The Last of Lola (Almost)

Lola returned from her Australian tour in 1856 a changed woman. It had been a successful tour, but on the voyage back to the United States her leading man and lover, Frank Folland, fell overboard and was drowned. Or he may have committed suicide. No one knew what caused his death, but Lola blamed herself.

Frank Folland had a wife and children in Cincinnati and Lola vowed to assist them if she could. She vowed to change her ways and seek a more spiritual life. She also must have realized that she couldn’t go on performing as she had in the past. She tired more easily, she was no longer as young and fresh as she had been, and she was prone to recurring bouts of malaria.

She took her plan to change her way of life seriously. She put her considerable collection of jewelry up for sale, intending to use the money to benefit Folland’s family. A lady’s jewelry was considered her insurance, her retirement fund, so this was no small gesture.

Folland’s wife wanted nothing to do with the notorious Madame Montez, but when Lola went back east she took his sister Miriam under her wing and promoted her career on the stage.

Daily Alta California 12 October 1856

Lola didn’t leave the theater life immediately. She was still popular and did several performances in San Francisco and Sacramento.

Here is an advertisement for her farewell performance. “Follies of a Night” was one of her most popular comedies. She also appeared in a burletta (a short comic opera) of “Anthony and Cleopatra.” Her partner was Junius Booth, of the famous Booth family of actors. One of his brothers was John Wilkes Booth.

She even occasionally favored the audience with her famous Spider Dance.

She made a brief return to Grass Valley and sold her cottage. Then she headed east.

She continued to perform for a short time, but her heart wasn’t in it. Instead she reinvented herself as a lecturer. That was less tiring and just as rewarding as life on the stage.

She lectured on her own life, although she was still prone to exaggeration and invention. Her account of her life can’t always be trusted. She also gave lectures on “Beautiful Women,” “The Wit and Women of Paris,” and “Comic Aspects of Love.” She was praised for her wit and her clear, pleasing voice.

She turned her lecture on beautiful women into a book entitled The Arts of Beauty, or Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet. Much of her advice is still pertinent. She told her readers to avoid commercial beauty products and gave recipes for such things as tooth powder and skin cleanser made from natural products.

She told her readers to pay close and dutiful attention to all aspects of their face and figure if they would cultivate beauty. She gave such advice as “To ensure the great charm of a beautiful mouth requires unremitting attention to the health of the teeth and gums.”

Lola in 1858. Daguerreotype by Henry Meade

Above all she encouraged her readers to rely on exercise, fresh air, moderation in habits, and cleanliness to enhance their natural beauty. It is advice that will never go out of style.

Next time: The Very Last of Lola

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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