Wednesday, October 31, 2018

DAY 83: The First Dress Change--Day Dresses



If you were fortunate enough to receive Princess Alix's summons to Sandringham House, you had to pack a lot of clothes. Jennie Churchill's first costume each day would be a riding habit (see Day 88: Riding in Style)--but after returning from the stables, reeking of horseflesh, leather, and the damp Norfolk woods, Jennie would hurry upstairs to her lady's maid, Gentry, and undergo a complete transformation. The dress shown here is by Charles Frederick Worth, and dates to 1880.



Sandringham House staircase


Mornings demanded a Day Dress. This blue gown by Worth, for example, is shown both as a lady might wear it indoors, but also with a fur collar, hat and muff, as she might accessorize it for strolling through Sandringham's gardens. Notice the flat skirt front and elaborate rear half-bustle of the 1885 period. Notice as well that the neck is high and tight (Princess Alix's influence on fashion) and the sleeves are narrow and close-fitting. Only the wrists are visible, and when outdoors, the hands, naturally, would be gloved. Jewelry would be held to a minimum in the morning; a brooch on the breast or at the center of the waist. A lady's decolletage was never exposed before the afternoon.

 
In That Churchill Woman, I describe Jennie hurrying upstairs at Sandringham to change from her riding habit into a mushroom-colored silk gown with bronze trim. This is the day dress I was thinking of--more than elegant enough for writing letters, doing needlework, reading in the library, playing duets with Princess Alix, bowling with Bertie, or challenging Consuelo, Countess of Mandeville, to a match at billiards.

The Day Dress formula hardly changed in summer--although the activities certainly did. More walking out of doors in Hyde Park and country gardens, painting en plein air, conversations in basket chairs under the spreading branches of a great cypress, or simply practicing the piano for hours.  

A Day Dress during the summer months was expected to be less formal and made of softer, lighter fabrics--although prettiness was a must. Notice the flirtatious detailing of this bustle, and the way the bodice pleating leads the eye to the ornament emphasizing the narrow waist. The curving drape of the bustle practically begs the viewer to follow. A come-hither Day Dress, if ever I saw one!


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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

DAY 84: Those American Buccaneers

The American novelist and expatriate Edith Wharton was born in Manhattan eight years after Jennie Jerome, Consuelo Yznaga, Alva Erskine-Smith and Minnie Stevens, and she was from a very different slice of New York Society. Jennie, Connie, Alva and Minnie were strivers--regarded as too "new money" for the taste of Caroline Astor, who ruled the admission of debutantes to the New York elite. It is no accident that all four girls were whisked off to the Continent around the age of thirteen by their concerned mammas, and finished at the same French convent school; being denied admission to the highest circles, they were unlikely to marry well in Manhattan.

Edith "Pussy" Jones was another matter. Her geneaology was ancient, her money old, her cachet impeccable. The only problem, as far as New York Society was concerned, was that Edith was more bookish and introverted than glamorous and decorative. When she fell in love with Minnie Stevens' handsome, polo-playing brother Harry one summer in Bar Harbor, neither family approved the engagement. The
Edith Jones (Wharton) as a debutante, c. 1880
Stevens' money came from hotels, and was so new it crackled; moreover, Harry's mother, Marietta Stevens, would lose control of his inheritance if he married before the age of 25, and he was 23 when he met Edith. Mrs. Stevens vigorously fought the engagement, then tipped off the gossip rag Town Topics that "a prepoderance of learning on the bride's part" had doomed the match. In fact, as Mrs. Stevens knew, Harry was dying of tuberculosis, and she far preferred to inherit his fortune than watch Pussy Jones run away with it.


Edith poured some of this tangle of class, pain, and thwarted ambition into her final, unfinished novel, THE BUCCANEERS. It's a loosely disguised tale of American girls of the 1870s, snubbed by New York Society, who go husband-hunting in England. The four main characters bear striking resemblances to Jennie and her friends. Dark-haired, beautiful Lizzy Elmsworth--who marries a rising political star and lives boldly at the forefront of London life--is probably Jennie; Conchita Closson, who is deserted by her husband soon after marriage and beguiles British nobles with her cigar-smoking indolence, is Consuelo Yznaga; Jinny St. George, snobbish and willing to do anything to advance her husband's standing in the Marlborough House Set, is clearly Minnie Stevens Paget; and the most naive and unhappy of all, Nan St. George, who marries a duke and lives to regret it, is modeled on Alva Smith Vanderbilt's daughter, Consuelo. Alva named her only daughter for her close friend, Connie Yznaga, who along with Minnie Stevens helped marry the girl off to Jennie's nephew, Sunny, Duke of Marborough. It proved a miserable marriage that ended in divorce, as Edith Wharton well knew.

