Miss Francatelli apron

Dec 7, 2000
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Randy,

I understand completely that Franks was definitely not a maid, as we have discussed it many years ago when I originally asked you about the DG's. I was just curious as to her treatment, considering she was traveling at a reduced rate.

However, from the few mentions that we have, she does not seem to have been treated any differently. This may be because she wore normal & fashionable clothes, rather than a uniform, so she must have just blended into the crowd and none of the stewards asked her to leave any public rooms or restaurants.

Regards,

Daniel.
 

Senan Molony

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Jan 30, 2004
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96348.jpg


There is a lot of cr*p like this flyer in the collection, which I don't really get, not being into women's fashion.

But the really good stuff is really good. I was surprised to find a programme for Pygmalion signed by George Bernard Shaw, with notes initialled 'L. D. G.'

There were other signatures on it. I recognised the great Sir Herbert Tree and Mrs Patrick Campbell (GBS's great friend), but not others like Philip Merivale and Edmund Gurney.

A bit of research has turned up that these were the original actors in the premiere of Pygmalion ("My Fair Lady") on the West End stage. Which makes the programme fairly valuable.

There is also a picture of Mrs Duff Gordon wearing the "Lady dress" used in Pygmalion when the flower girl is finished by Professor Higgins into "torking proper" and all that.

There seems to be some suggestion that Lady Duff Gordon designed this dress. Does anyone know whether she was friendly with GBS?
 
May 12, 2005
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Senan:

Very interesting pictures. The flyer looks to be a page from a fashion mag, c. 1912-14. I am familiar only with the design on the right, which Lucile repeated in subsequent collections. The photo I have of it is dated 1916. The model on the left is Dolores, who later went into the Ziegfeld Follies. If there is a short, puffy-looking girl among the models in your collection, that is Phyllis Francatelli, Laura’s younger sister.

As to Shaw’s "Pygmalion," the gowns for Mrs. Patrick Campbell were designed by Madame Handley-Seymour, some of whose original sketches for this play are at the V&A. Mrs. Pat was a client of Lucile’s but she didn’t wear her dresses in any Shaw production because of his maniacal control of his plays and players. He publicly decried the influence of fashion on the London stage, women flocking to a play to see what the leading lady was wearing, news columns devoted to a fad started by this actress or that, etc. Shaw refused to engage famous dressmakers or milliners, who might upstage his vehicles, and made several very pointed remarks about Lucile’s particularly ubiquitous appearance in theatre programmes. His professional dislike turned personal when he wrote some scathing little ditties about her in a series of editorials after the Titanic disaster. She never forgot his unkindness, and even mentioned it in her memoir. So, no the two were not pals. Lucile was close with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and his wife (a client) and was also friends with Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, who (according to Lucile’s granddaughter) introduced her to Sir Cosmo after her divorce.

The photo above is of Mrs. Pat, wearing one of Mme. Handley-Seymour’s dresses. I can’t account for the "LDG" initials, except that Mrs. Pat was very involved in choosing her stage clothes and it’s possible the initials indicated her desire to have a dress in the Lucile style (?) Of course, the initials may have nothing to do with Lucile.

Interestingly, when the movie version of "My Fair Lady" was made, costume designer Cecil Beaton based the white evening dress Audrey Hepburn wore for the ball scene on Lucile’s gown for Lily Elsie in the 1907 premier of The Merry Widow.

If you wish to sell your collection at some point, a private collector in England, Lewis Orchard, whose vast Lucile archive of clothing and mementos is destined for the V&A, may be interested. My own research on Lucile is completed, and I’ll likely give my collection to the Fashion Institute.

Randy
 

Senan Molony

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Jan 30, 2004
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Original Pygmalion memorabilia seems to go for quite a lot.

I have no doubt that this is of a piece with the other LDG stuff. I did not assemble this stuff myself, I hasten to add.

My five-year-old daughter seems mad into fashion, otherwise I would probably discard some of the material, to be frank.

There is also an "LDG" initials note written across the top of clip (*literally - rusty paperclip!) of nine foolscap pages which seems to be an early typewritten version of Chapter Eight of Discretions and Indiscretions.

There are substantional changes with the finished version. There are two whole pages on Ireland, not very complimentary, while it barely merits a fleeting mention of the Jarrolds version. Maybe that is the reason this version was sent to Ireland.

Who is Peg Wally of 59 Ebury Street? There are a lot of letters from Lucile to her.

There are also two handwritten notes on personal notepaper to a man called Frank Harris, with whom she may or may not have had an affair.

A book by Harris, entitled "Montes the Matrador and Other Stories" (Lot 225) coincidentally sold for £200 at this year's BTS auction. It had an inscription to Lady Duff Gordon. I was slow in getting my number up, as I thought it was going cheap.

BTW, Randy, I mentioned this to Dave Hill of the Atlantic Daily Bulletin, and he said he had had several emails about what he called "admittedly a schoolboy howler," but Dorothy Gibson could not have handed in a message to the Marconi room as this part of the boat deck was off-limits to passengers.

