Wednesday, May 14, 2014


'Kykuit', the family seat. 

The Rockefeller family is perhaps the richest family that ever lived. The family founder, John D. Rockefeller Sr. was said to be worth $337 billion dollars in today's money when he died in 1937, making him the richest man in history. Overtime, the family fortune has decreased, with the current 200 members of the family being worth a combined $8.5 billion, though they are still vastly wealthy. Overtime, the family came to acquire a multitude of homes: 'The Eyrie' and 'The Anchorage' in Mount Dessert, Maine; 10 West Fifty-fourth Street, 740 Park Avenue, 810 Fifth Avenue, East 65th Street and One Beekman Place in New York City; Bassett Hall in Williamsburg, Virginia; 'The Casements' and 'Indian Mound' in Palm Beach; 'Forest Hill' in Cleveland, Ohio; 'The Golf House' in Lakewood, New Jersey; 'Four Winds' in Livingston, New York and the 'JY Ranch' in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The family has 81 homes on the National Register of Historic Places List! Many of these homes have come and gone (demolished, sold.. etc.), but the one home that will forever be associated with the Rockefeller family is their estate in Pocantico Hills, New York, 'Kykuit', built by John Sr. and owned by the family for four generations. Today, the house is open to the public as a museum, though much of the family continues to live in residences nearby on the estate. 

This hilltop paradise was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family, beginning with the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. His business acumen made him, in his day, the richest man in America. Now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this extraordinary landmark has been continuously and meticulously maintained for more than 100 years.

To read more about the estate and mansion, including an online tour of the property please click HERE.

Monday, May 12, 2014


'Nemours', the 105-room chateau built for family outcast Alfred I. duPont in the DuPont Historic Corridor, which gets it's name for the numerous estates, buildings, hospitals and organizations the duPont has constructed over the years in the area, located in Wilmington, Delaware. The mansion was designed by the famed architectural firm of Carrére and Hastings, in the Louis XVI Rococo style. The jardin á la française , "French formal gardens" are the largest of it's kind in North America, and are designed after the gardens at Versailles. The gardens include a sunken garden, boxwood garden, maze garden, a reflecting pool, "The Colonnade" (a monument to Pierre Samuel duPont) and a numerous other fountains, pools and statuary. DuPont designed the home for his second wife, Alicia duPont. Surrounding the home were massive stone walls, the result of a family feud awhile back. He ordered no other duPonts on the property, and scattered the outside of the walls with shattered class. Today the mansion is part of the duPont legacy, and currently shares it's grounds with the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, both run by the Nemours Foundation. 

To read more about 'Nemours' and the duPont family, click HERE

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Jackie Kennedy with her two children: John Jr. and Caroline. 

Mother's Day is a day to celebrate mothers (hence the Mother's Day). Three particularly famous mother come to mind: Jackie Kennedy, Consuelo Vanderbilt and Sunny Von Bülow. They battled and overcame social, financial and even physical burdens to be the best mothers they could be. These ladies had one fixture in their life more important than anything else, and that was their children. 

"If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matter very much"
                                                                                                          ~ Jacqueline Kennedy

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis 

Jackie Kennedy raised two children, John and Caroline, and helped raise many grandchildren in her lifetime. During this period, she dealt a Presidential election, the White House, a husband's assassination, the press, a brother-in-law's assassination, a remarriage, another spouse's death, her mother's death and all-the-while the never ending photographers and journalists that followed her family everywhere. Despite it all, she did whatever she could to protect her children, and be the best mother she could be. 

Consuelo Vanderbilt Churchill-Spencer Balsan 

After being forced into a marriage by her manipulative and verbally abusive mother, Consuelo gave birth to two boys, Charles and Ivor, which were the result of a very unhappy marriage. Despite hating their father, Consuelo did whatever she could to be a good mother to her children, something which she had never had. She eventually divorced their father, remarried, and went on to see her family prosper into many generations, including her great-great grandchildren. 

Martha "Sunny" Crawford Auersperg Von Bülow

When Sunny's father died, she was heiress to a $75 million fortune. Her mother quickly swept her off abroad to marry Austrian Prince Alfred von Auersperg, which led to the birth of two children, a boy and a girl, Alex and Ala. The couple divorced, and Sunny took her two children back to America. She later remarried to Claus Von Bülow, which led to another child, Cosima. Sunny battled drug and alcohol addiction to do whatever was needed to keep her children protected, only ever wanting what was best for them. For this, Sunny was forced into a coma by Claus, in an attempt to steal her riches. She died in 2007, having been cared for and visited by her children almost daily. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Grace Kelly Visits The Kennedys

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier arrive at The White House, 1961.

On May 24, 1961, Prince Rainer III de Grimaldi and Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco were welcomed at a luncheon held in their honor by President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at The White House. This was slightly unusual, for normally protocol dictated that visiting dignitaries were given a dinner in their honor, as opposed to the much less formal luncheon. However, it was rumored that Jackie worried Grace would pull out the crown jewels and out-show her if such a dinner was given. Nevertheless, the event was still highly regarded. 

Prince Rainier and Princess Grace with President and First Lady Kennedy. 

In addition to the Prince and Princess, and the President and First Lady, also in attendance were Mr. and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. and U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, Claiborne de Borda Pell and his wife, Nuala O'Donnell Pell (who recently passed away a few weeks ago). The Pells summered with Kennedys in Newport, Rhode Island, where, coincidentally, Grace Kelly had lived when she starred in the movie "High Society", which was filmed there. The menu of the luncheon was as thus:

White House Luncheon for Price Rainier and Princess Grace
May 24, 1961

Soft Shell Crab Amandine
Puligny-Montrachet 1958

Spring Lamb a la Broche aux Primeurs
Chateau Corton Grancey 1955

Salade Mimosa
Dom Perignon 1952

Strawberries Romanoff

Petite Four Secs


The seating chart of the White House luncheon. 

