Lotta Mignon Crabtree was born on November 7, 1847, in New York City to Mary Ann Livesey Crabtree and John Ashworth Crabtree, immigrants from England
Her father, who had a bookstore just off Broadway, left for the California gold fields in 1851. A year later her mother sold the shop, and with little Lotta in tow, bought passage on a steamship to San Francisco.
Her father didn't even meet them at the boat and reappeared only sporadically. Later, when he made off with a trunk of her gold, Lotta tried to prosecute. But the laws of the day gave women no control over their earnings, so she had to get rid of him by pensioning him off to England. Her reputation as a suffragette began to gel.
It was Lotta's mother who swept the stage for nuggets when her 8-year-old began dancing in mining camps. According to legend, when the satchel with Lotta's earnings got too heavy, her mother would buy real estate in the cities where they toured.
Lotta never married. Some said her mother wouldn't allow it. But the redhead, who mastered the suggestive double entendre long before Mae West, never lacked admirers. In 1883, The New York Times devoted much of its front page to "The Loves of Lotta."
While besotted young men would unhitch the horses from Lotta's carriage and pull her to the theater, her mother, always dressed in black, would walk the streets of cities looking for investments.
In New York City, Lotta was the belle of Broadway. "The face of a beautiful doll and the ways of a playful kitten," purred The New York Times, insisting "no one could wriggle more suggestively than Lotta."
At 45, she quit the stage and retired to her New Jersey estate and the library that provided her education. Blackballed by a high-minded ladies' literary society, Lotta would only laugh -- and shake the skirts that society matrons thought were scandalously short.
It wasn't until her mother died, and Lotta moved to Boston, that her serious side emerged. She lived alone in a hotel but regularly headed to Gloucester, to paint seascapes, a dog at her feet, a cigar in her teeth.
Following her death, at 76, Boston papers recalled Lotta as a devoted animal rights activist who wandered the streets, putting hats on horses.
The miners in the Sierra of Northern California were used to the loneliness, dirt and disappointments that came with the search for Gold, but Gold of another sort appeared in 1853 to ease this routine and her name was Lotta Crabtree. The tiny, red-haired, six-year-old jigged and danced to their clapping hands, while they showered her with nuggets and coins which her mother hastily collected in her apron. ...
). Just two doors down from their boarding house, the infamous actress and Countess of Landsfeldt, Lola Montez herself had set up housekeeping. Mary Ann became acquainted with her and soon little Lotta, who adored Lola, became her protégé and was allowed to play in her costumes and dance to her German music box.
--Lotta Crabtree, Fairy Star of the Gold Rush @Nevada County Gold Online
Almost everything was different here on September
9, 1875, as politicians and respectable citizens,
along with more than an ample sampling of
hellions from the Barbary Coast, assembled
to dedicate San Francisco's new public drinking
fountain. The very sky seemed larger then,
if only because most of the surrounding edifices
hadn't yet climbed beyond a few floors. The
notable exception lay half a block to the
east: the original Palace Hotel, which had
opened mere weeks before and on this afternoon
hung profusely with guests anxious to view
the festivities. Two and a half acres in
size, with 800 rooms and six of its seven
gold-and-white stories decorated in parallel
banks of bay windows, the Palace was this
boomtown's pride and joy. But its inauguration
had followed too closely the swimming death
of its honored developer, William Ralston,
and the temporary closing of Ralston's once-invincible
Bank of California. Locals were desperately
in need of a boost, and the unveiling of
Lotta Crabtree's present promised them just
--LOTTA'S LEGACY - Why the homeliest landmark on Market Street
deserves your attention - By J. Kingston Pierce
It is the oldest surviving monument in the
City's collection.... Lotta's Fountain -
Located at the intersection of Market St.
and Kearny St., Geary St. and 3rd St. ...
The fountain will return to its original
1875 design in July 1999. A rededication
of Lotta's Fountain is scheduled for September
9, 1999. -The City Arts Commission
April 18, 1906
|For thousands of Bay Area residents racked
with worry and woe in the hours and days
after the 5:12:38 a.m. temblor on April 18, 1906, Lotta's was a very, very
low-tech sort of Internet. People went to
the bronzed Beaux Arts column to learn who
was dead and who wasn't, who was hurt and
who was still sound of body (if not mind),
and who had gone off to camp in Golden Gate
Park or distant Palo Alto. Lotta's "is
significant because it was a message center.
It was the grapevine of information. People
went there regularly," said Taren Sapienza,
organizer and director of the annual 1906
Earthquake & Fire Commemoration. --Veterans of '06 gather to mark the Big Old One
No Place for a Woman?
The California gold camps were hard on the
ladies, but that didn't stop them from arriving,
surviving, and sometimes thriving... It was
in Grass Valley that Montez met Lotta Crabtree.
Lotta Crabtree, variety star
(1847 - 1924)
The quintessential female entertainer
her time and a true child of
the Gold Rush,
Lotta Crabtree was raised in
gold country and performed in
houses of San Francisco. She
became the most
popular comedienne of her era
and the highest
paid performer on the Broadway
She clearly invested her earnings, and at
age 22 purchased San Francisco real estate
to begin a fortune valued at $4,000,000 at
the time of her death in 1924. ... She retired
from the stage in 1892, at 45, but made one
last San Francisco appearance at “Lotta Crabtree
Day” at the Panama-Pacific International
Exposition of 1915. Lotta Crabtree never
married, and died in 1924 at her New York
home. Charlotte Mignon “Lotta” Crabtree at sfmuseum.org
The New York Times called her the "eternal child"
in her obituary. At the height of her career,
she was known as "the nation's darling".
She was described by critics as mischievous,
unpredictable, impulsive, rattlebrained,
teasing, piquant, rollicking, cheerful and
devilish - Attol Tryst by Anna Travers, Mount Arlington Historical