Get Even More Visitors To Your Blog, Upgrade To A Business Listing >>

The Dowager’s Diary: New York City’s Downton Abbey – Week Fifty-Three

February 8-15, 1916

“Ettie’s bandage club met here.”  As readers of The Dowager’s Diary know by now, Ettie Shippen was Kate Roosevelt’s sister. Ettie, a shortened version of her full name, Rosetta, along with her three unmarried sisters, Caroline, Sophie and Georgie (also known as Bop) relied on their mother, Georgina Shippen and their  married sisters, Kate Roosevelt and Anna Davis for their living arrangements, entertainment and social status.

2. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, william shippen, author collection

William Shippen

Their father, William Shippen, was the real estate developer who along with his corporation, The Hoboken Land Improvement Company established the seashore town of Sea Bright, New Jersey as a destination for the railroad and ferry service it operated between Manhattan and New Jersey. He left a large legacy with enough money in the bank to take care of his widow and all six of his daughters and one son. In the early 1900s, it was not customary for unmarried women to own their own homes. They instead became appendages of their extended families and Ettie Shippen was the epitome of the unwed sibling often trailing along on her sister, Kate’s starched shirtwaist.

3. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, seabright beach and family at anchorage

Shippen Family at their home in Sea Bright, New Jersey, “The Anchorage”

Many times I have wondered why the four Shippen sisters shied away from marriage. A family memory might explain Ettie’s single status.  Sam Chapin, a great-great-nephew remembers his grandmother, Ruth Steinway’s story of boarding a trolley with her Aunt Ettie in New York City (Ruth’s mother was Anna Davis, Kate Roosevelt’s sister).  They ran into an old friend of the family and when he saw Ettie Shippen he asked, “Ettie, why didn’t you marry me when I asked you fifty years ago?” Ettie smugly replied, “I had a trip to Europe planned and I didn’t want to miss it.”

4. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, margery durant campbell

Margery Durant Campbell

So a trip to Europe trumped a wedding and now in 1916 we find the spinster Ettie Shippen presiding over a meeting at her sister Kate Roosevelt’s home at 310 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Leading up to and during, World War One, throughout the country women got together to roll bandages to be sent to the troops overseas. As part of the National Surgical Dressing Committee, these women came from all walks of life, often gathering in some of the finest homes in America, hosted by many of the wealthiest women in town. Margery Campbell, the wife of the founder of Chevrolet Motors, Edwin Campbell often hosted such meetings at her home at 635 Park Avenue in New York City.

7. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, french orphans

French War Orphans Poster

On February 8, 1916, Kate Roosevelt had to excuse herself from the meeting her sister was hosting to welcome a visitor. “Corinne Robinson called.” Rolling bandages and talk of war were put on hold for a moment as another member of the family made her entrance at 310 Lexington Avenue and a prominent appearance on the Roosevelt Family Tree.

Corrinne Robinson was Theodore Roosevelt’s younger sister, married to the real estate mogul, Douglas Robinson. Corinne Roosevelt was born in 1861 at the Roosevelt’s brownstone at 28 East 20th Street right next door to Edith Carow’s home. Friends since childhood, they would become sisters-in-law when Edith became Theodore Roosevelt’s second wife in 1886.

Just to add to the twists and turns of the Roosevelt lineage, Corinne’s son, Teddy Robinson married Helen Schermerhorn Astor Roosevelt in 1902, shortly after she made her debut in the same round of coming out parties as Kate’s daughter, Dorothy and the other Roosevelt debutantes; Alice, Eleanor, Elfrida and Christine.  Helen was heir to the Astor fortune as well as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s half-niece.  Her father, James “Rosie” Roosevelt was Franklin’s half-brother. And so the Roosevelt roots grew stronger through their penchant for marrying distant cousins.

Corinne Robinson was very close to her older brother, Theodore, who referred to her as “Dear Pussie,” The former president valued her political views, even though they did differ on the topic of suffrage.  In 1916, they put that debate aside, as whisperings of war were growing louder in the ears of all Americans. Corinne was chosen as a delegate by the National Security League, an organization established to promote the policy of preparedness for America’s entrance into war.

Just this week, Corinne Robinson’s brother, the former president, Theodore had given his support for another of her causes, and according her book, My Brother Theodore, “He lent me his name for the New York Advisory Committee of the Fatherless Children of France, a society started by two magnificent Englishwomen, Miss Schofield and Miss Fell, for which I was privileged to form the New York City Committee.” Theodore said, “Of course use my name.”  Robinson continued, “I do not remember ever asking him for it that he did not lend it to me, that name which counted more than almost any other name of his time.”

Corrine’s visit to her cousin might have been to let her know of her new position and ask for her help.  Kate Roosevelt and her friends and fellow members of the Colony Club were well-aware of the more than 2,000 children left fatherless by the war in France. The Committee’s New York headquarters was located at 24 East 63rd Street, not far from Corinne’s home on East 60th Street.  The idea behind this charitable organization was not to bring the war-torn waifs to America.  It operated not as an adoption agency, but by sponsorship, whereas a fatherless child would be saved by donations sent to France to provide food, clothing, housing and education in their own country. The group was eventually merged with the American Red Cross.

Kate did not say how long her cousin, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson stayed, but I am sure the two women were in accordance as how to proceed with the movement called preparedness that was infiltrating America.

