N.Y. Times, March 29, 1900
Church Soprano's Income
Miss Stewart Expresses Surprise at Mrs. Penfield's Suit.
Singing for Dr. Parkhurst's Congregation Brings Her Only $800 a Year - Bankruptcy Petition
Miss Stewart, the soprano in Dr. Parkhurst's church, was examined in the Supreme Court in supplementary proceedings yesterday. The examination was in regard to notes she had given to Mrs. M. Penfield Pearson, aggregating $2,581.63.
While the examination was in progress Miss Stewart, through her attorney, filed a petition in bankruptcy in United States court. In this petition she recited the fact that she had clothing worth $100 and a musical library valued at the same amount. She placed her liabilities at $2,753, including the notes held by Mrs. Penfield and a claim of Fanchon A. Colville, as executor of Samuel A. Colville, for money loaned to her in 1888.
Mrs. Penfield explained that she advanced her $6,000 to Miss Stewart to defray the expenses of her musical education. David M. Neuberger, as counsel for Mrs. Penfield, examined Miss Stewart. She testified that she sang in Dr. Parkhurst's church and received a salary of $800 a year.
"Do you mean to say that you have been living on $66.66 a month since you have been in New York?" was asked her by the lawyer.
"I do. I have no diamonds."
"How often do you sing at Dr. Parkhurst's church?"
"Every Sunday and at funerals."
"Are you paid for singing at funerals?"
"Where do you reside"
"At 35 West Eleventh Street."
"What rent do you pay there?"
"I pay $50 a month for my apartments."
"Do you mean to say you live in $16.66 a month outside of your rent?"
"How long have you lived in New York City?"
"Where did you live prior to coming here?"
"In Chicago and for a time in Europe."
"Have you any other engagements than that in the church?"
"Where else have you sung during the past three months?"
"I sang once with the Castle Square Opera Company by special appointment, not under contract."
"I have sung at the houses of my friends."
"Who are they?"
"There are three or four places. I received no money for singing there and I refuse to give the names."
"How much money have you received from Mrs. Penfield?"
"Not one cent."
"Whom did you get the money from?"
"Frank Penfield, her son."
"I got $1,150 and $350 on two notes, and judgment was taken against me on them."
Miss Stewart said that she had given her lawyer $125 on Monday last. When she was called upon to sign the testimony taken in the supplementary proceedings, she said:
"Who is behind all this? It's all spite work. I don't see why this was begun. I have not seen Mrs. Penfield in years. We were always the best of friends. I never had anything against her."
"But she seems to have something against you - judgments" remarked Mr. Neuberger.
The hearing was then adjourned for one week and an application will be made to the court to compel Miss Stewart to give some details of her income.
Note: The bankruptcy was later discharged (N.Y. Times, June 28, 1900).
And then there was Effie Stewart, a self-promoting soprano, who became a notorious figure in church music circles, if such a feat is possible. "Chosen from a host of applicants," as it went in a newspaper piece, she plied her shrill coloratura at St. Patrick's for three years before skipping off to Europe for further study and a shot (not entirely successful) at grand opera. When she returned and tried to plug herself back into the New York scene, the Cathedral's soprano position happened to be filled. Effie cleverly shopped herself around as a prodigal diva, and wound up with a high-profile job, singing at "Dr. Parkhurst's" Madison Avenue Presbyterian… when a wealthy patroness sued Effie for nonpayment of the loans that the lady had paid to support her during her European jaunt. The whole thing was played out in the press to the great embarrassment on all sides…
Litigations aside, Effie earned a genuine place in musical history when she allowed Thomas Edison to record her voice during her tenure at St. Patrick's. Her 1889 cylinder of "The Pattison Waltz" still exists - and many historians regard it as the first-ever recording of a "serious" singer."
Basile, Salvatore. "Fifth Avenue famous." New York: Fordham U. Press, c2010, pgs 31-32.