NORDICA, LILLIAN. 1857-1914.
Lot 1113
NORDICA, LILLIAN. 1857-1914.
Sold for US$ 24,400 inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
NORDICA, LILLIAN. 1857-1914.
Extensive archive of correspondence, photographs, and ephemera derived from the estate of George W. Young, the third and final husband of Lillian Nordica.
1.Over 150 letters from Nordica to George W. Young, written between 1903 and 1914, mostly Autograph Letters Signed (“Lillie”), many on hotel stationery, with a similar number of letters to Nordica plus business correspondence, legal contracts (including their marriage certificate) and other documents pertaining to Nordica’s career, mostly housed in 13 3-ring binders.
2. An album containing approx 140 silver-print photographs of Nordica’s final tour of 1913-1914, with stops including Hawaii, Samoa, Thursday Island, Hobart, Auckland, Sydney, and Melbourne, various sizes, frequently captioned by Nordica’s valet. Also 35 silver-print photographs of “Oakwood,” the Young and Nordica home in Los Angeles, including scenes of their house-warming party.
3. Nordica’s manuscript will of 1914, together with Young’s legal file pertaining to the will.
4. Large grouping of receipts, bills, and financial papers, 2 manuscript volumes of household inventories, several volumes of newspaper clippings, printed ephemera related to Nordica’s travels and career including programs, travel postcards (frequently annotated by Nordica), and the calling cards of Nordica’s many admirers.
5. A few books collected by Nordica, including her family’s copy of the Boston Academy of Music Vocal Instruction book, Boston, 1838 (signed by James U. Norton and Melissa Norton) and a piece of the curtain and shingles collected by Nordica from the Palazzo Guardi opera house in Venice.
Correspondence and files in generally excellent condition, mostly with original envelopes; scrapbooks and photograph album bindings worn and dry.

Lillian Nordica was already a world famous soprano when she met New York banker, George W. Young. Their affair began in 1903 when Nordica was still married to tenor, Zoltan Doeme. Nordica and Young married in 1909 in London. During their affair and marriage, Nordica cemented her legend with rigorous touring and promotion. By the end of her life, Nordica was known as much for her large personality and ingenuity as she was for her voice.
Nordica’s biographers have typically characterized her relationship with Young as stale and unhappy. The letters in this archive, however, paint a more complex picture, especially of their illicit courtship. While touring, Nordica wrote Young frequent, often steamy, love letters, sometimes more than once a day.
Nordica, whose likeness graced the early Coca-Cola advertisements, had a passion for promoting herself and her ideas. Present in this archive are drawings, plans, and letters relating to an industrial alchemy scheme she backed in 1908, as well as plans for the never-launched “Madame Nordica’s Voice and Nerve Tonic.” Nordica also proudly lent her voice and name to the suffrage movement. In 1912, her group, the Nordica Singers, were dubbed the “Suffragette Singers” for their overt political standing.
Like many singers, Nordica was highly attuned to her body, especially her mouth, throat, and lungs. She took deep, almost scientific interest in the mechanics of her instrument, and corresponded quite fluently with several esteemed doctors. In 1913, Nordica embarked on an ambitious tour of the Pacific, documented in the photograph album present here. Her ship, the Tasman, struck a coral reef in the Torres Straits, stranding the passengers for several days, during which time Nordica suffered from exposure and fell ill. The tour continued, with the ailing diva receiving extravagant receptions across the Pacific, but Nordica’s health declined and she died of pneumonia on May 10, 1914.
The settlement of Nordica’s estate proved scandalous, inciting lengthy legal battles between Young and Nordica’s sisters.
Provenance: From a descendant of George W. Young by a previous marriage.
See illustration.
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