Lucile Polk Carter

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Stephen Trois

Guest
David here I am again,
to the best of my Knowledge LPC did not write a book. Hoever she remarried a mr Brooke
in a place called birdsbroro.
this is only ten miles from the church where
mrs Payton attends.
Mrs Brooks is burried in the same cemitary as my wife's family.
SET
 
Apr 11, 2001
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The first photo is the Carter summer home in Newport, the second, the cottage Lucile rented after the divorce. Five Titanic families rented or owned on this glorious street. These houses are really very large in actuality although in the photos, it's hard to tell. Both will be stops on the Gilded Age Tour on April 26th.
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Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Someone on this board (and I can't remember where)once said something about a Newport indiscretion involving Madeleine Astor's 3rd husband Enzo Fiermonte and Lucile Carter, the daughter.

Can anyone fill in the blanks here? It might have been research for a book someone was doing, in which case they might not want to share...

-Brian Ahern
 

Brian Ahern

Member
Dec 19, 2002
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I've tracked down where I got that tidbit.

Shelley - in checking through the board archives I saw that in a November, 2000 post, you mentioned hearing of "Fiermonte's roving eye with Miss Lucile Carter" while on a sort of Newport Titanic tour.

Do you remember the details here and, if so, would you mind elaborating?

Regards,
Brian
 
Apr 11, 2001
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We have heard- via Lucile Carter's daughter by her second marriage- Betty Blake- that Fiermonte had a roving eye, and while at a Newport summer festival, flirted madly with Miss Lucile when he was all but betrothed to poor Madeleine. Madeleine gave a posh party at this Casino restaurant - hoping society would adopt him with open arms- alas- it was not to be- he had not quite the proper credentials! This is the restaurant- the Gilded Age Convention will lunch here on April 26th- I hope we are accepted by proper Newport Society!
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Apr 11, 2001
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Actually Betty Blake said he "made eyes" at all the girls- even her!Madeleine was not lucky in love to be sure.
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Thanks for posting that, Shelley. I didn't know Lucile Carter had any children by her second marriage.
-Regards,
Brian
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Lucile and Mr. Brooke produced only Betty Brooke McLean Blake- who is, incidentally going to be attending the Newport Gilded Age convention along with Mary Carter- the widow of William Carter's grandson. Maybe at last we can find out about that Renault! Betty's former mother-in-law, Evelyn Walsh McLean was a client of Lady Duff Gordon, and owner of the infamous Hope Diamond- another fascinating family. I visited Cavecliff yesterday, the house in Newport where Lucile and Brooke lived when Betty was a small child. Lucile rented so many properties in Newport, she must have been a realtor's delight!
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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It's amazing. Every facet of high society over the last hundred years has a Titanic connection! Now Evelyn Walsh McLean turns out to be in the mix too.
It never ends.
 
May 12, 2005
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If I recall rightly, even Mrs. McLean's pekes wore special "dog-clothes" by Lady Duff Gordon. There is also the rumor that the Hope Diamond was on board Titanic - supposedly in Lady Duff Gordon's possession. The story is that she was bringing it back personally to McLean from Paris where the millionairess had had the necklace reset. It seems far-fetched, though it's known that "Lucile" did survive with a small satchel of jewelry.
 
Jun 8, 2002
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Another Trip to New York

Washington, D.C.
February 13, 1912

Dear Clara:

We got back from New York and New Jersey this morning. It was a hectic day altogether...

We "did" the Oranges and met hosts of people, all of whom I hear are for Roosevelt in that section of Essex County. But we got away and reached the Waldorf by six, and at seven we were at the banquet given by the Republican Club in honor of Lincoln. There was nothing new; the same old pictures and lists of committees; the menu in French; and the hall decorated with gaudy bunting, and everybody cheering just as they would at a banquet given to Barnum were he alive...

