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Clifton, Ada (1835-1891)

Katherine Louise Marie

Very little is known about Ada Clifton’s early life before she came to the stage in New York. Ireland places Ada Clifton’s debut on the New York stage in 1855 and labels her as a pupil of Mrs. Maeder (642). We do know that Clifton eventually performed with Laura Keene's company, and alongside Edwin Booth and John Brougham after joining with the company at Burton’s theatre on Broadway (Wingate 213). Clifton did star as Ophelia opposite Edwin Booth in Hamlet and also appeared in the title role of Aladdin beginning July 23, 1860 (Odell Vol.7). Despite her leading roles, Clifton was rather known for being a successful character actress, never ascending to stardom. Clifton is also mentioned often in the column, “Dramatic Feuilleton.” After divorcing her husband in 1867, she remarried the violinist Edward Mollenhauer and retired from acting (“Ada Clifton”). Apparently, Clifton left the New York stage but is said to have returned for the 1869-70 season as Ada Clifton Mollenhauer. Odell simply reports her "missing" for a long time, but does not give a reason for her absence (Odell Vol. 8). In 1879 she unsuccessfully attempted suicide, and lived until 1891 (“Ada Clifton”).

While not much is known about the particulars of her life, Ada Clifton does seem to have made some appearances at Pfaff’s. Justin Martin, names her as one of the actors who “was an occasional visitor to Pfaff’s” (73). Christine Stansell describes an occasion when Clifton was present at Pfaff's "with a journalist beau." The actress is also mentioned as one of "the handful of women artists [who] figure in the accounts of New York Bohemia" (Stansell 111). Thomas Butler Gunn describes a quarrel between Fanny Browne and Adolphus Davenport which seems to have involved Clifton: "There has been a furious row between the actor and his ex-mistress, in consequence of the former's infidelity with another actress, Ada Clifton, as she calls herself. Fanny caught Davenport kissing t'other strumpet, pitched into him, tore his clothes to rags and received a black eye. Cahill says she is constitutionally a wanton, and proposes to avail himself of that idiosyncacy [sic]. He visits her" (18.245).