In February, 1921, in the midst of Carnival Season, a young woman from the Cajun hamlet of Crowley walked into the ornate lobby of the Grunewald Hotel. There she met a man who was perhaps the most famous illustrator of his age, Howard Chandler Christy. The artist, who had made his career drawing beautiful young women, saw in the young woman something special. Hazel Dare Wilder was special, and while surprisingly forgotten today, she was on the precipice of making her mark on the world.
The history of New Orleans as we know it is popularly centered around its famous dishes to its celebrations to its music, and within dug up newspaper articles that have been recovered from the past, we have to come to recognize the stories of those whose careers have left a mark on the city of New Orleans, one being a woman by the name of Hazel Dare Wilder, who should be held in esteem for the goodness she gave her husband, the hand she lent to her community, and her remarkable voice and self-taught abilities. The early life of Hazel Dare Wilder is one that will forever be unknown, however details surrounding her calling to becoming a singer can be retrieved in clippings from various articles dating back to the 1920s to the 1970s. From a kind house-wife to a friendly neighbor, putting together the pieces on the kind of woman Wilder was is simple. She was most likely hospitable and charitable to those close to her, and driven and fearless when it came to her own needs. Not only was Wilder beautiful on the inside, but on the outside as well, as she was described as “stunning.” On February 19, 1921, Wilder is said to have “found joy in this exercise.” This exercise, also known as singing, played a key role in the way she left her stamp on New Orleans during this time.
Fetched from the same article mentioned above, it is mentioned how Hazel Dare Wilder was married to a farmer, living a simple life attending her everyday responsibilities in Crowley, Louisiana before stepping foot into New Orleans. The beginning of her singing career began with her solely breaking into song within her own home, her record player playing a big part in this. Her voice did not go unnoticed, and those surrounding her encouraged her to take the next step in performing for others. This goes to show that before her career launched in New Orleans, Wilder clearly sang for her own enjoyment and excitement. Throughout her time sharing her voice to various people, and attending multiple auditions, Wilder continued to astonish others with her talent. According to an article written by the Crowley Post-Signal on March 20, 1971, well-known artists from Alessandro Bonci to Louisa Tetrazini, also provided feedback on her voice, recognizing her as exceptional. Contributing to the fact that she had a breathtaking voice, the way Wilder had no previous coaching beforehand proves her to have been eager and motivated.
According to another article written by the Crowley Post-Signal on September 14, 1926, Wilder performed in concert in Louisiana after arriving home from Europe, where she traveled to learn how to improve and progress her singing skills. It is evident that singing slowly impacted the course of her life, as I am sure she would have never imagined to have moved 5,000 miles away from Louisiana to better her voice. The shows she performed for those around her also revealed how much she valued her work, as all the money she collected from her time singing for the Woman’s Reading Club went directly to her voice coaching/tutoring. From performing in small concerts in Crowley, Louisiana, she went on to present her voice in New Orleans in front of bigger named artists including Harry Brunswick Loeb and Mary Garden. The comments and criticism she received from her shows only pushed her to continue to strive for excellence. Hazel Dare Wilder’s local singing career in the moved on to bigger and better things. In the same article written by the Crowley Post-Signal on September 14, 1926, Wilder is said to have supposedly left her life in Louisiana to prosper in New York City. From there she began a new life for herself, as she married a new, rich man, and continued to flourish in her singing career.
Hazel Dare Wilder’s life at this time was recollected by the article, Louisiana Girl Who Stirred Mary Garden Weds Wealthy Scion. Soon after living in New York City chatter came about regarding her getting married for the third time. Her marriage to the second man she formed a relationship had come to an end, revealing that Wilder was constantly finding herself being sought out by different lovers. As she focused on her voice while performing, men became immersed by her talent and beauty. From the moment Hazel Dare Wilder tried out her voice for Mary Garden, she had become a magnet, the prime focus of everyone surrounding her. Although many details about her life are still left to be discovered, from what we do know, Wilder left behind many lessons for young people. Through her life, she has shown beyond doubt, what it means to chase your dreams. It is obvious that all her efforts and tremendous hard work paid off in the end, as her name will forever be remembered in these newspaper articles. In the article written by The Crowley Post-Signal on September 14, 1926, Wilder stated that as a child she believed she would be a “stage star,” and she accomplished just that.
Written By: VTREMOLS200
Originally Published: December 16th, 2020 || Last Updated: February 14th, 2022
A part of Doc Studio’s History of the New Orleans Landscape Collection
- “Clipping from The Crowley Post-Signal.” Newspapers.com, 1971, http://www.newspapers.com/clip/26076433/the-crowley-post-signal/.
- Corporation, Music Trades. “Music Trades, Volume 61.” Google Books, Music Trades Corporation, 1921, books.google.com/books?id=K5RQAAAAYAAJ.
- “Clipping from The Crowley Signal.” Newspapers.com, 1922, http://www.newspapers.com/clip/26076727/the-crowley-signal/. –
- Music. “Musical America, Volumes 33-34.” Google Books, Google, 1920, books.google.com/books?id=pjg_AQAAMAAJ.
- “Clipping from The Crowley Post-Signal.” Newspapers.com, 1926, http://www.newspapers.com/clip/29371730/the-crowley-post-signal/.
- New Orleans States. “Famed Louisiana Girl Weds Heir To Millions.” NewsBank, 1934, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AMNEWS.
- New Orleans Item. “User Account.” NewsBank, 1921, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/?p=AWNB.