Jennie and her childhood friends had long since died by the time THE BUCCANEERS was published, as had Wharton. I imagine, however, that Jennie would have embraced Pussy Jones's vision of her life. Lizzie Elmsworth is the freest of all those piratical women, and the only one a present-day reader is certain will emerge from her battles unscathed.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

DAY 85: Diamonds are Forever

So let's talk rocks.

Pictured above is the "Honeysuckle" tiara, named for its palmette design, but otherwise known as the Kinsky Tiara. Charles Kinsky's mother, Princess Marie, wore this for her appearances at the Austrian Court of Empress Sisi. It was a gift from Charles's father, Prince Ferdinand, and was crafted around 1870 of gold, silver, and diamonds. It is still held privately in the Kinsky family.


This is the Manchester Tiara, named for the Duchess of Manchester who commissioned it from Cartier in 1903--notice that the settings employ the newly-discovered metal platinum, which allowed Cartier to craft ethereal, almost weightless designs unknown in Princess Marie's day. The Duchess of Manchester who paid for this confection of platinum, diamonds, and--gasp!--glass, was none other than Consuelo Yznaga Montagu, Jennie's lifelong friend. Minnie had been genteely impoverished most of her life, but came into some cash after her brother's death. She supplied over a thousand brilliant-cut diamonds and 400 rose-cut diamonds to Cartier for the creation; the glass was used only on the tiara's ends, where it was fixed in Connie's hair. Cartier based the design of graduated hearts and C-scrolls on 18th century Paris ironwork. It was donated to HM Government in lieu of taxes and is now in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

And finally, those diamond stars--so beloved of Victorians, and identified with Jennie in particular. It turns out that it was Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known to her friends (Jennie and Charles included), as Sisi, who set the fashion in diamond stars. She loved them, wore them in her glorious hair for her Winterhalter portrait as a newly-married girl of sixteen, and when the Fashionable World took up her style with a frenzy--Sisi gave her diamond stars away to friends, as they were no longer special to herself alone. 

This is the greatest collection of stars I've found, a parure--meaning, a complete set of jewelry fashioned around the same theme, to be worn all OVER a woman's body. This is an 1870 suite comprised of a tiara, necklace, and a pair of earrings. Nestled in the blue velvet of its original jeweler's box from Collingwood & Son, it was auctioned at Christie's. Went for a mere $404,000 US dollars. Gaze at it and weep. 

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

DAY 86: Bertie, Force of Nature

The Playboy Prince, Albert Edward of Wales, grew up in the dense shadow of his mother Victoria's love for his father, Albert. The Queen decided early in Bertie's life that he was unworthy to wear the crown. He was too unsteady, too indulged, too self-absorbed, too much like the Regency uncles she'd despised from childhood. The fact that Bertie kept his father walking in the rain a day or so before Albert fell fatally ill made everything worse; for the rest of her life, Queen Victoria blamed her son for his father's death. Albert probably died of typhus (the drains at Buckingham Palace were notoriously foul) or stomach cancer, neither of which the Prince caused. 

Victoria's constant disapproval of Bertie meant that she gave him no serious work to do for most of his life. He was a restless man--despite his affection for Princess Alix and their seven children, his attention constantly strayed to other women. He was a man of enormous appetities--for food, clothes, racehorses, houses, gambling, cards, flamboyant gifts he showered on his friends, and for friends themselves. The Marlborough House Set, as his clique came to be known, was a byword for those who lived most glamorously and dangerously in England.

Randolph was a member of the Set long before he met Jennie. The Churchills' ancestral London home, Marlborough House, had reverted to the Crown and was Bertie's residence in Town. The Prince adored American women--for their wit, their style, their independence of British convention, their ease with varying social classes and their wealth. In addition to Jennie, Bertie's American friends included Consuelo Yznaga Mandeville and Minnie Stevens Paget.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

DAY 87: A Princess Called Alix

She was an undeniably lovely woman, with a perfect face and figure; raised in fairly modest circumstances in Copenhagen, Denmark, until Prince Albert Edward appeared out of the blue and courted her in marriage. Alexandra of Denmark was only sixteen years old. Bertie was twenty-one. His mother, Queen Victoria, hoped marriage would settle him. 

