Okay, I've barely been on ET at all in recent weeks. I've been busy researching Titanic passengers in newspaper archives and have amassed a king's ransom of info on people such as the Cavendishes (mostly Julia's family), as well as the Clarks, Harders, Hippachs and a slew of others.
One thing I discovered was that Julia had a stepmother. Julia Rosenbaum Siegel died when her daughter was small, but in 1898, Henry Siegel married Mrs. Marie Vaughan Wilde, a widow with two daughters named Georgine and Dorothy.
For the first dozen years of their marriage, the names of the Henry Siegels appeared discreetly in society pages as they attended very choice events. Marie Siegel’s outfits were often written about in detail, whether she was dining at Sherry’s, attending the National Horse Show, or was a “First Tier Box Holder” (not quite sure what that entailed) at the Charity Ball of 1902 (of which Colonel Astor and Dr. John S. Tanner — Virginia Clark’s second husband — were patrons).
They acquired “Driftwood”, their house in Mamaroneck, as well houses at Park Avenue and 88th Street in New York, and on Park Lane in London. It seems that they acquired art voraciously and entertained lavishly. When their country home was robbed in 1907, papers were full of speculations about which of their treasures might have been taken.
Georgine Wilde married Count Count Carlo Dentice di Frasso (accounts vary as to his Christian name and whether he was a count or a prince, but this version is the most widely used) at the Oratory in Brompton, London in 1906. It was witnessed by an impressive assemblage that included the Italian and American ambassadors and various titled continentals (no English aristos mentioned). The Siegels gave a wedding breakfast at Claridge’s. Julia, soon to be married herself, served as a bridesmaid for her stepsister.
The di Frasso marriage was annulled in 1921. Georgine took to calling herself “Mrs. Georgine Wilde” until her marriage later that year to Pietro Alfredo Guazzone, First Secretary of the Italian Embassy in Tokyo. He was reportedly the son of Guiseppe Guazzone, described as “President of the Board of Administration” of steamship lines operating between Italy, the US, and Argentina.
Georgine was again “Mrs. Wilde” by the time she married William Douglas Burt of Providence, RI in 1929. Her first husband, the Count, married another American in 1923. She was “Mrs.” Dorothy Cadwell Taylor, daughter of Bertram Taylor of New York (it seems divorcees often reverted to their maiden names, but kept the “Mrs.”). Her first husband had been British aviator Claude Grahame-White.
Julia’s other stepsister — Dorothy Violet Wilde — married Earl Joseph Moon of St. Louis in 1914 (Earl being his first name and not a title). This marriage ended in divorce before Dorothy married Dr. Frank E. Adair, an Ohio native and New York Surgeon, in 1922. She was walked up the aisle by family friend Schuyler Roosevelt. That’s one thing about Marie and her daughters — they might have been down socially at times, but they were never out.
Dorothy’s second marriage also ended in divorce. I’m guessing it was before either marriage that she studied music in Paris under Jean de Reszke. She ultimately had modest success as a composer, writing a song played by the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra at its Young People’s Christmas Concert of 1945 (I did say modest success!).
Marie left Henry and went to live abroad in 1909 or 1910. Her suit for divorce, his bankruptcy and various indictments — all occurring in 1914 — were splashy in the extreme.
Siegel operated several banks in conjunction with his department stores. All told, the banks were reported to have some 15,000 depositors. When the banks went under in 1913, Siegel was wiped out. He was indicted on fourteen counts related to helping himself to his depositors’ money, and went to prison for nine months.
Marie Siegel was granted her divorce in 1915, having torn her husband’s name to shreds and named two women — Mrs. Diana Eddy and Miss May Smith — as correspondents in her suit. Both women hotly contested the charge. Mrs. Eddy had supposedly visited Driftwood many times and was variously described as a singer and as a friend of Julia’s. She was reluctant to testify and, during the height of the Siegel fiasco, married James Salisbury Brown of Providence, RI (later claiming her wedding was mobbed by reporters), and blew town. Her lawyers, it seems, convinced her to return and testify; though I’m not sure if she was ultimately called.
Miss Smith was described as a nurse from Toronto who had nursed Henry Siegel through an illness in 1911. She hired a lawyer, claiming that Marie’s accusations had damaged her reputation and her ability to earn a living, and said she would sue. She was dropped from the suit.
During their divorce, reports of how Henry and Marie had ever come together in the first place were varied. She was the widow of George M. Wilde. I’m not sure who he was, other than that he was usually described as the brother of Rear Admiral Wilde USN.
At least one account had Marie living in Virginia during her first marriage, which may well be true, as she and her daughters were well-known in the fashionable Virginia resort of Hot Springs, and continued to visit it for decades after her marriage to Siegel.
A NY Times article had it that Marie’s husband left her with paltry resources, and so she had left Virginia to look for work in New York. While writing for a newspaper, she interviewed Siegel, and he offered her a job in one of his stores. She accepted this, and not long afterwards accepted his offer of marriage.
