Sarah Bernhard Appears in Charleston

bernhardt-sarah-1880Sarah Bernhardt appeared at the Academy of Music in “La Tosca” on January 21, 1892. Her appearance was treated like that of royalty. A local reviewer for the “News and Courier”, who referred to Bernhardt as “the divine Sarah,” also wrote that the theater “had rarely held as brilliant and cultivated an audience who were spellbound through love, hate, scorn, revenge, and disgust, all of which had full sway in the role.”

 

The two lower floors of the Academy sold out for Bernhardt’s performance within forty-eight hours. The day before, the “News and Courier” warned the audience about the “bonnet boycott” if they were attending.

 

(From “The News and Courier, Jan. 20, 1892)
Bonnets and Bernhardt do not go together. We do not mean … that the Divine Sarah has discarded the use of bonnets; on the contrary her headgear is said to be perfectly lovely; and we wish to convey the idea to the ladies of Charleston that bonnets will be entirely out of place at the Bernhardt performance … It is suggested that all ladies leave their bonnets at home unless indeed they are small enough not to interfere with the view.

“A Sufferer” goes so far as to suggest that it would be entirely proper for the Reporters of the News and Courier to take down for publication the names of all the ladies who go to the Academy wearing any particularly offensive hats or bonnets. Another correspondent “who paid three dollars to see Bernhardt, and not to gaze at ‘Miss Brown’s bonnet’” suggests that the new Chief of Police might distinguish the beginning of his administration by posting a strong force of men at the Academy to keep all the high hats out of the house!

It is true that some ladies have to wear hats as a protection, but the ladies of Charleston never look so sweet and charming as when they display their queenly heads unencumbered by the frippery of the milliner’s art. There is no reason why any lady in Charleston should keep her head covered at the Bernhardt performance tomorrow night.

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Academy of Music photo: from “Memories of the Professional and Social Life of John E. Owens, By His Wife.” 1892.
Sarah Bernhardt photo: from Library of Congress

Charleston Almanac update

The Charleston Almanac manuscript has been indexed (3 weeks of fun!). Proofs will be ready by the first of February. Another step forward.

This is the finalized cover.

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George Washington Visits Charleston: Day 2

George Washington’s Visit -Day 2

Monday, May 2, 1791

Washington had breakfast at Snee Farm, the home of Gov. Charles Pinckney. Pinckney apologized for the house, calling the home “a place so indifferently furnished and where your fare will be entirely that of a farm.”

After breakfast Washington crossed into Charleston from Haddrell’s Point which was the eastern terminus of the ferry. Washington was rowed across the river on a large barge by “12 American Captains of Ships, most elegantly dressed.” He noted:

 There were a great number of boats and barges on the river filled with Gentlemen and Ladies, as well as two boats of musicians, all of whom attended Washington across the river.

Washington was greeted at the Point by city recorder John Bee Holmes, and Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Edward Rutledge. A month after the meeting Washington offered Pinckney and Rutledge a seat on the Supreme Court, a seat that had recently been vacated by Edward’s brother, John Rutledge. Both men declined due to family finances.

Once in Charleston Washington was greeted by Lt. Gov. Isaac Holmes, Charleston intendant (mayor) Arnoldus Vanderhorst, and S. Carolina’s two U.S. Senators – Pierce Butler and Ralph Izard. The president was greeted at the Exchange Building where he stood on the balcony facing East Bay Street and watched a “procession in his honor to whom he politely and gracefully bowed as they passed in review before him.”

Washington was then taken to his lodgings on Church Street (Heyward-Washington House) where he was attended by several of Mr. Heyward’s servants.

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Thomas Heyward’s house @ 87 Church Street, where George slept. 

George Washington Visits Charleston: Day 1

George Washington’s Visit – Day 1

May 1, 1791

The president’s party had breakfast at Hampton Plantation, the home of the widowed Harriet Pinckney Horry. Her mother, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, had been living with her daughter for several years.

During the visit, Eliza asked Pres. Washington whether a certain oak tree should be cut down to create a better view from the portico. Washington replied that he liked the tree and the view. The tree was saved and from that day it was known as the Washington Oak.

On the road to Charleston County

Washington Oak at Hampton Plantation. Photo by author.

John C. Calhoun

John C. Calhoun, at the age of 68, died of tuberculosis on March 31, 1850 at the Old Brick Capitol boarding house in Washington, D.C. Many know his name, but few remember that at one point, he was one of the most powerful figures in American politics.