Mrs. McLean did not wear the Hope diamond last evening at dinner, much to the disappointment of everyone there. Even the President expressed the desire to see it. She sat next to me at the table and gave much of the history of the diamond. She says the grandparents have made them promise never to allow the diamond to go near the grandchild. She told me that the jewel had cost Ned just two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and when they offered to give it back to Cartier for something of much less value, the jeweler refused to receive it, for he feared it would bring to his firm some fearful catastrophe. He frankly told Ned and his wife that there were no two such fools as they to be found in the world, who would not only possess the jewel but who would actually pay for its possession. It was this jest which infuriated the McLeans and caused them to try to force it back on Cartier. It will be interesting to follow its history from now on. If any unhappiness should ensue in the McLean family, it could hardly be charged to the Hope diamond, though of course it would be. Evelyn told me last night she could stand any disaster except being murdered, as some of its former possessers had been, or having the child struck by lightning.

Good-bye,
Archie
 
J

Joshua Doyle Tift

Guest
Does anyone know of any claim that Mrs. Carter filed for her other lost jewelry. What jewelry did she save? I find it most interesting. Please help. Thanks JT.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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In the days after the sinking, but before the 'Carpathia' arrived in New York with hard facts, the press on both sides of the Atlantic filled their columns with lists of the rich, famous and socially prominent individuals known to have been aboard the 'Titanic'. One American newspaper mentioned Mrs Carter and added a note to the effect that her clothes had lately caused a stir in Philadelphian Society - to be precise, her gowns are described as 'freakish'. This made me smile, if only because I wondered what a 'freakish' gown might look like? Perhaps some Poiret-inspired, Oriental ensemble? Maybe even Turkish trousers of the kind Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney sported when she was photographed by Baron de Meyer around 1914?

Lucile Carter was a highly attractive woman and evidently made some adventurous wardrobe choices. Were these documented elsewhere - in 'Vogue', maybe, or in the other Society publications of the day? I know that much of the information contained in the contemporary press is unreliable...
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I've recently been researching the life and activities of the hitherto rather shadowy Lucile Carter.

Mrs Carter rates a cursory mention in most 'Titanic' literature as one of the more socially prominent passengers but, beyond that, I've known little about her. Yet I've been intrigued to discover that she was in fact a very heavy-hitter on the party circuits of turn-of-the-century New York, Newport and Philadelphia. Indeed, it could reasonably be claimed that she and her husband, William, were among the most truly 'social' of all those travelling in first-class. Furthermore, if contemporary press reports are to be believed, then Lucile herself would have been one of the most attractive, elegant and fashion-conscious women aboard.

Lucile Polk was born in Baltimore on 8 October, 1875, the daughter of Mr and Mrs William Stewart Polk, representatives of 'a very old Southern family' which could count among its members James K. Polk, eleventh President of the United States. She triumphed during her debutante year, during which, chaperoned by her cousin, Mrs Tillotson Hutchings, she came to be regarded as 'a great belle and a beauty'. Her engagement to William E. Carter of Philadelphia was announced in 1895 and the marriage took place in January of the following year. Making their main home at their estate, Gwedna, outside Bryn Mawr, the Carters had two children in quick succession; a daughter, Lucile Polk, in 1898 and a son, William Thornton, in 1900. Thereafter, the couple were seldom out of the Society columns, for they moved in the most illustrious of circles, attending every notable wedding, party and ball, besides the smart sporting events that William took a keen interest in. He was a polo player of some repute - he was part of Reggie Vanderbilt's team in a match at the Westchester Club in 1904 and later suffered a near-fatal accident on the field only months after the 'Titanic' disaster - and seems to have pursued other equine activities with similar fervour. In a letter of support and encouragement that she penned to Bruce Ismay in May 1912, Mrs Carter makes mention of the family having been in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, which was the very heart of fox-hunting country. Furthermore, their English chauffeur, Charles Aldworth, was from the neighbouring village of Rotherby. The hunt at Melton was the most glamorous in the world and I think it likely that the Carters took a house in the neighbourhood to facilitate William's active participation. Aldworth (who would perish on the 'Titanic') was presumably recruited during their stay. Besides polo and riding, Mr Carter was a noted man-about-town and belonged to numerous prestigious clubs, among them the Sons of the Revolution, the Rittenhouse, the Radnor Hunt, the Philadelphia Country and the St. Anthony.

