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Notables Fill Newport Church for Ceremony Climaxing Weeks of Social Activity
Crowd Delays Both Bride and Bridegroom---Astor's Mother Sits in a Front Pew
NEWPORT, R.. I., June 30---Two of America's oldest families, prominent in both landed wealth and in social position, were united in marriage here today at the wedding of John Jacob Astor 3d and Miss Ellen Tuck French.

The bridegroom is the third of his name in American life. The first John Jacob Astor, fur trader, founded the family in early American days. The second lost his life in the sinking of the Titanic, and the third John Jacob Astor, today's bridegroom, was born a few months later. He is a half-brother of Vincent Astor, and inherited with the latter the great Astor fortune.

The bride is a granddaughter of Amos Tuck French and is related to the Vanderbilt family.

These young members of old families, the bridegroom only 21 years old and the bride 18, were joined together in a setting replete with symbols of early American traditions.

They were married according to the ancient simple ritual of the Protestant Episcopal Church, whose worshipers came to New England with the first settlers, in old Trinity Church, a long, narrow, weather-beaten white clapboard building with a towering white steeple and gilded spire and weather vane. It was all just as it was when the church was built more than two centuries ago, in 1726, eighty-seven years after the founding of Newport in 1639.

Shading the high steeple was a fine, old elm tree, as tall as or taller than the spire itself, with its great spreading branches almost speaking aloud the story of New England. The tree itself was as old or nearly as old as the church.

Church Recalls Colonial Days

On the other side of the church, so that the wedding procession walked between it and the old tree to enter the building, was the old burying ground with its plain weather-beaten granite headstones bearing the names of men and women who played leading parts in shaping the history of the colonies and of the first days of the Republic.

All around the church, which is right in the centre of this fine old city, old frame buildings of Colonial architecture, with Grecian columns, steeply slanting roofs and gables, crowding close to the building line of the street, bespoke Newport's history.

The time joined with the place in celebrating the event with appropriate ceremony, for not only was it in the midst of the Summer season, when Newport's social colony is always in full swing, but it was coincident with a visit of a large part of the United States fleet. From time immemorial the navy has been associated with Newport, and many buildings here this week are decorated with flags, brightly colored bunting and "welcome" signs from a city proud of its antiquity and of its age-old reputation as a home port of the United States Navy, from the days of clipper ships of the eighteenth century to the mechanized twentieth century dreadnoughts.

Not only in its setting, but also in all of its accoutrements, the wedding was akin to the simple, unembellished life of the early days in New England. In keeping with these days of stress for the whole country there was a note of simplicity in all the arrangements. This was particularly noticeable in connection with the gifts and with the floral decorations at the church and at the reception which followed. Instead of a great display of wealth and power the utmost simplicity was observed throughout. No formal statement was made about the gifts, but it was said reliably that, while numerous, and including many fine pieces of silverware and china, they were on the whole of the sort that any ordinary couple of moderate circumstances might enjoy. There was a marked absence of expensive gifts of jewelry or of elaborate floral display.

Parishioners Attend Wedding

There were about 500 persons n the church, crowding it to capacity. Two hundred and fifty were present by virtue of possessing invitations, engraved plainly by Tiffany of New York and reading as follows:

Please Present This Card
At Trinity Church
Saturday the Thirtieth of June.

The others in the church were parishioners, admitted by vestrymen who recognized them. The vestrymen were flanked inside the gate on the Church Street side by Pinkerton detectives and local policemen, who kept out strangers.

A crowd of at least 1,000 persons, mostly women of all ages and of all ranks of society, jammed the narrow streets about the church. They began to gather long before 4 o'clock, the time scheduled for the ceremony, and stood on the sidewalk and in the street in closely pressed ranks, sweltering in the hot sun, apparently oblivious of discomfort. Every now and then the police would push them out of the street to make way for automobiles bearing the invited guests to the wedding. But they would surge back again as soon as each car went on.