The menu of the White House luncheon.

In a latter interview she gave about the President after his death, Grace mentions she kept the menu to the luncheon, as she said she never gets rid of anything. The luncheon was the first official visit to the White House from Monaco. 

To see additional photographs taken of the event, please click HERE.

To see more about Grace Kelly's JFK interview, please click HERE.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Ze Titanic Zinks!"

The first real film made about the Titanic was the German film "Titanic". Made solely as Nazi propaganda, the film features German first officer Hans Peterson, who warns the greedy British passengers and crew that the ship is going too fast, and as a result they hit an iceberg and sink. Sink there are 3000 passengers onboard, and only enough lifeboats to hold a few hundred, many people die in the sinking. At the end of the film, the British inquiries are held. J. Bruce Ismay walks free, and all the blame is put solely on Captain Smith, who perished in the sinking. 

The Dining Room, before and during the sinking.

Among the passengers traveling onboard, are White Star Line President J. Bruce Ismay and his wife, Gloria, who like all the other first-class passengers onboard are portrayed as sleazy and callous. Ismay plans are increasing the value of his and the White Star Line board-members' stock by having the Titanic win the Blue Ribbon. He cares only for himself and his money. 

J. Bruce and Gloria Ismay. 

Also onboard, are John Jacob Astor and his wife, Lady Astor. Astor is the richest man onboard, and he plans on buying out the Titanic from the White Star Line by purchasing %52 of their stock. Lady Astor, on the other hand, is tired of her husband looking at her as just another one of his assets, and frequently resorts to abusing her maid, Jenny, and her husband's secretary, Hopkins. 

John J. and Lady Astor. 

Then there is the Duchess of Canterville, who is depicted as being at least sensible, if somewhat oblivious, and Lord Archibald Douglas, who is $2 million in debt. The Duchess has never been on a ship before, because she can't swim, and only came onboard the Titanic because it is un-sinkable. Lord Douglas came aboard to find some way out of debt, and to try and steal Lady Astor's jewels, though someone else beat him to it. 

The Duchess of Canterville and Lord Douglas. 

The only non-corrupt first-class passenger onboard is Sigrid Olinsky, a recently impoverished Russian aristocrat, whom everyone thinks is extremely rich. She is Hans's lover, and the only passenger onboard to actually care about her servants. Ismay initially tries to charm her into helping bail out the White Star Line, though he eventually gives up due to his wife's anger. Hans then tries to get her to convince Ismay to slow the ship down. 

Sigrid Olinsky. 

Following the first-class passengers, are an interesting group of third-class passengers, who are, despite being rather idiotic at times, portrayed as still being better than the evil British first-class. Included are a rather dedicated couple, who look as if they belong in second-class rather than third. 

Hans Peterson is right, and the ship hits an iceberg. Chaos thus ensues, and everyone begins to run around and scream. People are seen running about the get to the lifeboats, many wearing the flimsy life vests provided for by the cheap British. Out of the whole boatload of characters, only four survive. Ismay, upon hearing the news, demands a lifeboat be secured for him. After many attempts at finding rescue, Hans announces he will save him, so that he may appear in court afterwards and face justice. It is presumed Gloria survived, as she is the first person in a lifeboat, dressed in a jaguar fur coat and clutching jewelry. Later, her over-crowded lifeboat is seen being rocked back and forth by people in the water trying to climb in, and she is eventually dumped into the water. 

Hans agrees to secure Ismay a lifeboat, to Captain Smith's surprise. 

Gloria demands the officer lower the boat. 

Sigrid tells Hans she is broke, and her takes her to the deck, where they both proceed to help distraught people into the boats. Hans convinces her to get into a boat, as they will need her to keep everyone calm. She goes reluctantly. Hans then somehow gets below decks, into a flooding first-class corridor, where he hears a little girl screaming "Mommy!". He rescues the girl who was abandoned by her callous British parents and then is thrown into the water when the ship begins to sink. All the other boats he swims past, all filled with British passengers, refuse to let him on. He finally swims to Sigrid's boat, where she demands they let him and the child onboard. They are both rescued, and later seen testifying at the hearings. 

Hans testifying at the hearings. 

As for the other characters, they all perish. Captain Smith goes down with his ship, ashamed he acted like an idiot and listened to Bruce Ismay orders to speed up the ship. John Astor, after hearing the news, orders Lady Astor to go up on deck and take a life vest and her jewelry box, accompanied by Hopkins. She brushes her husband aside and goes to change out of her evening gown, refusing to wear the life vest. She dies, as she could not decide what to wear. Astor then tries to buy a place in a lifeboat, but is last seen with his wife's jewelry box in the lounge. He also dies. Hopkins was presumably shot. 

John Astor tries to get Lady Astor and Hopkins to go on deck.

The Duchess of Canterville is one of the last people seen on the Titanic before it sinks. She makes it out on deck, in full gilded attire wearing her life vest, as the last lifeboat departs. She ponders jumping into the boat as it pulls away, but then decides not to, putting her head down knowing she is too late. Both she and Lord Douglas die, who is last seen drinking in the lounge. Just about all the third-class characters also die.

At the end of the film, after the inquiries and hearings, the council decides that all the blame should fall only on Captain Smith, and not Ismay, who gets to walk free. Amongst the last lines in the movie talk about how Britain caused the Titanic, and how corrupt they are.

Despite all the inaccuracies, and the British hate, the movie was rather interesting, if not almost completely fictional. The movie is available on YouTube, with English subtitles. 

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