Posted on 07/02/2014

Photo taken on November  1, 1915

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Anita Patti Brown
African American
Nicknamed the Bronze Tetrazzini
Recorded on the Swan label
Recorded on the Columbia label
Recorded for Victor

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Photo replaced on July  3, 2014
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Anita Patti Brown

Anita Patti Brown
She won a scholarship to the Chicago Musical College and soon began her concert trips. She has traveled all over the United States, British West Indies, and South America and is without doubt one of the best soloists among Negro Americans and notable among Americans of any race. [The Crisis Magazine, 1915 edition]

Soprano Anita Patti Brown (circa 1870 - 1950) was a prominent recitalist from the 1900s to the 1920s. Little is known about her early life, other than that she was born Patsy Dean in Georgia. Showing an early aptitude for music, she sang in various church choirs and about 1900 moved to Chicago to further her studies. There she met and married Arthur A. Brown, a choral director who supported her interest in music. After making her Chicago debut at the Chicago Opera House in 1903, Brown toured so extensively throughout the United States, Caribbean, and South America that she was dubbed by the black press "the glob-trotting prima donna." Another nickname was "The Bronze Tetrazzini," after the world famous soprano. Her professional name morphed from Patsy Dean to Mme. Patti Dean Brown to Mme. Patti Brown to Mme. Anita Patti Brown. The "Patti," evidently, was meant to be evocative of the great soprano Adelina Patti, a star since the 1870s.

Brown put on a glamorous show, with beautiful gowns that she changed several times during a performance, and black newspapers treated her as their version of the celebrated prima donnas of the white concert world. In later years she dabbled in beauty products, running ads for perfumes and skincare products.

In June 1916, while touring the East, she made at least one test recording for Victor in New York. According to the files this was an unidentified aria from the opera Mignon, accompanied by pianist "E. King" (presumably Victor staff musician Edward King). The record was not issued, although it was mentioned in the New York Age, which reported that while in New York she had made "a number of records" for the label. This may have been in error, as the files indicate only one title.

Four years later, in April 1920, Mme. Brown paid to have a private recording made by Columbia. The files show this to be a twelve-inch single faced record, made on April 14 by "Mrs. A. A. Brown" of Chicago and approved for pressings on the Columbia personal label. The selection was the soprano showpiece "Villanelle" by Dell'Acqua. Brown sold copies by mail, mentioning it in her skincare products advertisements in black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender and the Crisis. The record was also mentioned in the November 1920 American Musician as being played at one of her concerts. Brown continued to concertize during the 1920s. During the 1930s she operated a vocal studio in Chicago. She died on December 28, 1950.

[Bio: "Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry," 1890 - 1919 by Tim Brooks]