In striking contrast to the old church itself and the surrounding structures, newspaper and moving-picture photographers clung to the iron fence around the old graveyard and perched precariously in windows and on rooftops across the street, their shutters clicking and their handles grinding as the notables drove up.

One of the first to cause the crowd to gasp with excitement was Dr. Ernst F. S. Hanfstaengl, Chancellor Hitler's personal aide, who came to the United States recently to attend the commencement reunion of the class of '09, Harvard, and who was invited to attend the wedding by Francis O. French of Dedham, Mass., father of the bride.

Dr. Hanfstaengl was attired in a top hat, black coat and striped gray trousers. One of the few not in the bridal party itself to be thus arrayed, be paused a moment to let the photographers take his picture.

As the guests passed on a wide red plush carpet from the gate to the door of the church, the crowd could see the ushers standing in the open doorway, resplendent in black cutaways, white waistcoats, gray striped trousers, high wing collars, lavender ascot ties, white gloves, white spats and black shoes, with white carnations in their lapels.

The church bell tolled 4 o’clock and the crowd surged with excitement as the bride's sister, Miss Virginia Middleton French, the maid of honor, and the bride's only attendant, arrived.

"That's her sister, isn't she beautiful?" the murmur spread in the street as the maid of honor, a tall, willowy young brunette, a stunning picture in a flowing gown of peach chiffon with a blue train of the same material flowing from the waist, swept through the gate and into the church. She wore a large peach horsehair hat trimmed with blue ribbon, and carried a large arm bouquet of delphinium and deep yellow African daisies.

Bride Poses for Camera Men

Meanwhile, an airplane flew back and forth low over the church, and in a moment the bride arrived. More audible gasps from the crowd, and murmurs: "Isn't she lovely, what a beautiful gown." A tall slender young woman, the bride presented a beautiful picture, dressed from head to foot in white. She wore a gown of heavy ivory satin designed in princess style with a V-neck and pointed sleeves, and with a long train falling from the shoulders. A long tulle veil in coronet effect caught up with orange blossoms did not conceal her reddish brown hair, her blooming cheeks and her bright red lips. She carried a bouquet of white orchids and lilies of the valley.

Walking through the churchyard on the arm of her father, who was in formal attire with top hat, tail coat and striped trousers, the bride paused just inside the gate, turned around, and posed for a moment to let the photographers take her picture with her father. This was by arrangement.

She presented a grave, solemn mien to the camera men, but her father smiled, nodded and waved gayly as he disappeared within a side door of the church with his daughter. As soon as they were inside the sexton stepped out and closed the main door of the church, after which no one was permitted inside the edifice until the ceremony was over.

During the assembling of the guests, J. Raymond Parker, the organist, played the following program:

"Beside the Still Waters".........Coerne
Andante Cantabile..................Widor
"Prize Song," from "Die Meistersinger.".Wagner
"Spring Song"................Mendelssohn
“Song to the Evening Star," from "Tann-
"Liebestraum”..................... Liszt

The interior of the church was simply decorated with garden flowers from the Portsmouth Summer home, Oakland Farm, of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Vanderbilt, the former a cousin of the bride.

At the end of the pews through the centre aisle were nosegays of yellow daisies and blue delphiniums with green ferns. Palms and white lilies surrounded the chancel, the altar and the base of the old reading desk and the high pulpit which stands in the middle of the centre aisle.

There were no other decorations except the green fernery which is part of the ordinary scheme of the church at the foot of the reading desk and pulpit, and the Stars and Stripes and the State flag of Rhode Island which always hang on the wall at the rear of the church.

Members of the two families occupied the front pews and the other invited guests virtually filled the rest of the main floor, while the regular parishioners occupied the gallery. Historic pews were occupied by some of the guests in this church which was one of the two houses of worship which the British spared from destruction during their occupation of this city.

