Meet “Olive” – Tonnesen’s Surprisingly Racy 1910 Calendar Girl

Olive by Beatrice Tonnesen

Olive by Beatrice Tonnesen

As detailed in my e-book, The Secret Source, Beatrice Tonnesen appears to have produced little, if any, new calendar art between around 1904, when she abruptly closed the Tonnesen Sisters Studio on Michigan Avenue, and around 1913, when she opened the new Tonnesen Studio on West Chicago Avenue. So imagine my surprise when I found the provocative “Olive” (included), complete with a glowing writeup, inside the Thomas D. Murphy Company’s book of calendar art samples for 1910. Copyrighted by TDM in 1908, the photo print, which occupies an entire double-page spread in the book, was offered only as a black and white, 8 X 10.5 inch image on a super-sized (14 X 22 inch) roll-up calendar.
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Coca-Cola Girls & Tonnesen Models: Together in Chicago Daily News Photos?

MacDonald, Slavik, Dexter

L to R: Dorothy Dexter, Adelyne Slavik and Marie MacDonald. DN-0067651, Chicago Daily News Negatives Collection, Chicago History Museum

Helen Dale, Helen MacDonald, Adelyne Slavik

L to R: Adelyne Slavik, Helen MacDonald and Helen Dale.  D-0067574, Chicago Daily News Negatives Collection, Chicago History Museum

May La Nell

May La Nell. DN-0067649, Chicago Daily News Negatives Collection, Chicago History Museum

In the early part of the 20th century, Chicago was a hub of advertising art production and home to many of the country’s most talented artists and models.  And so it was, that some of the best known models of the day turned up in the works of Chicago-based artist-photographer Beatrice Tonnesen.  Among them, I believe was Adelyne Slavik (1892? – 1984).

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This ad for Coca-Cola appeared in The Woman's Home Companion Picture Section, June, 1917. I believe the model is Helen Dale of Chicago.

My search for images of Slavik led me to a series of photographs taken in early 1917 by the Chicago Daily News.  There, I found Adelyne Slavik posing with several other women whose names I didn’t recognize, but whose faces I had seen in vintage ads and calendar art.  One of them, identified as Helen Dale, was a woman I thought I recognized as a “Coca-Cola girl” featured in several  magazine ads and on the serving trays so popular with Coca-cola collectors.  Another photo showed Marie MacDonald, who appears to me to be the woman shown with Dale on a 1918 Coca-Cola advertising image commonly known as “Beach Girls.”

Also, shown in that same series of photos was May LaNell (1899-1975) a well-known photographic and fashion model who also may have modeled for Tonnesen.  This amazing assemblage of models caused me to wonder what had called them together for the cameras of the Chicago Daily News.  Searching for news accounts that might explain their collective presence, I found two articles in the Chicago Daily Tribune about an event called the Style Revue at the Strand Theater, February 4 – 10, 1917, presented by the Garment Manufacturers Association.  Of the forty models participating in the Style Revue, only four were named in the Tribune, but among them were Adelyne Slavik, Helen Dale and Mae LaNell.  In a promotional article appearing February 3, 1917 and titled “Pink,” Helen Dale was said to have been…”dubbed ‘the pink lady’ because her brunette beauty lends itself so well to a pink sports suit, a rose colored evening dress, and an orchid afternoon silk dress, all of which she will wear at the Style Revue.”


Three of the photos from the Chicago Daily News are presented at left. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.) Below them, in a slide show, are Coca-Cola ads featuring the women I believe to be Helen Dale and Marie MacDonald, along with other advertising images I believe also to be of Helen Dale.  I’ve also included an image I believe to show May LaNell, which appeared on page 49 of “Home Craft:  The American Woman’s Handibook,” Copyright 1920 The Magazine Circulation Co., Inc., publishers of Woman’s Weekly, Chicago.

I hope you, our site visitors, will compare them with the Chicago Daily News photos and submit your comments.  Do you agree with my identifications?  Does anyone have further information or photos of Helen Dale, Marie MacDonald, May LaNell or Adelyne Slavik?

Copyright 2013 Lois Emerson

1897 Magazine Features Rare Tonnesen Images

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The Puritan, A Magazine for Gentlewomen, published in November, 1897, contains a feature story on Beatrice Tonnesen titled “A Woman Artist of the Camera” by Eleanor Gilliland.  The story and a photo spread featuring six pictures by Tonnesen occupy pages 62 and 63 of the issue.  Gilliland’s story is not much different from others published during the first few years of Tonnesen’s career in Chicago, praising her art and marveling at her almost instant success in advertising and photographic art.  But, two things stand out.

First, Gililand provides a who’s who of public figures who sat for Tonnesen’s camera – among them Mayor Carter Harrison of Chicago, Illinois Governor Altgeld, Governor Peck of Wisconsin and author Lillian Bell (and here).  Second, Gililand never mentions Beatrice’s sister, Clara Tonnesen Kirkpatrick, who was, at that time, the business manager half of the team that made up the Tonnesen Sisters Studio.

The six photos shown in the slideshow at right are attributed “From photographs by Miss Beatrice Tonnesen, Chicago.”  They are:  Self portrait by Tonnesen.  (This image was used extensively at the time in news articles.  But this one looks as though a unique pen and ink effect was added.), “Miss Lillian Bell,” “A Maid of Arcady,” “Summer,” “At the Spinning Wheel,” and “Study of a Head.”  The last four are labeled “Specimens of Figure Work With The Camera.”

I have never seen any of these as published prints before, although “A Maid of Arcady” and “At the Spinning Wheel” feature backgrounds used by Tonnesen in several other prints.

