Threading Our Way Through History

sDonald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 18

Threading Our Way Through History

This is Part 18 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary that can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on information, concepts, and commentary introduced in earlier entries in the series, and thus it is most effective to read the material sequentially from the beginning. Click here to go to the first entry in the series, Part 1

 

The overarching title of this series is “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.” Those who have followed the series since the beginning know that the “strangest bedfellows” referred to are a variety of leaders of the Evangelical Christian movement in America who have embraced Trump as a man “ordained by God” to Make America Great Again. AND…put in place policies that will empower the agenda of these leaders to mold American government and society into the image which they desire.

Some of these leaders are truly strange in their own right, such as Trump’s “closest spiritual advisor,” TV evangelist and Name-it-and-Claim-it, “Prosperity Gospel” proponent Pastor Paula White, who gave the invocation at Trump’s Inauguration.

paulatrump

paulapitch2

paulablack

paulagray

Or disgraced-and-incarcerated-in-the-80s-but-now-back-in-the-saddle (with a new, younger wife he married in 1998 after he got out of jail) TV evangelist Jim Bakker.

jimtammy

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, pre-scandal

jimlori

Jim and Lori, married in 1998

Jim and Lori mixed on their shows all last year prophecies for the coming Great Presidency of Donald Trump…with offers of over-priced bulk “survival food and supplies” so that viewers can live through the imminent Great Tribulation.

jimeats.gif

Or… VERY strange bedfellow, TV Evangelist Benny Hinn. Who knocks over individuals, small groups, and sometimes whole audiences of thousands of people, with the alleged “power of the Holy Spirit—aided  by waving his arms…or snapping his white suit jacket at them like a jock snapping a wet towel at other jocks in a football locker room.

benny1

benny5

benny2

benny4

benny6army

(That last is a group of military men “slain in the spirit” by Benny at a Crusade in Venezuela 2009.)

Pastor Benny is a good friend of Pastor Paula, and she brought him to the Inauguration with her.

paula20101010conventionhinn

They’ve traveled together before that, as you can see from this two-page spread in the National Enquirer in 2010.

bennypaula201007

Or there’s “retired firefighter turned prophet” Mark Taylor.

marktaylor

Taylor electrified the circles of Donald’s Strangest Bedfellows when he claimed to have “heard from the Lord” clear back in 2011 that Trump was chosen by God to become president. Just a snippet of his “prophecy”…

The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America! For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, (other than Israel). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged.

The Spirit of God says, the enemy will quake and shake and fear this man I have anointed. They will even quake and shake when he announces he is running for president, it will be like the shot heard across the world. The enemy will say what shall we do now? This man knows all our tricks and schemes. We have been robbing America for decades, what shall we do to stop this? The Spirit says HA! No one shall stop this that l have started! …

The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and Israel, for this next president will be a man of his word, when he speaks the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him than all the others before him. This man’s word is his bond and the world and America will know this and the enemy will fear this, for this man will be fearless.

Even mainstream news media will be captivated by this man and the abilities that I have gifted him with, and they will even begin to agree with him says the Spirit of God.

And those Strange Bedfellow examples are just a tip of the iceberg.

But how did we get here? How did the most flamboyantly religious, the most piously inclined folks in America, folks who supposedly spread the Gospel of the simple carpenter of Nazareth, come to embrace a man with THIS lifestyle and reputation…

casino

trumpwrestle

trumpmansion

trumpbaby

How did they become convinced he was the Only One who could save the nation and put in policies and programs to Make America Christian Again? The answer to that is not simple to explain, which is the reason for this extended series of blog entries.

There is a thread running through American history for almost exactly the past 100 years, leading to this moment in time. But it’s a thread with a number of unexpected twists and turns.

windingroad

Let’s go back to the beginning and follow it forward, and combine it with some of the factors explained in previous entries in this series.

