Lillian Russell, 1861-1922
Strobridge Lithography Company, circa 1900
National Portrait Gallery
Impresario Tony Pastor advertised Iowa-born songstress Helen Louise Leonard as "Lillian Russell the English Ballad Singer," and made her a national rage in the vogue for Gilbert and Sullivan that began to sweep the country in 1879 and 1880. She became what one critic called this country's "bright particular star" of operetta and opera bouffe. One of her greatest successes was in the 1880 production of Jacques Offenbach's "The Grand Duchess" in which she made her entrance draped in ermine, wearing an enormous fur hat, and driving a sleigh on stage in a snowstorm.