Trella Foltz Toland

Trella Foltz TolandThis page is mainly an autograph book maintained by Trella Foltz Toland between the years 1894 (the date on the cover) and 1905. (Entries earlier than 1894 appear to be glued in later.) At some point, perhaps at the time of her own 1901 entry, Trella went back through the book and filled in some dates, and comments. See e.g. p. 18, Salvini entry where she has written “Died December 15, 1896 Italy.”

During this period, Trella Toland was an actress in New York. Many of the autographs are from well-known performers of the day (e.g. Ada Rehan; Nellie Melba). Others are from writers and various public figures (e.g. Richard Harding Davis, Elizabeth Cady Stanton). She was also apparently in some touring shows during this period, as some of the signatures locate their signers in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C.

Who was Trella Foltz?

Trella Foltz (1866- c.a. 1912) was the oldest child of Clara Shortridge Foltz (1849-1934), the first woman lawyer on the Pacific coast. Trella was born in Iowa, and grew up in the west, mainly in Northern California. When she was eleven, her father, Jeremiah Foltz deserted Clara Foltz, leaving her with four children in addition to Trella: David, 9, Samuel, 7, Bertha, 5 and Virginia 2.

In order to make a living sufficient to keep her family together, Clara Foltz decided to become a lawyer, and after a dramatic struggle, was admitted to the Bar in 1878.

From an early age, Trella had theatrical ambitions, and she went on the stage in San Francisco in the early eighties, and was associated with the California Company. In 1888, she married Dr. Charles Gridley Toland and bore her only child– William Gridley Toland, in 1889. Her husband died of an accidental overdose of laudanum, which he took for migraines, in 1890.

A year later Trella Toland was in New York, making the regular pilgrimage of western actors, to the theater-mecca (then as now). She remarried in 1900 to George Emmons White, a lawyer working as advertising manager of the New York World. Trella wrote in her book that she was “rich in a good man’s love” in 1901, but by 1907, her second husband was dead of a heart condition. She died herself several years later, by 1912.

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