She would have 'sent' the message at the Purser's Office on C Deck, and of course it would have flown up to Phillips and Bride by pneumatic tube.

Interesting that 'Lucile' and GBS did not get on. I did not know that.

Warmest regards all,

S
 
May 12, 2005
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I’ve never run across the name Peg Wally. It isn’t mentioned in any papers I’ve seen that Lucy’s family has retained. The lady companion who was with her at the end of her life was Ruby Sutton, her former social secretary. Lucy also had a maid named Helen Brewer in 1931-32 who died a few years ago. She was from Ireland and Lucy paid her expenses to go back to visit relatives at a time when Lucy barely had money for herself, the executors of Cosmo’s estate being tight-wads about dispersing funds to her.

The information you have about her negative feelings for Ireland is interesting and surprising, since she always professed to love Ireland (she was part Irish herself). Lucy’s maternal great grandfather was a police magistrate in Dublin at one time. She was also friends with Sir Hugh Lane and one of her most beautiful clients was Lady Lavery, of whom I recently found a great photo in which she’s wearing a Lucile dress. Lucy was in fact accused by some of being anti-British for "decamping" to the USA at the start of WWI. Her daughter and sister wrote her repeatedly to come back and clear up the impression of defection she’d left in some circles. She did make one visit to England in 1916 to get her things from her house in London, which Cosmo had sold after their separation. But she came back to America, and stayed on here until 1919.

I know that the US edition of "Discretions and Indiscretions" was edited for some strong opinions against American capitalism and for some possibly libelous remarks about the manufacturer who eventually took over the reins of "Lucile, Ltd." Perhaps the Irish bits also were cut for being too volatile.

As to journalist Frank Harris, I’m sure he was a friend only. The signed book you refer to, with the provocative 1909 inscription, refers to his viewing a musical fashion show Lucy put on that spring at her salon in Hanover Square, called "The Seven Ages of Woman." All Lucile gowns famously carried over-the-top, love-sick names like "When Passion’s ‘Thrall is O’er," "The Sighing Sound of Lips Unsatisfied," etc. These were the "Sensations Immoral" Harris referred to in his tongue-in-cheek inscription. Harris would probably have wanted people to think he had an affair with Lucy. Although a top literary editor in his day, his integrity abandoned him in old age, when he published his largely fictitious, and pornographic, autobiography, "My Life and Loves."

By the way, Lucy was criticized by some conservative press commentators for inviting so many men ("Piccadilly trotters" one reporter called them) to her fashion shows. It lent, so detractors claimed, an "undignified" air to the event, with men leering at the pretty girl-models and even flirting with the ladies in the audience. Of course the atmosphere was great for sales!

About Dorothy Gibson not handing in her cables at the Marconi room. Oops! I wouldn’t have known that, not being a liner researcher, which is why I sent copies of the Titanic chapters of my book to experts to proof. I made several bloopers in the original draft, which showed my ignorance of ships, and I quickly corrected them, but this oversight about the Marconi office wasn’t brought to my attention. I’m sure I made other mistakes, but I did my best to be as accurate as I could, and the contributors who helped me were marvelous to take the time to read proofs.

I thank you very much for bringing the error to my attention. I’ll want to correct it in a future edition. And my apologies to the ADB. (Geoff Whitfield was one of the experts I enlisted, so really it’s all his fault!)

Randy
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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Randy! It's so good to see you back on ET. I'm thoroughly enjoying your book. Everyone on the forum should buy a copy. It's fabulous!!! So rich with information and photographs. I'm delighted to have it.

Kyrila
 

Nancy Bratby

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Apr 18, 2005
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Gosh, a 1500 euro offer, after what you paid for it, Senan? I would have bitten their arm off.

(Senan brought some of his Lucile Duff Gordon gems to Southampton to show a select few. The colourised design brochures for different seasons must in themselves be worth a fortune.)

It is strange that the same name cropped up with the BTS Auction lot in which a copy of Discretions and Indiscretions was sold with an inscription in it about "sensations immoral".
We thought there was definitely something in it.

Senan has a handwritten letter from Lucile to the same gentleman describing a holiday on the Cote d'Azur and the Isle of Capri. She also sent him a photograph of herself, hand-inscribed on verso, from 1918. Another faintly sexy message that raises questions as well as eyebrows...

Just how much did Lucile get away with behind Sir Cosmo's back?
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi, Nancy:

I agree with you that Senan’s collection would be worth much more than 1500 Euros. It certainly sounds as if he has a fascinating cache.

However, Lucile, Ltd didn’t publish brochures per se for its collections, only exhibition programmes. There are many examples in the library at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The only color "brochures" or catalogues connected with Lucy Lady Duff Gordon would have been for the ready-to-wear line of dresses she did for Sears, Roebuck, and Co. (1916-17). These come up for auction on eBay regularly and are fairly high priced.

Also, the BTS auction was for a copy of a book by Frank Harris, not Lucy Duff Gordon.

