Edith Russell Article An ET Research Plea

R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
Tracy,

Good to see you around! And thanks for the compliments. I believe in supporting good work and am glad to help in whatever way I can. I hope your Lord research is coming along well.

Kate,

I'm just teasing - and will do plenty more of that once I set eyes on you in a little over a month. Btw, of course you can be the cinematic Edy! Thanks for the vote of confidence - it means a lot.

Andrew,

Gosh! That's very nice of you, m'friend. I hope the article won't disappoint after all this build up! I have followed your contributions here on ET and am impressed with the dedication you show to research - rare in someone so young.

Shelley,

Thanks a lot for committing me to yet another project!!! A "Titanic Ladies" book indeed. I'll try to think of some sort of delightful revenge once I have you here on Texas soil.

Best to each of you,
Randy
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
All,

There's a small collection of Edith Russell memorabilia in the possession of a private collector in California that's soon to be donated to the Fashion Institute of Technology Library in New York. As the choice of repository suggests, this material largely relates to her early career as a fashion journalist and stylist. I've been asked to write a short introduction to the collection which will be included as part of a guidebook for researchers that will accompany the box of papers and photos being prepared for presentation to FIT's Special Collections Department.

For the "Titanic" connoisseur there is almost nothing of interest, except for a reference to the disaster in a speech Edy wrote in 1924.

The collection includes letters, documents, speeches, photographs and a scrapbook of Edy's fashion articles for newspapers and magazines. All items date from between 1910 and 1935, the concentration of documents being for the years 1912-16. This box of memorabilia was left to the late costume designer Robert Kalloch (a protege of Lucile's by the way) who's partner subsequently bequeathed it to the present owner.

Here's the short outline of Edith Russell's career that I've prepared for FIT:

EDITH LOUISE ROSENBAUM RUSSELL
1879-1975

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on 12 June 1879, the fashion writer, consultant, importer and stylist Edith Louise Rosenbaum began her career abroad as a saleswoman in 1908 for the Maison Cheruit in the Place Vendome in Paris. Later she wrote for the magazine “La Derniere Heure a Paris” (published by Wanamaker Department Store’s Paris bureau) and was a sketch artist for the Butterick Pattern Service.

Beginning in 1910, Rosenbaum presided as chief foreign correspondent to "Women's Wear Daily," dispatching weekly fashion marketing reports to New York from the publication's Paris branch.

By 1911 Rosenbaum was operating a successful buying and consulting service based in Paris and designing her own popular retail line of clothes, called ”Elrose,” for Lord & Taylor in New York.

Meantime, Rosenbaum had carved a career for herself as perhaps the first professional fashion stylist. Her clientele of largely entertainment celebrities included Broadway comedienne Ina Claire, Folies Bergere showgirl Mistinguett, and opera diva Geraldine Farrar.

Rosenbaum was a survivor of the “Titanic” disaster in 1912 and achieved a measure of notoriety owing to the news of her escape in a lifeboat with a musical toy pig.

Rosenbaum was American press attache to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Francaise between 1914 and 1919. She also served as war correspondent for the “New York Herald” in 1916-17. In 1918 she changed her name to Russell owing to the French fashion industry's boycotting of German-name merchants and other tradespeople.

In 1923 Russell received a meritorious service award from the Associated Dress Industries of America and in 1925 was recognized for her work during World War I by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

Throughout the 1920s Edith Russell contributed fashion and society news to such magazines as “Cassell’s” in London and “Moda“ in Rome. Though semi-retired from her import business by 1934, she continued traveling, lecturing, and writing.

Her adventures during the next several years included dancing with Mussolini at a dinner party and breeding dogs for Maurice Chevalier. She also made life-long friends with the young British actor Peter Lawford and his parents and spent much time with them at their home in Palm Beach. She was later a godmother to Lawford’s children with the former Patricia Kennedy.

By the mid-1940s Edith Russell, who had maintained residences in New York and in Paris’ Champs Elysees, made her permanent home in London at Claridge’s and later at the Embassy House Hotel.