By 1905, Charles Wilbur de Lyon Nicholls, in his book 'The Ultra-Fashionable Peerage of America', could name the Carters in his list of the smartest married couples in the States, along with the John Jacob Astors, the George D. Wideners and the Henry Siegels (Julia Cavendish's father and stepmother). When they came to board the 'Titanic', William and Lucile would have found many friends making the same crossing - besides the Wideners and the Astors (at any rate, the Colonel - probably not yet the much younger and relatively impecunious Madeleine), they were also well acquainted with J. Clinch Smith and the horse-loving Clarence Moore, having moved in the same circles since the beginning of the century. The activities of the Carters during the voyage are not documented but it is known that they were present at Eleanor Widener's highly exclusive dinner party, held in honour of Captain Smith in the crowded a la carte restaurant on the night of 14 April. Aside from George, Eleanor and Harry Widener, the other guests were Major Archibald Butt, President Taft's military aide, and John and Marian Thayer, who also hailed from the top-drawer of Philadelphia Society. Only hours after finishing their desserts and coffee, Mrs Widener, Mrs Thayer and Mrs Carter (the latter with her French maid, Auguste Serreplan, and two children) made their escape from the sinking 'Titanic' in Lifeboat No. 4. In her subsequent letter to Bruce Ismay, referenced above, Lucile was able to relay the news in a 'PS' that Marian and Jack were 'doing well' in the wake of their terrible ordeal.

In the early years of her marriage, Mrs Carter was a relatively pedestrian (albeit stylish) dresser. Her attire at the numerous functions she attended was widely reported and she was held up as one of the most elegant women in American Society. During the summer of 1902, for example, she attended a dance at the Newport Casino in white mousseline-de-soie with black chiffon trimmings (on a slight 'Titanic' tangent, Mrs J. Clinch Smith was also there, in white satin with chiffon trimmings). The following year, Lucile was conspicuous in the crowd of spectators at the Newport Tennis Tournament, wearing a white embroidered batiste coat over a white lace gown, with a mazurine blue hat topped with feathers. And the autumn of 1910 saw her at the Horse Show, also in Newport, attired in a tasteful cream chiffon tailor-made gown with a white polo coat and a large black hat. However, as the influence of Paul Poiret and the Ballets Russe crept over the Atlantic around 1911, so Lucile's wardrobe choices became more outlandish. It was noted that her 'freakish' gowns caused a sensation in conservative Philadelphia and she seems to have taken pleasure in flaunting the latest looks. Once, for example, she appeared at the Bellevue-Stafford in a Poiret-inspired ensemble of cream and green coloured satin with an ultra-modish harem skirt - the first time a garment of that type had been seen in the city. She walked through the entrance hall several times to make sure that everybody saw her (the Bellevue-Statford being THE hotel of choice for the Philadelphian elite of the period) and then went to the opera, where she showed off some more.

One can't help speculating that this new sartorial assertiveness may have been a symptom of the widening breech in the Carter marriage. Myself, I think it likely that the 'Titanic' disaster in the spring of 1912 was just one more step on the journey to divorce, rather than the reason for it. I've observed that Lucile has received something of a bad press in the 'Titanic' community. She and William underwent their sticky separation in early 1914 and the implication has been that Lucile didn't hesitate to blacken her husband's name by reviving the story that he actually left the sinking 'Titanic' BEFORE she and their children. The actual facts don't bother me so much - many people on the board will know to the precise second the relative departure times of Lifeboat No. 4 and Collapsible C. Yet it has been asserted in other threads that Lucile suffered something of a backlash after the split and was dropped by many of her Society friends who found the whole episode rather distasteful. I have to say, I've found precious little evidence to support this notion. Both the Carters continued to lead very active social lives in the years following the sinking and Lucile, both pre- and post-divorce (and her subsequent remarriage), was entertained by, and entertained in her turn, the very cream of New York and Newport Society.

