Eva Tanguay Papers

Biographical / Historical Note

Eva Tanguay was a showstopper - one of vaudeville's most charismatic stars. Long before performers like Madonna made their mark, Eva Tanguay was wowing them on the vaudeville stage.

The flamboyant singing comedienne was the highest paid performer...

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Eva Tanguay was a showstopper - one of vaudeville's most charismatic stars. Long before performers like Madonna made their mark, Eva Tanguay was wowing them on the vaudeville stage.

The flamboyant singing comedienne was the highest paid performer for over a decade during the heyday of American vaudeville in the early 1900s. Known as the "I Don’t Care Girl" after her most famous song, Eva's bold, self-confident songs symbolized a new, emancipated American woman.

Born in Canada in 1878, Eva Tanguay grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts. As a child, Eva was already an actress, touring in productions like "Little Lord Fauntleroy." By the turn of the 20th century, Eva turned from stock and Broadway plays to the two-a-day vaudeville circuit, making her New York vaudeville debut at Hammerstein's Victoria Theater in 1904. About this time, she made a huge splash with her performance of the tune, "I Don’t Care," which became her signature song. Eva steadily rose from being a $500 a week performer to earning as much as $3,500 a week by 1910.

Outrageous, full of energy, and often risqué, the wild-haired blonde defied conventional values as she flaunted her irreverent sense of humor and sensuality. Eva's audiences flocked to her performances - not to hear a lovely voice (which was average and rather brassy), but for her ability to light up the stage with her performances. Eva could really sell a song. People were intrigued by what she was wearing and how she was behaving. Her daring, revealing and, often, flamboyant costumes caused scandal in their day. Eva once quipped, "When I put on tights, my name went up in lights!" Eva toured not only the American circuit, but was a hit in cities like Toronto and London as well. Tanguay also made two movies, "Energetic Eva" (1916) and "The Wild Girl" (1917), though they met with little success.

Eva well understood the value of self-promotion. She would take each city by storm, spending liberally on publicity and advertising. She was often billed as "The Genius of Mirth and Song," and "The Evangelist of Joy."

Eva Tanguay's many fans loved her - her exuberant personality fascinated vaudeville audiences for more than three decades. Late in her career, the show business publication Variety wrote, "What Ruth is to baseball, Dempsey to pugilism and Chaplin to pictures, Tanguay is to vaudeville. She embodies the spirit of youth in her work, her personality is elusive and baffling as ever, and she has the color that penetrates beyond the four walls of a theatre and cashes in at the box office."

Yet, as vaudeville began to fade in the late 1920s, so too did Eva's luck. She lost a fortune during the 1929 stock market crash. Cataracts had dramatically affected her vision by the early 1930s, but her sight was restored by an operation paid for by admirer Sophie Tucker. Arthritis slowed Eva in 1937 and she became more and more reclusive. By the time of her death on January 11, 1947 in Hollywood, California, her once vast fortune was reduced to $500.

- Miller, Jeanine H. (2006, June). Eva Tanguay, Vaudeville’s Star. Retrieved from http://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/pic/2006/06_june.asp.

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Scope and Content Note

The Eva Tanguay papers chronicle the career of the vaudeville legend and "I Don’t Care Girl" Eva Tanguay. The collection is divided into four series, Personal and Professional Papers, Photographs, Orchestration and Lyrics, and

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The Eva Tanguay papers chronicle the career of the vaudeville legend and "I Don’t Care Girl" Eva Tanguay. The collection is divided into four series, Personal and Professional Papers, Photographs, Orchestration and Lyrics, and Promotional Material.

The Personal and Professional Papers series, 1898-1938, contain some of Eva's personal correspondence and documents such as her marriage certificate. Professional papers include business correspondence and contracts, scripts and playbills, performance reviews, and ephemera such as menus from dinners held in her honor and advertisements for products she sponsored.

The Photographs series, 1880-1939, consists primarily of professionally produced promotional photographs of Eva (mostly 8 x 10 black and white images and some postcards). There are also a small number of personal photographs of family and friends. The photographs are largely undated and have been arranged by approximate dates and date ranges. Some of the photographs have been signed or otherwise annotated by Eva.

The Orchestration and Lyrics series includes sheet music and lyrics for a number of songs, many of which were penned by Eva herself. Included in this series are a number of working and annotated copies of Eva's major hit, "I Don’t Care."

The Promotional Materials series, 1892-1947, contains newspaper clippings, fliers, posters, scrapbooks, and magazine articles related to Eva and her career. The series includes a serial article that she wrote and published in American Weekly in January of 1947.

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Collection Details

Object ID: 2005.100.0
Creator: Tanguay, Eva, 1878-1947 
Inclusive Dates: 1885-1947
Size: 2.8 cubic ft. and 3 oversizes boxes
Language: English

Collection Access & Use

Item Location: Not Currently On Exhibit

Access Restrictions: The collection are open for research.

Credit: From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Digitized Artifacts From This Collection

In many cases, not all artifacts have been digitized.
Contact us for more information about this collection.

Banner Advertising Eva Tanguay at the Majestic Theatre and Her Song "America I Love You," 1915

  Details

Banner Advertising Eva Tanguay at the Majestic Theatre and Her Song "America I Love You," 1915

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Object ID

2005.100.8

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Banner Advertising Eva Tanguay at the Majestic Theatre and Her Song "America I Love You," 1915

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

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Eva Tanguay Walking Her Dog, circa 1912

  Details

Eva Tanguay Walking Her Dog, circa 1912

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1912

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

2006.9.4

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Marc Friend and Robert Heintz Family.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Eva Tanguay Walking Her Dog, circa 1912

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  Details

Eva Tanguay in Costume, circa 1911-1920

  Details

Eva Tanguay in Costume, circa 1911-1920

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

2005.100.10

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Eva Tanguay in Costume, circa 1911-1920

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

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  Details

Eva Tanguay in Costume, circa 1911-1920

  Details

Eva Tanguay in Costume, circa 1911-1920

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

2005.100.9

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Eva Tanguay in Costume, circa 1911-1920

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

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  Details

Eva Tanguay in Flag-Themed Vaudeville Costume, circa 1918

  Details

Eva Tanguay in Flag-Themed Vaudeville Costume, circa 1918

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1918

Object ID

2005.100.4

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Eva Tanguay in Flag-Themed Vaudeville Costume, circa 1918

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

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Eva Tanguay in Vaudeville Costume, 1910-1919

  Details

Eva Tanguay in Vaudeville Costume, 1910-1919

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

1910-1919

Creators

Murillo Studio 

Object ID

2005.100.5

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Eva Tanguay in Vaudeville Costume, 1910-1919

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

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  Details

Eva Tanguay in White Sequined Vaudeville Costume, circa 1911

  Details

Eva Tanguay in White Sequined Vaudeville Costume, circa 1911

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1911

Object ID

2005.100.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Eva Tanguay in White Sequined Vaudeville Costume, circa 1911

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

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  Details

Gentleman Friend of Actress Eva Tanguay, circa 1895

  Details

Gentleman Friend of Actress Eva Tanguay, circa 1895

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

circa 1895

Object ID

2006.9.2

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Marc Friend and Robert Heintz Family.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Gentleman Friend of Actress Eva Tanguay, circa 1895

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

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  Details

Guest Room in Eva Tanguay's New York City Apartment, 1908-1913

  Details

Guest Room in Eva Tanguay's New York City Apartment, 1908-1913

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Object ID

2005.100.7

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Guest Room in Eva Tanguay's New York City Apartment, 1908-1913

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details