In 1953 Edith Russell was invited by Twentieth Century Fox Studios to attend the New York premiere of the film “Titanic,” starring Barbara Stanwyk, Clifton Webb, and Robert Wagner. She was interviewed by “Life” magazine during her stay in America and also met with historian Walter Lord who included her story in his best-selling book “A Night to Remember,” published in 1956.

Russell afterwards served as a technical advisor to producer William MacQuitty on his 1958 film adaptation of Lord’s book. She was portrayed in the movie as well and attended the premiere as MacQuitty‘s guest of honor.

She made the rounds of the press all during the 1950s and 60s, telling her account of the “Titanic” sinking in numerous interviews in newspapers and magazines and on television and radio. The majority of her TV and radio appearances were with the BBC. She generally brought along her legendary musical pig which she played for audiences. She was made an Honorary Member of the Titanic Historical Society in 1963.

Until the mid 1960s Russell traveled frequently from London to Florence, Italy where she visited her long-time companion, Jeanne Sacerdote, better known as the couturiere "Jenny."

Despite her advanced age and physical frailty, Russell remained active and outspoken in her last years. She attended fund-raisers, gave luncheons and teas for visiting friends, tried unsuccessfully to interest publishers in her memoirs, and continued to be interviewed by reporters about the “Titanic.”

On 4 April 1975 Edith Russell died at the Mary Abbott Hospital in London, following a ten day illness. She was 96.
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
Friends,

This really IS a plea now.

Indeed, can any of you with whom I shared my Edy manuscript by e-mail (or the speech that she wrote), please check to see if you saved it to your filing cabinet? All 7 chapters of this story were lost in my recent computer crash. Nothing from my desk top was saved. All that can help me re-write it are the various early drafts that I sent out to various people and the copy of the speech of her's that I also shared. Please help me if you can.

Also, my Rene Harris manuscript was not recoverable. Can those of you to whom I sent an early draft of that document, please e-mail me a copy? I had changed it and added to it measurably since then but what you guys have is more than I do now.

Any help at all will be appreciated.

Thank you,
Randy
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
I should specify that the Edy speech document I need is the annotated one - the original and a printed transcript I still have. The file I lost is one with an intro and notes attached.
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
77922


Edith Rosenbaum Russell in 1920
(Photographed by Arnold Genthe, New York)

The following is an excerpt from a document that was lost in my recent hard drive crash. Thanks to George Behe, who was able to forward a copy that I had e-mailed him, it's saved now to a disk!

This narrative of the Titanic disaster is one of Edy's earliest public accounts on the subject; it's from a speech she gave to students of the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now Parsons School of Design) in the 1920s. Her talk mainly concerned her career as a fashion journalist, buyer and critic but she could not avoid touching on the subject that would ultimately define her life:

"Next came the terrible affair of the Titanic.

I was coming to New York on the biggest buying trip I had made until then. My trunks were full of the most beautiful things from Paquin and Georgette and all the best houses in Paris.

A fortune teller had warned me not to take that ship. But I was stubborn and determined to go as there were new orders to attend to in New York. I was also anxious to see my family and friends who had been after me for some time to come back. I had been in an automobile accident a few months previous which had killed my fiance and severely injured another friend and everyone back home was frantic for me to leave my shopping tours behind and return for a long visit.

So I set off on the Titanic feeling ill at ease. I had a nagging fear that something awful was going to happen. The night of the disaster, I had been reading in the lounge after dinner, still in my evening dress.

While I was returning to my cabin I felt the jar from the iceberg and went out to see broken ice scattered along the deck. I was told there was nothing amiss so I went to bed. But then there came a knock on my door and a man sang out 'Get up! Put your life preserver on!' Which I did at once.

I pulled on the nearest thing I could find. Unfortunately it was a dress with a hobble skirt and like an idiot I tottered out on deck in it. I had my steward go back for my toy pig - a bit of nonsense I think it was now, but at the time it seemed important. It was my mascot. Mother had given it to me for good luck after the auto crash. It was a music box that played "The Maxixe" rag.

