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Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn are back!

Apr 4, 2017 9:30 AM | 0 comments

In January 2017, a new piece of art was installed at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street, at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. Two snow-white resin sculptures representing “Miss Brooklyn” and “Miss Manhattan” were hoisted above the busy street traffic on two slowly rotating “Lazy Susans” supported by a stem-like post. Now, as they steadily revolve in opposite directions, they enjoy a 360 degree view of the area from whence they were banished nearly 60 years ago.

The original “Miss Manhattan” and “Miss Brooklyn” were not rotating. Once upon a time, they were firmly planted near the granite pylons at the Brooklyn approach to the Manhattan Bridge.

The approach to the Manhattan Bridge (1940-50s). Brooklyn Eagle photo collection, Brooklyn Collection.

The Manhattan Bridge, the youngest among the three bridges connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, was opened on December 31, 1909. It was built to alleviate the traffic load of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges.  Unlike its immediate neighbor, the legendary and much beloved Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge was sort of a stepchild in the public imagination. With its eight lanes for train, horse-drawn and automobile traffic, it was designed to be a muscle, a working horse, a purely utilitarian structure. However, it caught the attention of the City Beautiful movement, and the Carrère & Hastings architectural firm was engaged to beautify the approaches to the bridge on both sides.

The City Beautiful Movement was a reform philosophy in architecture and urban planning that flourished in the United States in the late 19th-early 20th century. The founding idea of this movement was that the introduction of beautification and grandeur to urban planning elevated the spirit of the citizenry, promoted social harmony and helped increase the quality of life. The City Beautiful movement was never particularly strong in New York City though; its biggest mark was made in Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.  However, it is credited with interfering on behalf of the homely Manhattan Bridge.

Carrère & Hastings introduced its design in the Beaux-Arts style in 1910 and the plan was not only approved, but also lauded as the most artistic treatment of a bridge entrance attempted on this continent.  

The Manhattan end of the bridge featured a Beaux-Arts plaza with its signature arch and colonnade.  The arch was modeled after Porte St. Denis in Paris, and the colonnade after Bernini's famous colonnade that encircles St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.  

Arches were very popular in those days. The Manhattan Bridge arch is one of only three remaining in the city now (the other two are the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and the Washington Square Arch in Manhattan.)

The arch’s pylons are decorated with high reliefs by Carl Augustus Heber.  Two winged figures, female and male, represent “The Spirit of Commerce” on the left and “The Spirit of Industry” on the right. The “Buffalo Hunt” frieze by a celebrated sculptor Carl C. Rumsey is set in the center of the arch, just beneath the cornice.

The Arch with the Buffalo Hunt frieze by C.C. Rumsey. Photo by author.

"The Spirit of Industry" by C. A. Heber. Photo by author.

The Brooklyn gateway to the bridge was markedly more modest. It featured two white granite pylons, each guarded by allegorical female figures known as “Miss Manhattan” and “Miss Brooklyn” installed in 1916. The sculptor responsible for them was none other than Daniel Chester French, best known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“Miss Manhattan” and “Miss Brooklyn” each weigh 20 tons, measure 12 feet tall and are made of granite, and the same model was used for both figures. This is where the similarities end.

“Miss Manhattan” sits haughtily with her right foot atop a chest of money (or jewels?); in her right hand she holds a winged globe reminiscent of a cross-bearing orb, an ancient symbol of authority; a peacock, flashiness and luxury incarnate, is by her side. (The peacock, in the belief system of the Ancient Greeks, also represented immortality/eternity.) The bows of three ships hint at the status of Manhattan as an important port and an international trade hub. She is all dignity, privilege and hubris. (Apparently, an original design for Miss Manhattan also included a royal crown, but it was overruled by the Bridge Commissioners as smacking of imperialism.)

Allegory of Manhattan by Daniel Chester French. Photo by Irving Herzberg (1967), Brooklyn Collection.

Miss Brooklyn’s demeanor could not be more different. Her expression is gracious, introspective and calm; she is surrounded by a church spire (Brooklyn to this day counts more houses of worship than any other borough); a lyre and a child with a book (a reference to the borough’s patronage of culture and education). The book on the child’s lap is massive. It must be a Bible, another reference to the borough’s spiritual thrust. Her head is adorned with a laurel wreath. In her hands she holds a tablet with the Dutch inscription “Ein Drach Mackt Maght” (“In Union there is strength”), a hint at the Dutch origins of Brooklyn and at the fairly recent New York City consolidation of 1898.

Allegory of Brooklyn by Daniel Chester French. Photo by Irving Herzberg (1967), Brooklyn Collection. 

The model for the pair was the legendary Audrey Munson who is considered to be America’s first supermodel. She posed for many famous sculptors and photographers. For Daniel Chester French alone, she modeled twelve times. Incidentally, she was also used as a model by C.A. Heber when he created “The Spirit of Commerce” for the Manhattan side of the bridge.

Meanwhile, the years went by, and the Manhattan Bridge continued to be a “poor relation” to the Brooklyn Bridge. Despite heavy use and an apparent design flaw, the bridge suffered from neglect and irregular inspection and maintenance and in the end required several costly repairs. Its slow aging coincided with the rapid growth of private car ownership and increased flow of traffic.

Enter Robert Moses and his ambitious plans for dramatic restructuring of the city’s thoroughfares. Robert Moses, to this day, remains one of the most polarizing and controversial figures in the history of New York City. He became a major force in the city's planning in 1924 and remained unstoppable for some forty-four years. Under his supervision, New York and its environs acquired, among other things, a functional system of parkways, highways, bridges and parking spaces which accommodated the ever growing fleet of personal and commercial vehicles. For all the good he has done for the city (he is credited with building, throughout his career, 13 bridges, 416 miles of parkways, 658 playgrounds, and 150,000 housing units across all boroughs of the City of New York and surrounding areas), his legacy is tainted by his overt racism and deliberate planning that marginalized minorities. He is also responsible for the destruction of several city landmarks, such as the original Penn Station in Manhattan and Ebbets Field stadium in Brooklyn.

Robert Moses. Photo: Brooklyn Eagle photo collection, Brooklyn Collection.

The Manhattan Bridge – forever in need of an upgrade – had the bad luck of finding itself in Moses’ way.

The early 1960s marked the beginning of the end of Moses’ career when his plans started to meet with more and more resistance from city officials and citizens. As a result, three of his bombastic, larger-than-life crosstown projects were among the few that he was not able to push through. Had one of them, the Lower Manhattan Expressway, also known as “Lomex”, succeeded, we would have lost the Manhattan-side entryway to the bridge. During the reconstruction in the early 1960s two decks were reinforced to be able to carry trucks weighing up to twenty tons. Another level was designated for cars only. The approaches were to be reconstructed to provide access on the Manhattan side for the newly projected Lower Manhattan Expressway and on the Brooklyn side for a new interchange with already existing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

In 1961 Moses filed a request with the Arts Commission of the City of New York for permission to remove and destroy both entryways to the bridge. That would mean the loss of all art - architectural and sculptural - which had been adorning the entryways for nearly 50 years. In his application he described it as “ornamental and architectural masonry”. One of Moses’ arguments was that art created a distraction for motorists. A public outcry immediately followed. Preservation advocates cited the commission paid by the city to the creators of these artifacts: Rumsey received $15,000 for the “Buffalo Hunt” frieze (worth $335,000 in 2017 money); Heber, $10,000 for his winged allegorical reliefs ($225,000); French, $8,000 ($180,000) for each of his sculptures.