Alix's youth and naivete seemed never really to leave her, regardless of age; whatever pain her marriage to the volatile prince may have caused, she rarely betrayed it. Kindness and inclusion were her enduring traits. She was an excellent friend to Jennie Churchill--a huge reason the breach between their husbands was healed. The two women, both pianists of the highest caliber, played duets together in the afternoons at Sandringham. 

It was Alix who recruited Jennie to study portrait-painting with a group of women at Marlborough House, unleashing Jennie's passion for the art. A similar love of painting would eventually seize Jennie's son, Winston.


The Princess's music room was ruled by her beloved grey parrot. Here she is with it perched on her walking stick.


The Princess of Wales was a major influence on the fashion of her day. The high, close-fitted collars she wore, both fabric and jeweled, became ubiquitous in Society. It was rumored they masked a significant scar or burn on her swanlike neck which only Bertie had ever seen. Alix was also afflicted with an unexplained chronic condition that caused stiffness, semi-paralysis, and pain in her legs, as well as increasingly deafness. By her mid-thirties, she was almost profoundly deaf, a secret to most of her British subjects, although recognized by her friends.

Alix's younger sister, Minnie (who was known as Dagmar of Denmark and then Maria Feodorovna after her marriage to Alexander of Russia), eventually became the Russian Czarina, and mother of the doomed Nicholas II. Alix adored Minnie and invited her often to visit in England.  The two sisters liked to dress identically, which was known at the time as "twinning." Here they are--Alix is on the right.

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Friday, October 26, 2018

DAY 88: Dressed to Ride

Riding habit by John Redfern & Sons, V&A Museum


If you intended to take on the field as a Victorian woman amidst the elite hunters of England and Ireland, much less parade the sedate sanded avenues of Rotten Row in Hyde Park, you had to look as elegant and effortless as though you were gliding across a ballroom. Which gives me the excuse to engage in an orgy of RIDING HABITS.





Jennie patronized the firm of John Redfern & Sons, which she discovered as a young woman in their original Cowes shop. In a matter of years, the business had expanded to London and elsewhere, and became the premier bespoke tailoring for equestrian women.  Here's another jacket from Redfern, at left. The attention to detail is fabulous, isn't it?




Habits were complex garments, involving a skirt with a special train that could drape over the saddle, a jacket with long tails that hid the drape fastenings, and trousers worn beneath the skirt itself to allow free movement of a woman's legs around the saddle pommel. Trousers also offered some protection for the skin, and a nod to modesty if a lady was thrown by her mount. You can see the fastenings for the drape in the picture of this forest-green habit. Dark colors made sense when riders were galloping across muddy hunting fields; Winston remembers his mother returning home from the hunt in Ireland, when he would have been about five years old, with her habit "beautifully spattered with mud."

A few more favorites: Scarlet...Purple with green velvet trimmings...

...and Basic Black. This one is also by Redfern.  

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

DAY 89: Mornings on Horseback

Jennie's father, Leonard Jerome, loved horses--he built two different racetracks during his lifetime and hosted the first Belmont Stakes, named after his close friend August Belmont, at Jerome Park in the Bronx in 1867, when Jennie was thirteen. It was the last race she witnessed at Papa's track--Clara Jerome moved her girls permanently to Europe that autumn. The winner was a filly named Ruthless.

Jennie had a lifelong passion for riding, horses, hunting, and racing. She prided herself on her "seat," her balance while riding hard over every kind of terrain. Charles Kinsky, whose family bred their own unique strain of cavalry horses known as the Equus Kinsky, loved to ride with her. One of the first gifts he gave Jennie in the spring of 1883 was a gorgeous and expensive sidesaddle like the one pictured here. A lady learned to grip the leather horns with her knees, masked by the draped skirt of her riding habit.

This picture isn't of Jennie, but it suggests what she might have looked like--with her eighteen inch waist, and her excellent sidesaddle seat. 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

DAY 90: A Candlelit Romance

It can be an intimate space or an opulent one, depending on how many leaves are added or how many branches of candles soar down the center of the mahogany table. The Goya tapestries lining the walls are a gift from Spain. Flames flicker in the marble fireplace and the conversation is always heady. 

In Bertie's day, the guests in Sandringham's dining room include Jennie's closest friends: The Marquess of Hartington, Minister of War, who everyone simply calls Hart; Lottie, Duchess of Manchester, whom Hart passionately loves; Lottie's daughter-in-law, the American Consuelo Yznaga; and another face from Jennie's past, Minnie Stevens Paget.