Kate must have been in a patriotic mood because the next day her diary reported, “I took Little Langdon to Grant’s Tomb.”  Acting as a surrogate Cub Scout Leader and hands-on grandmother, the two made the trip from Lexington Avenue over to 122nd Street and Riverside Drive to see where the 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant rested in matching red granite sarcophaguses.

On February, 10th, It was noted, “Ettie sick with laryngitis, the doctor was called in and she is in room all day.” With Ettie under the doctor’s care and little Langdon and his baby brother, Shippen Geer tucked in, Kate and her daughter, Dorothy went to a symphony at Aeolian Hall.

8. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, leopold damrosch, history of american music

Leopold Damrosch

The two hardly missed a performance by the New York Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Walter Damrosch. It most likely brought music to their ears and tears to their eyes remembering their late husband and father, Hilborne Roosevelt’s part in its establishment.  On May 21, 1879 Hilborne was elected a founding director of the Symphony Society.  The moving force behind its establishment was Walter Damrosch’s father, Leopold Damrosch who along with Roosevelt thought that New York City should have its own permanent orchestra. In May, 1881, just three months, after his marriage to Kate, Hilborne Roosevelt was elected vice president of the society and orchestrated the historic concert held at the newly built Seventh Regiment Armory at Park Avenue and 67th Street.

9. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, elsie ferguson, profile shot, theatre magazine, 1913

Elsie Ferguson

With Ettie still under the weather, the next day, Bop Shippen had to play second fiddle and tag along with her sister Kate to the Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street to take-in a matinee of Margaret Schiller. “Rather pro-German play.  Men were very good, but Elsie Ferguson, very poor. It was done from Hall Caine’s book.  Too much psychology to make a good play but it was splendidly set.” And once again, the amateur theater critic’s comments were in agreement with the professionals.  The New York Times review said that “Hall Caine was a better novelist that dramatist.” But the newspaper did not pan poor Elsie Ferguson as pointedly as Mrs. Roosevelt did. I must say I was a bit surprised that she went so far as to give the actress such an un-rollicking review.  After all, she was almost family.  Elsie Ferguson was best friends with the actress Ethel Barrymore who was best friends with cousin, Alice Roosevelt.  Unfortunately, Ethel Barrymore was not best friends with Alice’s father, President Roosevelt, who felt she was a bad influence on his already hard-to-handle daughter.

Moving from theater critic to meteorologist, without missing a beat, on Sunday, February 13th, the weather report written in Kate’s diary described a very unusual occurrence, “Storm, curious atmospheric effect, sharp lighting with a red glow, later heavy snow.”  Not letting a little inclement weather or a sick child in bed with a cold get in her way, that afternoon, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer accompanied her cousin Ruth Steinway to church then trundled over to her grandmother Shippen’s home at 320 Lexington Avenue for an early dinner.

10. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, sherry's interior with tables

Sherry’s Restaurant

The next day, as Valentine’s Day got underway, Ettie Shippen managed to make her way out of her sickbed long enough to attend a charity event with Kate. “Ettie and I to Kettledrum, I at tea table all afternoon.” Sherry’s Restaurant on Fifth Avenue and 44th Street noted for its “dainty decorations” and “novelty of service” provided the perfect backdrop for the party arranged to raise funds for the Good Samaritan Hospital for the Aged. One of Mrs. Roosevelt’s favorite charities, she attended the Kettledrum annually. The term kettledrum was used for events like this where people purchased tickets that were placed in a large, revolving brass drum from which the raffle winner was picked.  A day-long celebration, the Kettledrum entertainment featured auctions, grab bags, exhibits, refreshments, dancing and a Spanish card game called cooncan (conquian), similar to rummy.

11. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, alva belmont, 1905 from daytonian in new york

Alva Belmont

Kate Roosevelt was in good company while pouring at the tea table.  Also on the Kettledrum Committee was Mrs. Oliver Hazard Belmont, the former Alva Vanderbilt.  After divorcing her millionaire husband, William Kissam Vanderbilt, she married family friend, Oliver Belmont, the son of the Jewish financier, August Belmont. Her mansion at 477 Madison Avenue on the corner of 51st Street was a monument to her many charitable causes.

From  helping orphans in France to raising money for old folks in New York City, Kate Roosevelt had a very full week in February, 1916.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

Photo One:
Corinne Roosevelt Robinson and Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt Association

Photo Two:
William Shippen
Author’s Collection

Photo Three:
Shippen Family at their home in Sea Bright, New Jersey, “The Anchorage”
Author’s collection

Photo Four:
Margery Durant Campbell

Photo Five:
French War Orphans Poster
Library of Congress

Photo Six:
Leopold Damrosch
History of American Music

Photo Seven:
Elsie Ferguson
Theater Magazine, 1913

Photo Eight:
Sherry’s Restaurant

Photo Nine:
Alva Belmont

The post The Dowager’s Diary: New York City’s Downton Abbey – Week Fifty-Three appeared first on Woman Around Town.

This post first appeared on Homepage - Woman Around Town, please read the originial post: here

Share the post

The Dowager’s Diary: New York City’s Downton Abbey – Week Fifty-Three


Subscribe to Homepage - Woman Around Town

Get updates delivered right to your inbox!

Thank you for your subscription