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Final Curtain: 1904

Final Curtain: 1904

Florida circa 1904. "Joe Jefferson at Palm Beach." The noted comic actor shortly before his death. Dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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Incredible detail, and Johnson as if he was looking through the camera at the viewer, a gaze that spans a century.

He was the the earliest born person to be recorded in a motion picture.

Joe as Rip

In April, 1903, Jefferson made a solo recording for Columbia, "Rip Van Winkle Meets Meeny," a version of the scene in which he meets his daughter after his twenty years' absence (Columbia A-390). As was the common practice on very early records, he also announced the title heard at the beginning.

The "famed" wheel chairs

"Henry Morrison Flagler didn't want horses and automobiles in Palm Beach, so wheelchairs became the prime means of travel. The Royal Poinciana and The Breakers hotels employed chair men to take vacationers on tours. It wasn't until the early 1930s that horses and carriages replaced the wheelchair."

Wandering Thespian

He was a much-travelled and much-loved actor. Apparently he even performed here in Tasmania, in the 1860s, presenting Rip Van Winkle, Our American Cousin, The Octoroon and other plays.

Joseph Jefferson on film

So very dapper!

Actors now tend to casual clothes, and more's the pity. It looks like Joe is dressed for formal lunch and afternoon, with striped trousers, coat and vest over a very stiff shirt, with a natty bowtie cravat. The suit is probably a frock coat, or possibly a morning coat (swallowtail). The unbuttoned vest and pocketwatch pulled to the side might imply that lunch was a little too much.

The driver is also well dressed -- note the striped shirt cuff and the collar and tie, and a well-matched hat.

What a cosmic joke that would be

Rip Van Winkle slept for only 20 years, so I guess old Joe Jefferson really is gone.

He was also a painter

like his father. He built the first electrical power plant in West Palm Beach.

The house behind him was his good friend Henry Morrison Flagler's Whitehall.

Out of view to the right of the picture was Flagler's Hotel Royal Poinciana.


Great photo as usual, but the couple back in the trees caught my attention. Almost exactly what one might see in a French painting of the era, perhaps a bit earlier. Nice to think they're talking something romantic. Perhaps hoping their spouses don't see them.

As for Joe taking it easy, we can take solace in the fact that he wasn't driving around in his air-conditioned Town Car while talking on a cellphone.

Not far to go

Joe died in Palm Beach a few months after this was taken, of pneumonia. He was 76.

A regular cutup

he was.

Should Have Exchanged Seats

Maybe Joe would have lived a little longer if he was the one doing the pedaling instead.Then again, I'm sure they told most senior citizens back then that they needed to take it easy.

Watch out, Joe

Can one assume his demise was caused by the "second coconut"?

Head Shot

Old Joe wasn't taken out by a falling coconut was he?


According to Wikipedia, this guy played Rip van Winkle on the stage for most of his life.

Joseph Jackson

According to IMDB: "Born 1829... Was the third in a line of stage actors called Joseph Jefferson, including his grandfather (1774-1832), and his father (1804-1842) who made more of a career out of scene painting."

He died in Palm Beach on April 23, 1905 of Pneumonia.

Did they take a short ride off a long pier?

Just how shortly before his death was this taken? Nice photo. So clear, it's like the proverbial time machine. His Panama hat is amazing.

Do it now, or later

It was apparently like russian roulette riding down those sidewalks, what with those coconuts waiting to rain down on your bean. I guess the tall hats would protect you some, making them fashionable safety wear.

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