Friday, August 5, 2011

Portrait of Jenny Linn: the Swedish Nightingale

This week I received an email from Mike Kiger with an incredible story about a chance find with an interesting story attached to it.  I hope he finally does some investigating to find out more about this treasure and the story of Jenny Linn.

While traveling on the Oregon coast with family, we stepped in to an antique shop that was having a going out of business sale. I literally stumbled over a picture that was sitting on the floor and being something of a history buff, I quickly realized that the picture or portrait as it may be called was of Jenny Linn. Jenny Linn was also known or referred to as the Swedish Nightingale. PT Barnum brought Jenny Linn over to this country as a young teenager to tour with Barnum’s show. It has been said that the gold miners in the California gold rush, were willing to pay a week’s pay just to hear Jenny Linn sing.

When I asked the owner of the shop about the portrait, the owner said that it had an interesting history. There was a one legged woman in a wheelchair who would wheel around Salem, Oregon collecting antiques. She had a son who was let out of an institution in California early so that he could take care of his mother. The mother and son became a fixture around Salem, Oregon with him pushing her around town while collecting antiques. The portrait of Jenny Linn was part of the woman’s estate. I did not buy the portrait that day and waited a week while mulling it over before sending a family member back to purchase it.

The picture measures twenty three by twenty eight inches and has the following inscription at the bottom of the picture “ To Miss Ruth Olvidge from a portfolio belonging to the late Viscountess Ossington in memory of her. From Miss CM Phillmore September 1891”

Being a private investigator, I always have hopes of doing some research on the inscription at the bottom of the portrait to find out more about the portrait. Yet much like the cobbler’s kids who never seem to have shoes, my personal projects always seem to be the last in line when it comes to being researched.

I don’t know how my portrait made it’s way from the east coast to the west coast, but I do know that it has found a permanent home with me and it is admired daily for it’s beauty.

Mike Kiger has been a private investigator in the Portend, Oregon area for over twenty years where he works all types of cases from aggravated murder to adoptions. Mr. Kiger specializes in adoption cases and he can be reached at