The Arts Commissioners were also reluctant to grant the permission and they pushed the vote back in order to find an art institution willing to take custody of this “masonry.” The Brooklyn Museum stepped forward. It expressed interest in accepting the two “Misses” and the Rumsey frieze.  

Eventually, the plans for Lomex were scrapped and the Manhattan-side entryway narrowly escaped destruction. It was eventually landmarked (in 1975) and underwent renovation in 2000.

The two granite maidens were removed from their original location and installed by the entrance of the Brooklyn Museum in 1964. Upon inspection, they were deemed to be in decent shape and required only a thorough cleaning.  Their new home happened to be a fitting place for the work of Daniel Chester French, since his sculptures - allegorical figures of Greek Epic, Greek Lyric Poetry and Greek Philosophy, as well as the pediment – had already graced the museum’s façade. (Another piece of art produced by Daniel Chester French in Brooklyn, the Alfred T. White Memorial, can be found in the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden.)

Brooklyn Museum circa 1910, well before the "maidens" arrived. Photo: Brooklyn Eagle photo collection, Brooklyn Collection.

Brooklyn Museum, 1967. The allegorical figures of Brooklyn and Manhattan have already found their new home here. Photo: Irving Herzberg, Brooklyn Collection.

The new renditions of Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn are created by Brian Tolle, famous for his Irish Hunger Memorial in Manhattan. Serett Metalworks company is responsible for the monument’s “hardware”, the post and pivoting platforms. 

Welcome home, ladies!

Goats Do Roam in Brooklyn

May 20, 2016 1:15 PM | 3 comments

This spring, one of the most hotly anticipated arrivals to Brooklyn is a herd of eight goats. The animals are here on the loan from a Rhinebeck farm for the summer months during which they will help control invasive weeds in the Prospect Park. They will be deployed in the Vale of Cashmere (between Flatbush Ave and the East Drive) to graze on poison ivy and goutweed which have been taking over the area after Hurricane Sandy damaged it. The goats are already hugely popular; the park's free “Fun on the Farm” event this weekend – with a "bleet and greet" tour every 30 minutes – is booked to capacity!

Yet, goats are nothing new to the Prospect Park (shown here in a picture by George Bradford Brainard taken in 1870s) ...


… or to Brooklyn itself.

A quick scan of old Brooklyn newspapers reveals that the animals were widely held by Brooklynites when the city was a “vegetable basket” for Manhattan. “Lost and Found” sections of the newspaper were peppered with pleas to return a stray goat (for a reward, like beloved dogs or cats of today) or to collect one (and pay expenses!) -- sometimes in the same breath, as in this segment from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on January 29, 1867:


In the good old days, one could not just own a goat. An owner had to obtain a license (yes, this is correct!) to own a goat. The reports of sting operations against illegal goats proliferate in the police dispatches, such as this one from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 17, 1867:


Goats were kept for milk (“especially useful of the anemic”), leather and wool, but also, evidently, as a companion animal:


I came across a hilarious story that appeared in the paper on October 11, 1893, where a wily goat inserted himself into the legal machinery of the city:

“An ordinary, every day goat, with no outward marks of distinction beyond unusually long chin whiskers and an air of reckless daring, has hopelessly mixed up two families in a snarl, which Justice Connelly and the district attorney have been trying to unravel between them. The animal in question resides on Hale avenue, in a very respectable neighborhood, and like all Twenty-sixth Ward quadrupeds has learned to despise the restraining influences imposed upon the less favored of his species by the more conventional customs of other sections of the city. Sometimes he grazes on the sunny acclivities of Cypress Hills, and again, with the rapidity of the lightning change artist, appears an hour or two later in the very heart of fashionable Brownsville.

The goat is owned by Mrs. Christine Dowling, an elderly woman, whose husband only figures as a background incident in the difficulty which necessitated the appearance of Mr. and Mrs. William Commoda, in the role of defendants, before Justice Connelly this morning. The Commodas and Dowlings are neighbors. Some time ago, it appears from the records, the Dowling goat chewed up portions in the fence surrounding the Commoda estate and also macerated a quantity of old shoes which have been slowly ripening underneath the rays of a long summer’s sun in the secluded spot near the Commoda gates. Mr. and Mrs. Commoda objected, but the goat resumed his luncheon day after day, disturbing himself every now and again to dodge a flying brick […] Relations between the Commoda and Dowling families became so strained in consequence that when both parties met Mr. Dowling was threatened with death and his wife with some lesser form of punishment. The Commodas were arrested and placed under bonds by Justice Connelly. They swore that they owned a house and a lot on Hale avenue which were nominated as a security in the bond to keep the peace, the execution of which then released the couple from the impending penalty. Today they were re-arraigned for repeating the old offense, and also for assault. Once more the goat was at the bottom of the trouble. He broke out again unexpectedly and his goings-on revived the old feud. During the trial of the Commodas, the attention of the district attorney’s representative was called to the fact that the representation of the proprietorship in the Hale avenue house and lot, made by the defendants at the previous arraignment, was false. The house and land belong, it is claimed, to a Mr. Rosenberg. Today Commoda was sent to jail for twenty days, […] while his wife received a similar sentence, which was afterward suspended. Justice Connolly is determined that the Dowling goat shall henceforth enjoy his meals undisturbed.”

Perhaps the hero of the story looked something like that:

Goats were held as domestic animals in Brooklyn well into the 20th century.  

This runaway goat boarded the Independent Subway System train at Church Ave and “butted into everybody’s business. The goat ran along the platform with its head down, butting inoffensive people waiting for trains and thus convincing one and all that the goat was going to business. Captured after boarding the crowded train, the goat was taken to Jamaica S.P.C.A. Shelter where he is shown with Fred Kusterbeck, kennel man.” (BDE, Nov 19, 1936).

This goat named Harry lived in a backyard of his owner’s house in Canarsie in 1939.

But sometimes, in a search for all things goat, one comes across a mysterious statement in a paper. Perhaps it is a subject of a future blogpost, but here it is, in all its glory:

John McCrae and the Mysterious Miss Packard

Mar 28, 2016 10:30 AM | 0 comments

Our newest blogpost is written by a guest blogger Linda Granfield. It is published with her permission and that of the Guelph Historical Society (Guelph, Ontario, Canada). The article first appeared in Historic Guelph, vol. LIII. 2014-2015.

