Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Adah
Adah, front
Adah, side
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Adah has a German bisque head with auburn hair and brown eyes. She is wearing a
pink faille silk afternoon dress with three large tiers over a hoop skirt. In
1856, dressmakers introduced a device using circles of watch spring steel
protected by rubber riveted to vertical tapes, creating "hoop skirts" without
the petticoat material and thereby greater fullness with less weight; by the
late 1850s, skirts might be six feet across and measure as much as ten yards
around the hem, even more in the case of lightweight materials that could be
pleated at the waist. But these skirts could also swing like a bell (and to
suddenly and embarrassingly pop up when a woman sat, or when she brushed up
against an object. Drawers now became mandatory and by the 1850s had taken on
the form of pantaloons, ankle length drawers, usually trimmed with lace and or
ruffles. Stockings and shoes also became more ornately designed and colorful as
they were more likely to be seen. The skirts were also drafty, so the red
flannel petticoat was introduced for warmth. There were other distinct
disadvantages to the style; women had trouble passing through narrow doorways
and certainly could not enter a room two at a time, nor could they share a sofa
or couch. Rather more importantly, the skirts tended to be highly flammable in
an age when gaslights were becoming omnipresent; an unfortunate number of
deaths result from the public conflagrations of hoop-skirted women.



Adahs bodice has a pointed "v" waistline in the fashion of the day, and she
wears a muslin embroidered collar with it and a matching embroidered
handkerchief is in her right hand. The bodice, tiers of the skirt, and ruffles are
all edged in wine-colored faille. Throughout the 1850s, the most typical
hairstyle for women was to part the hair in the middle and pull it back into
either ringlets or a chignon, a style that would fit well under Adahs pink poke bonnet
trimmed in violets and pink faille. She finishes the outfit with matching wine faille shoes.



Adah Isaacs Menken (1835 - 1868)



Adah's is one of the most fascinating and, for the time, scandalous stories in
Louisiana history. Were not sure what her original name was - some sources say
that she was born Adelaide McCord of Irish descent, the daughter of James
McCord, a claim that might seem to be reinforced by her violet-blue eyes and
thick, black hair. Other sources insist she was born a Jewess named Dolores
Adios Fuentes. Still another account says her father was a Creole store owner
named Theodore. She does seem to have had a stepfather named Campbell Josephs
who taught languages at St. Charles Academy in New Orleans and also to her,
explaining the fact that she was both well read and fluent in several
languages, including Greek and Latin. By whatever name, she was born in 1835 at
Chartrain, Louisiana (later renamed Milneburg), and we know that her first job was
performing at the New Orleans Opera House as one of the two Theodore Sisters
when only a child. She subsequently joined a theatrical troupe that toured
Texas where, according to her later, admittedly often fabricated, accounts, she
was captured by Indians from whom she courageously escaped and made her way
back to civilization. She worked as a female journalist briefly in Cincinnati, where
she also published her first poem. Then, she returned to New Orleans and taught
French, Greek, and Latin at a school for young ladies for a short time.



On August 3, 1856, she married Alexander Isaac Menken, a member of the Jewish
community in New Orleans. She converted to his religion and changed her name to
the one she would make famous - Adah Isaacs Menken. She was serious enough and
knowledgeable enough about her new religion that in 1858 she gave a sermon on
Judaism at a synagogue in Louisville. After their marriage, she began appearing
as an actress at the Varieties Theatre in New Orleans, then toured the country.
She was acting in Nashville when she made the decision to divorce Menkin. In
1859, she married John C. Heenan, a prize-fighter known as "The Benicia Boy".
Unfortunately, that proved an unhappy marriage as well, though it kept her in
New York for a time. She was back on the road, playing a variety of roles,
including Lady Macbeth, when actor/manager James E. Murdoch suggested she take
advantage of her apparently exceptionally fine figure. On June 7, 1861, she
made her first appearance in her most famous role, Mazeppa, at the Green
Street Theatre in Albany. The climax of the show had Adah, wearing nothing but
a pair of flesh-colored tights and her own long dark hair, tied across the back
of a horse which plunged from the stage down a runway to the very back of the
theatre, then across the back and up the other side to return to the stage and
into the wings. We may be as impressed with the horses performance as Adahs,
since her position on its back meant that it had no directions from the rider.
The play was a huge success and made Adah a household name of the period. She
promptly married R.H. Newell, who was also known as Orpheus C. Kerr, and if
this werent shady enough, she didnt bother to divorce Heenan until a year
later.



In April of 1864, she sailed for London to present Mazeppa at Astley's
Theatre in London, becoming an international sensation. She followed it with a
play in which she remained clothed which failed at the box office. In the
meantime, however, she established significant friendships and correspondence
with Charles Dickens (to whom she dedicated her volume of poetry) and A.G.
Swinburne. Then she moved on to Paris where she became friendly with Alexandre
Dumas pere and Theophile Gautier. She also arranged to divorce Newell
and in 1866 married James Barclay. Unfortunately, she was taken ill in June of
1868 while rehearisng in Paris, and died August 10th, having packed an incredible
amount of living into only thirty-three short years. She was buried in a Jewish
ceremony at Pere la Chaise in Paris; her tomb bears the simply motto, "Thou
Knowes"t.



There was a fairly extensive (and certainly influential) Jewish population in
New Orleans in the 1850s, with which our next lady, Eugenia Phillips, was also
associated. Among these were a group of Sephardic Jews originally from South
Carolina that included Solomon P. Solomon, his wife Emma, and six daughters,
one of whom (Clara) is known for the diary she kept during the Civil War that
gives us one of our most accurate pictures of life under "Beast" Butler, as well as
insight into the Jewish community of the period. It is worth noting that the
vice president of the Confederacy was a Jew, Judah P. Benjamin, from New
Orleans. Solomon P. Solomon was a sutler who supplied equipment and clothing to
the Confederate army. He and his wife were pillars of the New Orleans community
and supported its antebellum lifestyle, retaining a staff consisting of one
slave, Lucy, who did the housekeeping, and an Irish nanny. The war destroyed
Solomon's business. He worked as a guard at a jewelry store for a time, then
got by on odd jobs charitably given to him by members of his synagogue until he
died in 1874. His wife, Emma, lived the rest of her life passed among her various
daughters until her own death in Atlanta in 1913.