Here is an extraordinarily rare autographed page by black Jazz Age pioneer. Cabaret singer, dancer, and comedian. Florence Mills from her prime in 1927, three months before her early death at the age of 31. Beneath her signature she added the name of her most famous revue and song, Black Birds. Florence Mills, original name Florence Winfrey, born January 25, 1896, in or near Washington, D. Died November 1, 1927, New York City, New York, American singer and dancer, a leading performer during the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. She paved the way for African Americans in mainstream theatre and popularized syncopated dance and song. Born into poverty, Mills early demonstrated a talent for singing and dancing. Under the name “Baby Florence, ” she made her stage debut about age five. In 1903 her family moved to the Harlem district of New York City, and in 1910 she formed a traveling vaudeville act with her two older sisters. Her breakthrough came in 1921, when she landed the lead role in the Broadway musical Shuffle Along by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. The show was an instant hit, in large part because of Mills’s commanding stage presence. Though delicate in appearance, she mesmerized the audience with her uninhibited dance, hauntingly high voice, and flair for comedy. In 1922 she appeared in Plantation Revue on Broadway, and the following year she traveled to London to perform in From Dover to Dixie. The show was a success, playing in New York as From Dixie to Broadway (1924). Offered a role with the Ziegfeld Follies, Mills declined in order to start an all-Black revue. She took Blackbirds to London and Paris, but serious illness forced her return to America in 1927; she died late that year. Her funeral was attended by some 150,000 mourners. Rare early autograph of English actress Dorothy Ward on the reverse (under a photo of her). Dorothy Ward (1890 – 1987) was an English actress who specialized in pantomimes, playing the principal boy roles, while her husband Shaun Glenville would play the dame roles. She had a successful 52 year career and played in over 40 pantomimes between 1905 and 1957. Florence Mills (born Florence Winfrey; January 25, 1896 – November 1, 1927), billed as the “Queen of Happiness”, was an American cabaret singer, dancer, and comedian. A daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Nellie (Simon) and John Winfrey, she was born Florence Winfrey in 1896 in Washington, D. She began performing as a child. At the age of six she sang duets with her two older sisters, Olivia and Maude. They eventually formed a vaudeville act, calling themselves the Mills Sisters. The act did well, appearing in theaters along the Atlantic seaboard. Florence’s sisters eventually quit performing, but Florence stayed with it, determined to pursue a career in show business. She joined Ada Smith, Cora Green, and Carolyn Williams in the Panama Four, which had some success. Mills became well known in New York as a result of her role in the successful Broadway musical Shuffle Along (1921) at Daly’s 63rd Street Theatre (barely on Broadway), one of the events marking the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance. She received favorable reviews in London, Paris, Ostend, Liverpool, and other European venues. She told the press that despite her years in vaudeville, she credited Shuffle Along with launching her career. After Shuffle Along, Lew Leslie, a white promoter, hired Mills and Thompson to appear nightly at the Plantation Club. The revue featured Mills and a wide range of black artists, including visiting performers such as Paul Robeson. In 1922, Leslie turned the nightclub acts into a Broadway show, The Plantation Revue. It opened at the Forty-Eighth Street Theatre on July 22. The English theatrical impresario Charles B. Cochran brought the Plantation company to London, and they appeared at the London Pavilion in spring 1923 in a show he produced, Dover Street to Dixie, with a local all-white cast in the first half and Mills starring with the all-black Plantation cast in the second half. In 1924 she headlined at the Palace Theatre, the most prestigious booking in vaudeville, and became an international star with the hit show Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds (1926). Among her fans when she toured Europe was Edward, the then Prince of Wales, who told the press that he had seen Blackbirds 11 times. Many in the black press admired her popularity and saw her as a role model: not only was she a great entertainer but she was also able to serve as an ambassador of good will from the blacks to the whites… A living example of the potentialities of the Negro of ability when given a chance to make good. Mills was featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair and was photographed by Bassano’s studios and Edward Steichen. Her signature song was her biggest hit, “I’m a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird”. Another of her hit songs was “I’m Cravin’ for that Kind of Love”. Exhausted from more than 300 performances of the hit show Blackbirds in London in 1926, she became ill with tuberculosis. She died of infection following an operation at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City, New York on November 1, 1927. She was 31 years old. Most sources, including black newspapers, such as the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier, and mainstream publications, including the New York Times and the Boston Globe, reported that she died of complications from appendicitis. Her death shocked the music world. The New York Times reported that more than 10,000 people visited the funeral home to pay their respects; thousands attended her funeral, including James Weldon Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and stars of the stage, vaudeville and dance. Honorary pall bearers including singers Ethel Waters, Cora Green, and Lottie Gee, all of whom had performed with Mills. Dignitaries and political figures of both races sent their condolences. She is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx, New York. Her widower, Ulysses Thompson, a native of Prescott, Arkansas, was a dancer and comedian, having learned his trade in the tough world of circuses and traveling medicine shows in the early years of the century. He subordinated his career to hers, acting as her manager, promoter, minder and companion. After her death, he continued performing, traveling around the world, including appearances in China and Australia, until the late 1930s. He later married Gertrude Curtis, New York’s first black woman dentist (1911) and the widow of the lyricist Cecil Mack (born as Richard Cecil McPherson). Thompson outlived both of his wives; he died in 1990, at the age of 101, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mills is credited with having been a staunch and outspoken supporter of equal rights for African Americans, with her signature song “I’m a Little Blackbird” being a plea for racial equality, and during her life she broke many racial barriers. After her death, Duke Ellington memorialized Mills in his composition Black Beauty. Fats Waller also memorialized Mills in a song, Bye Bye Florence, recorded in Camden, New Jersey, on November 14, 1927, featuring Bert Howell on vocals with organ by Waller; Florence was recorded with Juanita Stinette Chappell on vocals and Waller on organ. Other songs recorded the same day include You Live On in Memory and Gone but Not Forgotten-Florence Mills, neither of which were composed by Waller. English composer Constant Lambert – also a friend and champion of Duke Ellington – saw Florence Mills when she performed in Dover Street to Dixie at the London Pavilion in 1923, and again when she visited London a second time in 1926-7 for her show Blackbirds. On her death Lambert immediately wrote the piano piece Elegaic Blues in tribute, orchestrating it the following year. The rising triplet near the beginning (bar 8) is a quote from the fanfare that opened Blackbirds. The Florence Mills Theatre opened on 8 December 1930 at 3511 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles. The 740-seat theater was commissioned by Sam Kramer. On opening night almost 1,000 people lined the street, with 10 police officers holding back the crowds. A residential building at 267 Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood is named after her. A biography by Bill Egan entitled Florence Mills: Harlem: Jazz Queen was published in 2006, and a children’s book, Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage, by Alan Schroeder, was published by Lee and Low in 2012. This item is in the category “Entertainment Memorabilia\Autographs-Original\Music\Jazz & Big Band”. The seller is “pengang” and is located in this country: US. This item can be shipped worldwide.
- Original/Reproduction: Original
- Industry: Music