An excellent example would be as follows. In August 1913, Mrs Stuyvesant Fish, the social powerhouse and particular crony of Lucile Carter, gave 'the party of the season' at Crossways, her Newport cottage. According to the press, 'the full membership of the summer colony' came flocking, besides assorted grandees from New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston. The theme (a typically bizarre choice by the hostess) was Nursery Rhymes - the house and grounds were festooned with electric lights, 'which made all as bright as day', and black cats with blinking electric eyes sat on the lawn. There were sunflowers and sheaves of wheat in the hallway, illuminated pumpkins, a life-size witch on a broom hanging in the well of the staircase and a 'huge open volume of Mother Goose', from the pages of which stepped a Fairy Godmother and her attendants, bearing standards and golden geese. Mother Goose herself then presented the characters from her rhymes - Little Bo Peep, Jack and Jill, Tom, Tom the Piper's Son etc - to the assembled throng and quadrilles and 'fairy dances' followed, during which balloons were sent up from all over the ballroom. Appropriately, the hostess attended as the Queen of the Fairies, in a costume covered with rhinestones and spangles, electric stars in her hair, silver slippers laced with ropes of diamonds, and a train of silver cloth carried by two small fairies (presumably local children brought in for the specific purpose). Lucile Carter was naturally present and caused a stir in her silver fairy costume. I find the image of this close-to-middle-aged Society matron, mother of two and 'Titanic' survivor, skipping around Mrs Fish's ballroom, 'fluttering her gauzy wings', pretty hard to resist!

The Carter divorce was announced by the press at the end of January 1914, and proceedings rumbled on throughout the first half of that year. The final decree was issued in Philadelphia on either 31 May or 16 June ('The New York Times' offers two conflicting dates). Hot on its heels, and much to the surprise of her Society friends, came Lucile's speedy remarriage to George Brooke, another Main Liner, who belonged to many of the same clubs as William Carter. Quite how the two men negotiated each other, when their paths crossed at every turn, I have no idea. The low-key wedding took place in London and was allegedly hastened by the outbreak of the Great War on 4 August. Lucile Polk had been enrolled by her mother at Wycombe Abbey, a prestigious English boarding school for girls (which numbered fellow 'Titanic' survivors Edith Pears and Elsie Bowerman among former pupils) but she didn't remain there for more than a year or so, since she was making her first forays in Newport by 1915, prior to her formal debut the following summer. With this end in view, the new Mrs Brooke plunged into the social whirl with renewed vigour. More elegant than ever, she was a key player in 'Fashion's Passing Show', a charity pageant in aid of Belgian war refugees hosted by Mrs Oelrichs at her sumptuous cottage, Rosecliff. Lucile's ensemble was singled out as especially worthy of praise: '...a beautiful dress of silver tissue cloth draped with black embroidered lace and a tulle bodice with sparkling trimming. Her pretty pale gold hair was beautifully dressed, as usual, with an ornament of diamonds and a black aigrette'. Three weeks later, she danced at the house-warming party Eleanor Widener threw at her sumptuous new villa, Miramar, wearing 'a soft white satin embroidered dress over silver, with a court train of white tulle with diamond shoulder straps'. She was also spotted on the Newport golf links in a group with, among others, the William K. Vanderbilts, Governor and Mrs R. Livingston Beeckman and the Spanish Ambassador and his wife.