Linda Granfield, a native of Melrose, Massachusetts, is the award-winning author of 30 history books for adults and young readers; John McCrae is the subject of two of those titles. She holds degrees from Northeastern University and the University of Toronto; Linda lives in Toronto, Canada. She invites anyone with further information about the Packard family of Brooklyn to contact her via her website:

Figure 1: "Penance" hand-written on "Alderley" stationary. Photo courtesy of Guelph Museums - McCrae House (M1999.6.1)

John McCrae and the Mysterious Miss Packard

by Linda Granfield

“Alderley/Kennebunkport, Maine”

So reads the blue-inked letterhead on a piece of stationery carefully preserved in “Poems”, a richly-bound book in the Guelph Museums’ collection. The name of the author of the book, John McCrae, is stamped in gold, like the title.1 Below the letterhead is McCrae’s poem “Penance”, hand-written by the poet himself, apparently based on recall. A verse is missing and different word choices are captured on the notepaper version than are seen in later published examples. While the textual differences are interesting and worthy of further study, it was the “Alderley” address that first captured my interest and led me to the book’s “publisher” E.H.P.-Miss Elizabeth Hutchinson Packard.

As I had spent many a childhood, week-long, family summer holiday on the beaches of southern Maine, I was familiar with Wells, York, Ogunquit, and Kennebunkport. “K’port,” as it is known to locals, is familiar to many today as the site of the presidential Bush family’s compound; however, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Kennebunkport was well-known as the summer playground of the wealthy who traveled there from New York, Boston, Pittsburgh and other large, unbearably hot cities on the American East Coast.

The Cape Arundel part of Kennebunkport still features rocky shores and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, and it was such vistas and cool breezes that led to the building of “cottages” on the land rising above the shore. American architects such as John Calvin Stevens2 were engaged to design and build shingle-style homes with rugged stone fireplaces, large porches, superb cross-ventilation and plenty of room for boat-storage, horse stalls, and quarters for the servants who accompanied their employers on their annual trips to the Maine coast.

Figure 2: John McCrae and Ethel Halsey at the front door of “Alderley,” 1903. Photo courtesy of David Gardner-Medwin.

Figure 3: The same spot at the front door of “Alderley”  in 2010. Photo courtesy of Linda Granfield.

Clearly, given his hand-written poem on the “Alderley” notepaper, John McCrae had visited Kennebunkport. The questions remained: with whom was he spending time, and was the cottage known as “Alderley” still standing? Biographer Dianne Graves mentioned McCrae’s visit to friends who “had invited him to join them for a week in September [1903].”3 Unfortunately, the friends were not named. Sir Andrew Macphail noted that among McCrae’s “diversions” was “one visit to the Packards in Maine... ”4 I considered this information a significant breakthrough.

The clues “September 1903” and “the Packards” led me to no further satisfaction after a visit to Kennebunkport in 2009; a town librarian, however, offered to relay my questions to a local historian, Joyce Butler. Ms. Butler has written extensively about Kennebunkport through the ages and noted that “the town had a strong summer newspaper, The Wave, from 1887 to 1908 (published cottage lists and news items about owners).... ”5 Tandem research done between two strangers (Ms. Butler and me) resulted in the location of “Alderley” in 2010. A copy of a photograph in the Guelph Museums’ collections showing John McCrae reading on a porch was sent to Maine with the hope that the decorative porch trim would prove a match to the current cottage Ms. Butler saw on Old Fort Avenue -- and it did. Also, the cottage had been built for “Edwin Packard of Brooklyn, New York.”6 Another score, and another important lead.

Few residents of Brooklyn Heights in 1900 would not have known about the Packards and their magnificent home at the corner of Henry and Joralemon streets. The society and business pages of The Brooklyn Eagle, the local newspaper, regularly recorded the lives of those who lived within the solid walls of Number 241. The Packards were listed in the social register, The Brooklyn Blue Book, and the family’s three daughters, Mildred, Elizabeth, and Clara made their well-noted debuts.7

Edwin Packard, a direct descendant of John Alden of the Mayflower and Captain Samuel Packard who immigrated to the United States from Ipswich, England in the Diligence in 1638,  was born in 1841 in Roxbury, Massachusetts.8 By the 1860s, Packard was a linen buyer for the hugely successful A.T. Stewart & Co, a ground-breaking department (“dry goods”) store located on Broadway, near Grace Church, in New York City.9 In order to keep Alexander Turney Stewart’s internationally-known “Marble Palace” filled with the top-of-the-line goods required by his wealthy New York customers, buyers like Edwin Packard made business trips to Europe. One voyage, in 1865, had Packard traveling back to New York from Liverpool when sailing was once again safe after the American Civil War had ended.10

In April 1868, Edwin married Julia, the daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Hutchinson of Brooklyn. Samuel had “amassed an ample fortune”11 through his own dry goods company, Wickhams & Hutchinson, located on Pearl Street in 1830s New York. He was also interested in the municipal government in Brooklyn, though “not a politician.”12 Other positions held by Samuel Hutchinson included Director in the American Exchange National Bank, Trustee in the Atlantic Mutual Marine Insurance Company and Vice President and Director in the Metropolitan Glass Insurance Company.13 Julia gave birth to six children, four daughters and two sons. Sadly, neither Norman (b. 1874) nor Edwin (b. 1877) survived past 14 months of age.14

Figure 4: "Alderley"as shown in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 17, 1901. Credit: Public Domain.

Figure 5: Alderley/Braemar, 2010. The oeil-de-boeuf window and the enclosed porch were not the part of the original design. Photo courtesy of Linda Granfield.

Elizabeth Hutchinson Packard, the third daughter, was born July 10, 1872 in Bridge of Allan, Scotland.15 The family was in Scotland with Edwin while he purchased linen for Stewart’s. Bridge of Allan, three miles north of Stirling, had an early history in textile manufacturing and copper mining. Local mineral springs, however, led to development as a spa destination for travelers, the Packards among them.16 In October that year, at the age of three months, Elizabeth “Bessie” Packard made her first journey, home to America.17 The next month, in Guelph, Ontario, John was born to David and Janet McCrae. No one could have foreseen that 25 years later, the lives of these two infants would intertwine.

During the 1870s and until about 1882, the Packard family lived at 102 Montague Street, Brooklyn, in a brownstone house that in 1875 was assessed at the then-considerable value of $25,000.18 By 1880, the family had endured the deaths of their two baby sons and a four-year-old daughter. Edwin was listed as a “retired linen importer”, aged only 39.19

In 1882, he was elected the President of the Kings County Republican General Committee after he “pledged to bring about harmony in the party and was not a factionist.”20 The Brooklyn Eagle called him “a Republican of the ‘regular’ stamp, but of great independence of thought and convictions.”21 He, along with Theodore Roosevelt, was one of the delegates at-large from New York to attend the Republican National Convention in Chicago for the presidential election in 1884.22 The Republicans supported James G. Blaine (Edwin Packard was not a Blaine fan23) who was defeated by Democrat Grover Cleveland. In fact, Edwin “bolted the ticket and supported Cleveland.”24

Figure 6: John McCrae, in 1903, reading The Master of Ballantrae on the Arderley porch. Note the shape of the porch trim here and in the 2010 front entry image. Photo courtesy of Guelph Museums - McCrae House (M1968X.436.3).