Russia plays prominently in the story thread out at this end of history.  Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

vlad2

vlad

Strangely enough, Russia plays a prominent part in the story as the thread begins a century ago. Starting with this man…

tsar

That’s Tsar Nicholas II, royal head of the Romanov Dynasty of Russia, rulers of Russia since 1613. Nicholas became emperor in 1894. Even if you didn’t recognize his picture, it is likely that you at least heard him mentioned in World History class back in high school. But if you are anything like I was until recently, you are likely unaware of the extent throughout Europe of his family circle. For some reason, high school history courses typically ignored mentioning just how “inbred” the ruling heads of Europe had become by the turn of the last century.

Nicholas was related to several monarchs in Europe. His mother’s siblings included Kings Frederik VIII of Denmark and George I of Greece, as well as the United Kingdom’s Queen Alexandra (consort of King Edward VII). Nicholas was also a first cousin of both King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway, as well as King Constantine I of Greece.

But most amazing is THIS little tidbit…

cousinsbook

Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany were all first cousins of King George V of the United Kingdom.

Yes, in one way you might say that World War 1 was a really, really enlarged Family Feud!

At the outbreak of the First World War the royal descendants of Queen Victoria (Queen of the United Kingdom) and of Christian IX (King of Denmark) occupied the thrones of Denmark, Greece, Norway, Germany, Romania, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom. For this, Queen Victoria was nicknamed “the grandmother of Europe” while Christian IX was nicknamed “Father-in-law of Europe”. Of the remaining kingdoms of Europe today, only Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands descends neither from Queen Victoria nor Christian IX. Their grandchildren currently occupy the thrones of Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  [Source]

The Three Cousins perhaps played with each other at extended family gatherings in their childhood, and “hung out” occasionally with each other in their young adulthood. Nicholas and George actually looked more like twins than cousins!

georgenicholasyoung

Nicholas and George

wilandnichandalex

Wilhelm with Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra

By 1913, all three were married with several children, and occupying the thrones of their respective countries, but still getting together on occasion. Such as this occasion.

1913nichandgeorge

This picture was taken during the wedding of the Kaiser’s daughter Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia. The wedding, an extravagant affair, took place on 24 May 1913 in Berlin. In a diplomatic gesture, Emperor Wilhelm invited almost his entire extended family.

For the occasion, Nicholas and George were each wore the splendiferous German ceremonial military attire you see in their joint portrait above!

The wedding became the largest gathering of reigning monarchs in Germany since German unification in 1871, and one of the last great social events of European royalty before World War I began fourteen months later (July 28, 1914).  [ibid]

We’ve gone back from the second decade of the 21st century to the second decade of the 20th century, because something happened then, besides the World War, that shook all the (inbred) crowned heads of Europe (and eventually the uncrowned leadership of the United States…). They and their families and dynasties, and a small circle of “aristocrats” with which they surrounded themselves, had been “in charge” for a long, long time. You might say that they represented the “one percent” of their era. Although some of the nations were moving slowly toward a more modern concept of “democracy,” or at least a bit wider spread of wealth and prosperity than in medieval, feudal times, there was a still a very deep divide between the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous “royalty and aristocracy” and the Way the Other Half Lived… the “peasants and the urban working classes” of people. (Well, not really “other half.” In many nations it was more like the other 95%.)

One place where this was particularly evident was Russia. At the turn of the last century, there were tens of millions of Russian peasants and workers, mostly leading very bleak lives.

peasants1917

And then there were those Russians who didn’t lead bleak lives. They were the aristocracy and royalty, such as Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, and his lovely family, shown in all their opulence in this family photo portrait in about 1908.

1908nichfamily

But the opulence ended all too soon after that. Here is another portrait of the Tsar and his lovely family, depicting them on the evening of July 17, 1918. No photographer was present. This is an artist’s representation of the evening, sketched shortly after that date.

tsardeath1

Yes, that is a representation of the assassination of Nicholas and his wife and five children. Right in the middle of World War 1, Nicholas had been forced to abdicate his throne by the Russian Revolution that began March 8, 1917. Since that time, for over a year, he and his family had been under “house arrest” at various locations in Russia. He had hoped they might be able to escape into exile somewhere…Britain, preferably…but his hopes were never realized.  On the night pictured above, his family was unexpectedly ushered into the basement of the house where they were confined, and summarily all put to death by bullet and/or bayonet.

