Like everyone who will see this, I was born long after the Gilded Age ended. So how is it possible that I feel so nostalgic for these days of beauty and grace? I think I must be a ghost.
Today, I have for you pictures of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City at the turn of the century. There are also a few photos from the 1910s from a Senate inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic that was held at the hotel, and a couple of photos of women with their dogs from the first meeting of the American Pomeranian Club.
All photos courtesy the Library of Congress, except where marked.
The Met Museum has posted some images from a book called the Album of Paris Crime Scenes, collected between 1901 – 1908.
Apparently, it belonged to Alphonse Bertillon, the fellow who invented modern mugshots. Actually, Bertillon’s mugshots are more detailed than a modern mugshot, with measurements of the body, evaluation of teeth, etc. This mugshot is from New Orleans in 1914 and is a good example of Bertillon’s method.
Back to the Album of Paris Crime Scenes. The photographs are interesting but most are quite gruesome so I’m not going to share those here. If you want to see them, you can view them here. I do think you might appreciate some of the criminal photos though. The Paris police arrested a lot of women, but today we’ll just look at the men– not just any men. There are several guys in the album who are obviously down on their luck, but it’s the well-dressed ones that I find most interesting.
My guess is, these aren’t the kind of guys who are thugs. They won’t break into your house or mug you in an alley.
But they might be the kind of guys who would take out a life insurance policy on you and then pay someone else to murder you. Confidence Men didn’t get their hands dirty. Instead, they got people to trust them and then swindled them.
What do you think? Do they look honest? Would you have trusted any of them to be your accountant?
An impertinent dignitary once suggested to President Theodore Roosevelt that he control his daughter. “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice,” TR replied frankly. “I cannot possibly do both.”
Alice Roosevelt, the eldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, was a force of nature. She was a rebellious child, who turned into a rebellious teenager, who became a rebellious woman. Alice lived nearly a full century (1884-1980) and she was a presence in Washington, D.C. Politicians called her “the other Washington monument”, and there was something to it. Alice went to the White House during every administration after her father’s. A visit from her conferred some sort of extra legitimacy upon any politician. She was a reminder of a grander time, before World Wars, and the Great Depression.
And, she was fun. When she was a young woman and her father was the president, she carried her pet garter snake (named after her aunt) in her purse to frighten unsuspecting visitors. She smoked cigarettes and was spotted driving on occasion. Later, her acerbic wit was famous in D.C. One of her favorite sayings, which she had embroidered on a pillow for her sitting room, was:
Alice was unpredictable in most ways, except one: she was always on the cutting edge of fashion.
Here are a few pictures of her life through the years:
Alice frequently rebelled against her father and step-mother. Her relationship with Edith, who never overcame her bitterness about Theodore’s first marriage, was often rocky.
Alice’s wedding to Rep. Nicholas Longworth in 1906 was the event of the season. The press was fascinated with the details and “Princess Alice” photography was ubiquitous in the early months of 1906.
On the evening of the wedding, just before Alice and her new husband left, Edith Roosevelt looked at her step-daughter and said, “I want you to know that I’m glad to see you go. You’ve never been anything but trouble.”
Alice, however, reflected later in life that she enjoyed her step-mother very much.
Read about Theodore Roosevelt’s near-assassination here.
It was rumored – and never denied by Alice – that Longworth was not Paulina’s father. The Longworths’ marriage was at times contentious, and neither troubled to hide their philandering much from one another.