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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 507

updated
Saturday, 2 June 2007

FOOTLIGHT NOTES
images of theatre and other popular entertainment
1850s-1920s

Dolly Adams

Dolly Adams (d. 1888), 'The Water Queen,'
champion swimmer and 'notorious' character in 1880s San Francisco

(photo: unknown, probably San Francisco, early 1880s)

'Nellie Carleton, publicly known as Dolly Adams, the champion woman swimmer, was arrested in New York yesterday, charged with passing a counterfeit $10 on her servant.'
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, Tuesday, 14 April 1885 p.4h)

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'We sailed from Yokohama on the 8th of January [1888]. One of our cabin passengers died the following morning. She was not a society lady by any means, but nevertheless she had a great many "friends" among the "society" swells of San Francisco. Perhaps the mention of her name will remind certain prominent members of the Bohemian, the Olympic, and the Pacific Union clubs of many a pleasant little midnight coaching party from a certain Ellis Street establishment to the Cliff House; for among her baggage were photographs of several prominent members of the above mentioned clubs. How she got those photographs I will ask the reader to decide.
'The woman's name was Dolly Adams, better known as the Water Queen; and the establishment that she received her distinguished "friends" in was similar to the notorious Stockton Street establishment formerly kept by Maud Nelson, who is now Mrs. Charles Fair. I make no apology to the reader for using the name of such a character as Maud Nelson, because she has married into a set that ranks among the most presumptuous and arrogant parvenus of America. When she married Charlie Fair, and took him off to Europe on a bridal tour on the income from the Stockton Street house, she became the daughter-in-law of ex-Senator James G. Fair, and the sister-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Oelrichs, of newspaper society "fame."
. . .
'We did not bury Dolly Adams at sea. Dr. Frank S. Sutton embalmed the body, and placed it in a Chinese wooden coffin, and brought it on to San Francisco, where it was turned over to some charitable institution for burial.'
(William H. Chambliss, Chambliss' Diary; Or, Society As It Really Is, New York, 1895, Ch.12.)

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