Collection: Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century

Illustrations, Famous American Belles

Emily Marshall (Mrs. William Foster Otis). From portrait painted by Chester Harding in 1830; owned by her daughter, Mrs. Samuel Eliot, of Boston, by whose permission it is here reproduced for the first time in colors. Marcia Burns (Mrs. John Peter Van Ness). From miniature by James Peale, painted in 1797; owned by the Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington, D. C 12 Theodosia Burr (Mrs. Joseph Alston). From the original engraving by Charles B. J. F. Saint Memin; owned by Hampton L. Carson, Esq., of Philadelphia, by whose permission it is here reproduced. Elizabeth Patterson (Madame Jerome Bonaparte). From portrait...

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New York as a Social Center

The women who, both at home and abroad, are regarded as the leaders of American society in these last days of the century are or have been, almost without exception, at some time in their career identified with New York. Though there is no city in the United States that fills the central position which Paris holds in reference to all France, and which London occupies, at least socially, in England, the geographical position of New York, to a nation whose progressive spirit inspires it with a keen interest in the doings of the entire world, has given it a leading place, and to the commanding position it holds in the financial life of the American people it undoubtedly owes much of its prominence as a social centre. Those who at present constitute its ruling element, and who in the eyes of the country at large form the unit of New York society, are, as a rule, the possessors of enormous wealth. The elegance of their various homes, the magnificence of their hospitalities, the luxurious state in which they travel, all tend to give them an immense influence in a young country where such a princely scale of existence was practically unknown thirty-five years ago, and where there are many striving for similar results. Women born of this class, and who possess, in addition to the advantages it bestows...

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Mary Victoria Leiter, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston

For the second time within the century an American woman has risen to viceregal honors. Mary Caton, the granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton and the widow of Robert Patterson, of Baltimore, through her marriage, in 1825, to the Marquis of Wellesley, who was at the time Viceroy of Ireland, went to reign a queen in the country whence her ancestors, more than a century before, had emigrated to America. In Mary Victoria Leiter, whose life, to the people of a future generation, will read much like romance, we again behold an American woman, who, like the Marchioness of...

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Nellie Hazeltine, Mrs. Frederick W. Paramore

Among the members of the graduating class at Mary Institute, St. Louis, in the year 1873, was a young girl who, in addition to the bright mind and intellectual ambition she had already manifested, was endowed with so extraordinary a physical beauty and so lovable a character that much of the brilliancy of her life might even then have been foretold. She was not yet seventeen years old, and was as absolutely unconscious of the unusual loveliness of her person as she ever seemed to be even after ten years of adulation. Her figure had already attained a faultless...

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Mattie Ould, Mrs. Oliver Schoolcraft

In the vicinity of one of Richmond’s fashionable schools there was often seen on winter afternoons, in the late sixties, a group of young girls, who possessed far more than the usual attractiveness that belongs ever to health and youth. Two, at least, Lizzie Cabell and Mary Triplett, were singularly beautiful. The third, a tall, slender girl, with a trim figure, dark skin and hair, and eyes perhaps downcast as she stepped lightly along listening to her companions, a stranger would scarcely have observed. If, perchance, however, as they paused on a street corner for a last word before...

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Kate Chase, Mrs. William Sprague

There was a name in America a little more than a generation ago that possessed a power amounting almost to enchantment, the name of Kate Chase, a woman who holds a unique place in both the political and social history of this century. The story of her life, between the high lights of its early days and the shadows in which it closed, presents a peculiar succession of superlatives. There stands forth, however, through all its changes, one unvarying dominant feature which must strike us at once, whether we approach it in the spirit of a student or actuated...

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Emilie Schaumburg, Mrs. Hughes-Hallett

Every Philadelphia girl who has hoped to be a belle during this last quarter of the century, and even many who have been without social aspirations, have been brought up on traditions of Emilie Schaumburg. Yet so eminent was the place she held in the old city whose standard of belleship had been fixed far back in the colonial days of America, that no one has ever succeeded her. Accustomed through long generations to women of wit, beauty, and a certain unapproachable taste in matters of personal adornment, Philadelphia has developed a critical instinct which is not easily satisfied...

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Adele Cutts, Mrs. Robert Williams

During the four years that Franklin Pierce presided over the nation so many beautiful women came prominently before the public at the capital that his was called the “beauty administration.” Many were the wives and daughters of men in high official position, but the fame of none exceeded that of the daughter of James Madison Cutts, who held the office of Second Controller of the Treasury. Born within a stone’s throw of the White House, all her young days centered about it, and how near she came to living there as the wife of a President we may gauge...

