During the month of February, in honor of Valentine's Day, we celebrated some of the many swoon-worthy men and women of the Gilded Age. These short profiles take a look at four men and four women who captured the attention of Staatsburgh staff. Originally posted on Staatsburgh's facebook page, we compiled all the posts here to share in a single essay.
|Mary H. Dickerson (1830-1914)|
Alice was a bright light…literally! At the infamous 1883 masquerade ball hosted by her sister-in-law, Alva Vanderbilt, Alice wore a dress that caused a sensation. Designed by the House of Worth, the electric light dress was a fantastical celebration of the era’s new technological innovations. It was made of silver and gold thread, lightning bolt patterns designed with beads, and a battery lit torch she carried over her head like the Statue of Liberty. Who doesn’t carry a torch for Lady Liberty!
|Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922)|
|Sissieretta Jones (1868-1933)|
Image: Library of Congress, 1899 Poster
Over the following years, Jones became the highest paid black performer in the country. She sang for presidents Harrison, Cleveland, and McKinley at the White House. As a black woman, she was required to enter through the back door, until her final performance at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt, who allowed her to enter through the front. She broke barriers becoming the first African American to sing at Carnegie Hall in 1892, but was still prohibited from many premiere venues like the Metropolitan Opera because of her race.
|Jacques Balsan (1868-1956)|
Image: Library of Congress
The dashing Jacques Balsan, swept the Duchess of Marlborough (the former Consuelo Vanderbilt) off her feet, proving that titles mean nothing when it comes to true love. After an unhappy (and essentially arranged) marriage to the Duke ended in divorce, the Duchess finally had the freedom to make a love match. The French aviator romanced Consuelo and was the lucky man to capture her heart.
|James Hazen Hyde (1876-1959)|
Portrait by Théobald Chartran, 1901
It is easy to see the appeal of a man who has it all. James Hazen Hyde had it all…until he didn’t. It was said of Hyde that when he entered a room, he was always the tallest man in the room; the most handsome; and the wealthiest. He was 23 in 1889, when, after his father’s death, he inherited control of the billion-dollar Equitable Life Assurance Society. What a catch!
But all that glitters is not gold. The wily titans of industry on the Equitable’s Board of Directors – men such as J. P. Morgan and Henry Clay Frick – wrested control of the company from the inexperienced young Hyde with a smear campaign. Hyde resigned from the Equitable and fled to France. He didn’t come back for 36 years!
|Lily Elsie (1886-1962)|
Celebrated fashion designer Lucile (Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon) took Lily under her wing and taught her how to walk, talk, and dress like a star. On The Merry Widow’s opening night, Lily Elsie was a sensation. “I owe it all to you,” she told Lucille. Lily went on to become one of Britain’s best-known stars and…“the most photographed woman in the world.”