Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Women with Hats - Big Hat & Grapes too!

Why can't I just for once post a picture without all the drama?  This week's "Women with Hats" photo is of English actress Edna Loftus (? -1916), this particular picture postcard taken before 1907.  I had never heard of Edna, but  thought to myself I'll just check her out on Wikipedia, write a short bio and be done with it.  Of course it could not be that simple!  Look at this beautiful Edwardian photo of her with the large hat, she is holding grapes in her hands and even appears to have white grapes on her hat.  She is truly a vision of loveliness.

From what little I have been able to learn about her she was an English musical comedy actress, birthday unknown.  Little is know about her early life; from this postcard which is postmarked 1907 I am going to guess her birth date somewhere between 1875 and 1885.  Her career was somewhat modest, however, her personal life was full of drama. As a young woman she went to London and joined a vaudeville-pantomime known there as the "Rein Deers" and evolved from that into a  London music hall star.  During this time her she announced her engagement to Lord Dunbarton of Manchester.  When this was called off she soon became engaged and then married to Winnie O'Connor, the famous English jockey, also famous on American tracks.  She divorced O'Connor and was said to have gone to New York City to appeared on Broadway after 1906.

Edna Loftus 1906
It was reported that while in New York in a Broadway restaurant she met Harry Rheinstrom, a younger man, and a son of a millionaire Cincinnati distiller and he was reported to have spent several thousand dollars on her in a short period of time.  When they announced their intention to marry, his family who strongly objected had her arrested, and had him admitted to a private sanitarium in Ohio.  Miss Loftus procured a writ of habeas corpus and secured Rheinstrom's release on 4 January 1910.  They crossed state lines and were married in Covington, KY on 7 Jan 1910.  He still had to face a lunacy trial through proceedings filed by his mother and have a guardian appointed.  Edna and Harry left for Los Angeles where they took up residency at a chicken farm in Boyle Heights.  After six months they returned to Cincinnati to effect a reconciliation with his mother and to try to procure his inheritance.

There were more drama to come.  She was arrested and accused of bigamy for not legally divorcing her first husband.  Her husband's parents had him readmitted to the sanitarium for his nerves.  After release from jail she went to work as as a cafe singer to pay for his expenses. His parents wanted him back, but without her.  In Dec 1910, now separated from her husband and penniless she jumped into Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to commit suicide.  She was rescued by an passing motorist.  In 1913 Rheinstrom was sent to the insane asylum at Stockton, released a year later, divorced his wife and returned to the East.

In October 1915 suffering from severe illness she tried to sue her former parents-in-law. Edna, whose career was virtually over at this time was also was facing deportation.  According to the Oakland Tribune, she was managing the Art Hotel at 883 Kearny Street, her fame long gone.  She died penniless 16 June 1916 of tuberculosis in San Francisco and was to be buried in the local potter's field until friends intervened and had her buried in Cypress Lawn Cemetery.


1. Wikipedia
2.  New York Times


  1. Of all your drama stories, this one is the best. A starlet. A gold-digger. On the lam. Failed suicide. What's not to love?

  2. The escapades of today's pseudo-celebrities can't even come close to matching the drama in this story.

  3. Oh what a sad story. I can imagine some of the well known present Hollywood actresses playing her in a biopic.

  4. I'm working on a biography of Mr. Carroll Rheinstrom, Edna's husband's relative who represented DC Comics overseas from 1948-1982. Superman comics made him rich.


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