Copyright 2013 Lois Emerson


Check Out These Eight “New” Tonnesen Treasures

Winona by Beatrice Tonnesen


Here are the latest additions to my collection of beautiful artwork by Beatrice Tonnesen. All were created from photos by Tonnesen, and she also served as the illustrator for at least one of them. Here’s what we know about the gorgeous images shown in the slideshow at right. In order, they are:

“Winona,” signed Beatrice Tonnesen. The signature indicates to me that Tonnesen painted, as well as photographed, this scene. Probably published as a calendar print around 1925, it is very similar to another of Tonnesen’s Indian maiden prints titled “Whispering Waters.” (See Catalog Album#1.) The model, whom I believe to have been Chicago beauty queen Mary Simmonds (1896-1976), wears the same dress in both prints, and sits on the same grassy, flower-dotted ledge.

“Annette,” appearing on a 1919 calendar published by J. Baumgarth Co., Chicago. The dress and chair identify this as a product of Tonnesen’s studio. This woman appears in other verified photos by Tonnesen taken around 1915 – 1918.

“Better Sox Mills,” a blotter, probably produced around 1920. The company apparently produced a series of these family-themed blotters, several of which featured artwork from photos by Tonnesen. Mother and child scenes were also Better Sox favorites. The toy cradle and rug are Tonnesen Studio props. Tonnesen was fond of showing children playing “grown-up,” and sometimes added spectacles to illustate the theme.

Three Religious-Themed Postcards. The next three images were obviously created during the same photo session. The original photo of the young girl with the Easter lilies is part of the Tonnesen Archive of the Winneconne (WI) Historical Society. The model appears to be Virginia Waller (1913-2006).
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1898 Graphic Arts Journal Lauded Tonnesen’s Photo Ads

Reproductions of works by Beatrice Tonnesen


“The Inland Printer,” a leading graphic arts journal of its time, devoted the cover of its January, 1898 issue, and several interior pages, to the art of Beatrice Tonnesen. The magazine, which described itself as “a technical journal devoted to the art of printing,” was based in Chicago. In researching the publication, I came across the website, which describes its impact as follows:

The magazine was an extremely important influence in popularizing Art Nouveau and a general improvement in the artistic quality and design of printed materials in the United States, beginning in the 1890’s.

(Actually, I found other online references to its existence ranging from 1883 to 1974.)

In an article titled “Photography for Advertising Uses,” the editors opined that the time had come for professional photographers to try new ideas and to “throw more art into (their) calling.” And they hailed Beatrice Tonnesen’s recent introduction of photographic art into advertising as an example of just such an achievement. To demonstrate their point, they included illustrations and half-tones of several of her art photos, as well as several of her advertising suggestions – sample ads built around photographs created for commercial purposes. I’ve found examples of Tonnesen’s art photos, as well as ads run by the Tonnesen Sisters touting their own advertising work, in other issues of “The Inland Printer.” But, I’ve never found such an extensive presentation of her advertising art. I feel very lucky to have been able to acquire this issue, and am happy to be able to share its feature story and the very rare images that accompany it, via the slideshow at right. (Note: For easier reading of the feature story, see the reprinted text below.)

Copyright 2013 Lois Emerson
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Tonnesen’s Photos Portrayed WWI Home Front



Year after year, calendar art chronicles the life of the American people – their changing interests, fashions, experiences and current events. During World War I (1914-1918) and the years immediately following, with the country immersed in the war effort, art publishers turned to related themes. Beatrice Tonnesen was among the many prominent artists who provided poignant scenes of soldiers departing for or returning from war, families waiting for news of their loved ones, and stirring scenes of heightened patriotism. The slideshow at right shows several examples of WWI era calendar and wall art created from photos by Tonnesen.

    1. “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” Calendar print circa 1918, from an original photo in the Tonnesen archive of the Winneconne (WI) Historical Society.


    1. “Daddy Is Home Again.” Sheet music, copyright 1919, Chas. A. Roat Music Co. Mom, who wears one of Tonnesen’s dresses, and Dad were frequent Tonnesen models. The chair, table and foot stool were Tonnesen props.


    1. “When They Meet Again.” Note the soldier is the same model seen in the previous image. Other models are Janie Berghauer (1916-1994) and a model identified on other images as “Jean Blackwell,” about whom I have no information. The props are Tonnesen’s.


    1. “The Waiting Welcome.” Postcard copyrighted in 1915 by Gartner Bender. Tonnesen models appear in this scene with Tonnesen’s props.


    1. “A Child’s Prayer at Twilight” Copyright 1919, Chas. Gustrine, Chicago. Gustrine (1870-1966) was an illustrator and publisher of patriotic themed images from about 1900 until the 1940’s. This image contains furnishings from Tonnesen’s studio. Mom wears a dress seen often in Tonnesen’s photos.


    1. “Her Boy’s Coming Home. ” Another 1919 print by Gustrine. I’m not 100% sure that this originated as a Tonnesen photo, but I’d be very surprised if it didn’t. The boy is Tonnesen model William Redmond (1908-1992) and the woman wears a costume that, though quite generic, appears to be one used in other scenes by Tonnesen.


    1. Untitled, circa 1918. This is typical of the popular “Lady Liberty” themed prints, featuring beautiful women draped in the American flag and/or surrounded by patriotic symbols, that were used for recruitment or other promotion of the war effort. In this scene, the woman wears the same dress as shown in “A child’s Prayer at Twilight.”

Other WWI images by Tonnesen appear in this site’s Tonnesen Catalog, in Albums #4 and #15. Also see the post titled “Seven Tonnesen Models Gather for One WWI Photo.”

Copyright 2013 Lois Emerson