Marie, however, bristled at the claim that she had ever worked for her bread. She released a public statement, signed in her lawyer’s office, saying that she wanted to set the record straight because there had been so many misstatements about her divorce and her “prior status”.
The statement read, in part, “I came to New York to visit my first husband’s cousins, Mr. and Mrs. George Cotton Chase, wholesale tea importers of Front Street, who were well-known both socially and financially and at whose luxurious home on West Eighty-Fifth Street, Mr. Siegel and I were married on April 24th, 1898. I was first introduced to Mr. Siegel by friends at a dinner party. He never offered, nor did I accept, employment in his stores.”
Marie’s version of her roots is probably closer to the truth. Her 1938 obituary described her as the daughter of Judge John Greene Vaughan of Illinois, and a graduate of Miss Evans’s School of Cincinnati, the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, and the law school of New York University (she did obtain a law certificate from the university in 1899 — I’m not sure if this was an actual degree). Among her affiliations was the Daughters of the American Revolution.
And though rich and, evidently, charismatic, Henry Siegel was also a self-made Jew, and it seems unlikely that he would have enjoyed the social position he did if he were married to a former shopgirl.
When they separated, Henry reportedly agreed to pay his wife $25,000 a year, which obviously became impossible after his downfall. Marie claimed that she had agreed to this to avoid a scandal, and when he could no longer pay, she saw no more reason to spare him and every reason to divorce him and “secure her rights”.
She became one in a very long list of people trying to get money out of her husband, and doesn’t seem to have had much luck. A judge granted a writ of attachment against her to the private investigator who claimed to have helped her dig up dirt on her husband and whom she was apparently unable to pay.
When creditors descended on the Siegel homes and possessions, Marie claimed that many of the things were her property and should not be subject to her husband’s liabilities. Included in the long list of items she named were a gilded bedroom set that had belonged to Queen Isabella of Spain, rare sets of Thackeray and Kipling, a green marble candlestick presented by the Princess de Croy, and an engraving of Sir Walter Raleigh “and Friends” that was signed by each of them.
In her statement, she said, “My married life with Mr. Siegel was full of trials and tribulations. Suffice it to say I endeavored in every way to guard and protect him from his own weaknesses and his lack of consideration for the feelings and rights of others.”
She said that she had learned “incidentally” that he was defrauding his depositors and remonstrated with him that it would end in his ruin, but that he only responded by treating her worse than ever. She expressed her belief that he had deliberately driven her out of the country to keep her quiet (it seems Siegel was thought to have been engaging in shady practices even before his banks went down).
There had apparently been charges on Henry’s part that Marie’s extravagance had played a part in his ruin. Marie said, “My books will show and I have only one set, that in no year, even when Mr. Siegel was accredited with having an income exceeding several thousand dollars a year, did he give me over $24,000 a year with which to maintain the expenses of his elaborate establishments.”
She claimed that his money went towards other women and bad business practices.
Interestingly, she also said, “Mr. Siegel attempts to account for some of his so-called ‘losses’ by the statement that he made settlements upon my daughter and his daughter on their marriages. This is absolutely untrue. He settled on neither girl one penny, but he gave some fine promises.”
So far from having been enriched by marriage to her daughter, she claimed that Count di Frasso’s family was nearly ruined by it. They allegedly had to sue Henry to get back money they had invested with him, and nearly lost their substantial olive vineyards.
Marie commiserated with those who had supposedly been defrauded by her husband, saying she would gladly get all their money back for them, but that she was in the same boat.
Informed of his wife’s statement, Siegel was said to respond, “Why, you don’t mean it?” and to refuse to give any other comment.
I think that we should hesitate about drawing decisive conclusions regarding Henry or Marie from all of this. Divorce laws were such at this time that Marie would have had to paint Henry in a horrible light to have any hope of the court granting her a divorce. And though she is cast in an unflattering light herself, it should be remembered that a) nobody is at their best during a divorce b) she was under very unwelcome scrutiny and c) her situation was a desperate one and had to be frightening.
One interesting detail is that Julia may well have retained a sisterly relationship with Dorothy Wilde Adair, even after their respective parents went through the nasty divorce. The society page of the NYTimes in June of 1928 contained the brief blurb “Mrs. Frank E. Adair sailed for England early today to visit Mrs. Tyrell Cavendish in London.”
After her divorce, Marie resumed her first husband’s name. She was granted no alimony from Siegel, but was given the option to seek it later if his circumstances improved. Her obituary — while mentioning that her daughter (by then Georgine Burt) was “the former Countess di Frasso — made no mention of the fact that she herself had once been married to Henry.
From what I’ve been able to learn about Marie’s life after the divorce, two conclusions can be drawn — that she was not a foolish or trivial individual; and that, however she managed it, she landed on her feet.
