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Nellie Larkelle

Biography: 

(1857-1886)

One of the more talented queens of burlesque who appeared on the American stage in the wake of the English blondes, Nellie Larkelle was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and debuted at the Academy of Music in New York. A sultry singer and talented dancer, she graced many of the important extravaganzas of the later 19th century. She played the pants role of Gabriel in "Evangeline," Maid Marion in the burlesque "Robin Hood," and Kitty Muldoon in "Buffalo Bill." When not occupied in such roles, she organized mini-troupes to present acts in vaudeville.

Larkelle's initial forays on the stage were as a concert singer in 1872. In 1874 she appeared in supporting roles in Offenbach's "The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein" with Oates English Opera Company. She left Oates in 1875, but kept to the same repertoire, appearing in Offenbach's "Princes of Trebizonde." 1876 marked the year where she became a popular draw, charming audiences in "La Fille de Mme. Angot."

Her career was interrupted by disease in 1882, and her marriage to her physician shortly before her death in 1886 prompted a public outcry that his attentions were exclusively based on his knowledge of Larkelle's collection of jewelry. David S. Shields/ALS