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Mary Mannering


In 1901 actress Mary Mannering created a sensation playing the lead role in the historical drama 'Janice Meredith," the tale of a loyalist girl who aids the patriot cause and juggles suitors across the political spectrum. The title character was a teenage girl with an engagingly obnoxious attraction to genteel young men, an underdeveloped sense of political responsibility, and a curious obliviousness to her own attractiveness. In short, she was not a stock character, but a personality. The show was a major hit, in part because of the American cultural fashion for the colonial revival, and in part because author Paul Liester Ford was murdered by his famous athlete brother during the run.

Photographer Burr McIntosh was smitten with Mary Mannering and dissatisfied with the many costume shots he exposed in his New York studio. Having worked as a photojournalist during the American invasion of Cuba, McIntosh had the brainstorm that Mannering's visual impact as Janice Meredith would be amplified if he shot her in a real colonial setting. Toting costumes to Greenwich, Connecticut, McIntosh arranged to photograph Mary as Janice on the grounds of the historic Putnam house. Known as Knapp's Tavern during the Revolution, the Israel Putnam house shown in McIntosh's photos has a curiously 19th-century sense about it. Thus, their significance resides primarily in that these images are the first widely published location photos taken in connection with a stage production. David S. Shields/ALS