Encyclopedia Titanica


New York Times

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PHILADELPHIA, Penn., Feb. 17---New-York practically took Philadelphia by storm to-day. Its 400 invaded the fashionable quarter of the town, and it capitulated. Not content with carrying off by the hand of its wealthiest marriageable son, John Jacob Astor, the greatest belle of the foremost family of the Quaker City, Miss Ava L. Willing, the wealth and fashion of New-York came on, if not in immense numbers, at least in such an influential way as to obliterate Philadelphia characteristics for the time being and give the fashionable heart of the city an air of gayety and animation entirely foreign to it.

The New-Yorkers' special train, containing the guests for the reception, blockaded the Pennsylvania Railroad, and owing to a slight mishap they had for a while the whole force of the great corporation between here and New-York at work upon it.

When they reached here, although there were but about two hundred of them, they taxed all the wheeled facilities that could be procured on the spot, and as they went dashing down Broad Street some in coupés, some in hansom's, others on top of coaches, and many walking, the majority going direct to the Willing house, which is about half a mile away on South Broad Street, the placid Philadelphians, unaccustomed to seeing so many strangers at once and especially unaccustomed to the fine airs and graces of New-York's upper tendum, stopped, stared, and wondered.

In a similar way the New-Yorkers seized the two nearest fashionable hotels--the Stratford and the Bellevue--taking ten rooms at a clip, and set all the barbers and maids and hotel porters agog with their anxiety to get to the reception in the shortest possible time. At the Willing mansion, the first to come and the last to leave, they outnumbered the Philadelphia guests, in the elegant and well-bred crush, and afterward, on the way back to the station, where they walked, because there were not enough carriages to be had, they made Broad Street look like Broadway and gave Walnut Street, before the Bellevue, a stirring Fifth Avenue air.

The wedding was a beautiful one, with all the elegance and taste that might be expected in the union of two such influential families. It took place in the square brownstone house of Edward S. Willing, the bride's father, 511 South Broad Street, where the family has lived occasionally for many years when not abroad or at Newport or Lenox, where they have spent much time. The house has a very high stone portecochére in front, under which carriages drive from the street, and it is quite an imposing family residence.

Upon entering, marble steps lead up to a vestibule, and that opens into a very large square hall, on which the rooms open on two sides. The drawing room is very long and overlooks the court, on the corner of which the house is built. The drawing room is opposite the hall, and at the left there is a carved and very wide staircase. The walls at the side of the staircase, as well as those of the drawing room, are hung with portraits of members of the Willing family, some of the portraits dating back 200 years. There are long upholstered seats against the wall in the hall, and the drawing room is conventionally furnished in red.

For this occasion a floral chancel was constructed at the end of the drawing room. It was beautifully fashioned. The many pink azaleas and the foundation of rare roses composing the rail or low palisade filled the apartment with sweet odor. There were also two posts, capped by bouquets, near the door, from which satin cords led to the chancel, making an aisle for the bridal party.

After the ceremony two of the ushers caught up the posts and carried the cord away, thus affording those on each side a chance to get to the bride and bridegroom, who were left standing at the chancel. At the ceremony there were not quite 100 persons present. They were relations of the Astor and Willing families and a very few others. Over the place where the bride and bridegroom stood there was a graceful canopy, also made of pink azaleas; but there were no bells nor other designs, such as are so often seen at weddings.

The specially invited guests were so late arriving that it was nearly 2 o'clock before two of the ushers escorted the Rev. Dr. McVicker to the floral chancel. Meantime, Mr. and Mrs. William Astor, the bridegroom's father and mother, and Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Orme Wilson, his sisters, had arrived and been escorted to positions near where the bridal party were to stand. Mrs. Astor was in deep violet satin, embroidered exquisitely, and wore a very small capote to match, which was almost entirely covered with violet-colored Prince of Wales ostrich tufts. She looked unusually well and seemed to be very happy. Mrs. Orme Wilson wore a dark gray silk dress with a train slightly cut out in front. She wore a bonnet. Indeed, it was noticed that the New-York women, even when they had dressed for the occasion at the hotel, could be picked out by their bonnets.

After the clergyman was in place, Mr. Astor, the bridegroom, entered with his best man, Lispenard Stewart. They were both dressed, as were all the ushers, in the conventional way, wearing dark gray striped trousers, long black frock coats of rough-surfaced stuff, full white silk cravats, and pearl-colored gloves. They did not carry their hats as in church weddings. The bridegroom wore the bride's favorite orchid, all white, while the ushers wore six bride buds in a bunch.

Following the groom the ushers entered the chancel, and after them the bridesmaids, and when they had formed in two lines the bride passed through, leaning on her father's arm. Dr. McVicker, who is 6 feet 3 inches high and weighs over 250 pounds, stood in his white surplice amid the pink azaleas, all back of him green. In front of him were the double row of bridesmaids, beauties in pink and white, and then the tall, dark-coated ushers, and on each side the stately company.

