When Mr. and Mrs. Ivers of Devonshire, England welcomed their daughter Alice to the world on a cold February afternoon in 1851, there was nothing to suggest she would become anything other than a conservative English lady, like her mother. Even in their wildest imaginings, her family could have never pictured the life this child would lead.

When she was 12 years old, Alice immigrated to the United States with her parents. The Ivers family initially settled in Virginia, where Alice was sent to a boarding school to adopt the manners of a refined lady.

A young Alice Ivers

The family moved again a few years later, this time to Leadville, Colorado. It was here that Alice met Frank Duffield, a mining engineer and poker enthusiast. She eloped with him, likely due to her family’s objections.

Alice created waves right away. Frank was a familiar sight at the poker table but the clientele at the saloon was taken aback to find the new Mrs. Duffield was not about to stay home while her husband had all the fun. Alice accompanied Frank out in the evenings, and sat beside him at the poker table.

The marriage was not destined to last long. Frank was killed in a mine accident just a few years later. Her husband was gone, but for Alice, there was no looking back. Throughout the long evenings of watching Frank play poker, she’d learned more than the game itself. She had a natural gift for reading faces and she had perfected it during her marriage to Frank.  She took up gambling herself.

Alice, shortly after Frank’s death


Rather than return to her family, Alice whiled away her time playing poker in various and sundry saloons all over the Wild West. She quickly became well-known, running the table every night, and winning startlingly large fortunes, up to $6,000 on occasion.

Alice was not one to hoard her cash. In her younger days, she regularly traveled east to New York City, where she would spend vast sums on her wardrobe. This was said to be part of her strategy when she played cards. She would return to the smoky saloons of the west, dressed to the nines, in the latest fashions from Paris. It was a business investment, she told her confidantes, because the extravagant clothing distracted her opponents.

Fate intervened in Alice’s life once again in 1890. By then, she had acquired the nickname Poker Alice, and adopted the profession of a dealer at the Bedrock saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. She was always armed with a gun, usually her .38 pistol. She had also taken to smoking cigars in her fine dresses.  One evening, Alice saw a drunken miner attempting to attack another dealer named Warren G. Tubbs with a knife. Alice quickly intervened with her .38 and settled matters.

Alice has her own comic book.

Shortly afterwards, she and Warren Tubbs married.  They seemed to have been very happy together. In their 20 years of marriage, they had four sons and three daughters. The Tubbs family lived on a homestead by the Moreau River, deliberately leaving the saloon life Alice and Warren once enjoyed far behind them. Their happiness ended in 1910, when Warren Tubbs died of tuberculosis.

Alice loaded his body into their wagon and drove 50 miles to ensure he had a decent burial. It was more than she could afford. She had to sell her wedding ring to pay for it. With no other means to support herself, Poker Alice made a triumphant return to professional gambling. Her skill at counting cards and calculating odds transformed her into a legend. She purchased a saloon in Fort Meade, South Dakota, and converted the upstairs to a brothel. The brothel operated continually but the saloon was closed on Sundays. In response to the grumbling, Alice explained sincerely that playing poker on the Sabbath was wrong. Prostitution on Sundays was apparently still okay.

When they lived on the homestead, she and Warren had employed a man named George Huckert to help them. Huckert was desperately in love with Alice, but she seemed to have no interest in him until it was brought to her attention that she owed him $1,008 in back wages. After a few calculations, Alice decided marrying Huckert would be more economical than paying him. It was another short marriage; George died in 1913.

Alice is at the center in a dark hat, dealing poker

The same year, Alice found herself in hot water. A group of drunken soldiers appeared at her saloon on a Sunday, and became unruly and destructive. Alice was infuriated and pulled out her .38. She said she only planned to shoot to establish order in the house, but the shot struck a soldier, killing him. Alice and six of her prostitutes were arrested.

Alice, now in her 60s, spent her time quietly reading the Bible and smoking cigars. When the case finally went to trial, Alice claimed self-defense and was acquitted and set free. The saloon, however, was closed for good. The brothel remained open.

Alice was not scared straight while in jail. After her acquittal, she was arrested frequently for gambling, drunkenness, operating a brothel, and selling bootleg liquor. Her last arrest was in 1928 and due to her age, she was pardoned by South Dakota governor William J. Bulow.

The last photo of Alice

The remarkable Poker Alice departed this world on February 27, 1930, at age 79. She is buried in St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Alice Ivers was known as a beautiful woman for most of her life, though not photogenic. However, the first photo I saw of her is the one on the left, and it took me a moment to realize that she wasn’t Archie Bunker. But there is a resemblance, don’t you think?

