulous decorations and stuffed toys; but once I saw this photo of Martha Sleeper I was equally smitten!

Martha Sleeper was a silent film star in the 1920s and, in the 1940s, a Broadway actress. But collectors may know her best as a jewelry designer.

Her whimsical designs in Bakelite, wood and metal were mass-produced by the New England Novelty Company. (Decades later, in the 1970s, Andy Warhol would find and adore her creations, amassing one the largest collections and resurrecting the demand for vintage Bakelite jewelry in general.)

These are snippets on Sleeper’s jewelery from a beauty and fashion column published in the Mansfield News Journal on April 17, 1940:

An ad for Martha Sleeper’s jewelry found in the Racine Journal Times November 10, 1939 — only $1!

Another ad, with an image, of Sleeper jewelry designs; The Salt Lake Tribune, October 10, 1941:

In 1949, Sleeper and her husband sailed on a 40-foot schooner from from New York for a vacation in the Virgin Islands, but when she reached Puerto Rico she fell in love with the island — and stayed. By 1950, Sleeper had given up making jewlery (“too tedious”) for making fashions and had opened “Martha Sleeper Creates,” a boutique at 101 Fortaleza St. in Old San Juan.

The shop began “with two dozen hand-made skirts and three dozen blouses  and filled up the gaps in the place with plants. People thought I had a florist shop and for the first year, I couldn’t sell anything but greens .” (Quotes from Cumberland Evening Times, May 27, 1955; below.)

By 1955, her fashions, and accessories such as purses etc., were exported to other islands and the mainland.  Below is an article from Billings Gazette, July 1, 1964, on Martha Sleeper’s lace fashions:

By 1964, Sleeper is said to have also opened a shop in Palm Beach, Florida.

Image Credits:

Vintage Martha Sleeper birds on twig pin from Decotini.

Vintage Martha Sleeper matchsticks necklace and bracelet set via ModBag.

Pair of vintage Bakelite cat pins by Martha Sleeper via halsll.

Black Martha Sleeper Creates label via Vintage Fashion Guild Forums.

White Martha Sleeper Creates For You label from Bonnie & Clyde’s Treasure Trove Vintage.

Julia Marlowe, Selling Stuff From Head To Toe

My mom has listed these pair of Julia Marlowe boots.

Julia Marlowe (August 17, 1865 – November 12, 1950) was a famous stage actress.

But why would a famous Shakespearean actress lend her name to a shoe? Was she just a heel? *wink*

The best I can do share the following tantalizing tidbits…

One, as for the shoes specifically, in 1903 Marlowe was a big hit in Ingomar, prompting The New York Sun to say, “There is not a woman player in America or in England that is – attractively considered – fit to unlace her shoe.”

A lovely compliment bestowed to Marlowe that no doubt had Milwaukee’s Rich Shoe Company thinking Marlowe was a shoe-in for sales and that they’d make a lovely pair.

Two, then, as now, celebrities liked to make money by endorsing products. In Testimonial Advertising Using Movie Stars in the 1910s: How Billie Burke Came to Sell Pond’s Vanishing Cream in 1917, Leslie Midkiff DeBauche writes:

A survey of the advertising in the Ladies’ Home Journal shows that in the 1890s spokespersons were usually woman, mainly in their thirties or forties. They included actresses, like Julia Marlowe who was in her thirties and had gained prominence performing in respectable Shakespearean repertoire. She endorsed a shirt waist made by Schlesinger & Mayer (Advertisement 1898, 36), Freeman’s Face Powder (Advertisement 1900, 37), a book entitled “A Bride and a Brindle,” with its attendant engravings (Advertisement 1903, 43) and both “Julia Marlowe” shoes and oxfords made by the Rich Shoe Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (Advertisement 1897, 42).

(I so want that vintage face powder to add to my collection!)

So it’s one, two, sell that shoe!

If you’re as fascinated as I am, look for more Julia Marlowe collectibles!

Image Credits:

Photos of Julia Marlowe shoes via No Egrets Antiques (my parents).

Julia Marlowe Eureka Craddock’s Medicated Blue Soap Playing Card, circa 1903, via Things & Other Stuff.

Julia Marlowe shoe ad, 1897 Sear’s catalog, via Funky Boutique.

Other antique photos of Julia Marlowe from NYPL Digital Gallery.

News For Silent Film Fans & Collectors

Silent film collector Mary Ann Cade has been contacted by a researcher who is working on a BBC documentary for UK television about Hollywood Photography:

As part of the programme, we are recreating 7 important images that tell the history of Movie star photography in Hollywood.

Our first image is the above still of Theda Bara.

After googling around on line, I came across some information that said you have some of the items Theda wore in the photo. Is that so? I’d love to hear more about it. We’re right at the start so I am trying to gather as much information about each of the images. I’d love to hear about your research.