What crushed the Tsar’s hopes for a dignified exile…hosted by his close cousin George V of England?

When Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, George’s first cousin, was overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the British government offered political asylum to the Tsar and his family, but worsening conditions for the British people, and fears that revolution might come to the British Isles, led George to think that the presence of the Russian royals would be seen as inappropriate. Despite the later claims of Lord Mountbatten of Burma that Prime Minister Lloyd George was opposed to the rescue of the Russian imperial family, the letters of Lord Stamfordham suggest that it was George V who opposed the rescue against the advice of the government. The Tsar and his immediate family remained in Russia, where they were killed by Bolsheviks in 1918. King George V essentially signing his owns cousin’s death certificate. [Source]

Yes, the reality is that George understood that some, if not many, of the “underlying causes” of the Russian Revolution, which eventually established a Communist government in that country, weren’t unique to that country. The lower classes all over Europe had been long stirred up with resentment against the inequity of the distribution of wealth in their own lands. Severe poverty, hunger, and harsh working conditions among the peasants and urban working class—while the aristocracy lived in opulence—were common throughout the continent.

The horrors of World War 1 exacerbated these circumstances to unbearable levels almost everywhere. The lower classes had no investment in the “reasons” for the War—they were disputes between the aristocracies of the various countries. Yet they were forced to bear the worst of the suffering caused by the War. Russia, for instance, instituted the first general mass draft of citizens into the military in its history. Thus one of the first things the Bolsheviks did when they came into power in Russia was to sign a treaty with Germany and withdraw from the War.

The March revolution was not a planned affair. Lenin was in Switzerland, the Bolsheviks did not even have a majority in the Petrograd Soviet and the Duma had not wanted the end of the Romanovs. So why did it happen?

The ruling dynasty must take a great deal of the blame. Nicholas was an ineffective ruler who had let his wife dominate him to such an extent that the royal family became inextricably linked to a disreputable man like Gregory Rasputin.

rasputin

(Rasputin was the “Mad Monk” who wormed his way into the royal family circle with claims of supernatural powers, but was viewed by many as a complete charlatan.)

Such an association only brought discredit to the Romanovs.

The ruling elite also failed to realise that the people would only take so much. They took their loyalty for granted. In February/March 1917, lack of food, lack of decisive government and the cold [temperatures at that time of year in that area of Russia average -4 °F] pushed the people of Petrograd [St. Petersburg] onto the streets.

The people of Petrograd did not call for the overthrow of Nicholas – it happened as a result of them taking to the streets calling for food. People had to burn their furniture to simply get heat in their homes. Very few would tolerate having to queue in the extreme cold just for food – food that might run out before you got to the head of the queue. The spontaneous reaction to police shooting at protestors in a bread queue showed just how far the people of Petrograd had been pushed. That it ended with the abdication of Nicholas II was a political by-product of their desire for a reasonably decent lifestyle.  [Source]

In other words, Communism didn’t come to power in Russia through a careful, long-term, clandestine program of education and persuasion of the lower classes to understand and agree with the political and economic “theories” of Marx and Engels, so that they would eventually cooperate in conducting a revolution! It came to power as a result of people just wanting an answer to their desperate plight, and other people ready and waiting to offer them what looked like just such an answer through a change of leadership.

And thus the concern of George V of England! For, of course, the lower classes in England had many of the same exact complaints as the lower classes in Russia. It just wasn’t as cold in England! They could be expected to have sympathy for the plight of the peasants and working classes of Russia, not for Tsar Nicholas and his pampered family. Best not to agitate the British lower classes to ponder their own relationship to pampered royalty in England, in the middle of the hellish war, by the notoriety of the stories that would make it into the newspapers if Nicholas and family showed up on their shore.