By 1885, the Packard family had moved to 241 Henry Street, a grand home built for them, a mansion that more than adequately reflected the business successes of Edwin Packard. From his nearby Remsen Street office, he sold new-build homes on Garfield Place, near Prospect Park, Brooklyn.25 He was the president of the Franklin Trust Company, and later of the New York Guaranty and Indemnity Company. He was a director of the Franklin Safe Deposit Company, the American Writing Paper Company, the Fajardo Sugar Company, and the Brooklyn YMCA.26 Amazingly, given the amount of time each of these positions would have demanded of him, Edwin Packard was also a member of the New York Chamber of Commerce and served for a time as a civil service commissioner.

Edwin Packard, with his wife Julia, also found time to attend their children’s school performances. During the commencement exercises marking her graduation from Mrs. Robert Goodwin’s school on Montague Street, nearly 16-year-old Bessie acted in “an amusing farce, ‘No Cure, No Pay,’” in which she played “Aunt Maria Midget-a little hard of hearing.”27

Bessie continued her education at Miss Porter’s School, in Farmington, Connecticut.28 While young women were expected to leave Miss Porter’s capable of heading their own households, they were also schooled in Latin, modern languages, the sciences, history and geography. Drawing and music lessons and daily physical exercise, which included horseback riding that Elizabeth Packard adored, were also prescribed by founder Sarah Porter.29

Figure 7: Elizabeth Packard riding side-saddle. McCrae is accompanying her in this photograph believed taken at Alderley in Kennebunkport, Maine, 1903. Photo courtesy of Guelph Museums - McCrae House (M1999.7.1).

During the 1890s, Elizabeth Packard, as well as her sister Mildred, appeared often in newspaper articles relating details about brilliant society balls and the composition of wedding parties in Brooklyn. Lavish descriptions of the locales fill paragraphs in each article: rooms with gilded columns are full of sparkling incandescent lights, jardinieres of roses and lilies, laurel and rose wreaths, and musicians hidden behind "a huge screen of white and pink azaleas". 30 Many a Brooklyn wedding featured one or more of the Packard sisters among the bridesmaids.

More serious matters, like settlement work, support for education, women’s suffrage and free trade, however, were also part of the Misses Packards’ world. In April 1894, Bessie, in the absence of the president of the Brooklyn Civitas Club, presided over a club meeting where the speaker, the local Register of Arrears, Frederick W. Hinrichs, spoke of free trade and also about the vote for women, who at that time were still disenfranchised:

He [Hinrichs] said there was no logical reason why woman [sic] should not stand in the same relation to the Government as man, and he gave her some qualified compliments upon her brain power. “To my mind there is no great difference between men and women intellectually,” he said. They say women have limitations, but even that may be doubted. They also say women do not care anything about suffrage and public rights... Take up some book on the subject [democracy] and do some thinking. Reach a conclusion and then speak heroically upon it and convince your fellow-women... 31

By the summer of 1897, Elizabeth Hutchinson Packard emerged as a young woman, talented in music, trained in many areas, well-travelled, and considerate of the needs of those less fortunate than herself. Philanthropy was always a part of the Packard family schedule; Julia Packard was a patroness of events that raised funds in aid of the Brooklyn Home for Aged Men, for example. At 25, Bessie was taken on-staff to nurse ailing Baltimore children over the summer at the Robert Garrett Children’s Sanatorium in Mt. Airy, Maryland. As it happened, a certain young Canadian, John McCrae, was working there, too.

Figure 8: The Packard family home, 241 Henry Street, Brooklyn, New York. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library - Brooklyn Collection.

McCrae was a medical school student at the University of Toronto. He had completed three years of his studies and went to Maryland before beginning his final year in the university medical program.32 While neither Packard nor McCrae letters remarking upon their meeting at Mt. Airy exist, photographs in McCrae’s scrapbook albums place the two there among others on staff. The images, blue-tinged due to the chemicals used in photodeveloping, show “Miss Packard” sitting on the porch of the staff quarters with other nurses, and Bessie tempting a dog named “Christopher” with a treat. Given that John had been a member of the Varsity Glee Club and Bessie was a member of the Brooklyn Amateur Musical Club one can easily imagine singing was a shared interest, as well as horse-back riding and reading. Both were raised in the Presbyterian faith; Bessie taught Sunday School at the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn.33 Elizabeth’s birth in Scotland mirrored McCrae’s own family heritage there. And it was during the same summer that “Alderley” was being built in Kennebunkport, Maine.34

Figure 9: Miss Packard and "Christopher" at Robert Garrett Children's Sanatorium, Mt. Airy, Maryland, 1897. Photo courtesy of Guelph Museums - McCrae House, (M1968X.44931).

After the sanatorium work in Maryland, McCrae returned to Toronto and graduated from medical school in early 1898. Within two years he was serving with the British artillery in the South African War. Elizabeth Packard, meanwhile, had returned to her life in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Few details are known of this time in her life.

Serendipity, or careful planning, was to put John McCrae and Bessie Packard in the same place again, in 1900. This time, they were in Montreal, where Dr. McCrae had a private medical practice, and was a medical school professor at McGill University. He served at more than one Montreal hospital. Also at McGill was Dr. John Taylor Halsey, who taught pharmacology in the medical school from 1900 until 1904 when he left Montreal to take a position at Tulane University in New Orleans.35

Mrs. John T. Halsey was the former Mildred W. Packard, older sister of Elizabeth. The marriage took place at the Packard home in November 189936 and their first child was expected a year later. Although Bessie nursed children in Maryland, there is no evidence of her having received formal nurses’ training at any time. Given her experience, however, it can be assumed that with Mildred’s coming confinement, Bessie’s presence in Montreal would have been needed and appreciated. Ethel Mildred Halsey was born on November 22, 1900 in Montreal; her first home was on Durocher Street, mere blocks from Dr. McCrae’s apartment on Metcalfe Street. It is difficult to believe that the Halsey family, including Bessie, did not welcome the chance to share time and recollections with John McCrae. It is no surprise that McCrae was invited to enjoy the sunshine and surf at “Alderley” in 1903, the year before the Halseys permanently moved to New Orleans.

Figure 10: Miss Packard (right) as Robert Garrett  Children's Sanatorium, Mt. Airy, Maryland, 1897. Photo courtesy of Guelph Museums - McCrae House (M1968X.44931).

Two photographs donated to the Guelph Museums-McCrae House by members of the Packard family show their “Aunt Bessie” riding side-saddle in Maine with John McCrae also on horseback as summer ended and autumn’s crispness meant the cottage had to be closed for the winter. He wrote two poems on the letterhead -- and she kept the copies for the rest of her life.