Alice bears a peculiar resemblance to another famous cigar enthusiast

The Barrymore siblings – Ethel, John, and Lionel – were renowned actors in the early days of film. Even today, there are a lot of people who are familiar with their names and movies.

I know very little about their lives. Mostly, I’ve read about John Barrymore, because of his relationship with Evelyn Nesbit in the early 1900s.

John was the youngest of three children born to Maurice and Georgie Drew, who were successful stage actors. The Barrymore family was very successful on the stage but John, Lionel, and Ethel made the leap into early film.

John met Evelyn before his film days; at the time, he was attempting a career as a cartoonist. Back then, everyone called him Jack. He and and Evelyn were nearly the same age but her career as a show girl and a model was at its height while Jack seemed to be floundering in his artistic pursuits.

Stanford White, the man who haunted and shaped Evelyn’s life despite being more than 30 years her senior, was very jealous of Jack. He financially supported her family and he pressured her to turn down his proposal. This marked the beginning of a downward spiral for Evelyn, but Jack’s ascent had not yet started.

Evelyn Nesbit and Jack Barrymore


The only other personal thing I about Jack Barrymore is that his last words are often quoted as, “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.” The day after his death, however,  John Barrymore’s last words were reported as, “This is wonderful! What a wonderful place!”

Tonight I was looking at photographs of Jack and his family and how glamorous they were… I’m sure they led fascinating lives but without knowing their stories, I appreciate what you can tell about them through their pictures. All of them seemed to exude Presence. I mean that each of them seem to command the energy in a room, probably Jack’s sister Ethel most of all.

I was ready to post this and saw that there was a signed photo of each of them. I’ve studied graphology on my own and their signatures interested me. Scroll down to see a signed photo of each of them, and a quick analysis of their signatures!


Jack’s parents, Maurice and Georgie Drew



Jack Barrymore’s father Maurice.  
Jack’s mother, Georgie Drew
Jack, smoking a pipe!
Ethel Barrymore
Jack’s brother, Lionel Barrymore
Jack in 1907
Lionel Barrymore
Jack, with his wife Delores Costello
Ethel Barrymore


You see the Presence?
John, Ethel, and Lionel Barrymore with their family


So, what can we tell from the Barrymores’ signatures? A lot!

I’ve studied graphology on my own. Your handwriting says a lot about you! When we look at the signatures of these famous siblings, you should know that signatures are treated differently than everything else you write. When a person writes his name, they are telling you how they believe (or sometimes want to believe) they are seen by other people. The rest of the script tells you what that person cares about, how they think, how impulsive and intense they are, and a lot more. Most people’s signatures do not match their script.

The signature shows the “image” each of the siblings has of themselves.  Take a look and I will explain after the last picture.

Ethel Barrymore’s signature
Lionel’s signature
Jack’s signature


Based on her signature, Ethel was a big personality, an extrovert. She would have dominated the energy in any room she was in, whether she was speaking or not. And she would have liked it that way. Her signature suggests someone who was very imaginative.  When she took action in her own life, it would have been Big and Bold. She would have preferred looking to the future and big plans over the realities of the present. She would have liked to talk about concepts and theories but quickly lost patience with a lot of detail.

Her brother Lionel was also an extrovert, but a very different personality. His signature is the writing of a happy guy who liked to be in the middle of things – a “people person”. Unlike his sister, he wouldn’t be too preoccupied with the future and bold visions. He was probably someone who found a lot of joy and meaning in the present. He was cheerful and adaptable, but probably appreciated detail and order.

Jack’s signature is very different from those of Lionel and Ethel. He has an introvert’s signature, and it suggests a man who might have shrank back from other people yet cared about his image very much. If Ethel liked broad horizons,  Jack liked microscopic detail. He was precise and might have been known to attach a lot of importance to relatively minor conversations or events. He wouldn’t have been able to let things go. His signature looks like a man who had some temper and tended to brood but also the writing of a man who was almost tragically hard on himself.


The French were surveilling Mata Hari warily, and knew her whereabouts as soon as she returned to Paris on January 4, 1917.

A month passed; then the French investigators sprung the trap. On February 13, Mata Hari was arrested in Paris at Élysée Palace Hôtel, and charged with being a double agent, working against France and Germany.

Mata Hari, on the day of her arrest

It was an intense interrogation, but the records have been kept under wraps for a hundred years. What was known immediately was that Mata Hari said she had a pseudonym (H21) but would admit only to giving harmless, outdated information to her German lovers. More recently the British intelligence agency MI5 released their file on Mata Hari, whom they described as glib and unfazed when an interrogator confronted her with a long list of her lovers.