And of course, the newcomer and social sensation: Count Charles Kinsky. He engrosses Jennie's heart and mind from the first night at Bertie's table.

Lord Randolph Churchill is not at Sandringham. He's had a falling-out with the Prince that cost his family years of exile. Eventually, that breach will heal--because of Jennie.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

DAY 91: Lady in Red

John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Charles E. Inches, 1887, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Jennie was a spectator at Aintree when Charles Kinsky won the Grand National in March 1883, but it's unclear when the two actually met. I imagine them at Sandringham, the Prince of Wales's Norfolk estate, on a rainy evening in April. 

Bertie, as his friends were allowed to call him, enjoyed the independence of the American women in his Marlborough House Set; and he also loved their style. 

Charles Frederick Worth, who designed the 1883 red and black evening dress shown here, made the most gorgeous and expensive gowns in the world, and he dressed innumerable wealthy American women. Princess Alix, Bertie's wife, was forbidden to wear Worth. Her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, decreed that patronizing a French-based milliner was unpatriotic. 

No lady would dream of wearing the same gown twice. And as gowns were changed four times a day at least, that meant a single five-day visit to Sandringham could require twenty different costumes, complete with matching shoes, hats, gloves, pocketbooks, and jewelry.

But Sandringham collected the most influential political figures of the day, debating at Bertie's dinner table. Jennie's commanding presence in the group depended far more on her wit and intelligence than her parade of clothes.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

DAY 92: The Man Who Stole Her Heart


Jennie called him Charles. Winston, who adored him, called him Count Kinsky. Lord Randolph called him the best of friends, as did Bertie, the Prince of Wales. 

Count Karl Rudolf Ferdinand Andreas F├╝rst Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau, as he was formally known, was 25 years old when he burst into Jennie's life in the spring of 1883. She was 29. Charles had just moved to London as a diplomat attached to the Austrian Embassy--his father, Prince Ferdinand Kinsky, held vast estates in Austria and Bohemia, and the Kinsky horse stud supplied the Austrian cavalry.

Charles rode his own English-bred horse, Zoedone, in the Grand National steeplechase at Aintree that year, and won. It was an unheard-of feat, and he became a celebrity as a result, his face and exploits chronicled constantly in the British press. Charismatic, seductive, and compelling, Charles was accustomed to power and getting what he wanted. 

For most of his life, what he wanted was Jennie. 


Charles Kinsky, wearing his family's white and red silks, on Zoedone at Aintree, 1883. Credit: Getty Images.


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Sunday, October 21, 2018

DAY 93: A Palace for a Princess


Two thousand acres and 187 rooms, Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough, but it's not all that old by English standards--when Jennie first saw it in the spring of 1874, it had been standing in its Cotswold fields for a mere hundred and fifty years. The land and some funds to build the palace, along with a ducal title, were granted to John Churchill by Queen Anne to celebrate his victories against the French and Bavarians in the War of Spanish Succession. Huge cost overruns and the Churchills' fluctuating political fortunes prolonged the construction for decades; John died before the palace was completed. There was never enough money to maintain Blenheim in the style to which the Dukes of Marlborough managed to become accustomed. In Randolph Churchill's day, fifty indoor servants scurried up and down the hidden service passages to keep the family functioning. The outdoor servants--grooms, gardeners, coachmen, gameskeepers--were as numerous.

Everyone who visits Blenheim has an opinion about the place: it's hideous, cold, echoing, grand, awe-inspiring, monumental, tasteless, drafty, daunting, magnificent, depressing. 

Jennie viewed any stay with her in-laws as a penance; there was nothing to do and no one to amuse her. She spent the endless days practicing her piano, following the gentlemen's shooting parties, or writing letters to her sisters. Sometimes she concealed her face with a veil and joined groups of tourists wandering through the palace, suppressing laughter at their unflattering comments about the portraits of her husband's ancestors. 


The Long Library
Having been reared in American comfort, Jennie deplored the fact that there were only two baths in the entire "barracks," as she referred to the Blenheim. Family prayers were said each morning in the private chapel, dominated by John Churchill's tomb, and festivities were limited to the annual Hunt Ball. After dancing all night at this party in late November 1874, Jennie went into labor and gave birth to her first son, Winston, in a spare ground-floor bedroom.

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Saturday, October 20, 2018

DAY 94: A White Wedding

Worth Wedding Gown, 1879
A fashionable nineteen-year-old raised in Paris went to only one dressmaker for her wedding gown: Charles Frederick Worth.

