Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Artie Hall and similar "artie" characters

To-day at school, I wore all black to mourn the death date of Freddy Hylands, as on this date, it was 102 years ago, out somewhere near Liverpool, England. 

Now to get into the real focus of this post. 
This lovely lady:
Ah, yes, Artie Hall. That lady that I have always wanted to actually hear sing. She was on quite a multitude of sheet music covers in the late-1890's and the early 1900's. She was said to have been a wonderful minstrel singer with a big voice, though she was a small figure. She was well-known as a Rag-Time singer in the late-1890's, as early as 1896 in fact. Coming from Georgia, she just seemed like the perfect pick for the boys who ran vaudeville stages all over. She was substantially young for a singer of her magnitude, even if most(if not all) sources you look through say she was born in c.1881. I am against that guess. I think more likely the late-1870's is a better guess for her birthdate. Since she was from Georgia, that fact already makes it harder to figure out an exact date, which this can be compared with Roger Harding(born c.1857) and Fred Hylands(c. early-1872?).
Whenever her exact birthdate was(c.1878 is my guess), she got into vaudeville before she turned 20, and became associated with the big Rag-Time song writers and performers. She must have had a "perfect" voice for singing Rag-Time songs, whatever it really sounded like(probably like a lower-pitched May Irwin is my guess). You can hear May Irwin in 1907 here for an idea of what Hall might had sounded like:
I am a bitter critic when it comes to female singers from this time period of early recording. But I do like May Irwin. I don't know what it is about her singing, I just find it genuinely funny and not too sharp and high pitched. Artie Hall however, must have had an even better voice for "Coon Songs", as she came from Georgia, and must have had the dialect already embedded in her voice and speech. She is one of the few female minstrels I have seen in blackface though, and it's very interesting to see her in her whole spiel.
Ooh! That's really something! 
(from a cover of sheet music)

It's not common to find a pictures of women in the minstrel business actually in blackface, you only hear about it usually, and never see it. I'm just waiting to see Len Spencer in blackface!(which I might be able to sometime!)
Many sources say that Artie Hall was killed in the collapsing of the Orphuem theater in San Francisco from the great Quake of 1906, but that was a lie. They even reported this everywhere, thinking that she was killed on that morning when the quake struck, with the whole thing crumbling above her. She was right back to performing after that however. That first picture I used of her on this post is from at least 1908, two years after she supposedly was killed. 

There's also this picture, which is also from 1908, and just by the look of her clothes, that would be the exact date of it. So why did the reporters spread this nonsense? It's obviously not true, and she must have found that a real kick. After 1908, I haven't the least idea of what happened to her, but I would really like to know! I would assume that she stayed in the Rag-Time business for as long as it remained popular(until 1918), and that she probably still did her specialty blackface performances after '06 also. She didn't make any records, as far as I know. Which in some ways must have been a loss, as she probably would have sounded better on record than May Irwin or Minnie Emmett. If anyone has any more information on this fascinating and mysterious Ragged singer, please comment here! 

The next lady I would like to speak of, I haven't a photograph of, but I certainly would like to see one. It's Etta Hylands. Now, she and he brother Fred were pretty close until Fred croaked in 1913, more so than I could have thought. I long thought that he and Etta split up and rarely ever saw each other again after she married at 18 in 1893. That was not really true however. It seemed that after two marriages by 1900, and two children, Etta was starting to go around again like Fred in the vaudeville houses. She reared her kids to be like her and Fred, musically intellectual, and very competent on the stage. Etta may have had just the same amount on skill on the ivories as her almost crazy brother, but she would never have been employed as a studio musician in that time, that was just never done, for sexist reasons that we all know of as history nerds. Etta may very well have appeared like her brother: tall, redheaded, slightly heavy-set(heh, though Fred was more than just "heavy-set") and had long hands. That would have been something certainly subjected to ridicule in that time for her, as a young lady with several children, and a history of several divorces. She seemed to have performed just as much as Freddy was, as according to several editions of Variety, she even had her own stage partners, where they would do all sorts of singing, dancing, and oddly set up sketches. I even read one that described her being in full male attire! WHEW! That must have been a shocker! That just proves to me more that Fred must have done these sorts of wild things as well, just very rarely with Etta. She must have been just as crazy as Fred was to do what she did. Minus the fact that her personal life was much more like a performer's to be expected. Unlike her brother's, that only involved a single lady for 18 years. Etta Hylands must have been a fascinating lady, with a strong personality, and non-pareiled talent. 
I still have yet to learn more about Fred's sister, and I'm sure there's more to come. 

