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Rebekah Burgess

Rebekah Burgess is the collections management coordinator in the Department of Drawings and Prints.

Now at the Met

Becoming the Advertisement: Daisy Murdoch as "Cupid" on 1880s Tobacco Cards

Rebekah Burgess, Collections Management Coordinator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"…how dismal is progress without publicity…individuals love more to bask in the sunshine of popularity than they do to improve in some obscure intellectual shade. Merit is no object, conspicuity all."

—Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)

The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection of printed ephemera in the Department of Drawings and Prints includes over six thousand "tobacco cards" from the late 1800s that depict actresses of various levels of celebrity. Twenty-seven of these cards—which were inserted in cigarette packs and intended to be collected and traded much like baseball cards—advertise Daisy Murdoch, a mid-level burlesque actress of the 1880s. She constituted what we might call a "one-hit wonder" today; she was recognized by the public almost solely for her role as Cupid in the Bijou Opera Company's traveling production of Orpheus and Eurydice (1883–85). Murdoch's cards present a clear example of the dissemination of imagery and commodification of celebrity during this unique moment in print culture and theater history.

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