The Dowager’s Diary: Week One Hundred and Seventy-Nine

August 15-22, 1918

“To see Mrs. Hamilton about concert in Sea Bright.” That what was on Kate Roosevelt’s plate for August 15, 1918. From the notation in her diary, it was apparent that she was spending a few days with her mother and sisters at the Anchorage, their summer home now located in Rumson. After the storm of 1914, the shingle-style cottage was moved by barge to its final resting place on North Ward Avenue, just a short walk over the bridge to Sea Bright where the Shippen Family Home had been located, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean since 1874.

Since Kate’s name-dropping in her diary rarely contained more than a first or last name, I usually had to do some digging. This time I didn’t have far to go to identify the Mrs. Hamilton who was arranging an entertainment for the residents of Sea Bright, New Jersey. This time the musical promoter was Mrs. Juliet Morgan Hamilton, the daughter of the multi-millionaire, John Pierpont Morgan, and I was not surprised to find her making plans to enjoy her time with Mrs. Roosevelt at the shore. The temperatures in New York City were soaring and a few days relaxing near the water would make a splendid get-away and a chance for Juliet to visit with her former governess, Florence Rhett. Kate Shippen Roosevelt and “Flossy” Rhett had been friends for years and the two often socialized with the entire Morgan family that included, the financier, J.P. Morgan; his wife, Ann Tracy Morgan; his three daughters, Louisa, Juliet and Ann and his son, Jack Morgan.

St. George’s Episcopal Church

One social event in particular that Kate Roosevelt was a guest at was the wedding of Juliet Morgan when she married William Pierson Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s great-grandson. When the New York Times reported on April 13, 1894, in addition to describing the bride’s dress, the church’s decorations and wedding gifts, the newspaper also named the most important attendees and Mrs. Hilborne Roosevelt was at the top of the list. The article mentioned the beautiful music and I was sure Kate was so proud that it was all accompanied by the Opus 75 Organ that her late husband had installed in St. George’s Episcopal Church on Stuyvesant Square in New York City in 1880.

Hilborne Roosevelt Organ

Since I am not sure if Kate kept a diary during the year 1894, I relied on the original New York Times story for details of the day.

“Marriage of Miss Juliet Morgan”

April 13, 1894

“Few weddings have been of greater general interest than that of Miss Juliet Morgan, the second daughter of J. Pierpont Morgan to William Pierson Hamilton, which took place yesterday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock in St. George’s Protestant Episcopal Church.

Miss Morgan’s marriage was unquestionably the most fashionable and beautiful of all the spring weddings and many society people from several other cities were present at the ceremony.  Over 3,000 invitations had been sent out to people living here and in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and London.

Advertisement for Thorley’s Flowers

The floral decorations by Thorley were elaborate and in good taste.  The chancel was a mass of roses and spring blossoms with a background of the rarest tropical plants and palms.  The body of the church was decorated with innumerable lilies and Jacqueminot roses, tied with white satin ribbons.

Long before the doors were opened hundreds of people gathered about the church, but as admission to the church was only by card, they dispersed after trying to catch a glimpse of the bride as she alighted from her carriage. At 3 o’clock almost every seat in the church was taken.

S. Chester, the organist of St. George’s rendered an attractive musical programme before the bridal party arrived. The bridal party entered the church to the strains of the wedding march composed by Sebastian B. Scheslinger on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding in London last October.

The bride, who is a beautiful young woman wo0re a gown of the richest white satin, the skirt being trimmed with point lace ruffles and the bodice covered with point lace.  A coronet of diamonds fastened her point lace veil which hung gracefully over the train. She carried a bunch of sweet peas.  She entered the church on her father’s arm.

219 Madison Avenue the home of J.P. Morgan

For the reception, which followed the ceremony at the home of the bride’s parents at 219 Madison Avenue, over 1,000 invitations were sent out. The south bay window of the large drawing room was transformed into a charming bower of lilies of the valley, under which the bridal party stood while receiving the many guests. Large portieres of roses, caught back with huge bunches of white lilacs hung in the windows facing Madison Avenue. A mass of white azaleas filled the large fireplace at the opposite end of the room.  The spacious hallway was decorated with palms reaching nearly to the ceiling.

Miss Morgan has received some of the handsomest presents ever given to any bride in this country, many of them having been sent from friends of her father in all parts of the world.

The handsome bridegroom is a son of William Gaston Hamilton, and is connected on his mother’s side with the Piersons. He is an influential member of the St. Anthony and Calumet Clubs.  The young couple started on their wedding tour late in the afternoon.

Among the guests present at the wedding and reception were Mrs. J.C. Westerfield, Mrs. Richard Delafield, Miss Delafield, Mr. and Mrs. Poultney Bigelow, Mrs. Charles Tracy, The Misses, Ettie, Caroline, Georgina, and Sophie Shippen, Mrs. Hilborne Roosevelt and Miss Florence Rhett.”

Interior of J.P. Morgan Mansion, 219 Madison Avenue

It sounded like a wonderful wedding and the guest list was too long to repeat in this episode of the Dowager’s Diary, but quite impressive.  The reception was held at what is now the Morgan Library, once the home of the J.P. Morgan Family.  He passed away in 1913 and Kate Roosevelt was in attendance at that occasion as well.

The florist who decorated St. George’s Church and the Morgan home was Charles Thorley, known as the “flower merchant to the four hundred.” Mrs. Astor’s select social group. He began his business on Broadway and 42nd Street, a location that eventually became known as the New York Times Building. On the third floor was a slab memorializing the spot where the famous florist got his start.  As his business grew, he relocated to a building called the “House of Flowers” on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 46th Street. He was the first to add satin ribbons to bridal bouquets.

The concert that Mrs.  Roosevelt and Mrs. Hamilton were cooking up was a success. On Saturday evening, August 17, 1918 Kate wrote, “Beautiful night, sitting calmly in a brilliantly lit room on the very edge of the sea listening to the music.”

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

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
Thorley’s House of Flowers, Fifth Avenue and 46th Street
NYPL Digital Collections

Photo Two:
St. George’s Episcopal Church, Stuyvesant Square, New York City
New York City Organ Project

Photo Three:
Hilborne Roosevelt Organ
New York City Organ Project

Photo Four:
Advertisement for Thorley’s Flowers
NYPL Digital Collection

Photo Five:
219 Madison Avenue the home of J.P. Morgan
Library of Congress

Photo Six:
Interior of J.P. Morgan Mansion, 219 Madison Avenue
Library of Congress