After that week with the Packards, McCrae returned to Montreal and Bessie was once more in Brooklyn. There is nothing extant to prove that the two friends stayed in touch by letter, further visits, or even via that wonderful gadget, the telephone.

John McCrae’s life after 1903 is well-documented: his dedication to his field of pathology; his teaching; his poetry contributions to various publications; his co-authorship of a major medical text; his rejected marriage proposal to his brother Tom’s sister-in-law, Nona Gwyn. And, in 1914, the beginning of his service as a doctor in the First World War.

Bessie’s life after 1903 continued to be one dedicated to philanthropic work and family duty. Following the marriage of her sister Clara to Harold Sterling Gladwin in 1908,37 Bessie remained in the Henry Street home with her parents. Her list of associations for the rest of her life included the YWCA, the Colony, Cosmopolitan, Women’s National Republican, and City Garden clubs, as well as the National Society of Colonial Dames. In a family photograph taken in about 1911, “Aunt Bessie” stands in the centre, surrounded by nieces and nephews; she never married. In 1912, Bessie spent four months visiting Italy. Her life was full and busy.

Figure 11: Dr. John McCrae at Robert Garrett Children's Sanatorium, Mt. Airy, Maryland, 1897. Photo courtesy of Guelph Museums - McCrae House (M1968X.44931).

John McCrae was in France in 1915, but the United States would not send troops into war for two more years. Edwin Packard had purchased “Welwood,” a country home in Bernardsville, New Jersey, from the Squibb family of pharmaceutical fame: the Packards renamed the house “Woodcote.” Still an important part of her parents’ daily lives, Bessie spent part of her summers in the beautiful fieldstone house built in 1765 by the Kirkpatrick family.38 Mine Brook was nearby; apple orchards and acres of pastureland made it a peaceful place for the Packards to escape the pollution of New York City and where Bessie could ride her horses for hours. In about 1915, Bessie’s father gave the title to “Woodcote” to her.39

“In Flanders Fields,” the famous poem by John McCrae, was written and published in that same year; there is no evidence regarding Elizabeth Packard’s knowledge of the poem at that time. So vast was the reproduction of McCrae’s poem, it is difficult to believe Bessie didn’t read it and think of her friend.

When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, Edwin and Julia Packard donated an ambulance for American field service in France.40 In Bernardsville, Bessie served as the head of the “Farmerettes,” a group that raised crops during the war. (She was also active in the work of the Visiting Nurse Association in that community.)41 The Civitas Club of Brooklyn supported the Women’s Overseas Hospital during the war.42 The members of the Cosmopolitan Club “had many members in uniform, raised money for Belgian Relief and for the purchase of an ambulance in Italy, and installed machines that every week knitted hundreds of pairs of socks for the [American] troops.”43 In October 1917, Bessie and Julia were wearing “Vote No” badges at a public meeting held under the auspices of the Brooklyn Auxiliary of the State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.44

January 1918 brought the world news of John McCrae’s death in France. Meningitis and pneumonia had overwhelmed him in just a few days and he was buried in Wimereux, along the English Channel. Did Bessie read of McCrae’s passing while sitting in the warmth of Henry Street? Did the Packards reminisce about the time spent in Kennebunkport, at the cottage they’d later sold?45 We do not know; what we do know is that Bessie Packard read Sir Andrew Macphail’s 1919 book about John McCrae and had multiple copies. She took the poetry pages from the Macphail book, the hand-written poems, a photograph of McCrae and his signature and had them bound for a private volume. Inside the brown leather and grass-cloth cover are embossed the initials “E.H.P.”46 One hopes Bessie found some consolation in this personal and obviously meaningful book. Were the other handwritten poems included some that McCrae had recited and/or mailed to her? The question remains -- why did Elizabeth Packard feel so strongly about the loss? Had they corresponded during the war? There would have been plenty to share; for instance, Dr. Halsey served with the U.S. Army in the Medical Reserve Corps.47

Even greater losses occurred at 241 Henry Street during 1921. In April, Edwin Packard, 80, died of influenza. In June, 79-year-old Julia Hutchinson Packard passed away. Both parents were buried in the family plot at Green-Wood Cemetery, and by the year’s end sanctuary lights had been donated in their honour by the family to the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn.48 In February 1922, it was reported that the Packard mansion “one of the show places of the Heights section” had been purchased by the African Inland Mission for use as local headquarters “after structural alterations to the interior of the home have been completed.”49 In just over a year, Elizabeth Packard and her sisters lost both parents and the family home.

Bessie moved into a Manhattan apartment, shared with a relative, and continued to live in Bernardsville, as well. She traveled extensively in the 1920s, to Italy, Egypt, and France; one wonders if a visit to McCrae’s grave in Wimereux was ever on a trip’s agenda. In 1930, Bessie sold “Woodcote” to Chauncey McPherson, a member of the American fencing team in the 1924 Olympic Games.50 It was time for a fresh start; Bessie bought property in Southwest Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, Maine and built a summer retreat, called “The Kedge,” in 1931.51

During the economic depression that gripped the world during the 1930s, Elizabeth Packard appears to have managed her funds well; she continued her philanthropy and her travel. And it is during the same period that the McCrae family once more appears in Bessie’s life. It is unknown when John’s sister, Geills McCrae Kilgour, met Elizabeth Packard, however, Bessie was certainly a part of Geills and James Kilgour’s children’s lives as they grew older. Society notices in The Winnipeg Tribune track Bessie’s visits to Manitoba in the 1930s. But how did Bessie know John McCrae’s sister and her family to such an extent that she could regularly schedule visits? Again, there is nothing extant in either family’s surviving records that entirely explains the relationship, its beginning, or its longevity.

Figure 12: The Packard family, circa 1911. Elizabeth is in the centre, behind Edwin and Julia. Sister Clara is seated on the right.; sister Mildred, on the left. Dr. John Halsey (left) and Harold Gladwin (right). Photo courtesy of Noel Barnes Williams.

After Geills Kilgour’s death in March 1933 (her husband James had passed away in 1931) Bessie was a December guest of the Misses Margaret and Katharine Kilgour in their Kingsway, Winnipeg family home for six weeks after which time she left to spend the rest of the winter in Santa Barbara, California, at the home of her sister Clara Gladwin.52 Such a lengthy visit with the young nieces of John McCrae, over the busy Christmas and New Year’s period, suggests a close relationship with Miss Packard.53 Again, what was the nature of that family connection so long after John McCrae’s death?

Margaret Kilgour married architect Robert Gardner-Medwin in Winnipeg in 1935. Elizabeth Packard and her sister Mildred Halsey traveled to England in 1936, and Katharine Kilgour married Dr. Donald Dennison Campbell in England in 1937.54 Had the visits with the McCrae family ended?