The program is tentatively titled Shooting the Stars: Hollywood Photography; I’m very eager to see what the other six images will be selected and to see the documentary!

Also, because of my 2008 interview with Cade about Annette Kellermann, Cade was contacted by glass lantern slide collector Rob, who shared not only this glass lantern slide promoting Queen of the Sea

But this bit of news too:

I am currently researching a book on the subject of lantern slides and their use as an advertising medium for motion pictures, and in conjunction with that I am developing a web site (

So there’s a new site to keep an eye on — and, hopefully, a new book!

Alice White, I Hardly Knew Ye (But I Want Your Furnishings & Your Little Dog Too)

One of the great things about collecting old photographs are the things in the photos — not only the objects and persons the photographer intended you to focus on, but the little extras which make the scene. Like in this vintage photo of Alice White.

Clearly designed to promote the movie star, but (as pretty as the Ms White is, as cute as her little white dog is) I’m drooling over the rather eclectic mix of furnishings in the frame.

Revel in the mix of patterns and textures, including the walls, the upholstery, the lace tablecloth, and the wicker Ms White sits on.

Check out the pretty mirror in her hand (more objects from the vanity set appear to be on the table — a table covered in a lace cloth, with suggestive legs beneath it, making me wonder just how wonderful that old round table is!). I just wish the mirror wasn’t preventing us from seeing more of that dress…

But it’s that fabulous art deco lamp which has me sitting-up pretty and panting, begging like her canine companion. Look at that final, the base, and that shade! All those spheres!

Rescuing Silent Film: Christel Holch

While searching for Valkyrien’s 1916 presumed to be lost silent film The Hidden Valley, Mary Ann Cade came across some unknown film fragments through a link listed at

The photos of fragments of film, found in a Hungarian archive, resembled the known plot of The Hidden Valley, and the striking actress in the antique film images looked like Valkyrien…

But while the pretty actress was not Valkyrien, nor the film The Hidden Valley, with the help of the Danish Film Institute, Mary Ann Cade was able to get the old film frames or fragments identified as being from the Nordisk film Oldtid og Nutid aka The Dream (1915), starring Danish actress Christel Holch (and Frederik Jacobsen).

Colorful 1935 Dixie Premium Photos awesome eye candy for collectors

After recently acquiring a batch of 1935 Movie Star Dixie Premium Photos … and, of course, making them available for sale … I wanted to revisit the popular collectibles one more time, something I see I most recently did last April on the VintageMeld.

1935 Katharine Hepburn Dixie Premium Photo

That post is more centered around Tom Popelka’s excellent Dixie Premiums Checklist book which is my go-to guide whenever I pick up a batch of Dixie’s. As Tom writes in his entertaining forward where he otherwise tells stories of collecting Dixie’s as a youth:

Most collectors do not know which year a premium or lid belongs in. There is also a lack of knowledge of how to identify the year a premium was issued … Other oddities exist as well.

Mr. Popelka’s checklist indentifies not only all of the Movie Star Dixie Premiums issued between 1933-1953, but also includes checklist pages for each of the non-film related Dixie issues such as Zoo Animals, America Attacks, Defend America, other World War II themed issues, and the highly valued Baseball Dixies.

By the way, you may have noted the quote I’ve included above refers to a “premium or lid.” This is what really makes this a fascinating issue to me. Lids were commonly available–they refer to the cardboard lid on your little cup of Dixie Ice Cream. Pop it off and there’s Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers or even Jimmie Foxx staring back at you.

1943 Roy Rogers Dixie Lid

While the lids are also popularly collected today what makes the premiums more, well, premium, is how one originally came to acquire them. Either by mail or, as Mr. Popelka tells of us own experience, through redemption center–it took a dozen Dixie Lids to acquire one Dixie Premium Photo. Thus beyond the advantage of the overall attractiveness of the larger Premiums there’s a rarity factor at work which actually makes them still a bargain at several times the price of the Lids!

1934 Ann Dvorak Dixie Premium Photo

I found my copy of the Dixie Premiums Checklist secondhand online, but at the time of that 2009 VintageMeld post Mr. Popelka gave me permission to include his address for anyone wishing to purchase a copy directly from him. For details write:

Tom Popelka
P.O. Box 3130
Temple, TX 76505-3130

To see some of the Dixie Premiums I’ve handled, beyond those currently available, please see my archived pages at which show off the early black and white 1934 Dixie Premiums, which were issued as two separate sheets, and more of the colorful 1935 Dixie Premiums. The 1935 page also includes a gallery of later Dixie Premiums below and some of the pricey sports stars (Foxx, Bob Feller, Sammy Baugh, Bronko Nagurski, etc.) at the bottom of the page.

