Hampers packed with black tights and green dresses

With such energetic performances we rarely stop to think what the music hall stars wore or how they packed to tour across the world. Shipping records tell us that James & Lucy Allison travelled with at least 6 pieces of luggage when they travelled to perform in Australia. In this grainy newspaper clipping from the Sydney Mail & Advertiser dated 22 Feb 1902 we can see that Lucy Allison wore green velvet and her skipping rope dance was quite enough to take your breath away. Their performances also included a skit with large hats, another with evening dress and yet another dressed as elderly couple. Lucy’s mother was a milliner.

Sydney Mail & Advertiser Feb 22, 1902 (National Library Australia via Trove)

The Allison’s changed costume through their performance eventhough their turn would have been no longer that 15 minutes. Their encore required a further change in costume. This New Zealand newspaper from 1902 gives us a vivid picture of James wearing a suit of black tights with his lean, lithe figure twisting and bouncing with the music.

The Allisons (James & Lucy) are distinctively clever. They opened with a turn as an old fashioned couple, sing a song, and are tempted by the music to dance. The lady’s simulation of the tottering gait of the ancient dame is cleverly done and realistic. She also does a skipping turn in which various step dances are neatly executed, while the skipping rope whirls continuously. Mr Allison dressed in a suit of black tights, cuts some truly remarkable capers, his lean, lithe figure taking on weird aspects as he twists and bounces in time to the music.


Travelling required sturdy luggage and the British makers of such luggage would regularly advertise in the entertainment newspapers. In 1907, White Brothers of Nottingham advertised in the Music Hall and Theatre Review with a list of artistes who were customers including The Allisons. Of course this may not be James & Lucy Allison but it is indicative of the trunks and baskets used regularly for travelling artistes.

Music Hall and Theatre Review 15 March 1907 (courtesy of British Newspaper Archive)
Music Hall and Theatre Review 21 April 1905 (courtesy of British Newspaper Archive)

However, this earlier White Brothers ad from December 1899 also mentions The Allisons and perhaps it is more likely to be James & Lucy Allison because it also includes other acts that toured at the same time including The Selbinis and The Haytors on the Harry Rickards tour of Australia in 1897. At this time Whites were the main Hamper makers to supply the artistes. The Allisons’ sailed with the Selbinis’ and other performers as the Australian newspapers confirm.

Music Hall and Theatre Review. 15 December 1899 (courtesy of British Newspaper Archive)
The Express and Telegraph Adelaide 13 Nov 1897 (Courtesy National Library of Australia via Trove)
The Critic (Adelaide) 6 Nov 1897 (Courtesy National Library of Australia via Trove)

2 thoughts on “Hampers packed with black tights and green dresses”

  1. Paul Gray in his book Valley of Comedians: Brixton in the Good Old Days talks of the offices and stables of ‘well known baggage men’ in the arches at Loughborough Junction ‘who on Sunday mornings, could be found at the big London Terminals waiting for the props, baggage and scenery of the big illusionists …….. and laughter makers’. so of course a whole army of people needed to move the large hamper and more, around.

    1. Thanks Tracey, that’s a great find. The sight of those huge hampers full of props being loaded and unloaded and finding the correct owner must have been quite something.

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