|Rudolph Valentino by Mabel Sykes|
|Mabel Sykes Portrait from her personal collection|
Mabel was the first of four children who would be born to Charles and Henrietta. In addition to Mabel, there was Paul (1892-1931), Herbert (1893-1940), and Norman Charles Huxley (1896-1949).
|Mabel and Melvin Sykes|
Since Melvin Sykes was already an established award-winning photographer when they married, it is safe to say that Mabel Sykes learned the photography trade from her husband. They set up shop together in downtown Chicago. Here's a photo of Mabel that Melvin submitted to a trade publication in 1911:
|Mabel Sykes by Melvin Sykes - 1911|
Sometime between 1900 and 1910, Mabel's parents Charles and Henrietta divorced. The three boys, now teenagers, chose to live with their father; Mabel lived with her mother.
The marriage took place in Logansport, Ind., on July 9, but was hushed up, as Sykes was divorced by his third wife, Mrs. Mabel Huxley Sykes, last April, and there was a provision in the decree which forbade him to remarry within two years.
While only three months elapsed between the divorce and the fourth marriage, that interval was not so dreary and devoid of interest as might be imagined, for Sykes was engaged to a beautiful girl just out of a boarding school.
She is Miss Helen Daegling, 17 years old, who lives with her mother and sister at 1517 East Sixty-fifth street.
No, Sykes is not a young man. he admits being 48 years old. But he knew of a place where olkd faces were made to look like new - and a bill in the possession of Mrs. Mabel Sykes shows that he patronized that place - the Marinello beauty parlors.
There he luxuriated in hair dyes, and hot oils, and facial massages, and manicures. And he was made to appear in the role of a gay young cavalier. Incidentally the bill came to $185.50. Mrs Sykes, III., who is in the photograph business herself, asserts she paid the bill.
Mr. Sykes met Miss Daegling when she came home from school with Mary Sykes, his daughter.
"He took a fancy to my little girl," said Mrs. Daegling, "and he raved over her beauty and took her pictures."
One of these photographs was awarded first prize at a photographers' exhibition in Peoria last July.
Sykes showered flowers and candy upon Miss Daegling, who is five years younger than his daughter, and took her for automobile rides. Miss Daegling told about it last night.
"I was engaged to him," she said, "and he gave me a diamond ring and introduced me as his future wife."
"I liked him quite a bit, and we had some good times together. But mama and my other relations didn't like him. They said he was a bad man and begged me to give him up. I finally came to see they were right, so I gave him back his ring and broke the engagement.
Mr. Sykes denied that he even knew Miss Daegling when a reporter questioned him about the affair.
The first Mrs. Sykes is dead. She was Miss Mary Maloney. The second spouse was Miss Rose Carleton, a water color artist, who divorced him. Mrs. Sykes No. 3 lived with him for eleven years and helped to build up his business.
After the divorce she set up a studio at 140 North State street and went into business for herself, under the name of Mabel Sykes.
"Poor little kiddie," she said, when told of the last marriage, "she has a hard life in front of her. Mr, Sykes likes young girls. I was only a child myself when I married him. I didn't know any better."
As it mentions in the article, Mabel Sykes set up her own photography studio at 140 North State Street ("across from Field's"), and started marking her photographs with her distinctive signature:
|1352 N. La Salle Street, Chicago|
|Mabel Sykes by Peyton - 1922|
|Rudolph Valentino by Mabel Sykes - First Formal Sitting|
Mabel marked all her original photographs with her embossed name in the lower right corner, and her distinctive copyright of a capital "C" in a circle.
There is no evidence that Mabel Sykes attended either the first Valentino funeral in New York,
Ever the good businesswoman, Mabel sold copies of the photos she had taken of Valentino, and even some she had not taken. The following is a still from Valentino's last film 'The Son of the Sheik' with Vilma Banky. It was taken by the United Artists Studio photographer. Mabel took a black and white copy of the still, hand-colored it, stamped it with her crest and sold it along with the portraits. It was said that Mabel Sykes did a brisk business in Valentino photos both before and after his death.
