Born: Nov. 7, 1847
Died: Sept. 25, 1924
Known for: Discovered in Grass Valley at age 8, Lotta Crabtree received accolades for her dancing and singing for gold miners. She grew up to be an actress and the highest-paid performer in America.
Background: During the Gold Rush, Crabtree became kind of a Shirley Temple of her time. The daughter of the operator of a boardinghouse for miners, Crabtree met Lola Montez, an infamous chanteuse who taught her to sing and dance. Crabtree performed childish songs and dances regularly for miners and at venues in Nevada City and Sacramento, including the Forrest Theater on K Street, during the late 1850s. She eventually became a San Francisco favorite and, by the 1870s, was touring the nation with her own theatrical company. When her career ended, she had amassed a fortune estimated at $4 million.
A highlight: In 1875, Crabtree donated a fountain on Market Street to the city of San Francisco. During the 1906 earthquake, the fountain served as a message center, a pole in a refugee tent or both. The fountain's role in the earthquake has been celebrated every year on April 18.
In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were originally published in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.