I had this thing under my arm as I queued up to board a lifeboat. But when I saw the great distance between the rail and the little boat, I chickened out. To add to my worry, I knew I could not make a safe leap wearing the ridiculous skirt I had on.

The officers tried to get me to go, jostling me about, but I was too frightened. Then one of the men grabbed my little pig.

He tossed it into the boat and I dove headlong after it. I couldn't part with my mother's gift. It was like a voice from home. I answered the call, in a sense, and it saved my life.

I don't have to say what happened soon afterwards. Everybody knows the Titanic went down and that many, many hundreds of lives were needlessly lost.

A horrible nightmare it all was, and still is, for me. I was so fortunate to have been spared. I never forget that. I caught a terrible cold that ended up as laryngitis and my lips were severely chapped.

I recovered from these ailments but not from the sadness."

At our "Titanic Texas Weekend" - coming up in a few weeks - I am hoping one of the guests, Kate Bortner, attired in costume as Edith Russell herself, will read this excerpt as part of the special program of readings from survivor letters and other Titanic-related documents that will take place before the exhibition.

Randy
 
D

Dr. Douglas B. Willingham

Member
Hi, Randy!

I am very thankful that you have been able to recover at least some of your lost data, thanks to Behe and perhaps others. 'Sorry not to have been any help to you.

Yes, I hope Kate will have something that Edy wants to share with us.

Regards,
Doug
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
Doug,

"...'Sorry not to have been any help to you..."

Nonsense. You were a help because you were there for me. I thank you and I thank all the rest of you who searched your files in an effort to help. I sent out an SOS and you all responded. You know who you are and you know what it means to me.

As to Kate - she WILL be giving us a great Edy! Stay tuned.

Randy
 
T

trevor ward powell

Guest
hello to all
recently someone on ebay auctioned off a photo claiming it to be edith rosenbaum. compared them with your photos randy, and it looked nothing like the woman. however, it sold for $385.00. how can i prevent getting jipped on some photo claimed to be of a survivor, when really it a nobody...?
cheers!! Trevor
 
T

trevor ward powell

Guest
heyyy randy,
i know you have a collection of photos of passengers. how do you determine whats authentic. do you look for distinguised facial features???? also, where did you acquire you photos from?????
cheers randy!
trevor
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
Trevor:

I have not followed ebay lately. When was this auction?

My own collection of photos of Titanic passengers are almost all from contemporary magazines and/or newspapers, so the images are already identified and not in question, unless there was a mistake in the original attribution.

The original photos I have are from primary sources, i.e. the subject's family members, friends, or from professional image agencies/archives.

The two photos of Edith Rosenbaum from my collection that have lately been published (in "Ghosts of the Abyss" and in the Titanic Commutator)once belonged to Edith herself. They were given to me by a costume and textiles historian in Los Angeles, who knew Edith in the 1960s. She gave him photos and clippings and a short manuscript for an article he was doing on pioneering fashion journalists. His account was never published but he kept his notes and sources. I am grateful for the two images he gave me as well as copies of his correspondence with her. The bulk of his collection is being donated to the Fashion Institute of Technology Library but I have not heard that it has been acquired as yet.

Randy
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
PS) the Genthe photo of Edith, shown above, is HEAVILY retouched. I questioned whether it was her at all. But the address in the photographer's file at the Library of Congress checks out with that belonging to a family member of Edith's. (If you want to see a range of "looks" for Edith, take a peek at her passport pictures on this site!)
 
T

trevor ward powell

Guest
hello randy
the auction on the "edith rosenbaum" photo took place about 3 months ago. the seller was selling it from florida believe. about a month ago a 1910 photo of molly brown was auctioned off both sold for a few hundred dollars each! i however, still don't believe the photos were genuine.
cheers
trevor
 
R

Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
Trevor asked: "does any one here know what ms rosenbaum died of?"


Old age for one thing. Edith was 96. She was ill with pneumonia according to the late William MacQuitty but I don't have a death certificate or any "official" document specifying cause of death. Someone else may know.

Randy
 
Top