But, you may ask, what does any of this have to do with the United States in that era? For of course America was literally founded as an escape from the system of royalty in the Old World. It was founded on the idea of “all men are created equal,” and all equally have the right to pursue happiness…not just pursue enough food to not starve and enough fuel to not freeze during the winter. For a brief moment after the American Revolution, some men actually tried to convince George Washington that he could aspire to being a king of the new nation, but he would have none of it. The generational “castes” of Europe were to be no more, no more huge divide between aristocracy and the common man. (Well, at least there were to be no castes among white men. The Native Americans and the African slaves were another topic…)

So what would the United States have to fear from the spread of Communist ideas, or the restlessness of peasants?

This.

robberbarons1900

For although there was no American royalty in 1776, that was before the game-changing Industrial Revolution. Once “venture capitalism” created a path to untold wealth (through capitalizing on the availability of masses of workers who could be forced to work 16 hour days at slave labor wages, under often horrifically unsafe conditions) in order to create giant, hugely-profitable corporations, a new kind of royalty arose in the United States.

The connection with the old kind of royalty was unmistakable, and the new kind of royalty was dubbed very early with terms like “Robber Barons.”

robberbarons

robberbarons1883

The fruit of this development was masses of downtrodden urban working people and rural farmer/peasants who differed little from their European counterparts. And strangely enough, the New Royalty in the New World made no effort to hide this reality before the start of the World War. No, they flaunted it.

For instance, by 1897, the US had been in the midst of an economic depression since 1877. It was so exacerbated by a financial crisis known as “The Panic of ‘93”,  that the whole economy tumbled into the worst depression in its history to that point, in some ways more severe than that of the Great Depression of the 1930s, if not quite as long and drawn out. Like the later Crash of ’29, it affected not just the working classes, but even the newly-prosperous middle class.

As a result of the Panic, stock prices declined. 500 banks were closed, 15,000 businesses failed, and numerous farms ceased operation. The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania hit 25%, in New York 35%, and in Michigan 43%. [The nationwide “average” was about 20%.] Soup kitchens were opened in order to help feed the destitute. Facing starvation, people chopped wood, broke rocks, and sewed in exchange for food. In some cases, women resorted to prostitution to feed their families.…The huge spike in unemployment, combined with the loss of life savings kept in failed banks, meant that a once-secure middle-class could not meet their mortgage obligations. [Wiki]For those who had work, an average annual wage for an unskilled factory worker would have been something like $400. But that was an average, which indicated perhaps what amount would provide a bare-minimum “living wage” for a family. Just very humble food, clothing, and shelter—little more. And many families had a more meager income than that, just on the margins of destitution.

Allowing for inflation, the $400 would be the equivalent of about $10,000 now—or $4.80 an hour for a 40-hour week. Of course, many factory workers back then were still working a 60-hour week. Or more. So they would have made about $3.20 an hour in modern dollars. (And, of course, many workers and their families, particularly among American blacks of the time…as well as within the ghettos of new immigrants from Europe…subsisted on far less than this.)

Back in their own time, the “gross” amount of that average paycheck would have been about $7.75 for a six-day work week. (Although no doubt quite a few men worked seven day weeks.) You could go into a snazzy restaurant in New York and get a sirloin steak dinner with potatoes, bread and butter, and coffee for 85 cents. But even though that amount seems astonishingly low by our own “price standards,” at a salary of about $1.25 a day to feed, clothe, and house a family (of maybe four or five or six children), it would have been out of the question for the average worker to even consider one of those “cheap” steak dinners!

Of course, there could be more than one income in a family. Lots of wives and children…even down to pre-school age…worked to help “supplement” the family income.

Like this boy, about age 10, working in a coal mine back around the turn of the 19th century. For 60 cents a day. For a 14 hour day.

1906spargotrapboy

I met one little fellow ten years old in Mt. Carbon, W. Va., last year, who was employed as a “trap boy.” Think of what it means to be a trap boy at ten years of age. It means to sit alone in a dark mine passage hour after hour, with no human soul near; to see no living creature except the mules as they pass with their loads, or a rat or two seeking to share one’s meal; to stand in water or mud that covers the ankles, chilled to the marrow by the cold draughts that rush in when you open the trap door for the mules to pass through; to work for fourteen hours—waiting—opening and shutting a door—then waiting again for sixty cents; to reach the surface when all is wrapped in the mantle of night, and to fall to the earth exhausted and have to be carried away to the nearest “shack” to be revived before it is possible to walk to the farther shack called “home.” [From The Bitter Cry of the Children, 1906, John Spargo.]