1938 Jimmie Foxx Dixie Premium Photo

If you’re looking to collecting something more than just cards at a great value on your dollar I can’t heartily enough recommend the challenge of either the Dixie Lids or Dixie Premiums. They’re fun, mostly affordable and yet at the same time challenging to piece sets together. To get a leg up I think one of your first purchases should be Tom Popelka’s excellent checklist which I’ll continue to recommend as the topic comes up!

Preserving The Legacy Of Silent Film Actress Valkyrien

Being the fan that I am (both of Cade and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about her extraordinary collecting efforts regarding another silent film actress, Valda Valkyrien. As always, Cade graciously accepted.

Valkyrien fascinated me when I first saw her photo in the book The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.

She does not look like any other silent star of the period. She has an ethereal almost angelic quality that radiates from her photos and looks quite different from other actresses. The photo got me to looking into her history and her film product as well.

When I started checking into her background, I only knew of one surviving film, her last called Shattered Dreams aka Bolshevism on Trial (1919) available for purchase through Grapevine Video. But perseverance and repeated inquiries have resulted in locating several other films.

Since Valkyrien made films in Denmark before coming to the U.S. in 1914, I started researching her films through my contacts at the Danish Film Institute. They informed me that two or three films in which she is a minor player survive in their archive, and that one of them, Circus Catastrophe, had been released in 2007 on DVD because it starred Danish matinee idol Valdemar Psilander. The only place to get this film is through the DFI archive, so it is really a very isolated title.

Most of Valkyrien’s films exist only in fragmentary form or survive only via movie still photographs. Here are some surviving images from The Valkyrie (1915) which show just how beautiful the actress was:

These next two movie still photos are from De Uheldige Friere and Guvernørens Datter, respectively; both are from 1912.)

The DFI archive sent me Den Staerkeste aka Vanquished (1912) and Dødsangstens Maskespil aka A Drama on the Ocean (1912) from their archive, but these are not available to the general public and Valkyrien, again, is a minor player in both.

Youth (1915), her first US film and starring part exists in the British Film Institute archive. I have had no luck in obtaining a copy thus far, but keep hoping.

Silas Marner (1916), is a partial surviving film from the Library of Congress and I was fortunate, as I mentioned, to get a copy. I received my copy from Ned Thanhouser; his grandfather, Edwin Thanhouser, started the Thanhouser production company. This shortened version of Silas Marner, the only one known to exist, was released by Thanhouser in October of 2009 on The Thanhouser Collection DVD Volumes 10, 11 & 12. Valkyrien is a supporting player in this one.

The Hidden Valley (1916), another Thanhouser release, was a starring role for Valkyrien and was thought to be a lost film.


In early 2009, while researching fragments which turned out to be for another film (stay tunned for another post!), I contacted the Library of Congress. They checked the FIAF database (paid filmography database in which you have to be a member to access the information) and stated that Screensound Australia might hold some footage of it. Screensound then sent these two pieces of film from The Hidden Valley:

And Screensound mentioned that they have something that indicates Florence LaBadie, the queen of the Thanhouser lot, was part of the cast. Ms. LaBadie was the reigning box office queen for the studio and Ned Thanhouser could find no records of her ever appearing in the cast, so he is intrigued as well. Ms. LaBadie died from injuries sustained in an auto accident in 1917 and her death was one of the events that eventually caused the studio to shut down.

We are still working on finding more Hidden Valley footage as well as determining if Ms. LaBadie was a cast member.

Since that time, we also have found Diana (1916), a Pluragraph release which is part of an Unknown Cinema box set release. However, the version Screensound has, from the Library of Congress, is a much shorter version of the film than the nearly complete print the Cineteca del Fruili sent me. I have been in touch with the Library of Congress to see if they want a more complete copy for their archive.

Another of Valkyrien’s starring vehicles is reputed to be in a private collection and we are making every effort to obtain the film from the collector, but so far we are running in circles. I keep hoping, though…

And we’re still working on a couple of silent films that may exist but I don’t have confirmation of the facts as of yet.

In other words, stay tunned to see what Cade & the crew dedicated to Valda Valkyrien dig up!

* Here’s the briefest of bios on silent film actress Valda Valkyrien:

Born Adele Eleonore Freed in 1894 or 1895, she began her career as a performer as a prima ballerina in the Royal Danish Ballet performing under the stage name Valda Valkyrien. She began appearing in motion pictures for Nordisk Film productions of Copenhagen in 1912, and married Danish nobleman Baron Hrolf von Dewitz, becoming Baroness von Dewitz, in 1914 before making films in the United States.

You can find more at FindAGrave, at the Danish Wikipedia, at and the Danish Film Institute (to assist you, the Danish links are via Google’s translate).

Photo Credits, in order of appearance:

1917 photo of Valkyrien, from The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.

