Sarah Bernhardt was a stage actress born in Paris. Often referred to as "the most famous actress in the history of the world," she made her fame on the stages of Europe in the 1870s, and was soon in demand in Europe and the United States.
Her stage career started in 1862, when she was a student at the Comédie-Française, France's most prestigious theater. However, she was not entirely successful at the conservatory and left to become a courtesan herself by 1865. It was during this time that she acquired her famous coffin which she often slept in in lieu of a bed, claiming it helped her understand her many tragic roles. She made her fame on the stages of Europe in the 1870s, and was soon in demand all over Europe and in the United States in New York. She soon developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning the title "The Divine Sarah"; arguably, she may have been the most famous actress of the 19th century.
Although primarily a stage actress, Bernhardt made several cylinders and discs of famous dialogues from various productions. One of the earliest was a reading from Phèdre by Jean Racine, at Thomas Edison's home on a visit to New York City in the 1880s. Multi-talented, she was involved with the visual arts, acting, painting and sculpting herself, and modeling for Antonio de La Gandara. She also published a series of books and plays.