Ella Wesner started as a ballerina but evolved into the most popular male impersonator in the U.S. Wesner recycled satirical songs from England, cleverly tweaking them for American audiences. Her most popular act was a drunken man getting a shave. Although some reviewers objected to Wesner’s coarseness, audiences enjoyed her vulgarity as befitting a parody of masculinity. Wesner’s only reported romance was a long affair with singer Josie Mansfield, mistress of James Fisk. When that unscrupulous capitalist was shot dead, Mansfield and Wesner moved to Paris to escape the more puritanical elements of Victorian society.


  • Title: Ella Wesner (1851-1917)
  • Physical Dimensions: Carte-de-visite (albumen), 4" x 2 1/2"
  • Provenance: The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation
  • Subject Keywords: Cross-dressers
  • Type: Photograph
  • Publisher: C.D. Fredricks & Co.
  • Date: ca. 1870

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