Or these kids at a cotton mill.

hinecottonmillkids

“Children on the night shift going to work at 6 p.m. on a cold, dark December day. They do not come out again until 6 a.m. [12 hour shift] When they went home the next morning they were all drenched by a heavy, cold rain and had few or no wraps. Two of the smaller girls with three other sisters work on the night shift and support a big, lazy father who complains he is not well enough to work. He loafs around the country store. The oldest three of these sisters have been in the mill for 7 years, and the two youngest for two years. The latter earns 84 cents a night. Whitnel, North Carolina.” [1908. From the photo collection of photo-journalist/child labor activist Lewis W Hine]

Or this one, making 48 cents a day at a similar mill.

hinecottonmillgirl

“One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mill. She was 51 inches high. Has been in the mill one year. Sometimes works at night. Runs 4 sides – 48 cents a day. [Likely for a twelve hour shift.] When asked how old she was, she hesitated, then said, “I don’t remember,” then added confidentially, “I’m not old enough to work, but do just the same.” Out of 50 employees, there were ten children about her size. Whitnel, North Carolina.” [Hine, 1908]

Some families had more than four or five kids, so it was no doubt a relief to have them working as soon as possible to supplement the family income.

hinelittlefannie

“Little Fannie, 7 years old, 48” tall, helps her sister in Elk Cotton Mill in Fayetteville, Tennessee,November 17, 1910. Her sister said, “Yes, she helps me right smart. Not all day but all she can. Yes, she started with me at 6 this mornin’.” The two girls belong to a family of 19 children.” [Hine]

So they’d start ‘em young to bring home the bacon. Such as this little five year old “newsboy” in St. Louis, Missouri, who sold papers to the public by jumping on and off moving trolley cars at the risk of his life. To make a few cents a day.

hinertrolley

So what became of the American Royalty during the period of the depression of the 1890s? Nothing…it was business—and pleasure—as usual for most of them.

The reality is that while those kids shown above, and their parents, were toiling away in the mines and the mills and factories and sweatshops for slave-labor wages, the people of the American Royalty in New York were making “memories” to be passed down to posterity. And being breathlessly written up in the newspapers of the time, and photographed by the finest photographers.

Such as this blurb,  from a New York City “gossip sheet” called Town Topics of 1897:

“Future generations will date every event in relation to the Bradley-Martin ball.”

Pretty high estimation of a social event! Admittedly the western world dates all events from the (presumed) date of Jesus’ Christ’s birth…B.C. to A.D.  And ancient societies often dated events in relation to what “year of the reign of King So-and-so” it happened. But the thought that “future generations” in America would “date every event” in light of a High Society party attended by a few hundred people in the 1890s?? This is surely over the top.

But then again, the kind of stunts the American Royalty of the time pulled WERE “over the top” much of the time. Which, I think, is one of the main reasons people nowadays ignorantly speak of the1890s as the “Gay ‘90s.” It WAS full of “gaiety” for a favored few.

So just why should we, of later generations be all agog still about the Bradley-Martin Ball? Just what was the BMB all about?I don’t know about my readers, but I’ve heard, at least in passing, since childhood of names of such really, really rich people of the Victorian age as the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, and the Carnegies. But until recently I’d never heard of Bradley Martin and his wife Cornelia.

Here they are.

1897bradley

1897cornelia

They started out their marriage with a bit of inherited wealth from both sides of the family. (Still, only enough to reach the lower rungs of the Richness Ladder of the time, Lower High Class, I guess.)  Then Cornelia’s dad died in 1881. He had been thought at the time to “only” have a fortune of about $200,000. (About $7 million today.) But at the reading of the will, it was revealed HE had a fortune squirreled away that no one knew about. And left the bulk of it…$6 million or so (+/- $162 million today)…to Cornelia.

