Central Library

Portrait of Orval Hixon with Arched Niche

Orval Hixon was a Kansas City photographer whose artistic abilities out rivaled those of his contemporaries. Hixon was a master of his craft, summoning all his skill set to produce works capturing his subjects in profound poses. Hixon from an early onset pursued an interest in the arts. After learning he was color blind as a child, Orval followed a path into photography with his first camera purchased in 1898. Hixon discovered a love of photography, in 1905 he paid a local photographer five dollars to work as an assistant for one month.

Portrait of Otto Kruger

Otto Kruger, grand-nephew of former South African President Paul Kruger, first took the Broadway stage at age fifteen and by the 1920s was a Broadway star. The Ohio native turned to the big screen becoming a prolific and popular character actor who often portrayed the villain or a charming, but corrupt businessman. He appeared in 80 feature films, including the Alfred Hitchcock-directed "Saboteur" in 1942, "High Noon" in 1952, and "Magnificent Obsession" in 1954. He also guest starred on CBS' "Perry Mason" and other television series.

Portrait of Pauline Frederick

The photograph depicted here is of Pauline Frederick. Pauline Beatrice Libby took “Frederick” as her stage name and later as her legal surname after being disinherited by her father who disapproved of her pursuit of acting. Frederick was an accomplished stage actress, but began acting in silent films when she was 32 and successfully made the transition to talking pictures.

Portrait of Pearl Harper

Pearl Harper was a chorus girl and vaudeville actress. She was known for her telephone performance skit under the production of Starr Piano Company. The clever use of a telephone recording along with audio from a record player introduced multi-media sound to the stage. In this three-quarter length portrait, Harper strikes a bold pose with hands on hips and shoulders thrown back with a no-nonsense expression. She wears a jeweled top, a long string of pearls, and a black satin hat whose slack brim umbrellas her figure.

Portrait of Pearl Magley

Pearl Magley, and her husband Guy Magley were a popular vaudevillian dance duo that toured both nationally and internationally. One of their better known dance routines, titled “Dance Stories”, was popular during 1921. This publicized act featured other dance troupes such as the La Rouge Sisters and Seven Eleven. This print captures Magley in an erect pose with her feet positioned to the right, her torso is turned toward the front with arms held aloft. Her hands are pointed downward in a gesture that appears to be the beginning of a dance.

Portrait of Phylis Neilson-Terry

Phyllis Neilson-Terry was an English actress. She made her first stage appearance in "Henry of Navarre" (1909) and played leading roles in other Shakspearean plays. She took the title role in "Trilby" (1915) in New York for which she was very successful. Much of this photograph is obscured, emphasizing her face which turns toward the camera, yet her gaze extends past the frame. A light dramatically illuminates her face and casts a long shadow into the center of the frame.

Portrait of Rita Gould

Rita Gould was a Hollywood actress born in the Kherson Governorate of Russia. She was known for her roles in "Girls' Dormitory" (1936), "He Couldn't Say No" (1938) and "Kiss and Make-Up" (1934). In this portrait, Hixon captures Gould in an elegant pose, turning her cheek to the camera with one index finger resting on her chin that suggests the motion. Her hair is slicked back and out of view, her eyebrows are sharp, and she is well-adorned in multiple strings of pearls, a jewel ring, and numerous studded bangles.

Portrait of Robert Edeson

Born in New Orleans and the son of a producer and stage manager, Robert Edeson spent nearly 30 years on Broadway and became one of the first stage performers to embrace film and move to Hollywood. The beloved character actor first appeared in a series of silent shorts in 1912 and 1913 and went on to forge an association with the famed director Cecil B. DeMille. Among their films were 1923's "The Ten Commandments", 1925's "Volga Boatman", and 1927's "King of Kings". In this portrait, Edeson appears unaware of the camera as he looks pointedly to his right with a grave expression.

Portrait of Rose Herbert

Rose Herbert was a vaudeville actress known for her roles in "Lucky in Love" (1928) and "Hollywood Bound" (1928). Rose's maiden name was Epstein before she married Hugh Herbert, a fellow vaudeville performer. Rose Herbert had another industry alias, Anita Pam. Pam was featured in "Lucky in Love" alongside Rose Epstein, creating the illusion that there were two actresses when in fact they were both Rose Herbert playing two different roles. In this photograph, one hand holds a burlesque feather fan in front of her body while another reaches up to caress a wooden parrot.

Portrait of Sammy Baird

Sammy Baird was a local KC dance instructor and vaudeville performer. This picture captures a profile view of Baird in a dancer's pose, effortlessly balanced on a single pointed toe with the other leg bent and lifted. She repeats the motion with her arms, holding a leveled hand to her front and back to conclude her overall balance. She looks down at a point before her with a calm, concentrated expression, although a bright swatch of light erupts in that space that resembles a burning fire.

