Mystery woman in the York built Coupe
Florence La Badie was a famous silent firm star that received a customized York built Pullman Deluxe Coupe in 1916. La Badie’s publicity photo, via Pinterest, is from the height of her career in that same time frame.
When I visited Paul Vaughn to see his restoration underway on a 1909 Pullman Model 4-40 Gentleman’s Roadster, he showed me his collection of Pullman artifacts. William H. Shank’s 1970 booklet “History of the York Pullman Automobile 1903-1917” was on the counter. Several years ago I tried to discover the name of the mystery “Broadway star” noted in the caption of the photo appearing on page 32 of Shank’s booklet. Paul suggested it might be silent film star Florence La Badie.
I’m a fan of using trade publications and old newspapers in my research. In the past several weeks those sources provided ample proof the mystery woman in the ivory white 1916 Pullman “Junior” Deluxe Coupe is Florence La Badie.
The Motion Picture Trade Journal MOTOGRAPHY provided my first details, of the La Badie connection to Pullman Automobiles, on page 1073 of the May 13, 1916 issue: “At the Thanhouser [a silent film studio] booth in the Grand Central Palace a voting contest was conducted along original lines. Florence La Badie is having a special Pullman coupe made for her and a prize of $100 was offered for the best suggestions for decorating it—both as to the color scheme and the draperies and upholstering.”
The surrounding issues of MOTOGRAPHY provided more details about La Badie’s Pullman: “In appreciation of Miss La Badie’s brilliant work before the camera, the Thanhouser Film corporation suggested that she select for her own use the most beautiful car that she could find.” “Her Pullman coupe was finished in an ivory white silver-plated rims and fittings, broadcloth tapestry and rose-colored silk curtains.”
“The car was shipped from York, Pa., the home of the Pullman, in a special express car, accompanied by two special guards, and was met upon its arrival at 2 o’clock in the morning at Jersey City by the Pullman traffic manager and assistants from the New York branch.”
It was a big New York City event on Saturday June 17th, 1916 for the public unveiling of La Badie with her custom Pullman coupe; as a fundraiser for illuminating the Statue of Liberty. The following weekend’s Sunday newspaper, The Sun of New York City carried the following photo with an article.
A reporter for The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette likely was in New York City for that event. His article included everything covered by The Sun, plus much more; including La Badie’s visit to the Pullman showrooms near 60th Street on Broadway. Quoting the entirety of The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette article of July 9, 1916:
“THOUSANDS CHEER FILM STAR’S COUPE”
“Florence La Badie, Driving Her Beautiful White Pullman, ‘Bulls’ Wall Street.”
“SCORES HIT ON BROADWAY”
“Surrounded by nearly 5,000 ‘Bulls’ and ‘Bears’ in Wall street, Florence La Badie, star of the Thanhouser Film corporation, whose face is known to lovers of the movies everywhere, climbed to the top of her Pullman white coupe in a gigantic rally for the cause of the New York World’s fund for the illumination of the Statue of Liberty.”
“Never before in the history of New York’s financial district—the money market of the world—has a woman, aided and abetted by such a handsomely appointed motor car, created such a furore as did Miss La Badie.”
“Twenty-five mounted policemen were needed to hold the immense crowd in check. With the assistance of five young women who carried replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Miss La Badie collected a magnificent sum for the illumination fund, the whole rally consuming less than ten minutes.”
“Leaving the Pullman Motor Car company’s showrooms on upper Broadway at 11:30 o’clock, Miss La Badie, at the wheel of her coupe, equipped with the famous C. H. Magnetic Gear-Shift, led the procession of more than twenty-five Pullmans of all models, the second car being the company’s latest product, the light delivery car, bearing appropriate signs. The delivery car driver was given explicit orders to trail the coupe within six feet and for more than ten miles through all kinds of traffic he obeyed as if towed by Miss La Badie’s car.”
“Arriving at Broad and Wall streets, Miss La Badie ascended the steps of the sub-treasury for which a special permit had to be obtained from Secretary McAdoo at Washington. In a few well-chosen words, Miss La Badie, explained the purposes of the Statue of Liberty fund and while the ‘movie’ men turned their cranks from points of vantage, she and her pretty assistants were besieged with eager contributors who placed their coins in the miniature statues.”
“In the afternoon Miss La Badie, in her coupe, held a reception at the Pullman showrooms, which had been gaily decorated. In the evening the coupe, radiant with multi-colored lights and bearing at the front of the hood a miniature Statue of Liberty, circled the ‘white lights,’ stopping at the principal motion picture theatres where large crowds flocked around the car and expressed their admiration.”
Florence La Badie was often on the cover of movie magazines, during the early decades of silent movies; such as this June 10, 1916 issue of MOTOGRAPHY. Florence La Badie’s popularity as an actress was only second to Mary Pickford; who was actually responsible for getting Florence into the silent movie business.
In the movie industry, La Badie was known for performing her own stunts and was considered a daredevil. She regularly rode her motorcycle to and from the Thanhouser studios; in New Rochelle, New York. Florence appeared in 185-films until her death at the age of 29 on October 13, 1917.
On August 28, 1917, La Badie was driving near Ossining, New York, when she swerved on Sope Hill in Croton-on-Hudson to avoid a collision with several trucks at 6:30 PM and went down a steep embankment. She was taken to the hospital in Ossining and died from septicemia (blood poisoning) as a result of injuries from the accident.
In the past 20-years, conspiracies surrounding the death of Florence La Badie have surfaced in recent books and on the Internet, with few sources to back them up. Articles, with sources, debunking those myths are at this link and this link.
Links to other related posts include:
- 1914 Pullman Chassis; First York Auto Show at The Coliseum
- Sole Surviving Pullman Automobile with Vulcan Electric Gear Shift
- Yorker won inaugural auto races at Pimlico
- 1912 Aviation Meet at York Fairgrounds featured Curtiss Aeroplane racing a York-Built Car
- A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 1
- A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 2
- A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 3
- East End Circus brings First Auto to York in 1896