As the Second World War began, Margaret Gardner-Medwin and her son David moved temporarily from England to Canada for safety. In 2010, David recalled meeting “Miss Packard (as she was always called) only once”55 during those war years:

My mother Margaret took me and my younger brother to stay for a summer holiday at Miss Packard’s house in Maine -- a large house on the shore... I remember being taken out for trips on her very large varnished motorboat and fishing for flounders. The boat was in command of “Captain Kenny [Kenney]” -- I think her handyman who wore a peaked cap and probably acted also as her chauffeur. He had a family of young children of about my age -- we used to play with them.... My other main memory is of getting into a hornet’s nest in the garden, with unpleasant results. Miss Packard I remember only as a nice old lady who wore a hat.56

The boat David recalled was the gleaming, 35-foot Elco cruisette Bessie bought at the 1933 National Motorboat Show in New York.57 David’s guess was that his grandmother Geills “met [Miss Packard] through Jack [John McCrae] and had visited her in the Kennebunkport days. He also offered that “Miss Packard featured occasionally in Geills Kilgour’s letters to her mother” but that there had been “no useful clues” found there.58 Alas.

Bessie’s summer sojourns to Maine during the Second World War were balanced by work done back in New York City. Once again, the Cosmopolitan Club was answering the call for aid: the members established a War Relief Committee, operated a workroom that produced thousands of garments, planted a Victory Garden, sold war bonds, sponsored weekly parties for service members, and provided classes in “first aid, home nursing, and nutrition.” 59 As well, Bessie worked with the Red Cross during the war. It is safe to assume that she was involved when, during the war, her niece Ethel Halsey Blum, chaired the Brooklyn chapter of “Bundles for Britain” and the Brooklyn Prisoner of War Packaging Center, “one of five Red Cross groups that  shipped over two million food packages to American prisoners of war in Europe and the Far East.”60

Figure 13: "Captain" Felton Kenney, the man David Gardner-Medwin remembered. Photo courtesy of Jane Kenney.

On January 23, 1947, Elizabeth Hutchinson Packard, age 74, died suddenly at her Manhattan apartment, her “winter home.” Her funeral was held at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church two days later, and she was buried with her ancestors at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.61 Her descendants continue to warmly refer to her as “Aunt Bessie” and hold an obvious fondness for her decades after her death.

Figure 14: Elizabeth Hutchinson Packard's passport photo, 1923. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

In the end, however, the true nature of the relationship between Elizabeth Packard, who cherished hand-written copies of his poems, and John McCrae, the soldier, doctor, and poet, remains a mystery. Wishful thinking lets me imagine a day when someone opens a long-lost or abandoned hatbox, smells the sweet scent of violets, and brings to light sheaves of letters carefully tied in faded satin ribbons, postmarked “somewhere in France,” and opening with... “Dear Bessie…”


1. Hand-written copy of “Penance.” Collections of Guelph Museums M1999.6.1. Four other handwritten poems are included in this volume.
2. “Stevens, John Calvin,” Maine: An Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 2014).
3. Dianne Graves, A Crown of Life: The World of John McCrae (St. Catharines, Ont.: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 1997), p. 91.
4. Sir Andrew Macphail, In Flanders Fields And Other Poems by Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, M.D., with An Essay in Character (Toronto: William Briggs, 1919), p. 129.
5. Quoted from email correspondence between Joyce Butler and the author, March 11, 2010.
6. Quoted from email correspondence between Joyce Butler and the author, March 16, 2010. Ms. Butler and I finally met in the summer of 2010. I also met the present owners of the cottage-two doctors who were delighted to hear of the connection of their home to John McCrae. They began to recite “In Flanders Fields” on the porch.
7. The Brooklyn Blue Book and Long Island Society Register (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Brooklyn Life Publishing Company, 1909) p. 174. The Packards are also found in The Elite of New York Society List & Club Register (New York: n.d.), p. 305.
8. Much of the information given for Edwin Packard derives from his death notice in The New York Times, April 28, 1921, as well as other confirmed, credible sources.
9. The multi-storey emporium eventually became the famed Wanamaker’s. For an interesting retelling of the Stewart/Wanamaker buildings story, and period photographs, please see www. (Accessed September 2014).
10. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,, for November 30, 1865.
11. Samuel Hutchinson obituary, The New York Times, June 16, 1876.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Children’s births drawn from genealogical records on An elder sister, Ethel, was born in 1869 and died in 1873. Presumably, Mildred Packard Halsey’s daughter Ethel (b. 1900) was named in honour of this sibling. There appears to have been a seventh child, a daughter named May (b. 1876). On the 1900 U.S. Census, May is listed as aged 23 and living with Edwin and Julia. May, however, does not appear in the 1880 U.S. Census, when she would have been about three or four years old.
15. U.S. Passport application #101315, signed by Elizabeth H. Packard, April 6, 1905. Copy appears on (Accessed March 17, 2010).
16. Bridge of Allan information care of (Accessed March 20, 2010)
17. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Liverpool, England to New York, New York, for October 12, 1872.
18. New York State Census, 1875.
19. 1880 U. S. Census,
20. “Edwin Packard Elected Chairman of The General Committee,” The New York Times, January 11, 1882.
21. “Pointed Opinions,” The Brooklyn Eagle, February 5, 1882, p. 3.
22. William Roscoe Thayer, Theodore Roosevelt: An Intimate Biography, 1919. (Accessed March 17, 2010).
23. “Words of Cheer for the Blaine People” (from the Brooklyn Union) The New York Times, May 9, 1884.
24. “For Cleveland,” The Brooklyn Eagle, August 4, 1888, p. 4.
25. For Sale advertisement, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 15, 1885, p. 2.
26. Edwin Packard obituary notice, The New York Times, April 28, 1921.
27. “Farewell to School Girl Days,” The Brooklyn Eagle, June 8, 1888, p. 5.
28. “Miss Elizabeth Packard” obituary, The New York Times, January 25, 1947.
29. “Miss Porter’s School/School History,” (Accessed at March 20, 2010). “Ihpetonga’s Brilliant Ball 1894,” The New York Times, January 24, 1894, p. 9.
30. “Talk to Women on Free Trade,” The New York Times, April 1, 1894. It is interesting to note that Elizabeth’s sister Mildred was listed as an anti-suffrage supporter in a New York Times article published a month later.
31. Graves, p. 42.
32. Obituary, The Brooklyn Eagle, January 25, 1947, p. 7.
33. Kevin D. Murphy, Colonial Revival Maine (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004), p. 109.
34. Information received from Christopher Lyons, Chief Librarian at the William Osler Medical Library, McGill University, Montreal, via email in March 2010.
35. “Brooklyn Society,” The Brooklyn Eagle, November 5, 1899, p. 9. Also: November 17, 1899, p. 9.
36. Announcement, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 16, 1908, p. 15. In another mention of the upcoming nuptials, the reporter writes Clara “has always been regarded as a very charming girl. Miss Elizabeth Packard is her unmarried sister.” One wonders what the impact of such subjective commentary was for both young women.
37. Harrison E. Wright. “History of Kirkpatrick Family And Bernardsville House Told,” The Bernardsville News, May 24, 1956. The name of a geographical spot in the area is “Packard’s
Corner,” presumably because of Bessie’s time in residence.
38. Capt. John Kirkpatrick of New Jersey 1739-1922 and His Sisters Mrs. Joseph Linn & Mrs. Stephen Roy: A Genealogy by William Clinton Armstrong, 1927, n.p. (Accessed February 24, 2015).
39. “History of the American Field Service in France,” (Accessed March 17, 2010).
40. Obituary, The Bernardsville News, January 30, 1947, p. 4.
41. Teresa Mora, “Historical Note,” The Civitas Club Collection 1893-1993 (Bulk Dates: 1893-1960) Finding Aid (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Brooklyn Historical Society, 2000), p. 3.
42. “A Short History of the Cosmopolitan Club,” (Accessed April 2011).
43. “Brooklyn Hostesses to Greet National Anti-Suffrage Head,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 24, 1917.
44. “Alderley” was sold to Nathan A. Taylor of Philadelphia in 1914; the name thereafter and to this day is “Braemar.” Butler, email to author, March 16, 2010.
45. Rebound pages and “Penance” poem – M1999.6.1 Guelph Museums collection, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
46. The five hand-written poems are “Penance,” “Mine Host,” “The Night Cometh,” “Anarchy,” and “The Oldest Drama.”
47. “Orders to Officers of the Medical Reserve Corps,” Journal of the American Medical Association, February 9, 1918, p. 398., (Accessed August 3, 2011).
48. “First Church Since 1822,” (Accessed in April 2011).
49. Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide, vol. 109, no.7. February 18, 1922, p. 207. (Accessed August 4, 2011).
50. Wright, n.p.
51. Obituary, The Bernardsville News, January 30, 1947, p. 4.
52. The Winnipeg Tribune, December 16, 1933; December 25, 1933; January 5, 1934.
53. 1933 was also a year that brought some undesirable reportage by The Brooklyn Daily Eagle when Harold Sterling Gladwin sued his wife, Clara Packard Gladwin, for divorce on the grounds of desertion. Gladwin had left his career as a stockbroker in New York and was working as an archeologist in Arizona. Clara remained in Santa Barbara, California with their son. Gladwin won his Reno divorce decree in March of 1933 and quickly married Winifred MacCurdy, a coworker in Arizona.
54. James and Geills Kilgour also had two sons: John McCrae Kilgour (b. 1911) and David Eckford Kilgour (b. 1912). Mildred Halsey died in 1938.
55. David Gardner-Medwin (1936-2014) in an email to the author, March 31, 2010.
56. Ibid.
57. “Speed ‘Threat’ Draws Crowd At Boat Show,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 22, 1933, p. 39.
58. Ibid.
59. “A Short History of the Cosmopolitan Club”.
60. “Ethel Halsey Blum,” [the Ethel H. Blum Gallery/College of the Atlantic] (Accessed 2010).
61. Obituary, The Bernardsville News, January 30, 1947, p. 4. [also in The New York Times, January 25, 1947]