Born a Cockney and apprenticed as a child to a linendraper, Worth reinvented himself in Paris as the father of haute couture. Married to a Frenchwoman and in command of an atelier full of artisans who could embroider anything for a price, Worth commanded enormous sums for his one-of-a-kind gowns. In the weeks leading up to Jennie Jerome's April, 1874 wedding, the House of Worth ran up twenty-four of them for her trousseau.

Here is another period Worth wedding gown (1878) shown with veil, fan and gloves, and again in a closer look at same gown's jacket detail:



Notice the gorgeous embroidery on the skirt of this Worth wedding gown from 1880. 
Worth was the first to employ women to model his gowns in his Paris salon, so that clients could view his  work in a realistic setting. One windowless room was lit only by candelight, the better to showcase mannequins draped in evening and ball gowns.
Interior of Charles Frederick Worth salon, Paris
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Friday, October 19, 2018

DAY 95: Accustomed to Papa's Yacht



Jennie Jerome met Lord Randolph Churchill on the royal yacht Ariadne, at a tea dance thrown by the Prince and Princess of Wales in August, 1873, at Cowes--home of the Royal Yacht Squadron on the Isle of Wight, and the annual regatta races of Cowes Week. Princess Alix's sister Minnie was the Czarevna of Russia--married to the Czar's heir--and she was visiting Alix that summer. The Russian and British royals stood together at the head of the yacht's gangplank, to receive their guests, and a military band played waltzes.

The walking dress shown here is a classic Cowes uniform: nautical, sporting, and durable enough for high winds on deck or a brisk walk along the Promenade. It dates from a dozen years after Jennie and Randolph met, and features the high, tight neckline Princess Alix made so fashionable. 


GOING TO THE BALL ON BOARD H.M.S. ARIADNE, The Royal Yacht Squadron Regatta at Cowes, UK in 1873 Credit: Artokoloro Quint Lox Limited / Alamy Stock Photo



The Steam Yacht Clara Clarita, owned by Leonard Jerome


Jennie's father, Leonard Jerome, had been racing yachts for years, off Newport as well as England. As a member of the New York Yacht Club, he was granted reciprocal membership in the Royal Squadron at Cowes. He'd rented a house called Villa Rosetta for Jennie, her sister Clarita, and their mother that summer. But he was far away in New York when Randolph asked Jennie to dance.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

DAY 96: Gilded Newport

The Waves
Jennie and her sisters were sent north on Papa's yacht, Clara Clarita, to Newport each June. There, she raced her donkey cart up and down Bellevue Avenue with a clutch of privileged kids hanging on for dear life beside her. In 1863, as the battles of the Civil War worsened and draft riots swept through New York before and after Gettysburg, Leonard Jerome moved his wife and four daughters to Newport in March--hoping to keep them safe until the tide of war turned.

The Waves, an iconic house near Bailey's Beach where Jennie used to bob in full bathing dress through the surf with her sisters and friends, is not the Jeromes' Newport cottage. That may have been a shingle-style house called Seaview. I've tried to locate it, but it has vanished forever into the past. The pre-Civil War homes of Jennie's Newport were frequently razed to make way for the Gilded Age palaces of the 1890s.

One place she would have known, however, was Edmund Schermerhorn's Chepstow. (Actually, Chepstow was the name given to the house by its second owner; if Edmund called it anything, that's also lost to history.) Caroline Astor, who ruled New York, was born a Schermerhorn; Edmund was her first cousin. He was known, however, as The Recluse in Newport, where he lived permanently behind drawn curtains. His life is such a blank--other than the fact that he left $40 million to a niece at his death--that I found him an irresistible character. I endowed him with an Asperger's-like attention to detail, a greater comfort with children than their parents, and an obsession with sea life.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

DAY 97: The House on Madison Square



The mansion Leonard Jerome built at the corners of Madison Avenue and East 26th Street, opposite Madison Square, is long since gone, now. It was a brash and ultra-modern pleasure dome on the hinterland of respectable New York when Leonard spent several millions dollars constructing it, beginning around 1859. 

Respectable New York preferred Fifth Avenue to Madison Square, which had only recently been reclaimed from vagrants, houses of prostitution, and a circus. East 26th Street was ridiculously far north,  in any case. Leonard built his stables first--opulent open boxes for his prized race horses, carriage horses, polo ponies and the Lippizaner he brought back from his tenure as American Consul in Trieste; quarters for the grooms and coachmen on the second floor; and what became his ballroom on the third. The neighboring carriage house had room for twenty vehicles, including the sleigh that Jennie remembered gliding across the snow-packed streets of New York in January, bells on the harness merrily ringing.

