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Fox, Della (1870–1913)

Fox, Della (1870–1913)

American actress and singer, known as a light-opera comedian. Born Della May Fox on October 13, 1870, in St. Louis, Missouri; died on June 15, 1913, in New York City; daughter of Andrew J. (a photographer) and Harriett (Swett) Fox; married Jacob D. Levy (a New York diamond broker), in December 1900.

Selected plays:

title role in Editha's Burglar (1883); Yvonne in The King's Fool (Niblo's Garden, 1890); Blanche in Castles in the Air (Broadway Theater, 1890); Wang (Broadway Theater, 1891); Panjandrum (1893); The Lady or the Tiger (1894); Clairette Duval in The Little Trooper (Casino Theater, 1894); Fleur-de-lis (Palmer's Theater, 1895); The Wedding Day (Casino Theater, 1897); Margery Dazzle in The Little Host (Herald Square, 1898).

Briefly the highest paid performer on the American variety stage, musical star Della Fox started her theatrical career while still a schoolgirl, appearing in a juvenile production of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. At 13, she made her professional debut in Editha's Burglar, a one-act farce based on a story by Frances Hodgson Burnett and adapted by Augustus Thomas; Thomas also appeared in the play. The production toured throughout the Midwest and Canada between 1883 and 1885, after which Fox performed with a succession of touring opera companies. Much of her most valuable professional experience was gained in the company of Heinrich Conried, who taught her acting and oversaw her New York debut in The King's Fool (1890). She went on to play opposite DeWolf Hopper in the operetta Castles in the Air. Fox's diminutive size and Hopper's tall, lanky stature made them truly a comic duo, and they were paired again in Wang (1891), Panjandrum (1893), and The Lady or the Tiger (1894). Her first starring role in The Little Trooper (1894) led to a number of successful productions, including a turn with Lillian Russell in The Wedding Day (1897). As Margery Dazzle in the musical The Little Host (1898), Fox crossed the continent with her own company, reaching the pinnacle of her popularity. Blonde, plump, and baby-faced, she popularized the "Della Fox curl" throughout the United States.

Fox suffered an attack of peritonitis in the spring of 1899, followed a year later by a nervous breakdown brought on by alcohol and drugs. She had recovered sufficiently by 1900 to marry Jacob D. Levy, a New York diamond broker, after which she made only sporadic appearances on stage. She returned for the 1912 season and in April 1913, shortly before her death, appeared in a revival of the comedy Rosedale. Della Fox died in a private sanitarium in New York City, at the age of 42.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1981.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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