Grateful acknowledgement is made to all those who have granted permission to reprint copyrighted and personal material. Every reasonable effort has been made to locate the copyright holders for these images. The author and publisher would be pleased to receive information that would allow them to rectify any omissions in future printings of this article.

Mary Sandsted, a "typically American girl"

Dec 18, 2015 10:02 AM | 0 comments

As it often happens, one stumbles upon a story by chance. While going through a stack of old portraits of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle editorial staff, I happened upon a portrait of a young woman, Mary Sandsted Igoe, a society reporter for the newspaper. Encased in a passe-partout freckled with age, the portrait was remarkable in more than one way. To start with, it was the only portrait of a woman in the whole stack. Other images were studio portraits of venerable gentlemen in formal suits, with grave countenances and carefully groomed moustaches. Mary Sandsted Igoe seemed incapable of proper modelling for a portrait. Her bobbed hair mussed, her posture less than perfect, her arms bare, her mouth slightly open, her direct and curious gaze straight into the lens of the camera -- all these things defy the conventions of a formal studio portrait. But what stopped me in my tracks was the caption: “Mary Sandsted Igoe, 1917-1925. Reporter, society editor and manager of the Paris Bureau during the World War. Died July 16, 1925”. I had to find out more.

Mary Sandsted Igoe. (Brooklyn Public Library -- Brooklyn Collection.)

The years 1917-1925 signify Mary Sandsted’s engagement with Brooklyn’s most influential daily paper of the day. Mary E. Sandsted was a native Brooklynite, who graduated from Girls’ High School in 1912 (with honors in English, American history and civics, physical geography and Latin) and then from the Teachers’ College. She taught in school for three years before joining the Eagle staff. After a short stint as a reporter, she was dispatched to the paper’s Paris Bureau.


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Paris Bureau offices at 53 rue Cambon.

It was July 1918. Less than a year prior, the American Expeditionary Forces joined the British and the French in the battles of the Great War. We know it now as World War I, but it had not been numbered yet, it was known as the World War, the Great War and it became the pivotal point of the entire history of the modern world. Young Mary Sandsted, age 25, found herself in immediate proximity to the bloodiest war yet known to the humanity. 

Guy C. Hickok, the Paris Bureau Chief. (Brooklyn Public Library -- Brooklyn Collection.)

A well-respected journalist Guy C. Hickok who had distinguished himself for the “thoroughness of his investigations and brilliance of his writing” was appointed the Chief of Paris Bureau. He was expected to go straight to the front line to send dispatches on the” Brooklyn boys in the battle line”. His wife Mary Hickok stayed in the Bureau. Miss Mary E. Sandsted had been already in place and she took active charge in the Bureau’s work in Paris.

Reading room at the Paris Bureau office.

Her main job was, of course, journalism. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle features several long pieces (with long titles -- one on German propaganda was called “Wasn’t Fritz a Jolly Brick to Send Us Over Such a Bully Funny Sheet’, Say the Sammies”) but the bulk of her writing consists of a collection of dispatches about individual Brooklyn “doughboys” to those who were anxiously waiting for any news about their loved ones across the Atlantic. That was the era when the only means of instant communication were telephones and cables. Both were unavailable for most of the military personnel, especially for those who were wounded and convalescing in hospitals. The only source of regular news for ordinary citizens was newspapers.

These dispatches, signed simply “Sandsted”, seem so mundane and dry today, but they were a lifeline and a comfort for the families and friends of the soldiers.