The couple took an extended European vacation shortly after that. And at some point, evidently in order to give some sort of “faux European” lilt to their names, they inexplicably chose to tack a hyphen in the midst of  Bradley Martin’s name, and began referring to themselves as a couple as “the Bradley-Martins.” (Not quite the same idea as the modern habit of referring to a famous couple by a name mash-up—“Brangelina”—but perhaps in the same ball park.) Once they got the European vacation out of the way and were back in the states, it became obvious that Cornelia had new aspirations to fulfill.

In the Winter and Spring of 1883, Mrs. Martin’s name began to appear among the patronesses of fashionable entertainments…[Source]

She started out gradually, giving lavish dinners and small balls. But by late 1896 she had her sights set on the heights. As described in this snippet from the New York Times in February 7, 1897, regarding the Bradley-Martin ball to be held February 10:

Mrs. Martin is credited with two separate ambitions, which, it is said, induced her to give the coming ball. These are, first, a desire to round off her society career in New York with the most superb entertainment the city has ever seen, and, second, a wish to have her ball surpass the famous Vanderbilt one of 1883

That 1883 New York City costume ball, for a few hundred guests, had cost the William K Vanderbilts the equivalent of $6 million 21st century dollars, including the equivalent of over $1.5 million worth of champagne.

Cornelia Martin succeeded in her quest to best it. She managed to blow almost 9 million (modern) dollars on a single evening to entertain fewer than 800 guests. That comes to over 11,000 (modern) dollars per guest. For a ball that lasted about five hours.

Guests were requested to come in costumes that impersonated famous people (most chose to impersonate royalty) from the 16th-18th century. The event was held at the newly-completed Waldorf-Astoria luxury hotel on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Cornelia pretty much handed carte blanche to the hotel’s staff to spend whatever it took to make the Ballroom and adjacent areas of the hotel sort of look like…the Palace of Versailles in France as it would have appeared during the reign of “The Sun King,” King Louis XIV in the 1700s.

1897versailles

1897versailles2

(The REAL Versailles)

Here’s how Cornelia’s brother-in-law Thomas Martin wrote of the event in his memoirs years later:

The best way I can describe what is always known as the “Bradley Martin Ball,” is to say that it reproduced the splendour of Versailles in New York, and I doubt if even the Roi Soleil [Sun King—Louis XIV, 1643-1715] himself ever witnessed a more dazzling sight. The interior of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was transformed into a replica of Versailles, and rare tapestries, beautiful flowers and countless lights made an effective background for the wonderful gowns and their wearers.

waldorf

1897waldorf

The Waldorf Astoria of the time

1897harpersball

An etching depicting the ball from Harper’s magazine of the time 

1897diorama

A diorama of the ball, with costumed mannequins, from a New York museum 

“I do not think there has ever been a greater display of jewels before or since; in many cases the diamond buttons worn by the men represented thousands of dollars, and the value of the historic gems worn by the ladies baffles description.

Yes, “baffles description” is probably a good way to put it. Not only did the richest families of New York pull out their own family heirlooms to bedeck themselves, they seem to have raided the attics of their rich buddies from all over the country. As the New York Times writer put it in the pre-ball wrap-up on the morning of February 10:

… I know of cases where family jewels and other finery have been drafted in the service from friends East, West, and South. You know some of the old Southern families, especially in Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia, have very valuable gems and heirlooms that date back to Colonial days, and they managed to preserve them during the dreadful times of the war. Now some of our Four Hundred folks, in days gone by, have been on such intimate terms with their Southern friends, and have managed to entertain them so handsomely, that it comes hard to refuse when they make special requests for loans of their treasures. Some of the old Oglethorpe gems from Georgia, and the Fairfax gems from Virginia, and a lot of rare old bracelets and brooches from Savannah will figure in the Bradley Martin pageant, and go to swell Gotham’s reputation for antique gems. It’s just dreadful to think of the way some of these guests will flash and strut in borrowed plumage of all sorts, family heirlooms they never had the least right or title to wear in public.

They also raided all the antique jewelry shops in the Big Apple, as described by this Times writer:

There is no estimating the value of the rare old jewels to be worn at the Bradley Martin ball. All the jewelers who deal in antiques say they have been cleaned out of all they had on hand, and people still keep calling for old buckles, snuff boxes, lorgnettes, diamond or pearl studded girdles, rings, and, in fact, every conceivable decoration in gems.