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1822 portrait of John C. Calhoun. New York Public Library

Calhoun served in the South Carolina legislature and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1811, serving three terms. One year later, Calhoun and Henry Clay, two famous “war hawks,” convinced the House to declare war on Great Britain.

From 1817 to 1825 Calhoun served as Secretary of War under Pres. James Monroe. In 1824 he ran for the presidency (against John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson) and ultimately served as vice president under Adams. Four years later, Calhoun was re-elected vice president under Andrew Jackson.

Calhoun supported the Tariff of 1828, in opposition of Pres. Jackson. Calhoun wrote an essay, “The South Carolina Exposition and Protest” in which he advocated that a state had the right to veto any federal law that went beyond the enumerated powers and encroached upon the residual powers of the State.

Also, during this time, Washington D.C. became embroiled in something called “the Petticoat Affair.” Calhoun’s wife, Floride, who was queen of D.C. society, organized Cabinet member’s wives against Peggy Eaton, wife of Sect. of War John Eaton. Floride alleged that John and Peggy had engaged in an adulterous affair while Mrs. Eaton was still married to her first husband. Jackson, who was close friends with Eaton, resented the Calhoun’s attack, creating even more tension between the president and vice president.

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Calhoun portrait by Matthew Brady. Library of Congress

In 1832 the South Carolina legislature nullified a Federal agriculture tariff, citing Calhoun’s “Exposition.” Pres. Jackson threatened to send naval war ships to Charleston to hang Calhoun or any man who worked to support nullification or secession unless South Carolina relented. Ultimately, a compromise was reached and passions cooled, but many of the South’s leaders smoldered with resentment of the Federal government’s growing dictatorial power, planting the seeds for the South’s secession, twenty-eight years later. 

On December 12, 1832, Calhoun was elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Robert Hayne, who had been elected South Carolina governor. On the 28th Calhoun resigned the Vice Presidency, the first man to do so. He was also the second and last vice president to serve under two presidents (George Clinton is the other.)

 

As a senator Calhoun engaged in one of the Senate’s most famous debates with Daniel Webster over slavery and states’ rights. In 1844 Pres. John Tyler appointed him as Secretary of State for two years during which time Calhoun supervised the Texas annexation and the creation of the Oregon Territory.

Calhoun then returned to the Senate in 1846 where he opposed the Mexican War and helped to defeat the Wilmot Proviso. 

calhoun's last appearance in the senate

New York Public Library

After his death he was buried at St. Philip’s Cemetery in Charleston. Toward the end of the Civil War, Calhoun’s supporters were concerned that Union troops in the city would ransack his grave, so during the night, they removed his coffin to a hiding place beneath the stairs of the church. The next night, they buried the coffin in an unmarked grave. In 1871, it was exhumed and returned to its original spot. In 1884, Calhoun’s brick tomb was replaced by a decorative sarcophagus by the South Carolina government. 

In 2000 the U.S. Senate honored Calhoun as one of the seven greatest senators of all time.

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Calhoun’s grave at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston. Photo by author

The Irrepressible Daisy Breaux

In 1864 a young girl was born in Philadelphia. She was christened Margaret Rose Anthony Julia Josephine Catherine Cornelia Donovan O’Donovan. Her friends called her “Daisy.” Her father, Cornelius McCarthy Moore Donavon O’Donavon, died when she was three, and her mother moved to New Orleans and married Gustave Breaux, a wealthy member of an aristocratic French family. 

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From New York Public Library – Public Domain. Author’s Collection.

Daisy was brought up in wealth and high southern society. She became known for her smart alecky sense of humor and attitude. When schoolmates would make fun of her – “Why do you have a French name and look so Irish?”- she usually responded with a slap in the face. However, once she started turning the heads of boys, Daisy became a popular girl. So much so that her mother sent Daisy off to the Georgetown Visitation convent school in Washington, D.C.

After her schooling was finished Daisy returned to New Orleans and fielded dozens of offers of marriage. In 1885 she married a wealthy Charleston banker, Andrew Simonds, who had lavished her with gifts like a diamond necklace and diamond pendant. She wore both at the altar.  

In Charleston, Daisy immediately turned heads. The couple was given a new house on the Battery as a wedding present and Daisy was told her to “decorate it anyway you wish.” She erected scaffolding in the drawing room and personally painted clouds with roses on the ceiling … all while receiving formal guests. Daisy was also fond of giving her guests unflattering nicknames, which she then proceeded to use in public. There was one grand old Charleston dame who always wore a tiara whom Daisy called “the Comb.” Another woman with unfortunately prominent teeth became known as “the Piano.” 

