In my last post I shared a fascinating newspaper tidbit from 1901 from the Jackson (Michigan) Patriot on my aunt Grace Desmond (1891-1972). It mentioned that she was a “child wonder” and “musical prodigy” at the age of 8 who had played on numerous occasions at the home of Carter Harrison II, Chicago’s mayor at the time.
It took me awhile to get past my astonishment at this unusual, yet true, story about a member of my own family whom I actually remember from my childhood. Once I did though, I went on to review some of the other news items on that same page which, as it turns out, proved to be equally fascinating, and clearly products of their historical time.
Take this, for instance, on the Baroness Burdett-Coutts of England:
Don’t you just love that last line? “She was acquainted with William IV (an ancestor, no doubt); was a friend of Dickens (I’m presuming British author, Charles Dickens); and expended over $1,000,000 in charity. (That’s a lot of bucks in 1901!)
Elsewhere on the page with Aunt Grace’s mention is this bit of royal gossip related to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her hubby who wed earlier that year. Seems the queen-mother was none too happy with her new son-in-law’s spending habits:
And how about this for all you female meteorologists out there today? You can thank Mrs. L. H. Grenewald for paving the way for you. (It’s a shame we don’t know her first name, however.)
It also seems that despite her renown in the “scientific circles of Europe,” her credentials as President of the Woman’s National Science Club, and her overall experience in the field of meteorology, her beloved manages to show up in this news item as sheriff of York County, PA after the Civil War. (Ahem…and what’s that got to do with her accomplishments?!)
My favorite news item on this page, however, is the following. It manages to combine details on the resignation of Mrs. Marguerite Coleman, a 27-year veteran of the Treasury Department, with how she personally saved the life of William H. Seward (President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State), on the fateful day Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. It then winds up tossing in a little harmless nepotism at the end of the story when it indicates Mrs. Coleman’s position would be filled by her very own niece.
And I was impressed with Aunt Grace–the child wonder and musical prodigy–who entertained at the home of a Chicago mayor at the turn of the last century. Amazing what else you can find in those old newspaper clippings to put your ancestor’s story into context!
Copyright © 2014 Patricia Desmond Biallas