Portrait of Senator James Reed

James A. Reed was a political ally of Thomas Pendergast and served as a Kansas City mayor, senator, and presidential candidate. Reed arrived in Kansas City in 1887 and began a law practice. In 1896 Reed was appointed county counselor and in 1898 was elected prosecuting attorney for Jackson County. He caught the eye of the Pendergast brothers, Jim and Tom, and in 1900 Reed received the Democratic nomination for mayor and won the election. His election as mayor marked the rise of alderman Jim Pendergast as a political force in Kansas City. Reed served as mayor from 1900 to 1903.

Portrait of Sessue Hayakawa

When a punctured eardrum ended Japanese born Sessue Hayakawa's original dream of a naval career, he enrolled at the University of Chicago to study banking. During a 1914 trip to Los Angeles, Hayakawa was lured into acting and went on to become one of the great film idols of the early motion picture era, rivaling Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin in popularity. Hayakawa is best remembered today for his portrayal of the brutal Colonel Saito in the 1957 British film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," for which he received an Oscar nomination at age 68.

Portrait of Sir Harry Lauder and Wife

Originally from a poor background in Scotland, Harry Lauder rose in the entertainment world to become a star of British Music Hall, American Vaudeville, Australian Variety, records, radio, and films. His act was a blend of storytelling and sly humor with sentimental ballads like “I Love a Lassie,” “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’,” and “The End of the Road,” and comic songs such as “Stop Yer Tickling, Jock”. He was Knighted for his support of the war effort during WWI. He and his wife are pictured here in affluent dress with Sir Lauder in the traditional Scottish kilt and tam.

Portrait of Taylor Holmes

Taylor Holmes began his career in Vaudeville and made his Broadway debut in 1900 in the controversial play "Sapho." The production was briefly closed on the grounds of "indecency" for suggesting two unmarried characters were ascending a staircase to an unseen bedroom. Holmes appeared in more than 100 stage productions, but is probably best remembered for his many film performances. He played Marilyn Monroe's potential father-in-law in 1953's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and voiced King Stefan in Disney's animated film "Sleeping Beauty" in 1959.

Portrait of the Hixon Family (i)

Like many families in the 19th century, the Hixons took advantage of photography as an affordable way to capture images of loved ones. During his own career, Hixon contributed to the development of a new, less formal type of studio portrait that emphasized individuality and personality rather than relying on standard props or formal poses. In this photograph, focus is placed on a matriarchal figure surrounded by six children, three girls to the left and three boys to the right. Each figure is dressed in formal attire, poised in a dignified stance with solemn expression.

Portrait of the Singer Midgets

Before they endeared themselves to film audiences in "The Wizard of Oz," the Singer Midgets were stars on Broadway. Organized and managed by Viennese-born Leo Singer, all were from Austria or Hungary. The troupe averaged about 20 members, although many more were added along with a number of young girls aged 7-9 for the making of the class "Oz" in 1939. The Singer Midgets disbanded in the mid-1940s, though some including Billy Curtis and Jerry Maren enjoyed extended Hollywood careers.

Portrait of Theda Bara (i)

Sepia toned photograph of Theda Bara. Theda Bara was an American actress in both silent film and the stage. Bara was cinema's original vamp, the dark, heartless seductress who lured men to their destruction. It was a persona that she and her studio also perpeturated off-screen. The daughter of immigrant Jews, Bara was born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Portrait Of Theda Bara (ii)

Theda Bara was an American actress known for her roles in both silent film and stage. Bara was cinema's original vamp. She was the dark, heartless seductress who lured men to their destruction. The persona was one that she and her studio perpetuated off the screen as well.

Portrait of Treat Head

Portrait of an unknown figure titled "Treat Head". The figure is captured in a sinister portrayal. The atmosphere is extremely dark, obscuring the model in shadows. Shadow effect is a major component of this portrait. As the figure is lit from below, casting the dark silhouette of their hands eerily on the model's face. The darkness of the scene and the lighting provide the face and hands a luminescence appeal. Surrounding the head of the figure is a high collared garment, possibly a cape, that has decorative aspects to it.

Portrait of Unknown Man in Light Suit

This unknown figure is meticulously dressed in a light herringbone suit jacket and matching vest. His attire is accentuated by his knit tie and watch chain, that stretches across his chest coming to a rest in his vest fob pocket. This dapper character is fastidiously groomed, as apparent with his clean shaven visage, defined eyebrows and his neatly quaffed hair style. The figure is centered in the photograph gazing slightly upward to the right, wearing a hopeful smile. The background appears chemically enhanced, creating an illusion of stratus clouds behind the model.

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