Geraldine Farrar


Recording Artist and Willa Cather Prototype


By Doug Boilesen, 2020

Geraldine Farrar has been identified by scholars (1) as one of the prototypes for Kitty Ayrshire used by Cather in her opera related stories Scandal and A Gold Slipper.

Besides starring on the opera stage Farrar made phonograph records and was featured in advertisements which added her celebrity status, artistic reputation, and the prestige of opera to the promotion of the early phonograph.

This gallery provides examples of Geraldine Farrar in her popular culture roles as seen in advertisements, postcards and other ephemera.



October 1908


See "Which is which" for additional examples of this 1908 Victor advertising campaign which focused on promoting the accuracy and realism of the talking machine by asking the question: Can you really tell the difference between the actual performer and the Victor record?


Geraldine Farrar, celebrity postcard and autograph


Geraldine Farrar, a portrait in oils by F. A. Kaulbach, 1904, Courtesy Library of Congress


Geraldine Farrar in "Madam Butterfly," postcard circa 1907


Geraldine Farrar, celebrity postcard and autograph circa 1910


Both are Farrar, McClure's Magazine, 1915

See "Both are" for additional examples of the 1914 - 1916 advertising campaign which wanted to assure consumers that what you were purchasing was "just as truly" the artist as the artist him or herself.


Caruso and Farrar, Harper's Magazine, 1908


The Talking Machine World, December 1908.


Farrar taking a tour of the Victor factory in Camden, N.J., April 15, 1908 Talking Machine World and listening to a Victor V Talking Machine.

It was noted in the article that "Miss Farrar, who before signing an exclusive agreement with the Victor, had previously made records in the laboratories of the principal European companies, was greatly impressed at the magnificent equipment of the Victor plant, and at the care and attention which marked every part of the process of record taking."


The Outlook Magazine, 1909



Geraldine Farrar as the Goosegirl in Humperdinck's Königskinder, 1910. (Courtesy Metropolitan Opera Archives)

Deutsche Grammophon magazine ad with Geraldine Farrar (7" x 9.75") 1911

Parfum Geraldine Farrar postcard advertisement


Geraldine Farrar as “fashion editor” The Ladies’ Home Journal, 1914


The Talking Machine World, July 1917


New Victor Records December 1920


Farrar, "O, for the Wings of a Dove," 1911

"Do not neglect to cultivate the highest esthetic tastes." The loss of the taste for music is indeed 'a loss of happiness...'


Farrar and Schumann-Heink, Everybody's Magazine, January 1913 (Double page)


“You too can hear Miss Farrar just as she hears herself and to hear her on the Victrola is just the same as hearing her on the operatic or concert stage.” 1914


American Magazine, 1914


Farrar next to Victrola, ca. 1915 (Courtesy Library of Congress)


Geraldine Farrar was a prolific recording artist for Victor with 179 records listed in the "Discography of American Historical Records" for Farrar between 1907 and 1927.  Cather wrote in Three American Singers that Farrar has a “hold on the baseball type of American” and doubted that Farrar would be flattered by her popularity with those who are “proverbially bored by the art in which she excels.” “But she must at least be pleased that the phonograph companies find it necessary to issue a new Farrar record every month…”

Miss Farrar's story is one that the ranchman or the miner can understand; it gratifies his national pride, meets his sense of the picturesque. When he puts a "Farrar record" into his phonograph, he has something of the feeling of part-ownership that our fathers had when they spoke of Mary Anderson as "our Mary." Three American Singers by Willa Sibert Cather, McClure's Magazine, December 1913.


Farrar on cover of The Theatre, December 1915


Miss Geraldine Farrar in "smart French Felt" hat, newspaper clipping 1915, Courtesy New York Public Library Picture Collection



Farrar was an exclusive recording artist for Victor but she also had a perfume named after her, advertised for the Weber Pianola, a player piano, Steinway pianos, and Cutex polishes. Besides her operatic career and her recording career with its numerous full page phonograph ads she also became a film star making 14 silent movies from 1915 to 1920. Farrar was a true celebrity with her own following of young women known as “Gerry-flappers.“ 


Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc, Picture-Play Magazine , January 1917


Farrar in "Carmen" The Moving Picture World, September 1918


Motion Picture News, April 17, 1920


1918 Farrar approved, May 1918


Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

Farrar and Schumann-Heink, November 10, 1909


Farrar and Eames, the greatest American sopranos, 1911.


Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink


Exclusivity and hosting the world’s greatest artists like Farrar and Schumann-Heink (with Caruso of course here leading the procession) were privileges that came with owning a Victor. Wealth and high social status were obvious and intended parts of these ads. Victrola Christmas Brochure, 1914


Farrar and Schumann-Heink, The Literary Digest, February 26, 1916



Farrar to left of Caruso, "Victor Supremacy" c.1917


Farrar and Schumann-Heink -- Masterpieces of opera by the world's greatest artists, "Victor Supremacy" March 1917

See Phonographia's Victor Supremacy for more examples of this advertising theme.