Images/film stills (5) of Valda Valkyrien (billed as Baroness von Dewitz) in The Valkyrie (1915), from the film collection of Mary Ann Cade.

Valkyrien in De Uheldige Friere, courtesy of Mary Ann Cade.

Valkyrien in Guvernørens Datter, also from Mary Ann Cade.

Valda Valkyrien, photo from The Hidden Valley (listed as a Pathe film), also from The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.

Pieces of film (2) from The Hidden Valley (1916), from Mary Ann Cade.

Florence La Badie movie card, from a series of antique movie cards with pink borders, circa 1915, courtesy Cliff Aliperti.

Valkyrien in The Valkyrie (last 2 photos), also from the collection of Mary Ann Cade.

History through Sales: Trading card of early film star Mary Fuller

I love it when my customers get talking. You never know when it’s going to come, a conversation could break out after a $5 transaction with as much likelihood as it will over a $100 and up piece. My most recent conversation was brief, after sale of this item:

Mary Fuller Kromo Gravure Card

But while brief this exchange of e-mails did inspire me to do a little digging out of which I discovered film star Mary Fuller, shown above on a circa 1917 Kromo Gravure trading card out of Detroit, was more important to film history than I ever supposed.

My buyer, to the best of my knowledge, is not a regular collector of movie cards and ephemera, but had her curiosity aroused through her job at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC, where Miss Fuller, who died in 1973, just happens to be buried.

After I replied to her e-mail, my customer suggested I check out a video featuring Mary Fuller if I had the 12 minutes to spare. Well, I did, and I was surprised to find the clip was from the famed 1910 Edison production of Frankenstein starring Charles Ogle as the monster (which I knew) and Mary Fuller as Elizabeth (which I obviously didn’t know).

Here it is:

On a related note, while putting this post together I came across, which has to be the most fantastic site about Frankenstein out there! I really risked getting sidetracked when I got bogged down inside their pages!

Anyway, I was curious if there was more to Mary Fuller than Edison’s Frankenstein, which she actually wasn’t even credited in. The IMDb credits her with over 200 film appearances after coming to the screen from the stage, but her career was over by 1917 and other than Frankenstein, I must admit I don’t believe I’ve seen her in anything else.

That’s when common sense took over. Early last year I had the great pleasure of exchanging e-mails with the owner of The Picture Show Man website and I wound up by asking him for some reading recommendations (his movie and book release lists are not to be missed!). I’m about halfway through one of the top titles he’d mentioned, Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture Through 1925 by Terry Ramsaye (affiliate link), originally published in 1926. You want to know how much early film history is packed in this title? Well, I’m on page 440 and the story, which runs chronologically, has only reached 1907.

Mary Fuller on a circa 1916 MJ Moriarty Playing Card
Mary Fuller on a circa 1916 MJ Moriarty Playing Card

I can’t even say I’m surprised but when I checked for “Fuller, Mary” in the index to A Million and One Nights it actually spit back some page numbers at me. I’d expected these entries to be about Frankenstein, but instead I once again learned something new.

Mary Fuller had starred in What Happened to Mary (1912), which holds the honor of being considered the forerunner of the movie serial.

Here’s some of what Ramsaye has to say about it:

Edward A. McManus and Gardner Wood, in the year of 1912, were engaged in promoting circulation for The Ladies World, a McClure publication. Out of the editorial department came a project for a continued feature to be built around a mythical heroine known as Mary, and to be introduced with a cover design by Charles Dana Gibson. There was to be an unfinished story and a prize of $100 for the best answer to What Happened to Mary?

So The Ladies World would publish the story, minus the ending, and Edison would produce a film which included the ending. I wasn’t clear as to whether the film would be inspired by the winning reader entry or if the winning entry would be the one which came closest to a pre-selected ending, but either way, a novel idea.

In noting that Mary Fuller was cast as Mary, Ramsaye writes, “She was now a full fledged Edison star.” Of the stories, the first, The Escape from Bondage, was released July 26, 1912. In mentioning that the second Mary feature was titled Alone in New York, Ramsaye points out that “each installment of the What Happened to Mary? series was independent and complete. It was not a serial. The magazine stories and the screen releases did not synchronize accurately, but it was none the less a successful promotion.”

So while Ramsaye explicitly states “not a serial” he does immediately lead in to the serial it inspired, The Adventures of Kathlyn starring Kathlyn Williams, which most definitely was a serial. As for Mary Fuller, following the 12 chapter What Happened to Mary she’d star in a sequel, the 6 chapter Who Will Marry Mary?

See that, Mary Fuller had previously been just another silent actress to me, but a spark of outside interest and look at all I’ve learned! You can be sure the next time I list an item depicting Miss Fuller there will be a lot of early film history racing through my mind.

Mary Fuller on a 1916 paper supplement issued with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat
Mary Fuller on a 1916 paper premium issued with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat