A Jackpot of Clues, Part 1

Russian Dancer inscriptionA picture may be worth “a thousand words,” but the actual words on the back of this photo have yielded a trove of clues about Ursula Cheshire. First off, we have confirmation that this young girl’s name is Ursula, as the Yeoman’s in the Fork bookseller mentioned before I bought the album. We also learn that not only was she a dancer, but also a singer and an aspiring Shakespearean actor—all at age 11! The slacker.

Using the clues this photo revealed (this is so exciting!) and poking around on the Internet, I have deduced that Ursula most likely lived in or near Los Angeles at the time this photo was taken, sometime in 1911 or later.

Ursula as Russian Dancer

Ursula at age 11 the day she performed a Russian dance at the Hotel Virginia in Long Beach, CA

This picture shows Ursula in costume for a Russian dance she performed that day at Hotel Virginia in the burgeoning seaside resort community of Long Beach, California, about 25 miles south of LA. You can still see the foundation of this grand hotel at Ocean Blvd. and Chestnut Ave. It had marble columns, a curved staircase, decorative oriental rugs and mahogany European furniture. Hotel Virginia became too expensive to operate during the depression era and closed in 1932. It was demolished in 1933, the year of the Long Beach earthquake (I’m not sure if the two events were related).

You can read about the construction and history of Hotel Virginia (including its inauspicious beginnings) in a fascinating passage about Long Beach’s tourism, recreation and leisure, circa 1885-1967, on page 56 of a historical statement published in 2009 by the city. (That’s where I found this color image of the hotel.) It’s amazing what you can learn from the interwebs in the comfort of your own home!

Hotel Virginia

Hotel Virginia

I have discovered a lot about the other morsels of information offered up in the inscription, but, speaking of morsels, I’m really hungry and need to eat dinner, so I’ll tell you more this weekend!