Lotta Crabtree, The Nation’s Darling

By | June 12, 2019

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Portrait of Lotta Crabtree Smoking a Cigar. Source: (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Long before the title of America’s Sweetheart was bestowed on Mary Pickford, Shirley Temple, Debbie Reynolds, Meg Ryan, and Sandra Bullock, to name a few, one actress earned the nickname “The Nation’s Darling.” You may not know the name Lotte Crabtree, but in the last half of the 1800s, she was the best-known and highest-paid actresses in the United States. Let’s look at the life and times of Lotta Crabtree, the Nation’s Darling. 

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Lotta Crabtree got her start entertaining the men at gold rush mining camps. (gia.ecu)

A Gold Rush Diva

Lotta Crabtree was born in New York City on November 7, 1847. When the California Gold Rush of 1849 hit, her father left to seek his fortune in the gold mines. Lotta and her mother joined him in California in 1852, traveling by boat to the Isthmus of Panama. Since the Panama Canal had not yet been constructed, they had to travel across land to the other side of the isthmus than board another ship bound for California. In California, the 6-year-old Lotta, with her brilliant red hair and big voice, entertained the miners at the camp. They rewarded her with nuggets of gold.