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Harriet Lane, Mrs. Henry Elliott Johnston

Of the men who have filled the Presidential chair of the United States, about none as about James Buchanan has romance hung that halo which in his case tends but to throw into bolder relief the substantial side of his character. Men of more dash, of more picturesque individuality have filled that high office than was he who rose to it through the gradations of a long legislative career. When he entered Congress, though he was but twenty-nine years old, the chapter of sentiment had already closed for him, and it was never reopened during a long life, the...

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Sallie Ward, Mrs. George F. Downs

One of those extraordinary women which the world from time to time produces, who rise to eminence solely through the force of their own personality, was born in America as the nineteenth century was rounding out its first quarter. Known all her life throughout the entire country, she was one of the most conspicuous figures in the life of the South and Southwest, and was the object of a sentiment that fell but little short of worship among the people of the state of Kentucky, to which she belonged. James Lane Allen who has studied his people from every...

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Jessie Benton, Mrs. John C. Fremont

In the year 1868 the city of St. Louis erected a monument to the memory of one of her most distinguished citizens, Thomas Hart Benton. Of the forty thousand people who thronged the park on that May afternoon set aside for its unveiling, but one was of the great man’s blood, the daughter most closely associated with the accomplishment of his loftiest conception, that dream of Western empire for his country. Accompanied by her husband, General John C. Fremont, she had accepted the invitation to unveil the statue. As she pulled the cord that loosened its wrap-pings, and the school children of the city threw their offerings of roses at the feet of him who had befriended their fathers, the huzzas of the vast multitude filled the fragrant air. The outgoing train to San Francisco halted to salute with flags and whistles as the bronze hand, pointing to the west, came into view and the words graven on the pedestal: “There is the East. There lies the road to India.”To General Fremont, quietly and reverently occupying a place of honor on the platform, it was one of those supreme moments when the landmarks of memory, those events that give color to our lives, stand forth to the exclusion even of that which is at the moment passing before the eye. Neither the vivas of the people nor the flowers...

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Fanny Taylor, Mrs. Thomas Harding Ellis

The loveliness of Virginia women has been a theme of song and verse. Among the Richmond belles of sixty years ago none were more justly celebrated than that trio known as the Richmond Graces, Sally Chevalier, Fanny Taylor, and Sally Watson. Close companions from early childhood, their unusual beauty as they grew to womanhood brought them fame individually and collectively. Sally Chevalier became the wife of Abram Warwick, Sally Watson, of Alexander Rives, and Fanny Taylor, of whom this sketch is designed to treat at greater length, was twice married. She was educated at the excellent school of Miss...

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Octavia Walton, Madame Le Vert

Into a world in which so many are born strangers, some later to know it in part and others destined to remain forever out of touch with life, and lonely-spectators rather than a part of it, Octavia Walton came as unto her own. Every atom of her being was in absolute accord with the universe. No bristling antipathies hedged in her genial personality nor raised barriers between herself and the beauties of life. She perceived them always and with an enthusiasm that raised not only her own existence, but that of many others, above the level of the commonplace....

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Emily Marshall, Mrs. William Foster Otis

Boston claims as her own the greatest American man of the nineteenth century, and even with more justice, the most beautiful woman born in America within the same period. “Emily Marshall as completely filled the ideal of the lovely and feminine, as did Webster the ideal of the intellectual and the masculine,” Quincy, a native of the same State, has written of her, adding that though superlatives were intended only for the use of the very young, not even the cooling influences of half a century enabled him to avoid them in speaking of her. He never forgot the...

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Margaret O’Neill, Mrs. John H. Eaton

To the student of social history few careers surpass in interest that of Margaret O’Neill. Born of humble parentage, she ran the gamut of social possibilities, exercising more influence over the political destinies of her country than any other American woman has ever done. Unlike other great belles who owe their fame to the universal admiration they evoke, Margaret O’Neill owed hers quite as much to the animosity she roused. Her cause hotly espoused by the President of the United States, her conduct made the subject of cabinet debates, she rose to fame as broad as the land of her birth, and later beyond the seas to a fame un-shadowed by enmity, though not dearer to her patriotic soul. Born late in the last century, she came to be a belle in so far as having beaux makes a girl a belle in the days when the native Washington girl had few rivals. The shriek of Fulton’s steamboat had not yet startled the world. The stagecoach was the universal means of conveyance, though the daughters of some Southern and Western Congressmen, from districts unfamiliar even with its lumbering proportions, ambitious to taste the pleasures of a season at the capital, used frequently to make the tedious journey on horseback. Her girlhood belleship had well terminated, indeed she had married and brought children into the world, before the completion of...

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