There were six bridesmaids, three from New-York and three from Philadelphia. They were Miss Beatrix Chapman, a granddaughter of John Jay: Miss Ethel Cram, Miss Wilson, sister of Mr. Orme Wilson, brother-in-law of the bridegroom; Miss Mabel Ashhurst, the bride's cousin; Miss Cyntra Hutchinson, one of the greatest belles and beauties of Philadelphia, and Miss Helen Cadwallader, the youngest daughter of Mr. John Cadwallader.

The bridesmaids all wore Marie Antoinette gowns of pink chiffon, the half-trained skirts edged with frills of lace, fichus of dainty lace crossing in front and tying in bows at the back. The open sleeves had frills of similar lace. The corsages were cut out a little at the neck, and a broad pink sash, caught under one arm in a bow, passed around the waist. This dress and the pretty mob cap of fleecy white stuff, tied with a pink bow, made up a pink and white costume that was as charming as picturesque.

The ushers were Elisha Dyer, Jr., Robert Hargous, Center Hitchcock, Thomas Howard, Woodbury Kane, Hamilton Fish Webster, and B. R. Willing, the latter a brother of the bride. Their duties under the circumstances were anything but easy, and they were pleasantly spoken of by their friends as “the unfortunates.”

The bride and bridegroom knelt as usual during a part of the ceremony, which was the usual one of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The ring used was not a heavy one. Upon its inner surface was inscribed the names of the bride and bridegroom.

Miss Willing, the bride of to-day is the second belle of Philadelphia to marry into the Astor family. The other was Miss Paul, who married William Waldorf Astor. She is a young woman who has been seen very little here, having been educated abroad, and spent most of the past four or five years out of Philadelphia. Comparatively few Philadelphians are acquainted with her. Some of the old friends of the Willing family who were invited to the reception saw her to-day for the first time.

She is fitted by beauty and character to adorn any position, and is a most superior and accomplished girl. She rides well, dances beautifully, is musical, quite literary and uncommonly intelligent, his traveled all over Europe, and enjoyed the greatest advantages. Her manner is winning and gracious, and she is altogether a most lovable young woman. She is above the medium in height, and has a very graceful figure. Her hair is dark, and she has large eyes and a fine complexion.

Her bridal gown was made by Worth in Paris. It was a rich, heavy, creamy duchesse Satin with an immense train. The petticoat was edged with deep flowing point lace caught up in festoons by small clusters of orange blossoms. There was also a lace fichu where the gown was cut away in the neck and a long lace veil. Her bouquet was of white orchids edged with lilies of the valley. She did not wear the diamond tiara given her by the bridegroom nor any of the other many rich jewels with which she had been presented. The diamonds that she wore were in a large and magnificent ornament, which was on the left of her corsage.

Immediately after the ceremony those who took part in and witnessed the ceremony breakfasted together at the bride's table. All the decorations were white. After the breakfast a reception, attended by about five hundred guests, was held.

Among the New-Yorkers present were Mrs. Paran Stevens, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Whitney, Sir Roderick Cameron and the Misses Cameron, Ward McAllister and Miss McAllister, Mr. and Mrs. Prescott Lawrence, Miss Sallie Hargous, Miss Amy Bend, Mr. and Mrs. R. Goelet, Mr. and Mrs. H. McK. Twombly, Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Sloane, Mr. and Mrs. Seward Webb, Mr. and Mrs. John Jay, Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Havemeyer, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Schieffelin, Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Post, Mr. and Mrs. Elbridge T. Gerry and Miss Gerry, Mr. and Mrs. J. Coleman Drayton, Royal Phelps Carroll, Mr. and Mrs. George Lockhard Rives.

Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Ladenburg, Mr. and Mrs. J. Forbes Leith, Mr. and Mrs. George H. Bend, Mr. and Mrs. S. Van Rensselaer Cruger, Mr. and Mrs. R. T. Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Delafield, Arthur Leroy, Mr. and Mrs. James B. Townsend, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mr. and Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt, Mrs. Brockholst Cutting, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Roosevelt, Mrs. Frederick Goodridge, Mr. and Mrs. N. Watts Sherman, Miss Anna Leary, and Arthur Leary.

The presents were as magnificent, costly, and beautiful as were ever given at any wedding in America. Many were from abroad. The finest were from the parents of the bridegroom and included a furnished house on Fifth Avenue in New-York and many magnificent diamonds, some of them from Mrs. Astor's own collection. The presents included many superb dinner and tea sets.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) A MAGNIFICENT WEDDING (New York Times, Wednesday 18th February 1891, ref: #3203, published 15 July 2004, generated 2nd December 2022 02:34:29 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/a-magnificent-wedding.html