However, the most shocking event may have been when Daisy ordered her wedding present destroyed and a new mansion was built in its place at 4 South Battery.  It was an Italian Renaissance villa with four Corinthian columns along the front, designed by Frederick P. Dinkelberg who later became famous as the designer of the Flatiron Building in New York.    

In 1905, Simonds’s premature death left Daisy and their 5-year-old daughter, Margaret, in a precarious financial position. Ever the practical woman, Daisy turned her Charleston home into a luxury hotel. She named it after herself: the Villa Margherita — “margherita” being Italian for “daisy.”

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The “Villa Margherita” (to the left) at 4 South Battery, Charleston, SC. Author’s Collection. 

Daisy invented the hotel’s motto out of fractured Latin: “Sic tibi pecunia non intrare non licet est.” Daisy translated it as: “If you ain’t got no money you needn’t come around.” She leased the property to Miss Ina Liese Dawson, who operated the Villa Margherita, serving wealthy northerners on their winter excursions to South Carolina for hunting expeditions, including Henry Ford and Alexander Graham Bell.

Daisy met her second husband, Barker Gummere Jr., when they both happened to be aboard the same yacht during a congressional junket to the Panama Canal. Gummere was a banker whose political influence earned him the nickname the “Kingmaker of New Jersey.” Their 1907 wedding took place in Charleston at the Villa. 

daisy portrait - from receipes of a

Daisy Gummere. Courtesy Library of Congress

Daisy then designed another house — a mansion called Rosedale on 57 acres that Gummere owned near Princeton. Again, tragedy cut the marriage short when he died of pneumonia in 1914. Daisy hired nine teachers and transformed Rosedale into a private academy for girls, enrolling her daughter as the first student.

Four years later, she married her third husband, Capt. Clarence Crittenden Calhoun. He was a Kentucky lawyer and Spanish-American War veteran with a lucrative law practice in Washington. Daisy became one of the most renowned hostesses in Washington, charming Edward VIII, Prince of Wales and future King of England.  

In the summer of 1920, the Calhouns traveled to San Francisco for the Democratic National Convention. The 19th Amendment was about to give women the right to vote, and politicians were eagerly courting this new constituency. Daisy noticed that female conventiongoers were being treated with an amazing amount of deference. Daisy recalled: 

While I had always believed in woman’s political power behind the throne, I came away from the Convention a thorough convert to her new place in the world, not only for equal rights in politics and business, but as a public speaker.

Back in Washington, D.C. Daisy had decided to harness what her husband had dubbed “dynamic woman power.” She founded the Woman’s National Foundation, and chief among its bylaws was the promise to educate:

women in their civil rights and duties as citizens, by giving and receiving instruction in history, civics and statescraft and all other branches helpful to good citizenship . . .

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Daisy Calhoun. Courtesy Library of Congress

She raised funds from wealthy donors, in 1921 purchased 10 acres of prime land at Connecticut and Florida avenues NW for $80,000. Known as the Dean estate, the property included a mansion that became the foundation’s headquarters and was the setting for a hectic schedule of civics lessons, socials and inspirational pageants.

Daisy Calhoun, however, discovered that women had a less praiseworthy trait – jealous, sniping harpies. She wrote in her memoir, The Autobiography of a Chameleon:

Many women are so constituted that they cannot bear to see one of their sisters, who has been on a par with them, suddenly elevated to a position of authority over them.

Calhoun’s daughter, Margaret, eloped when she was about 18. Her secret suitor was a wealthy young Washingtonian named Arthur Drury, whom Calhoun described as “feckless and not suited to business.” The marriage didn’t last long, and Margaret later married Charles Waring, a Charleston lawyer. Margaret had children by both men.

daisy - recipes, philiosphy

Clarence Calhoun died in 1938 and Daisy Calhoun promised to publish a second memoir that recounted how she had been “prey for many of the scoundrels and racketeers that infest Washington.” She never did, though her cookbook, Favorite Recipes of a Famous Hostess, became popular.

She moved back to Charleston in 1948 and died there the following year at age 85. She was buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. 

Such was the life of Margaret Rose Anthony Julia Josephine Catherine Cornelia Donovan O’Donovan Breaux Simonds Gummere Calhoun.

magnolia, daisy breaux

Daisy’s headstone in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston. Photo by Mark R. Jones