“When faced with her acquaintances with officers of all ranks and all nations, she replied that she loved all officers, and would rather have as her lover a poor officer than a rich banker,” the MI5 files note.

Despite a lack of convincing evidence, Mata Hari was put on trial in France in late July, and the military court convicted her of being a double agent for Germany and France. She was condemned to death. She was to be executed by firing squad, a method used to punish the worst acts of cowardice, espionage, desertion, and treason.

In the meantime, there were months to wait. Mata Hari was ushered to Cell #12 in Prison Saint-Lazare to wait. She was not without hope. Her attorney was Maître Clunet, and he was busily appealing her conviction through the courts and directly to President Raymond Poincaré for clemency and was awaiting his reply.

President Poincaré

As a condemned prisoner, she was treated well. She received better food, and was allowed to have visitors, letters, and flowers— but none arrived. Mata Hari wrote three letters but they were returned unopened.

And finally, her appeals were exhausted, followed by the news that President Poincaré formally refused to intervene.

In the early-morning hours of October 15, two nuns whispered to each other for a moment before the door to Cell #12 was unlocked. They approached the bed, where Mata Hari was sleeping deeply. They shook her awake and whispered that her time had come.

The timing of her execution had been kept secret- even from her- to prevent any interference. There was no violent reaction. The prisoner asked permission to write two letters and Bouchardon, the captain in charge, bowed his agreement. Mata Hari quickly scribbled the letters, and handed them to her lawyer.

As she dressed, a small group congregated to await her: Father Arbaux, the two nuns, Captain Bouchardon, Maître Clunet, and a British reporter named Henry Wales . It was Wales who captured the details of Mata Hari’s execution.

Mata Hari alights from a car, on a happier day

The condemned woman emerged from her cell for the last time in a light gray dress, buttoned up shoes, a blue coat, and a wide black hat covered her braided hair. She wore black gloves. The grim party escorted from her prison cell to an automobile, which would take her to the army barracks on the outskirts of the city.

Around 5:30 a.m., the car arrived at Caserne de Vincennes, where the execution would take place. The automobile ground to a halt, and the door opened at once. There was no delay: the group immediately walked to the place where twelve Zouave soldiers stood, awaiting the prisoner.

In an execution by firing squad, a group of soldiers face the condemned prisoner. They are handed loaded firearms and at a signal, they fire simultaneously at the target. Not every soldier is shooting a live round, but no one knows whether his weapon has a real bullet or blanks. This is done to ease the guilt a soldier might feel afterwards: he can reasonably tell himself that he didn’t fire the fatal shot.

For practical reasons, the prisoner is required to be restrained- usually bound to a tree or a pole, but sometimes on their knees. The blindfold may be seen as an act of compassion toward the prisoner but it also makes the execution easier for the soldier, who might otherwise be haunted by the memory of the despairing eyes of the prisoner whose life he is to take.


A Zouave soldier


Father Arbaux spoke to Mata Hari in a low voice. The soldiers noted her calm composure with wonder, and watched as a French officer approached Mata Hari with a long white cloth, and offered it to the condemned prisoner. “A blindfold, madame,” he urged her.

Mata Hari’s chin came up. “Must I wear that?” she asked in a clear voice. The French officer did not insist on the blindfold. More remarkably, he did not have the prisoner restrained. Instead, he signaled to the little group that the prisoner’s time had come.

One by one the prisoner’s attendants stepped away– until Mata Hari stood alone, facing the Zouave soldiers. They stood at attention, with their guns aimed at her heart. She did not plead or cry. Instead, Mata Hari blew the soldiers a kiss.

Her hands then fluttered to her sides and she stood facing them, her back straight. The officer then gave the signal and a loud crack pierced the air. The soldiers lowered their guns.

Henry Wales, watching from a short distance away, wrote that Mata Hari first sank to her knees, as if in slow motion, then she fell backwards. He watched as the French officer who had suggested the blindfold walked over to where the prisoner lay on the ground. Without ceremony, he shot her in the head. Wales wrote: “Mata Hari was surely dead.”

In the aftermath of her execution, no one claimed the condemned woman’s body. Mata Hari’s head was embalmed and given to the Museum of Anatomy in Paris. It disappeared in the 1950s, and remains missing today. The rest of her body was used for medical study.

When Capt. Rudolph MacLeod, Mata Hari’s ex-husband, learned of her execution, he said, “Whatever she’s done in life, she did not deserve that.”

Mata Hari, as she would surely prefer to be remembered


“Death is nothing, nor life either, for that matter.

To die, to sleep, to pass into nothingness, what does it matter?

Everything is an illusion.” – Mata Hari