Rising six storeys above the street, with a mansard roof, a breakfast room that could seat seventy guests, a ballroom above the mahogany-paneled stables, and a private opera house that seated six hundred, the Jerome mansion is notable for having been only briefly a family home. When Clara Jerome left America forever in 1867, Leonard moved into rented lodgings and leased the house to others. For the next century, it was a gentlemen's clubhouse: for the Union League, University Club, Turf Club, and Manhattan Club. 

In 1869, the Union League, of which Leonard was a founding member, voted to found the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the house he'd created.




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

DAY 98: A Gilded Childhood

Young girl's dress, silk, 1869

Jennie was born in Brooklyn, but from 1859 until the autumn of 1867, when she was thirteen, she lived primarily in the house on Madison Square. With a father nicknamed the King of Wall Street, whose friends included the Rothschild banker August Belmont and his frequent business partner Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jennie never knew a moment's want. Moreover, she was, as my beloved editor pointed out, not so much Leonard Jerome's second-born daughter as his first-born son. Recognizing a soulmate, Leonard treated Jennie as his natural heir in everything.
Leonard Jerome

Hwas endowed with an immense personality from his earliest days. As an undergraduate at Princeton, in 1838, he organized one hundred fellow students to bring back to campus a cannon used in the Battle of Princeton during the Revolutionary War, effectively stealing it from rival Rutgers. The cannon was buried muzzle-down in the green behind Nassau Hall--now known as Cannon Green--to prevent it being stolen back. Animosities between the two campuses continued for the next thirty years, culminating in Rutgers' challenge to settle the matter: a controlled athletic championship. What resulted was the first intercollegiate football game in 1869--although it sounds more like soccer. Rutgers won. The cannon remains, however, buried in Cannon Green.

Leonard's tendency toward piratical theft played out for the rest of his life on Wall Street, where he made and lost serial fortunes. He life was defined by grand gestures--driving four-in-hand on the box of a carriage full of beautiful women down Fifth Avenue; throwing charity concerts in his private opera house to support Lincoln's Union Army; firing on a violent mob from the steps of his newspaper, the New York Times, with a borrowed Gatling Gun; founding the Metropolitan Opera when his money was considered too new to rent a box in Caroline Astor's Academy of Music. He was also a founder of the New York Yacht Club and the American Jockey Club. Among the gentlemen of old New York, as opposed to their more snobbish wives, his charm and flamboyance made Leonard immensely popular.

Papa provided Jennie with what he regarded as the best: a student of Chopin's to discipline her virtuosic piano playing; horses; summers in Newport; a devoted nannie; a steam yacht named after her mother and sister; all the books his library could provide; smart clothes; and eventually a European education. 

Delmonico's on William Street, where Jennie took dance classes
During the winter, Jennie lived on Madison Square and attended the Family Dancing Classes at Delmonico's, the necessary prerequisite to eventual invitations as a debutante to the Patriarchs Balls overseen by the doyenne of New York Society, Caroline Astor. Three girls Jennie met at Delmonico's would remain her friends for life: Alva Erskine-Smith, who became Alva Vanderbilt; Consuelo Yznaga del Valle y Clemens, who became the Duchess of Manchester; and Minnie Stevens--who was eventually Lady Arthur Paget.


Jerome Park Racetrack and grandstand
By 1866, however, Leonard Jerome had opened Jerome Park on the old Bathgate estate he'd purchased (now Jerome Reservoir in the Bronx.) Its chief attraction was its thoroughbred racecourse and modern grandstands, complete with dining room and hotel for overnight guests--but summer activities including trap shooting, badminton and tennis. Jerome Park was the site of the first polo match in the United States. Jennie remembered being carried through the crowd on her father's shoulders when his racehorse, Kentucky, won at the track--and being placed on the horse's back in the winner's circle. 

Leonard built a country house on the Bathgate estate as well, for his girls to enjoy the seasons far from the dirt of city streets. At the Bathgate house, Jennie jumped her horses around the snowy fields and learned to ice skate on Jerome Park's rink, which, like everything else was open to the public. The skirts of skating costumes, like those in the illustration here from 1874, were shorter to allow greater freedom of movement--and as they offered a glimps of the ankle, were considered quite daring.
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