Geraldine Farrar, Mme. Schumann-Heink and Lucrezia Bori

Farrar, Schumann-Heink and Bori, The Ladies' Home Journal, September 1919


Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

Farrar and Schumann-Heink, the National Geographic 1919


Farrar (behind Caruso in front) and Schumann-Heink (behind Farrar), The Theatre Magazine December, 1918


Farrar and Schumann-Heink, The Literary Digest for November 6, 1920


Farrar, Schumann-Heink and Bori, Victrola Book of the Opera, Sixth Edition, 1921

From 1912 - 1976 the Victor Talking Machine Company published their Victor Book of the Opera with stories, illustrations and record lists of Grand Operas. The many illustrations and records related to Geraldine Farrar can be seen by visiting Phonographia's The Victrola Book of the Opera 1921.


Farrar as Madame Butterfly, 1921


Geraldine Farrar makes Victrola Records exclusively, 1919



"It is quite fitting that so good an American as Miss Farrar" sing her rendition which "is quite an inspiring one." Victor Records Catalog August 1916

Farrar sings "Star Spangled Banner" Newspaper ad 1919

Farrar as Zaza, Victor Records Catalog for April 1920


Headline from New York Times article on April 23, 1922 about Farrar's farewell performance at the Met.

For timeline of Farrar's career using newspaper accounts see The Parterre Archives by LA CIECA on August 07, 2015


Geraldine Farrar endorses the new Cutex Polishes, 1919



Geraldine Farrar endorses Cutex, the modern way to manicure, The Ladies' Home Journal, 1919


April 17, 1920 Testimonial by Farrar for Steinway pianos



“The World and Its Woman” and “The Jewel Song”

Farrar was a prima donna, movie star and true celebrity of her time.  This movie excerpt from “The World and Its Woman” (1919), starring Geraldine Farrar, is accompanied by a 1913 Victor recording of Farrar singing Marguerite's aria the "Jewel Song" from Gounod's Faust. (1 min 33 sec).


WATCH Geraldine Farrar as Marguerite singing "The Jewel Song" in The World and Its Woman, 1919


"The Jewel Song" sung by Geraldine Farrar, Victor Record No. 88147


1915 Victor Red Seal Records which included Geraldine Farrar's "Faust - Air des bijoux" (Jewel Song) Record No. 88147 for $3.00.

Geraldine Farrar of one of the Artists who made Records Exclusively for the Victor. From "Victor Red Seal Records A Library of Famous Voices" - The Art of Great Singers and Players Recorded in Imperishable Form for the Benefit of the Present and Future Generations." Victor Talking Machine Company, 1915 (digitized by Google Books courtesy of Indiana University Library).


Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

Farrar and Schuman-Heink,"The Chosen instrument by the world's greatest artists." The Ladies' Home Journal" November 1918


The Victrola No. 360, 1924

Farrar and Schuman-Heink, "The finest gift of all - The gift that keeps on giving." (Top section of Victor Christmas ad).


1923 Farrar and Schuman-Heink and Homer - "Victor Supremacy"


Farrar, Schumann-Heink, Homer and Bori: "the instrument that is the greatest artists" in the homes of the people." 1920 (PM-0896)


Geraldine Farrar, Mme. Schumann-Heink and Mary Garden

Farrar, Schumann-Heink, Mary Garden - 1922 sepia rotogravure



Farrar— That's All A SIMPLE AMERICAN GIRL WHO BREAKS EVERY TRADITION OF TEMPERAMENT By Morris Gest (New York theatrical manager responsible for Miss Farrar's debut in The Movies.) Photoplay Magazine, December 1915.

Farrar as Salome, in the lyric tragedy of that name by Dr. Richard Strauss, composed upon a German translation of the one-act play by Oscar Wilde. It is interesting to note that Wilde, an Irish-Londoner, wrote his drama in French, for Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, with whom it did not find much favor... "Today at the age of thirty-three Geraldine Farrar is unquestionably the greatest among the world's singing women." (Source: Farrar, Ibid., p. 104.)


See the Victor Talking Machine Company's 1921 The Victrola Book of the Opera published by the Victor Talking Machine Company for illustrations and records related to Geraldine Farrar.

Visit the Phonographia gallery Willa Cather's Prototypes who were Recording Artists for an overview of Cather's six opera related prototypes: FARRAR, FREMSTAD, NORDICA, GARDEN, SCHUMANN-HEINK and BORI.

Youth and the Bright Medusa is also a PhonoLiterature Book Selection where text from the book and additional phonograph connections are documented.