One of the most elusive formats for Peter Pan portraits at the beginning of the 20th century was the cabinet card, which was essentially an albumen photograph ( a photo on very thin paper that was glazed with egg whites) that was mounted to a card measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches. The albumens were primarily used for landscapes until the late 1860s when celebrity portraits became the rage of the format, surpassing the much smaller carte de visites. Napoleon Sarony, a popular celebrity photographer of the period, photographed several poses of Maude Adams as Peter Pan. In fact, so popular was Maudie during this period, that Sarony created sample cabinet cards that featured varied images of the actress as Pan. All of these photographs were also published as post
cards, which in the early 1900s, surpassed the sale of cabinet cards. The post cards were much cheaper and easier to store in scrapbooks, but they lacked the detail, and indeed, sometimes the composition of their larger cousins. To the right we see a conventional portrait of Maude followed by several iconic images of the actress as Peter Pan. For those unfamiliar with the Napoleon takes, in the play, after Peter conquers Captain Hook, he dresses as Napoleon depicting the moment when he surrendered to Great Britain. A few months after my book was published I purchased a Peter Pan In Kensington
Gardens book from 1906 that had belonged to Cecilia “Cissie” Loftus. Inside was a cabinet card with a photo by Ellis and Walery depicting Loftus as Peter with Hilda Trevelyan as Wendy trapped on Marooner’s Rock. I used the postcard image of this scene in my book but here, it’s fun to see the differences of that photograph in the cabinet card. I wonder if other Cissie Loftus photos, or even Nina Boucicault and Pauline Chase photos as Peter Pan were issued as cabinet cards. Or, for that matter, photos of some of the lesser known actresses of the period, including Eva Lang, who performed the role on the west coast of the U.S.A. It would be fun to find out (and more fun to see them).