Sunday, February 03, 2008

Actress Helena Modjeska private rail car c. 1890

From: "WYDZGA BOLESLAW" arcadia1@verizon.net

Where can I find information and or pictures of Helena Modjeska (famous drama actress) private rail car that she traveled in during 16 all American tours in 1880's and 1890's. She lived in El Toro Orange County CA. I believe that name "Helena Modjeska" was prominently displayed on the car.

It was specially equipped with sleeping, dining, parlor rooms. The existence of such a car was documented in her and her contemporaries correspondence.

I would appreciate any information that would help in my research.

—Christopher Wojcicki PhD


Helena Modjeska

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Her son was a railroad bridge engineer, and the Wabash had a rail car named after her (which may well not be the same as her own rail car that she used for touring the country).

2/03/2008 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See Photo #216620.

2/03/2008 5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gold Coast Immigrant Stories writes:

"Helena Modjeska was a cultural pioneer, considered one of the greatest actresses of her time. Already a famous actress in her native Poland, she began her American stage career in 1877 at the age of 36. Her career would span 30 years as Helena crisscrossed the Country by train, the first woman to ever have her own private railroad car. The mark she left on the theatrical landscape was indelible. From the ships that bore her name to Modjeska canyon whose winds whisper her name to all who pass through. Perhaps the deepest impression she left was in the hearts of those who had the privilege to see her perform and considered it one of the most memorable experiences of their lifetime."

2/03/2008 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James Todd of Duke University writes:

"In her upcoming book, [Professor Beth Holmgren] tells the tale of a polish actress' rise to fame in nineteenth century America.

... To this day, several theaters in America bear Helena Modjeska’s name. Her home in California, dubbed 'Arden' after the forest in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, is a national heritage site. A sweet caramel 'Modjeska' candy is still made in Kentucky. Susan Sontag’s National Book Award-winning novel In America is based largely on the Polish actress’s experiences. And a motion picture based, in turn, on Sontag’s book and starring Isabelle Huppert, is in production.

... Modjeska Canyon in Orange County, ... site of Helena’s former estate in Orange County, Calif.

... After having achieved great dramatic acclaim in Poland in the second half of the 19th century, she and her aristocratic husband had decided to try farming in California. They quickly went broke.

'At that point she begins to learn English very quickly,' Holmgren said. 'She goes to San Francisco in about two months time and arranges for an audition. She has her first performance after seven months, learning three parts in English – that’s the extent of her English – but she knows the parts by heart and she performs, and she’s a hit.

'Thereafter she makes a career in the United States, traveling back and forth by railroad car across the country in the 1870s-80s-90s, and she became a star of the American stage for 30 years' ... "

2/03/2008 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Library of Congress writes:

"Polish-born American actress Helena Modjeska appears in photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division, and several letters from her can be read in the Manuscript Division."

2/03/2008 6:03 PM  

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