Welcome to Staatsburgh State Historic Site's blog! Learn more about the Gilded Age home of Ruth and Ogden Mills!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Titled Affair: Lady Eileen Forbes Weds the Future Marquess of Bute

Castle Forbes, County Longford, Ireland

On April 26, 1932, crowds in Newforbestown, County Longford, Ireland clamored to catch a glimpse of the lovely bride, Lady Eileen Forbes. The event was very exciting for a town with less than 1000 residents that was named after the Forbes family. The Earl of Granard had resided in the region since 1691 and the family’s residence at Castleforbes was central to the town’s identity. Adding to the excitement was the equally elevated status of the groom, John Crichton-Stuart, the Earl of Dumfries who was the eldest son of a Marquess from one of the most prominent families in Scotland. The affair was a celebration for both the family and the village.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Relationship between the Mills Family and St. Margaret's Church

When approaching Staatsburgh from the south, it is nearly impossible to miss the beautiful stone church in the center of the village of Staatsburg*.  St. Margaret's Episcopal Church has been an important feature of the village since it was built in 1891 and the parish was an important part of the community even before the current church was built.  Although Ruth and Ogden Mills were not full time residents of the village and permanent fixtures at Sunday services, generations of the family have been involved with the congregation in many ways.

St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Staatsburg, NY 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

François Flameng: Gilded Age Portraitist

Portrait of Ruth Livingston Mills by François Flameng, 1909

After we discovered that the grandiose portrait of Mrs. Mills currently hanging in her boudoir was painted by François Flameng (and not François Glamony...see previous blog), we wanted to learn everything that we could about this French artist and his place in the art world. What kind of artist was he and how did he end up in New York painting scores of wealthy society ladies?

François Flameng in his studio, c. 1880s-1890s (MET Collections 2005.100.1249)

Friday, April 28, 2017

The (Mills) Family Jewels: Boucheron of Paris and the Ultimate Gilded Age Status Symbol

Recently the site was contacted by an intern in the Heritage Department of the French jeweler, Boucheron, a renowned company that has been supplying the wealthy and fabulous with jewelry since 1893.  He wanted to learn a bit more about the Mills family because he had been scouring the sales archives and noticed that they were very regular clients of Boucheron for over 30 years from the 1890s to 1920s.  They purchased jewelry pieces monthly that were delivered to them in London, Paris, and New York.

Home of Boucheron, 26 Place Vendomme, Paris (Photo credit: Wikimedia User Delud)

Jewelry has always been utilized as a status symbol and this was certainly true during the Gilded Age when unprecedented wealth and the desire to stand out in society created a market for fine jewelry.  Women like Ruth Mills wore jeweled tiaras, brooches, bracelets and necklaces to society events and balls.  Rare gems and large diamonds worth millions of dollars highlighted the wealth and social status of the women they adorned.  We can compare it to the red carpet at the Oscars in the present day when "Hollywood royalty" parade past the press wearing fancy gowns and jewelry worth millions and millions of dollars.

Through this connection, we were able to receive photos of some of the actual pieces that Ogden Mills purchased from Boucheron.  Since Staatsburgh does not have personal affects from the family, this provided a wonderful opportunity to look at actual pieces of jewelry Ruth Mills and her daughters would have worn in society.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

François Flameng's Portrait of Ruth Mills and its Connection to Women's Suffrage

In the previous entry we explored the exciting new discovery of the artist who created Mrs. Mills' large portrait which hangs in the Boudoir. François Flameng, a French portrait artist, painted Ruth in 1909 during one of his many trips to the United States to paint well known ladies of society.  Yet finding the true artist of the painting was not the only discovery that we made.  We also discovered that Ruth's painting was part of an exhibition in February 1913 to raise money for women's suffrage.  Due to a comment made by a family descandant in an oral history interview many years ago, site staff were under the impression that Mrs. Mills did not look favorably upon the idea of votes for women.  Yet, with this new information, perhaps we can change our views on Ruth and what she did or did not support.

In 2017, we are thinking more about women's suffrage because it is the centennial for women's suffrage in New York.  It was still three years until the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote nationally, so New York was ahead of the game.  New York State will be commemorating the centennial in many ways including a new exhibition at the New York State Museum opening in November 2017.  At Staatsburgh, in honor of the centennial, we invited Dr. Susan Goodier , a professor at SUNY Oneonta, to speak at one of our “Gilded Age Tea & Talk” programs, to explore how this momentous issue of the day was viewed by people of Mrs. Mills’ social set.  As the author of a study on the anti-suffrage moment in New York State (No Votes for Women: The New YorkState Anti-Suffrage Movement. Univ of Illinois Press, 2013), Dr. Goodier brings a special expertise to both sides of this contentious early turn-of-the-century issue.  We also are continuing to research the relationship between Ruth Mills and the suffrage movement. This blog explores some of our findings about that relationship.