Biographical / Historical
Irene Castle and her husband Vernon are considered to be among the forerunners in bringing modern dance to the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. She was born Irene Foote on April 17, 1893 in New Rochelle, New York. She met Vernon, a British vaudeville actor and comedian, in 1910, and the couple was married in 1911. Soon after their marriage they moved to France where the couple gained notice for their ballroom dance routines. Upon returning to the United States, the couple rose to stardom with original dances such as the "Texas Tommy," the "Foxtrot," and the "Castle Walk." The Castles were influential in introducing ragtime to American society and elevating the music and dance style to a more sophisticated level. Irene is credited with introducing the flapper look to America, including bobbed hair, straight, loose dresses, and headache bands.
Upon the outbreak of World War One, Vernon left the stage to join the Royal Canadian Flying Corps. Meanwhile, Irene made several feature films, including the popular serial, Patria. Vernon was killed in a plane crash while performing a training exercise in Texas on February 15, 1918. Irene never chose another dance partner and ended her public career in 1923.
Irene married three times after Vernon's death. She gave birth to two children with her third husband, Major Frederick McLaughlin. In 1939, Irene was consulted on the biographical film, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. She devoted her later life to humanitarian work, particularly in the field of animal rescue. She established Orphans of the Storm, a shelter for dogs in Deerfield, Illinois, and remained an active advocate of animal rights. Irene died of congestive heart failure in Eureka, Arkansas on January 29, 1969. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx, and New York next to Vernon Castle.
Helen Curran was creator of the scrapbooks. Helen's parents, Sam and Edna Curran, were managers of Orphans of the Storm animal shelter. Helen Curran Fenner considered Irene Castle a role model and they became good friends. The donor of this collection, Gloria J. Fenner, was the stepdaughter of Helen Curran.