I hope you enjoyed this! 


  1. Hi Ramona,

    Etta Hylands is my great great grandmother. I bet my sister has a photo of her somewhere...though I can't be sure!

    1. I thought since you were a descendent of Fred Hylands I thought you were not directly related, I immediately thought that it must have been from Etta, as she was everywhere in vaudeville, and married several times with several children from each marriage. Fred on the other hand, was only with Maria from 1895 until he died in 1913.
      If you are ever able to find an image of Etta that would be wonderful!

  2. I'll ask my sister! She's actually the one who may have messaged you. We both just found your site and it's wonderful!

    1. Oh thank you! I wasn't exactly sure what was going on. I am still amazed about all of this! It is just a supreme honor to have contact with you! My friend Ryan Wishner and I are so happy to know about this. I kind of had the notion that this might happen soon. I hope everything I said about Freddy and Etta is all fine with you. Had you known about Fred's recording career beforehand?

    2. It's all amazing to us! It's so cool! We have been trying to figure out more about our family for a long time...we've reached a dead end at Etta! We can't figure out who the father of her daughter, "Little Ethel" (our great-grandmother), is!

      No I had no idea how extensive his career was! We knew he was an entertainer like Etta and that he was the more famous of the two, and that he had written "The Beauty Doctor". I googled "Fred Hylands The Beauty Doctor" and found your site! I am so happy to see this on the piano, too! Your videos are great. My grandmother would have been so amazed...I wish she was alive to see!

    3. Also my boyfriend is a classically trained pianist and I would love to find the sheet music for any of Fred Hylands' stuff, so he can play it for me! :)

    4. I would love to find some, I am currently learning Fred's fascinating arrangement of "Honey Come and See Me" from 1896. How your ancestor Freddy was a clever man with his melodies and chord configurations! I am absolutely in love with his rough and ragged style, that is never recognized now. Here are links to two of his pieces:

      Enjoy them, as I'm sure you will. :-)

    5. This is so great!! I'm so excited about this!!! -Ali

    6. I don't think I'vecsaid it enough, but I am absolutely honored to be in contact with you two. I would love to meet you both in the flesh. I would certainly be an interesting connection, and it would make me even more joyous.

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    1. How fascinatin'! I absolutely love this! Thank you so kindly for this. I really wish I could know more about her, as I have her picture on many of my late-1890's Rag-Time sheet music covers. Thanks again!

  4. Hi!

    I'm so happy I've found this page. I came to the conclusion that Artie didn't die in 1906 after I googled her name more than one time, but I must admit that the mention of her "unusual death" was the factor that made her worth googling for me in the first place. Long story short, I checked her wikipedia page and saw that the sentence about her death in San Fran earthquake gives an article from New York Times as a source, but was unable to reach it. So I turned to my trusty Library of Congress and their newspaper archive and look what I've found... (if it won't open it's from The morning journal-courier., August 29, 1908, New Haven Conn.) I'm almost 100% sure that the woman in the photo printed there is Artie. So you're absolutely right, she couldn't have died in 1906 if they printed her photo and wrote that she'll be "at the Grand the last three days of next week".

    But why they wrote that she died in the earthquake? Maybe she's been missing for some time due to the mayhem that started after the disaster and they already printed the news about her death, but she showed up alive after the news were already published? (wikipedia quotes an article from 21st of April, the earthquake was on 18th, so it sounds quite possible).
    Anyways - great post, great research. I wish we knew what really happened to Artie. Also - please excuse my mistakes, I'm not a native speaker.