According to her obituary and to various other newspaper mentions, from 1916 to 1919, she was a “deputy internal revenue collector attached to the Intelligence Department”. She was also an Assembly delegate for New York’s wealthy Fifteenth District at the 1921 New York State Republican Convention, and served for years as an officer and vice-president of the district’s Republicans. From 1919 to 1923, she was chairman of the legislative committee of the Women’s Republican Club; and was a Republican Presidential Elector in 1924.
Before the US entered WWI, she established an organization to aid American volunteers in the French Aviation Service. She also founded the Women’s Auxiliary of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; and in addition to the Daughters of the American Revolution, belonged to the New York Historical Society and American Society of Psychical Research.
When she died, she was living in an apartment at the Park Lane Hotel on Park Avenue. This, combined with the fact that she had leisure for all her political and charitable activities, shows that she was not busy mopping floors to get by. Perhaps she was successful in getting her hands on some of the treasures from her married life, which could have provided a nice nest egg. Or perhaps her daughters did well out of their various divorces and supported her.
Things didn’t work out so well for Henry Siegel. After his release from prison, he reportedly tried to launch a clothing business on Broadway in Manhattan, but this venture quickly failed.
He then settled in Hackensack, New Jersey, where he founded Henri’s Men’s Store on Main Street. He lived a largely anonymous life as a suburban shopkeeper, and it was supposedly only towards the end of his life — when his further marital travails and his final illness made the papers — that many in Hackensack discovered he was that Henry Siegel.
It was reportedly during his trial that Henry met Mrs. Henrietta Struble, whom the papers described as attractive, more than two decades younger than her husband, and as already having two marriages under her own belt.
Henrietta was said to be working as the manager of a Western Union Telegraph Company office in Monroe County, New York when she and Henry were married, and after the marriage as a Western Union operator in Hackensack.
In 1927, Henry sued for divorce, claiming that Henrietta had been unfaithful with a 20-year-old employee of his store. The papers said that the Siegels were living in a five-room, $60-a-month apartment in Hackensack, and that Henry moved to a boarding house when he sued.
I’m not clear on whether or not the divorce was granted. A reconciliation with his “former wife” was credited for Henry’s pulling through a serious illness in 1928, an illness that brought Julia across the ocean, where she was “greeted warmly” by Henrietta. It was reported that Henry went to Henrietta’s house to convalesce.
And after his death in 1930, he is referred to as having a wife, whom he left “only what the law requires” — one-third of his estate and one-half the interest in his real estate during his life. The residue was left to Julia, who acted as executor with Henry’s brother Abraham (strangely, in all the NYTimes articles mentioning her father during these years, Julia is referred to as “Lady” Cavendish, which she certainly was not; I wonder if this was due to embellishment on the part of her father or stepmother?).
Newspapers noted that Henry’s will made provisions to the tune of $1 million, but that it was a doubtful point that he had anything like this amount to dispose of.
There is one claim made about Henry by Marie Wilde in her divorce suit that certainly seems to be untrue — that he was not a caring father.
Marie claimed that, when separating from him, Henry had said things like “I don’t need you anymore. I always meant to get rid of you once I got Julia off my hands.” There was also her indication that he did not care about providing for either of their daughters.
All during his troubles, Henry seems to have been concerned with looking after Julia’s interests. When creditors were picking him clean, he claimed that a $76,000 life insurance policy, of which Julia was the beneficiary, was held under such terms that it could not be touched by them (true, he might have wanted to cash it in later for himself). I don’t know whether he succeeded in saving it.
He also seems to have wanted to see his daughter frequently. In 1910, Julia sailed to New York on the Mauretania to see him. Later that year, Henry took the Caronia to England to be there for the birth of Julia’s second child. And at the height of his legal problems, he went to a lot of trouble to see Julia just for a few days. In 1914, he took the Olympic to the UK, claiming that it was to see his sick grandson and not to escape prosecution. On the way over, he reportedly received a wireless saying that the boy’s condition had improved.
Julia met him at the pier, where they were mobbed by reporters. He spent the weekend at her house in Staffordshire and then took the Olympic’s next voyage back to New York, reporters commenting that he looked tanned, rested, and much more relaxed. Julia again went to the pier to see him off (her home was given as “Knightly Grange”, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a reference to before and which may well be a mistake; the same could be true of the home given for the Cavendishes at the birth of their son — “The Battlies”, Roughan, Bury St. Edmunds).
I don’t know how much father and daughter saw of each other in the years after Henry left prison and sank into obscurity. When Julia sailed over in 1928, it was reported that she intended to stay in a room at the hospital and would go to her stepmother’s (or former stepmother’s) home if her father’s condition improved.
Only surviving personal correspondence could tell how Julia felt about her father’s problems — whether she believed in his innocence and was full of indignant rage, or she believed he was guilty and felt humiliated. But, regardless, she seems to have stood by him, which says something about this elusive lady.