Lola in California

In 1848 Lola left Bavaria for Switzerland, but when King Ludwig failed to join her there, she went on to London and a second marriage. The marriage to a young army officer with a recent inheritance lasted only two years. After the split, Lola decided it was time to leave Europe behind.

For two years (1851-53) she danced and acted on the stage in East Coast cities and then moved on to New Orleans. From there it was only a short ship voyage via Panama to California and fresh fields to conquer.

She had by this time developed a sure-fire sensational hit, the “Spider Dance.” Still posing as a Spanish dancer, she wore a tight bodice and a colorful knee-length skirt with multiple flounced petticoats. (Knee-length may sound modest, but it was considered daring, and it showed off her bare legs.)

Pretending to find a spider hidden in her skirt, she whirled and stamped in a frenzy. She lifted and shook her petticoats and her frantic actions drove the men wild. She was a hit on the stage in San Francisco and Sacramento.

She had other dances on offer, but she always concluded her program with the Spider Dance. It was what her public came to see and she would not disappoint them.

Sacramento Daily Union 8 July 1853 Note the Spider Dance at #5.

At this same time she married a California newspaperman, Patrick Purdy Hull, whom she had met en route to California from New Orleans. Marriage seems to have been irresistible to the Divine Lola, though this marriage would be no more successful than her previous two. The wedding was announced in the papers:

Sacramento Daily Union 4 July 1853

Note how she styles herself in her marriage announcement. She usually claimed that her birth name was “Maria Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert,” but the Maria Dolores part was tacked on to give credence to the nickname “Lola.” She was born Eliza Gilbert.

Here she gives her name a French spin. She still gloried in the titles of Countess of Landsfeld and Baroness of Rosenthal, bestowed by her royal lover. “de Heald” refers to the name of her second husband.

And what, you may ask, is a Chainoinesse of the Order of St. Therese? A chanoinesse is a canoness, a member of a holy order. It’s possible that Lola was created a secular canoness as another royal honor, but that is as much as I know.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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