We do know that Mabel Sykes was instrumental in forming the Chicago Valentino Memorial Club. The club had extensive correspondence with Valentino's brother Alberto. The Club wanted a Valentino exhibit at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1932-1933 - either as part of the Italy exhibit or separate. They wanted Alberto to endorse the project, and also loan some of his brother's personal items to the exhibit. The Club carried on a correspondence with Alberto for years, but was unable to gain his endorsement or his willingness to travel to Chicago to open the exhibit. The final exhibit of the Chicago Valentino Memorial Club at the Century of Progress was limited to a small display at the Italian Village of personal items including "the razor strop used on his fatal trip to New York."
The Chicago Valentino Memorial Club was more successful in getting a book published about Valentino. In 1929 the club published (through the Occult Publishing Company of Chicago) "My Private Diary" by Rudolph Valentino:
"My Private Diary" was a rehash of the articles Valentino had done for Bernarr MacFadden's Movie Weekly Magazine entitled "My Own Story of My Trip Abroad" with some additional photos (including a frontispiece of Valentino by Mabel Sykes). The work product of the Occult Publishing Company was so poor that the Club laid in a typed Errata Slip to the first edition that said "Chicago Valentino Memorial Club & Occult Publ Regret Very Much the Several Typographical Errors Which Appear in Pages of This Book. These Errors Did Not Appear in the Original Manuscript." Sales of "My Private Diary" were brisk, and it was published in both a hard cover version with dust jacket and a soft cover version.
The Chicago Valentino Memorial Club did continue for quite some time, mostly through the efforts of Mabel Sykes. The Club collected funds to acquire Valentino memorabilia, held regular meetings, and sent flowers to Valentino's crypt every year on August 23rd. This went on at least through the 1930s.
Here is a Mabel Sykes photo of the Chicago Valentino Memorial Club at one of their meetings with some of the Valentino memorabilia they had collected:
|Chicago Valentino Memorial Club|
I believe that is Mabel Sykes front and center of the photo with her hands crossed.
Apparently Mabel Sykes finally decided that Alfred Barsanti was no Rudolph Valentino. Here is a small article that appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 31, 1929:
Huxley's body was buried in Oaklawn Cemetery (now Homewood Memorial Gardens) in Homewood, Illinois.
As if losing her father was not enough, Mabel lost her brother Paul just short of three months later on March 5, 1931, when, blaming himself for his father's death, Paul took his own life:
|4117 N. Pueblo, Chicago|
Tragedy struck the Huxley family again in December of 1949, when Norman Huxley dropped dead from a heart attack:
Mabel Huxley Sykes died in her home on August 21, 1963, just two days short of the thirty-seventh anniversary of the death of Rudolph Valentino on August 23rd. However, she did have her funeral on August 23rd. So, when Rudolph Valentino was being remembered at the Valentino Memorial Service in Hollywood, his friend and favorite photographer was being buried in Chicago. Rudolph Valentino's name was probably mentioned at Mabel Sykes' service; it is unlikely that Mabel Sykes' name was mentioned at the Valentino Memorial.
Her only surviving relative was Herbert's daughter Georganne.
Mabel chose to be buried at Homewood Memorial Gardens:
It is interesting that Mabel chose to be buried with her mother in the Zimmer plot, instead of with her father and brothers. They are all in the same cemetery, but in different sections. They chose to be buried as they chose after Charles and Henrietta's divorce. Mabel went with her mother, and the boys went with their father.
|Zimmer-Huxley-Sykes Plot - Section 3|
|Huxley Plot - Section A|
What ever happened to Mabel's ex-husbands? Believe it or not, Melvin Sykes stayed married to his fourth wife Margaret Merker who he married in 1916. After all the bad publicity he had in Chicago, Melvin and Margaret decided to move west. They settled in San Diego, where Melvin opened another photography studio. Melvin Sykes died in California on June 22, 1949 at the age of 84. I was unable to find out where Melvin Sykes was buried.
|Gravestone of Alfred Barsanti and his parents|
The Chinese have a saying: "May you live in interesting times." Mabel Sykes certainly did.
Mabel Huxley Sykes, Rudolph Valentino's favorite photographer. May she rest in peace.