Forecasting the pleasures of the Newport Season of 1916, 'The New York Times' highlighted Miss Carter as one of the leading debutantes. Her father, William, gave a large dance in her honour at his cottage, Quarterfoil, on 5 August, to which around four hundred guests were invited. However, this was trumped (perhaps intentionally) by the new Mrs Brooke's ball on six nights later at Morell Cottage, Ochre Point, which was one of the largest and grandest events of the year. Once again, the cream of Society came flocking to launch Lucile in style - Vanderbilts, Whitneys, Drexels, Belmonts, Goelets and Oelrichs. The Alexander Rices were there (Eleanor Widener having remarried by this stage) and so was fellow-deb, Lois Cassatt, who was shortly to become engaged to Jack Thayer. There was dancing in a sequence of brilliantly illuminated tents pitched on the lawns and the house was decorated with pink roses and gladioli. Miss Carter herself, who received with her mother and stepfather, wore a suitably maidenly gown of white silk with silver brocade and carried a bouquet of orchids.

After launching her daughter in the approved fashion, Lucile appears to have retreated into a more subdued middle-age. Certainly, her social activities were less extensively reported by newspapers such as 'The New York Times' and so my sources chronicling her life in the Twenties and early Thirties (she would die, at the relatively youthful age of 59, in October, 1934) are sparse. As I have written above, however, I would hesitate to attribute this apparent withdrawal to any kind of reaction against Lucile on the Newport scene, either because of the 'Titanic', her divorce or for any other reason. Perhaps fellow board-members can enlighten me further - it has been suggested that she became increasingly difficult, paranoid and eccentric in her old age. The psychological legacy, semi-suppressed in an age before counselling, of her ghastly experience on the Atlantic that night? It is interesting to note that, only months before her death, Lucile would host a dinner party at her home, Cave Cliff, for Madeleine Astor's son, John Jacob, on the eve of his marriage to Ellen Tuck French. More evidence, if it were needed, of how tightly-woven was the fabric of the 'Society' to which so many first-class passengers aboard the 'Titanic' belonged.

What particularly beguiles me about Lucile Carter's story is the way in which this woman, privileged in so many ways, and insulated from the harsh realities of life by her wealth and connections, yet had to assimilate an ordeal as traumatic as the sinking of the 'Titanic'. Although the Carters were luckier than most - their family unit survived intact - I would not be surprised to discover that the stress of the experience placed terrible pressure on both husband and wife, thereby hastening the end of an already fragile marriage. As Lucile went from lavish party to party, clad in couture gowns and dripping with jewels, I wonder what was REALLY going on inside her head?
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Further to the potted biography I posted before Christmas, exploration of the ET archives has revealed a very interesting thread which includes much information about the Carters and their relationship post-divorce that I find quite illuminating. I'm not sure if the link I've copied and pasted here will work but here goes:

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/7369.html

From what I've read, it seems that the Carter divorce in 1914 was EXTREMELY acrimonious - so much so, that William and Lucile went to great lengths to avoid meeting each other at social functions in Newport and even left town altogether when one knew that the other would be in residence. Perhaps nobody alive today truly knows what went so badly wrong in the marriage but I can't help thinking that it must have been very hard on the children.

In the thread, Michael Findlay wrote:

'Newport residents were actually more fond of William than Lucile. He was more personable and was active in the summer colony - in addition to his playing polo there. Lucile just visited with old friends and turned down many invitations from those who wished to include her. She always felt that others were secretly talking about her and those conversations in some way involved the Titanic disaster and her subsequent divorce. Many Newport residents felt she was a bit too forceful in bringing about the divorce out of her own bitterness over the fact that her husband survived. Nice lady.'

This may or may not be speculation - Michael, I don't know if you're there, but I'd be fascinated to re-open the discussion - but it does contribute to the general idea shared by many 'Titanic' historians that Lucile Carter 'cut up nasty' during her separation from William and that her reputation never really recovered.

