Ernest Boulton came from a family of London stockbrokers. As a teenager he performed in variety acts as Lady Stella Clinton. In 1870 Boulton was arrested leaving a ball in drag. He was initially charged with public mischief, a minor charge used to round up cross-dressers. But after a police surgeon demanded to inspect Boulton’s buttocks the charge was changed to a felony: “conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence.” As Oscar Wilde was to discover in 1895, sodomy was a grave crime in England. In The Queen v. Boulton the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Boulton sailed for New York soon after, took the name Ernest Byne, and continued his drag performances in the U.S. In this Sarony photo Byne’s magnificent bustle is the height of Victorian fashion.


  • Title: Ernest Byne (1848-1904)
  • Creator: Napoleon Sarony
  • Location: New York, New York
  • Physical Dimensions: Carte-de-visite (albumen), 4" x 2 1/2"
  • Provenance: The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation
  • Subject Keywords: Cross-dressers
  • Type: Photograph
  • Date: ca. 1875

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