One was the pew in which George Washington used to worship, carefully preserved just as it was in his day, with its door and high boxed effect, like all the other pews in the church, with new upholstery the only change made during the centuries.

There were also the so-called "admirals' pews," which visiting admirals used to occupy, while their slaves and prisoners from their ships worshipped in the "slave pews," still preserved, in the gallery. Among the various British insignia from Colonial days still kept intact in the church, is an inlaid Union Jack over the "admirals pews." Other guests occupied the double pew once occupied by the late Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, with its long bench and hassocks upholstered with crimson mohair.

The families of both the bridegroom and the bride were well represented in the church. The bridegroom's mother, Mrs. Enzo Fiermonte, was present, although her young husband, the 26-year-old Italian pugilist to whom she was married recently, did not attend.

After the death of the bridegroom's father, Colonel John Jacob Astor, in the Titanic disaster, it will be recalled, the mother of today’s bridegroom was married to William K. Dick, whom she divorced later. Mr. Dick attended the ceremony today, as did the bridegroom's half-brother, William Dick, who was one of the ushers.

There had been some doubt whether Mrs. Fiermonte would attend, but she arrived last night and went to young Mr. Astor's Summer home, Chetwode.

Other relatives of the bridegroom at the ceremony were his aunt, Mrs. M. Orme Wilson, and his uncle and aunt, Major and Mrs. Lorillard Spencer.

Members of the bride's family at the wedding were her father, Francis Ormond French of Dedham, Mass.; her mother, Mrs. Livingston French of New York and Newport; her maternal grandmother, Mrs. Edward Livingston Burrill of New York, and Mrs. Amos Tuck French Sr. of New York.

The following uncles and aunts of the bride attended: Mr. and Mrs. Amos Tucker French Jr., Mrs. W. Whitewright Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Stuyvesant LeRoy French, Mr. and Mrs. Donald O. MacRae and Mrs. Howard Williams.

Also present were Mr. and Mrs. Paul Fitz Simons and Mr. and Mrs. William H. Vanderbilt, cousins of the bride.

Besides young Mr. Dick, the ushers were Kingsley Swan of Guilford, Conn.; Elisha Dodge of ewbury, [sic] Mass.; Beverly A. Bogert of New York and Newport; Francis A. Clark of New York; G. Philip Lynch of New York and Newport, Thomas Le Boutillier of Westbury, L. I., and J. G. Blaine Ewing Jr. of New York.

Rev. Mr. Burrill Officiates

The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Harold St. George Burrill, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church of Newport. He substituted for the Rev. Stanley Carnaghan Hughes, rector of Trinity Church, who had a previous engagement to officiate at a wedding today in Ann Arbor, Mich. Mr. Burrill was assisted by the Rev. Dr. Edward Travers, whom Mr. Astor invited from Rhinebeck, N. Y., where Mr. Astor attends church.

The brief and simple marriage ceremony of the Protestant Episcopal Church was observed, lasting only nine minutes. As soon as the bride and her father entered the church the wedding procession formed. Up to this time the church had been lighted by candlelight from old rope-hung chandeliers, but just as the procession began all the blinds on the south side of the church were swung open, letting in the bright sunlight.

As the bridal party started to walk down the centre aisle toward the altar, the organist played the Lohengrin Wedding March as a processional.

The procession began with the eight ushers walking in pairs at a slow pace along the flower-decked aisle. Right after them came the maid of honor, walking alone. Next was the bride, clinging closely to the arm of her father. Three maids followed the bride as far as the back pew, keeping straight the fifteen-foot train of the bridal gown.

At the old reading desk and pulpit, which stands in the midst of the centre aisle near the altar, the procession split in two, the ushers passing to the right and the maid of honor, the bride and her father going to the left. It was a narrow passage, and they had to crowd close together as they went by.

In front of the altar the bride and her father were met by the tall, fair-haired bridegroom and his best man, Lloyd P. Griscom of Syosset, L. I., who approached from the side of the church. The young bridegroom wore a black cutaway, striped gray trousers and a white ascot tie. As he waited at the altar he took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow, because of the sweltering heat.

