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Lizzie Kelsey



One of the English beauties imported during the extravaganza craze of the post-Civil War period, Kelsey appeared in 1866, age sixteen, in a ballet bevy organized by Jarrett & Palmer, along with her older statuesque sister, Harriet. Jarrett remained her manager during her American stage career, and promoted her from the dance corps to supporting parts in dramas. Her most congenial place was on the burlesque stage, playing in vehicles like "The Female 40 Thieves" or "The Fair One in the Blonde Wig."

Though handsome, Kelsey was sometimes not the most engaged person on stage; a critic of her performance in a "Black Crook" revival remarked, "The Amina of Miss Lizzie Kelsey was as insipid as a rail fence out west.' In the latter 1870s she played in the Star Burlesque Troupe and developed a rather engaging vocal performance style. Her last role was in an 1886 production of "Lost in the Snow." David S. Shields/ALS