Be that as it may, her daughter by her second marriage to George Brooke, Betty Blake (aka 'Betty Boop'), still seems to be going strong in the twenty-first century and does her mother proud with her flair, style and elegance. In March last year, an American interior design magazine ran a feature on her very chic apartment and stellar art collection, which can be found in the archives of the D Home website. Much of the furniture was inherited from Lucile and does at least provide us with a demonstration of her exquisite taste.

Finally, it was also said that photographs of both William and Lucile are extant in the Philadelphia Public Library - I've never seen more than one good shot of her (taken around 1905, I'd guess) and none at all of him. I wonder, have these ever made it onto the internet? Is anybody at liberty to share them?
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Martin - thank you so much for the info and insights on Lucile. I realized a while back that I hadn't given enough credit to the lady, tending to think of her - with little to nothing to go on - as a follower, rather than a leader. This is perhaps partly because the Carters both survived, and so their story hasn't had all the heroism and pathos ascribed to it that have been given to other Titanic couples. And it's also because the supposed claims made by Lucile in her divorce made me consider the couple in rather a seedy light. I no longer attach a great deal of weight to those claims, but I did when I was eleven or so and first read of them; and early impressions run deep. What I see now when I think of Lucile - based on the little we have to go - is a woman with some degree of bravado and creativity, whose story was complicated and often sad. The Carters - like the less fabulous Bishops - could be held up as an example of the toll the Titanic tragedy took even where there was no casualty. Their passage on the Titanic and the subsequent breakup of their marriage certainly allow for lots of trite metaphors, but I'll refrain.

In the much-missed Gallery of Titanic Visages, there was a passport photo of Lucile with her daughter Betty. It's been a few years, but I remember my impression of a lady who looked rather stern and rundown and altogether too old to be the mother of the child with her. It was, of course, only a photo and a passport photo at that (I hope to God mine doesn't survive me!). But it did contribute to my perception of Lucile's middle age as being more sedate than her years with Billy. She had launched her elder daughter, and was mothering a young child at an age when I would imagine she'd expected to be long done with such things. This would have combined with having been through the ringer in lots of ways and come out the other side, and with the natural mellowing and change in priorities that are a part of growing older. I do not say that she ever stopped being a very prominent Society woman, but I think the energy necessary to be the trendsetter of her earlier days had waned in her. But I should say again that I don't have much to go on here.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Thank you, Brian, for that very thoughtful, and thought-provoking, insight.

Over the past few months, Lucile Carter has risen high in my personal list of 'Titanic' favourites - yes, I confess, because of the very obvious surface glamour of her life, but also because that begs the question of what was going on behind the glitter and sparkle. It would be interesting to know who was the 'driving force' in her relationship with her first husband - did she, like Undine Spragg, take the lead as they jumped through the social hoops together or was William himself a more than willing participant? I suspect that he was and I also wouldn't mind betting that the constant activity, the parties and travel, may have helped postpone the end of a marriage that wasn't healthy from the start. In the adjustment of priorities that might have followed the 'Titanic', perhaps it no longer seemed worth-while, keeping the show on the road. But this could be a trite and obvious reading of a complicated situation and, as you say, without more first-hand testimony from either William or Lucile to go on, we'll never know.

I have speculated on how the Carters (and, for that matter, Eleanor Widener, Madeleine Astor and others like them) coped with having constant reminders of that April night around them, in the shape of friends and acquaintances who had undergone exactly the same trauma. One imagines a tragedy like the 'Titanic' to have been a very isolating experience for many survivors - how many interviews have we read or seen, containing words to the effect of 'if you weren't there, then you can't imagine' - and this would have presented its own difficulties, as they struggled to readjust to a semblance of normality in the months and years that followed. For the Society clique who congregated every year in Newport, however, the problem would have been quite the reverse. Was the temptation there to discuss the experience between themselves? Did it act as a kind of unspoken bond? Or was the whole subject of the 'Titanic' taboo?