Lola and Lotta

 My apologies to everyone for running late today.   I’ve just returned  from a writers’ conference in New York and am getting my feet back on the ground.   Complicating things is — it seems — the ever present deadline.   My new book is due Monday and there is much too do.  

When I last blogged, I talked about mines.   There are no more famous names in the history of the Northern Mines than those of Lola Montez and Lotta Crabtree, two women who parlayed entertainment into great fortunes during those days.   One kept the fortune, the other died in poverty.

Lola — born Eliza Gilbert in Ireland — was a sensation in Europe in the 1840’s, both for her theatrical talents and her personal life.   She was the mistress of Ludwig of Bavaria and later presided over soirees attended by such luminaries as Franz Liszt, George Sand, Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas.

She embarked on a tour of America in 1852 and eventually made it to San Francisco.   According to “Sunset Gold Mining Country,” her famous beauty and notoriety packed the audiences but her mediocre dancing talents were somewhat disappointing to the jaded San Franciscans.    She visited mining camps, injecting an element of glamour ino the often tawdry routine of mining camps, but failed in larger venues.   She finally retired in Grass Valley, one of the most important gold mining towns in Califonia where she shared her home with her pets:  grizzly bears and monkeys.

Lotta Crabtree lived just down the street.   At seven, she would stop to visit Lola, and the bubbling irrepressible little girl caught Lola’s fancy and became her protege.  Lola taught little Lotta songs and dances and soon the child was performing for Miss Montez’s guests. 

About a year after they met, the Crabtrees moved to La Porte, and the two were separated.   Little Lotta, though,  was on her way.  She went on stage at the age of eight and was a smash success.   The miners showered the stage with coins and  nuggets. 

She toured the mines for years, often in one night stands, and built a huge following.  She finally went to San Francsico, then New York and on to internatonal fame.  She retired at an early age and lived gracefuly unil 1924.   At the time of her death, her estate totaled $4 million.  

Her mentor, on the other hand, fell on hard times.  Trying to renew her career, she went to Australia, but failed there.   She failed again when she moved to New York and tried to build a career lecturing.   Her health failed, and her money was gone.   She died at the age of 43  in poverty, just about the time that Lotta Crabtree was starting on her great career.

These two women brought glamour and pleasure to the mining camps and towns across the west.   They each defied convention and lived life to the fullest on their own terms.    Two terrific heroines, one with a successful ending, the other a tragic one.

Now I think I have an idea for a new book . . . 

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11 thoughts on “Lola and Lotta”

  1. Pat this has a bit of the heroine in Notorious in it, doesn’t it. Just the young girl touring the mining camps…or is that faulty memory.

    Such bits of oh….fancy I guess you’d say, when you think of what those miner’s lives were like, the hard work, the disappointments, the greed and grubbiness, I can imagine seeing a woman or a child would be almost magical to them.

  2. Congradulations Pat on your new book coming out monday!! and i think these 2 ladies would make a wonderful story for your next book!!

  3. Notorious is one of my alltime favorite books. The heroine did indeed come, in part, from a mining to own a saloon that competed — no holds barred — with the hero’s saloon.

  4. Hi Pat, I love this story! It’s interesting how one woman could have such success and the other none at all. Maybe Lola should’ve quit while she was ahead instead of always following that dream. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I’m sure she had offers of marriage. It’s sad that she died in poverty and alone. But wow, Lotta had a wonderful career and was probably very happy. Thanks for sharing this!

    Congratulations on your new book release! I know it’ll be great. I need to get to the bookstore.

  5. Very interesting stories, Pat! Thanks for bringing them to light (and if they spark a story for you, can’t wait to read that! ;))

  6. Congratulations and much good luck with your new
    book. Thanks for today’s history lesson, Ms. Pat!!

    Pat Cochran

  7. I would love to know who your favorite heroine is. Especially one that breaks through the restrictions of their times.

  8. Chiming in late, Pat, to thank you for your blog about two of my favorite ladies. Wow you’re right about the terrific book idea (and no I’m not going to steal it). Such amazing stories. Thanks again. So when are you going to do Baby Doe?

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