Gabrielle Ray

'Gabrielle Ray said, 'I am always dancing; I love it! When I don't dance, I sing. What else is there to do?'


One of my main interests is a love of old pictures and postcards that give us a brief glimpse into a past and often forgotten age.

Collecting old postcard and pictures enables the viewer to glimpse a brief moment from that individual’s life; often far removed from their own either by the passage of time or social class.  Social History, often described as “history from below” shows everyday people, their social structure and the interaction of different groups; like the wealthy and politicians these people helped shape and maintain society and so shape history.

Examining the images one can’t help but wonder how the individuals lived, were their lives hard compared with today and were they happy. Often the images come with little or no information that can answer these questions, one can only imagine.

With each image saved and seen by others, so that moment, that person is kept alive, our understanding is increased and so our lives are enriched.

A picture is often more descriptive than words can ever be, but how true is this, if a picture enables us to gain entry to another time, another world, will, like the view from a different window, even in the same house provide a different image?

These images allow a glimpse into another time, another era; but what preceded or followed this image? As the individuals were positioned and posed like an artist’s model is what we see truly reflective or like the slightly softened image of an aging beauty a less that truthful representation?

I am reminded of a documentary I watched several years ago regarding the returning troops from the front during the First World War. The camera images show a broken, demoralised sea of humanity, young men who having seen images that most of us hope never to witness had lost that sparkle; that zest which only youth has. But bring on the news camera and that battered returning group came to life, the smiles returned and even though muddied and bloodied their heads and bodies became erect, their arms swung in time and they demonstrated a swagger that spoke of courage, defiance and determination; an image that gave hope to the viewer.

It seems to me that even in the early days of photography all was not what it appeared and now in the advancing digital age a picture may paint a thousand words but will it be factual or fiction?

My interests And collections vary from Maids, Nuns, religious dress and the more risqué images of the French Maid. Often when searching for a particular subject the boundaries cross and as well as true Maids we find Edwardian actresses dressed as Nuns or Maids. During one of my searches I came across Gabrielle Ray dressed as a Maid, “Susan” in Lady Madcap  and was instantly captivated by her.

Collecting the individual cards isn’t enough; I like to know more about the individual, which is easier when that person is an actress, although often the information is scarce

Searching for information about Miss Ray I discovered that she was one of the most photographed women of the Edwardian era and described in “Temps” as the most beautiful woman in the United Kingdom; but sadly her success, if measured by being visibly working or in the public eye was short-lived. She struggled with depression and alcohol abuse, and her health declined. In 1936, she suffered a complete mental breakdown and was institutionalized for nearly forty years; dying  in 1973 at Holloway Sanatorium at the age of 90.

There are several other sites and blogs dedicated to the memory of Miss Ray and my intention is to share my small but growing collection of pictures and postcards with anyone who shares my interest. Reading about Miss Ray I was saddened that this lady, like many others before and since, after a brief moment in the sun they are soon forgotten. Hopefully as people view and enjoy this blog her memory will remain alive for a little longer.

I have started to write a short Biography  about Miss Ray which I will try to update as frequently as possible. The Index page will show any updates under the Biography catagory.

I have also tried to link the various postcards and pictures to the plays in which Miss Ray appeared, however I realise, after several errors that this isn’t an easy task as many are decorative studio poses rather than production images. The individual Rotary, Philco and other publishers numbers are included with any description which should make searching for a particular card or ones from the same set easier. If I have made any glaring errors please feel free to let me know.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy my collection as much as I do.



  1. Hi and good afternoon. I have just discovered your website, as I was looking up Gabrielle Ray. I also collect postcards of her, such a beautiful lady! I started a facebook page last year devoted to her memory which you might interesting.



    Comment by Adrianna | January 20, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Adrianna, good to find another enthusiast, we seem to be few and far between, I would be interested to see your Facebook page although I don’t have an account with them.

      Comment by summertime75 | January 20, 2013 | Reply

  2. Hi, thank you for your reply! It is so sad that someone as lovely and famous in her time as Ms Ray is almost forgotten now!

    Comment by Adrianna | January 20, 2013 | Reply

    • PS! Like you, I have many postcards of Ms Ray, are you aware of any exisitng film of her on stage?


      Comment by Adrianna | January 20, 2013 | Reply

      • I don’t think so, I have searched but so far I haven’t found any reference to news films, hopefully one day

        Comment by summertime75 | January 20, 2013

    • It is a shame but sadly so were many other actresses of her era, it’s only because of a few die hard collectors (possible anoraks lol) that keep their memory alive. I have quite a few doubles if you want to swap some and currently 1735 in my collection which excludes the pictures and newspaper pictures.

      Comment by summertime75 | January 20, 2013 | Reply

  3. That would be great! Do you have a newspaper pics/stories you could email to me? Thankyou!:)

    Comment by Adrianna | January 20, 2013 | Reply

    • I have several that I haven’t posted yet that I obtained from The Stage Archive but if you use the categories list you will find several that you can copy

      Comment by summertime75 | January 20, 2013 | Reply

  4. Hi Summertime, I bought a couple of postcards of Gabrielle Ray last year and, when trying to find out more about her, came across your blog which is amazing by the way. I am a Scottish artist and I make work about tortured souls. I’m currently working on a couple of pieces about Gabrielle using the postcards I have of her. I was wondering if you would mind if I used some of the information on your website such as the theatre programmes. My work is a mix of collage and oil paint and I try to incorporate the stories into the paintings.

    You can have a look at my work here to get an idea of what I do. I look forward to hearing from you. My email is if you would prefer to contact me directly.

    With best wishes Janee

    Comment by Jane E Porter (@janeeporter_Art) | January 20, 2013 | Reply

  5. Hello, I have a bone china cup and saucer with an Edwardian lady, a cat, a policeman and a boy all using a diabolo. Looking for any references all I can find are your postcards of Gabrielle Ray demonstrating the device. The image on the cup is dressed in just the same way as her and I wondered if you think it may be her – or refer to a play she was in? I have an image of cup if you’d like to see it. Fascinated to know what you think! Best wishes Jan.

    Comment by Jan Trewin | March 15, 2016 | Reply

  6. Hi, I found a postcard of Gabrielle Ray under my bin of all places this morning. I have no idea how it got there. It appears to have been written by Miss Ray to a Mr Richard Jolly in 1905. The text on the back says ‘Mr Richard Jolly on his 30th birthday’ underneath that it says ‘P.S. Ray is only a stage name of mine. The postmark is Kingsbridge (presumably in Devon) and the date is April 23 05. Is there some way I could send you a photo if you are interested in seeing it?

    Comment by peopledonteatenoughfudge | October 3, 2016 | Reply

    • Thank you that would be most welcome my email address is of course if you are interested in selling the card I’m sure we could reach an aggrement

      Comment by summertime75 | October 3, 2016 | Reply

  7. Hi Summertime – i found your website while googling a card in the 4869 series missing from my own collection. What a fine website and as someone who is struggling with sql atm i can only admire the work and technical expertise that must have gone into producing it. Very sad to read about Gabrielle Ray in her later years.

    Comment by r.brewster | October 6, 2016 | Reply

    • Thank you, it’s always good to hear when people enjoy this blog, The Merry Widow is a lovely set of cards and the pictures in the Play Pictorial are equally good. Regards, Chris

      Comment by summertime75 | October 6, 2016 | Reply

  8. Summertime75 – do you happen to have any more information on the company of Millar and Lang. I, too, have a postcard collection (from my family) and am hoping to write a book. Take a look if you wish.

    Comment by Sandi Ratch | December 22, 2016 | Reply

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