Henrietta Gets The Wanderlust


In 1920, a teenage girl from New York City vanished while on an errand to the bank for her father. What was first thought by family in the newspapers to be a kidnapping-for-ransom, later turned out to be something much more simple. Ransom kidnappings were more common during that period, but that is not what happened. And then a random scammer still tried to collect and so her family must have been horrified:

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With over $250 to deposit at the bank, Henrietta Bulte instead could not resist her dream and decided to head west to Hollywood, like so many kids have done since. Henrietta wanted to become a famous actress, as her schoolmates would later divulge. And although she enjoyed her trip, even stopping for sightseeing in Philadelphia and Chicago before reaching L.A., it would not be long before she was found. A detective was hot on her trail. Henrietta would later say to reporters, “I left home of my own volition, but I am glad to be back…”. Her tale either warned or tempted other girls with “wanderlust”.

At the time, Henrietta was living here on 116th street with her family:

The brown building in the middle. East Harlem.

The brown building in the middle. East Harlem.

While in Chicago, the independence-seeking girl even ended up as a “hash slinger” at a restaurant, just for something to do. She was a “Harvey Girl” at the Harvey chain of eateries, like Judy Garland in that movie. When Henrietta was returned home, much of the cash that she hijacked from dad had been spent. This is the photo given to police officers to aid in finding her. They wasted no time in sending the picture, along with a missing persons spec sheet to police departments around the country:

Everyone had one photo of their self back then.

Seems like everyone had one photo of their self back then.

She said that she would have been a success had it not been for the police.

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It seems that no ladies are named Henrietta anymore. Gone are all of these classic and fifty-cent-handle names. Maybe they will make a comeback someday.

In 1925, Henrietta and her sister were living with their father on 101st St. in Queens. Their father of course was a “Cigarmaker” and the two girls did “Housework”, according to the census.

In 1930, she was still living in New York at age 24 with her younger sister and brother. She worked as a saleswoman in a “specialty shop” while her siblings toiled away as stenographer for a mail-order house, and the brother was a messenger for the telephone company. None were married. They resided at 8134 Baxter Ave in Elmhurst, Queens. They lived at this apartment building above a shop:

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Also in 1930, Bulte traveled solo aboard a ship to visit relatives in Cuba.

In 1935, she married Eusebio Olmo in Manhattan.

Henrietta caught the fame she was after, if only for a moment. She never did set the world on fire though, but she seemed to have lived a happy life in the Big Apple. She was a little firecracker and was probably a lot of fun. Henrietta lived to old age – she died at 103 years old in 2008 and is buried in Catskill, New York. And today she is gone but not forgotten.

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