Pronounced Man and Wife

Dr. Travers read the wedding ceremony quickly. He used the modernized Episcopal ritual, including the promise to "love and honor," but omitting the word "obey." The questions of the minister rang out clearly through the congregation, but the responses of the young couple were in such low tones as to be inaudible in the rear of the church.

Mr. Burrill then took charge of the ceremony and formally declared the couple man and wife, after the bride had been given in marriage by her father.

The closing prayer was recited by Dr. Travers. As he ended, the organist began the Mendelssohn bridal chorus as a recessional, which continued while the marriage procession left the church.

The sexton, in his black surplice, flung open the main door and the young couple, who had appeared to the populace a few minutes before as fiancé and fiancée now came forth as man and wife. The waiting crowd expressed its delight with more murmurs of, "isn't she beautiful, how lovely she looks. But why doesn't she smile? And how solemn he looks, too."

Between the door of the church and the step of their Rolls-Royce, the newly married couple halted for several moments on the red plush carpet while the photographers made picture after picture of them in the bright sunlight of the late afternoon.

A new murmur of delight ran through the crowd outside the gates as a faint smile fluttered across the lips of the bride, although it merely accentuated and emphasized the impression an observer gained of a rather frightened little girl, putting up a brave but somewhat wistful effort to appear at ease in the face of a social phenomenon, which, even though expressed as it was in the most friendly terms by the crowd, might well have been terrifying to any one.

The best man and the maid of honor followed the bride and bridegroom out of the church, then came the bride's mother on the arm of an usher, next the bride's maternal grandmother and an usher, then the bridegroom's mother with her son, William Dick, next the bridegroom's maternal grandmother, and then the rest of the guests in pairs.

From the church the bridal party and the guests motored to the Summer home, Mapleshade, on Red Cross Avenue, which is occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Donald O. MacRae.

Champagne, salads and sandwiches were served to the guests at tables under gayly colored umbrellas on the lawn. A gypsy orchestra brought from New York for the occasion gave a program and some of the guests danced on the broad piazza of the house.

Mr. Astor and his bride left tonight on their wedding trip without having to endure the usual battery of rice and confetti.

They escaped this ordeal by a subterfuge. A few friends passed the word around that they had already left via the back entrance. This was about 6 o'clock tonight and immediately the guests who had been standing about the entrance of the house armed with boxes of rice began to disperse. There was an automobile waiting at the door, a large dark maroon limousine, but even this was dismissed, or apparently so, and drove away.

This resulted in the departure of other lingering guests and members of the families and in a short time the grounds were virtually cleared except for a few straggling onlookers in the street.

But Mr. and Mrs. Astor were still in the house and did not leave it for some little time, for the bride, overcome more or less by the excitement of the day, desired an opportunity to rest for a little while. It was 8:30 before they left in their car.

There were probably 300 persons at the reception. On the lawn there were many bright lawn umbrellas and small tables shielded from the street with a bower of cedar trees, and back of the tables the gypsy ensemble played a lively program.

Mr. and Mrs. Astor, as soon as they reached the house, took up their positions in the drawing room with Mrs. French, the bride’s mother; her grandmother, Mrs. Burrill; and her aunt, Mrs. W. Whitewright Watson, together with her maid of honor and the best man, and greeted the guests as they were presented by the ushers.

The bride's buffet at the reception was decorated with vases of Easter lilies and there were varicolored Summer flowers banked in all of the mantel places.

The bride and bridegroom remained with the guests for an hour or so and then disappeared, and while all of the guests waited anxiously for them to appear again and make their departure they were disappointed.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) JOHN JACOB ASTOR WEDS ELLEN FRENCH (New York Times, Sunday 1st July 1934, ref: #3451, published 16 August 2004, generated 31st July 2021 07:36:45 PM); URL :