Updated: Jul 25, 2019
On July 25th, 1886, the world lost Giuseppina Morlacchi. Giuseppina, who was called "The Peerless" by the American press, "Josephine" by her friends, "Mademoiselle" by critics in awe of her poise and style, and "Madam" by her loving husband Texas Jack, was the single most famous ballet dancer in the world during her lifetime.
She was finishing a successful run of shows with her ballet troupe in Chicago when Ned Buntline approached her and her manager John Burke with an offer to join his new show, the Scouts of the Prairie, in a leading part. Giuseppina quickly jumped on the offer, as it gave her the chance to showcase her dramatic skills in addition to her world-renown dancing.
Buntline's other stars, Texas Jack Omohundro and Buffalo Bill Cody, were bonafide frontier scouts, soldiers, and hunters, but neither were actors. He knew that he needed a real star to ensure ticket sales, and he found it in the Peerless Morlacchi.
When Bill Cody's wife Louisa wrote about that first show in Chicago in 1872, she noted that both her husband and his friend Texas Jack were such bad actors that Buntline decided they needed lessons. He took Bill Cody under his wing, and asked Morlacchi to work with Jack.
“Texas Jack,” he said, “meet the Peerless Mademoiselle Morlacchi.” According to Mrs. Cody, “Texas Jack put out his hand in a hesitating, wavering way. His usually heavy, bass voice, cracked and broke. There were more difficulties than ever now, for Jack had fallen in love, at sight...And never did a pupil work harder than Texas Jack from that moment!”
The two married the next year in Rochester, New York, and were endlessly devoted to each other. Giuseppina was devastated by her husband's death in 1880, and retired from the stage soon after, returning to her home in Lowell, Massachusetts to care for her sister. Giuseppina Morlacchi died of stomach cancer on July 25, 1886, and is buried at St. Patrick's cemetery in Lowell, Mass.