Ada “Bricktop” Smith: a snapshot biography

Portrait of Ada "Bricktop" Smith

Her full name was Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith. But most people called her Bricktop because of her red hair.

Bricktop was born in Alderson, West Virginia, in 1894. After her father passed away when she was four, her mother moved the family to Chicago, where Bricktop would spend her youth.

In Chicago, Bricktop began what would be a lifetime in show business. She performed at five in a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By her late teens, she was a dancer and singer, performing all over the country. At twenty, she moved to Harlem and Paris a few years later.

Her Paris life first started with performing. But within a few years, she decided to open a Her Paris life first started with performing. But within a few years, she decided to open a nightclub, the first of a number of endeavors owning and managing nightclubs in Europe, Mexico, and the U.S.

Bricktop was beloved by many. Writers wrote about her; F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “My greatest claim to fame is that I met Bricktop before Cole Porter.”

After retiring from managing clubs in 1961, she said, “I’m tired, honey. Tired of staying up all night.” But she continued performing into her eighties.

“Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith: a snapshot biography” sources: Portrait of “Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith taken in 1934 – Van Vechten, Carl, photographer. Portrait of Bricktop Ada Smith du Conge, Paris. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2004662625/> / Stanford Libraries: A Night at Bricktop’s: Jazz in 1930s’ Montmartre / William G. Pomeroy Foundation