As to Lucy having an affair with Frank Harris. If so, he’d have been but one name in an interesting lot —— politicians, artists, musicians, a playwright, a lord, even a gigolo! My pending book makes account of most of these relationships but doesn’t pretend to be a definitive survey of who she slept with. If she did have a fling with Harris, there was definitely nothing between them by 1918, when she was in the middle of a well-documented romance with another man. Lucy’s personality was that of a coquette. Even her letters to her family reveal this tendency. In her later years, however, her natural flirtatiousness was embarrassing. Her grandson recalled how she liked to tease his university pals which he said was mortifying.

The vacation destinations mentioned seem intriguing choices for Lucy, as she normally didn’t follow after the society set, contrary to what might be imagined. She was an artist essentially, preferring fellow bohemians as friends, and went to places that had personal significance —— Venice, Villa ‘d’Este, Lago di Como and Normandy. She seldom did the Riviera round, though naturally she dressed the socialites who did. For herself, she chose to paint on her getaways, not party. Her late granddaughter kept some of her paintings —— mostly night waterscapes —— done at Como. Lucy showed remarkable skill in these studies, which she called her "blue pictures." Maybe she’d have been a great painter had she not loved designing clothes so much. I imagine a holiday in Capri would have inspired some especially lovely pictures!

Randy
 

Nancy Bratby

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Apr 18, 2005
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Thanks Randy, of course the BTS Auction lot was of a book by Frank Harris. My error, I knew it wasn't Lucy's book so don't know how that came out! There was a lot of giggling round the room when that inscription was read out, I can tell you.
 
May 12, 2005
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Nancy:

Yes, I bet there was a lot of giggling. That inscription is so over-the-top! I recall when the book first came to light a few years ago (it was once sold on eBay), I was really shocked, and had to look back over my notes to see if I had anything on this Frank Harris. Then I remembered his name as being on a guest list for her Spring 1909 show in London, and it all made sense. I do think Harris was terribly bold to write that passage to her. He was no doubt hoping for a bit of fun! He may well have found it. Lucy received gentlemen to tea constantly at her Hanover Square salon, and as tea often meant more than tea in those days, who knows what went on? She had a lot of married men in to see her, and one has to wonder if they were really all that interested in fashion!

Randy
 

lewis orchard

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Feb 25, 2006
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This is the provenance provided by the Mersey Maritime Museum in Liverpool that owns the 'Francatelli Apron' It is easily obtained by contacting them. Contrary to the speculation above it did not originate from an 'imposter relative' ET members can make of this provenance what they will. It is a shame that so much speculation occurred without it. I believe that there is a good photograph of it on the Museum website.

To Whom It May Concern;

Miss Francatellis Apron.

Given to my maternal Grandmother, Miss Sophia Wright of Denholme, Bradford, West Yorkshire by her niece Laura Mabel Francatelli shortly before the latter permanently left England in about 1914 to marry a New York restaurant worker.
Laura Mabel Francatelli was the personal maid/secretary to the couturier 'Lucile'-Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon. Together with Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, Miss Francatelli accompanied her employer on a business trip in April 1912 to Paris and then to Cherbourg to board RMS 'Titanic' to visit Lucy's fashion houses in New York and Chicago. After the 'Titanic' struck the iceberg Miss Francatelli, Lady Lucy, and Sir Cosmo were placed in a lifeboat and were saved. On board the rescuing ship 'Carpathia' it was Miss Francatelli who wrote out the £5 cheques on the ship's stationary which were signed by Sir Cosmo, as a token of thanks to the seamen in the lifeboat.

I always understood from my mother, Nellie Wright of Donholme, who was six at the time of the accident that the relationship between my grandmother's family (Barrett of Peckham) and the Francatelli's (Tooting?) was particularly close. A sister of my grandmother had married Miss Francatelli's father. So when the Barrett family moved to Heidelburg Road, Manningham, Bradford to work in the textile mills of Lister & Co some of the Francatelli's also moved. My maternal grandfather Jacob Wright, was employed in those mills as a packer to despatch the products all over the world.

When the news of the accident filtered through, there was great anxiety in all the families, which was greatly compounded by the fact that the Duff gordon's did not sail under their own name but as Mr and Mrs Morgan. When the initial survivor lists were published in the newspapers (there only source of information and which I still have) The Francatelli's, Barretts, and Wrights were forced to conclude that Miss Francatelli must have perished because they could not find the name Duff Gordon. The truth only became apparent in later lists, but even then , as a servant, Miss Francatelli was not listed.

Before Miss Francatelli left England she asked my Grandmother (her Aunt) if they could exchange personal items as keepsakes to remember each other by. For her part Miss Francatelli told my grandmother that this was the apron she was wearing on the night of the disaster and she was giving it to her as a symbol of their sad parting, knowing that it would always be treasured by her. They never met again. the name Francatelli was revered in my mother's family and the same story was told to me by both my mother and her two brothers in the same undeviating detail.

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There follows details of supporting photographs of the family and some descriptions of Miss Francatelli, and Lucy Duff Gordon.
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In our turns both my mother and I have tried to look after the apron but it is now becoming very fragile. I hope that any purchaser will consider the acute personal value attached to the apron by my mother's family and will wish to treasure and conserve it as we have done in the past but are no longer capable of doing.

John Wright Lumbers.