All this, of course, is outside of the costly jewels held as heirlooms by the old families of New York. These have been taken from safety vaults and furbished up for the occasion in such quantities that the spectator will be puzzled to know where they all came from.

But how else do you impersonate European royalty if you haven’t got a huge amount of bling?!  Among the women there were at least 50 Marie Antionettes present that evening, 10 Madame Pompadours, 8 Madame De Manintenons (second wife of the Sun King), 3 Catherine the Greats, 1 Queen Louise of Prussia (1600s), and countless other queens, princesses, and other assorted royalty.  Sample:

bmb4

bmb3

bmb1

bmb2

(That last photo is of John Jacob Astor, who died in the Titanic tragedy.)

Obviously, the unwashed masses of New York were not afforded even a tiny glimpse of all these goodies. Guests were driven right up to the doors of the Waldorf and whisked right in. They either had cloaks on covering their lavish costumes and all their bling, or brought in trunks with what they needed, and used dressing rooms in the hotel to bedeck themselves. No, you couldn’t peek in a window or a door either. The Waldorf arranged to board up all the windows of the first and second floor.

You couldn’t even get close to the building without an invite that night. Teddy Roosevelt (who was president of the board of police commissioners at the time) stationed something like 200 police around the building and lining the sidewalks, ordered the street barricaded in front of the hotel, and positioned “ten of his tallest men” on either side of the walk guests would have to take from the curb to the doorway.

‘Twould seem to be that all this was because there was kind of a gut feeling in New York that just maybe the starving masses might not be too impressed with such an extravagant display of excess flaunted right in the middle of their abject misery.

There was a lot of grumbling in editorials in some papers across the country about how arrogant and thoughtless and lacking in discretion such a blatant display of excess of greed and conspicuous consumption was in the midst of the economic desperation of so many. But the poor themselves just went right on starving meekly and quietly. There was no protest on the streets at all.

(But of course…this was before the Russian Revolution…)

The Evening World newspaper back then mentioned how $10,000 (in 1897 dollars) could be used. (Multiply each of these examples by 35 or so to arrive at how far the cost of the Bradley-Martin ball…$350,000 in 1897 dollars…could have gone if spent elsewhere.) …

$10,000 could pay the average wages of eighteen New York workingmen for a year, pay the average wages of 6,240 workingmen for a day; support a family at average workingmen’s wages for fifteen years; … buy half a ton of coal each for 7,000 families…

American Royalty were very accustomed to the American Peons mostly starving meekly and quietly throughout the Gilded Age (which lasted from about 1870 to the early 1900s.) So one would not expect their complacency to change much from the time of the Bradley-Martin Ball up through the entry of the US into the World War in 1917. Oh, there was the occasional strike against some factory…occasionally stopped by the National Guard being called in and maybe killing a few strikers…or their family members. But those were isolated incidents. Nothing to worry about.

But then, in 1917, the Russians revolted against their county’s royalty and aristocracy, and Tsar Nicholas abdicated his throne, making the headlines in New York. And no doubt making a lot of American Royalty and Aristocracy nervous.

1917nyt

And then the Bolsheviks in Russia killed Tsar Nicholas in 1918. At that point nervousness intensified into anxiety in many US circles.

It didn’t take long for the Bolsheviks in the United States to become big news, dominating American newspaper articles and editorial cartoons. Like this one in the November 1, 1919 New York Evening Telegram.

19191101nyet

 

Or this one from the June 15, 1919 New York Times.

 

1919june15nyt

The First Red Scare had begun. This is where we will pick up the winding thread that will meander through the subsequent century, leading eventually to the incredible situation of a huge proportion of (white) American Evangelical Christians supporting for president a boorish, trash-talking Billionaire with a reputation for flagrant immorality. In an election under the shadow of strange rumblings from Communist Russia!

The next installment of this series:

 

Boston Bolsheviks?

This entry was posted in Trump presidency and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s