“Lt. Harry Smith of 5919 Fourth Ave.…has fully recovered from a gas attack and is ready to return to the fighting front”. Or: “The Rev. M.M. Amunson of the First Church of Christ, Sterling Pl. and Seventh Ave., who is doing Y.M.C.A. work at the front ... sent the Bureau a story of a Halloween celebration in which 25 Brooklyn boys were guests” and attaches a list of names and addresses. Or: “23 Brooklyn Sgts Are Made Lieutenants”, again with names and addresses. Or: “Lieutenant W.F. Barnaby, 91 East 18th Street ... writes that he is anxious about his family, fearing that some members of it may have been victims of B.R.T. accident”. Or; “William Kuhn Jr., of 28 Arion Pl. ... acknowledges receipt of long delayed money order”. And many, many more like these, several times a week.

Mary Sandsted and other bureau staff turned the office at 53 Rue Cambon into a home away from home. It was known as “La Maison Brooklyn”, to all American military personnel who passed through Paris at the time, especially for those from Brooklyn.

A party at the Paris Burea offices.

Accounts like these pepper the Eagle of the day:

“The warmest words of praise for Miss Mary Sandsted, who has charge of The Eagle's Paris Bureau, are brought to America by James A. Lamb of 513 Park pl., a Knights of Columbus secretary, who was three times invalided to hospitals for shrapnel wounds, shell shock and gassed lungs. Miss Sandsted’s work for wounded soldiers in the hospitals around Paris have endeared her to everyone she attended. Americans, and especially Brooklyn men, have nothing but the highest praise for the typically American girl who distributed flowers and aids in the reception of many of the wounded men from the front. Her bureau in Paris is a rendezvous for American soldiers visiting Paris”.

Or this letter to the editor from Jennie F. Walsh, “mother of Bugler Harry C. Walsh”:
“Today I received from Miss Mary Sandsted of your Paris Bureau a picture of my son’s grave in France, together with a letter that only a girl like Mary Sandsted could write – a girl who has given to her country, her paper and her boys from Brooklyn the very best that was in her. Almost two years ago, the Red Cross promised me the pictures of the grave, and this little girl without fuss or asking, after only three weeks since her visit to the grave, sends me the pictures that my heart has hungered for.”

She not only sewed their buttons and shared meals with them, he sent cables home for them, she helped them get in touch with old friends, she shopped for them, and she also visited the wounded in hospitals. The Eagle published a long and somewhat rhapsodic essay by Corp. John Black titled "Somebody Paid Me a Visit":

 Excerpted from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 11, 1919. Read the full article here.

Once the war was over, Mary Sandsted went back to Brooklyn. Upon return, she announced her engagement to one of the officers she had met in France, Mr. E. Harold Igoe, of Yonkers. A wedding reception was given to her by the newspaper’s management in the Eagle auditorium, to which “all those parents and boys which whom she has come in contact [in Paris] were invited.”

In 1920 Mary Sandsted, along with the Bureau Chief, Guy C. Hickok, was recognized by the French government for her work for the troops during the war. She was also awarded a gold medal by the Kings County American Legion.

In the peacetime, Mary Sandsted Igoe continued her work at the Eagle as a society columnist. The young woman who just recently ministered to the wounded and the grieving effortlessly switched to covering the latest fashions from Paris; the charms of the French capital and what Brooklyn could learn from it; New Year’s Eve dance parties; mahjongg; and all the hot destinations in Brooklyn and New York.

Yet the war never really lets one go: on Memorial Day of 1920, Mary visited the graves of the fallen Americans and placed wreaths on 53 graves of the borough soldiers in France.

And then, on July 17, 1925, tragedy struck: Mary Sandsted Igoe died two days after delivering twin boys.

All major local newspapers published tributes to the writer from the rival publication. Her funeral was held at St. James Episcopal Church on the corner of Lafayette Ave and St. James Place, in Brooklyn. The service was led by Rev. Harry Handel, whom she befriended in France and who just three year earlier officiated at her wedding. The church was crammed with the Eagle staff, members of the family and many, many Great War veterans who came to pay their final respects to the “typically American girl” who became their guardian angel during the war.

Mary Sandsted Igoe's ashes were strewn among the graves of American soldiers in Suresnes Military Cemetery in France. She returned to rest to the place where the most intense, productive and perhaps happy years of her short life unfolded. She returned to her "boys". The good Rev. Harry Handel, although seriously ill, made this trip with Harold Igoe to finish his services of devotion.

Mary's twin boys, William James and John Roberts, did not outlive her by long. They succumbed one after another within two months after their mother’s death.

Ervin Harold Igoe, who used Harold as his preferred name, went on to serve in the next World War, in US Air Force. He remarried and lived a long life. He died in 1983.
I was not able to find Harold Igoe’s portrait in our collection. Perhaps it is him, in the middle, sitting next to Mary Sandsted in this photograph taken in La Maison Brooklyn? 


Teddy Bears from Brooklyn

Dec 31, 2014 10:00 AM | 0 comments

The teddy bear has been a perennial gift favorite for at least a century. You may be surprised to learn that the invention of teddy bears is squarely rooted in Brooklyn. The holiday season is a good time to review the story of this adorable stuffed toy with which so many of us have a deep emotional connection.

An early 20th century family photograph of Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick MacMonnies' daughters Betty and Marjorie, flanked by their governess and their good friend, the teddy bear.

My research was spurred, oddly enough, by a work of fiction. Karen Hesse’s “Brooklyn Bridge”, the 2008 Newbury Award winning novel, tells the story of the Russian immigrant Michtom family, who claimed to invent the popular toy. A search through the pages of the Brooklyn Eagle turned up the real life inspiration for the book, toy-maker Morris Michtom.  

Michtom owned a confectionery and novelty store in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The old Brooklyn city directories for 1902 - 1908 list Morris Michstrom, a cigar seller, at 404 Tompkins Ave (this address also appears in Karen Hesse’s book).  Michtom's stuffed creation was reportedly inspired by a cartoon published in 1902, which depicted President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a tethered bear cub.


The cartoon was based on a real story of a botched bear hunting expedition attended by Roosevelt in Mississippi. When the hunting dragged on for ten days without a bear sighting, the frustrated hosts, in order to please their important guest, found a bear cub and tethered it to a tree. Roosevelt refused to shoot the captive beast, saying that he "drew the line" at killing a young animal. Spurred by the story, Michtom's seamstress wife sewed a 2.5-foot-tall jointed bear by hand and they displayed it in their store. It quickly became one of their most popular items. The legend continues that Michtom sent a bear to the White House, requesting permission to name the toy Teddy Bear, and that he received a reply from the White House granting the permission. In 1903 the Michtoms approached a wholesaler, the Butler Brothers, with their toy bear. The Butler Brothers bought Mitchom's entire stock, launching his toy-manufacturing career. The Michtoms went on to found the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in 1907.

The Ideal Novelty and Toy Company eventually expanded beyond stuffed bears to manufacture dolls, action figures and board games. “Celebrity dolls” such as Shirley Temple, Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin, as well as Wetsy Betsy, Naughty Marietta, Flossie Flirt and hundreds of others were all in their roster of popular toys. In 1951, the Christmas offerings from the Ideal Toy Company included a doll that could change the facial expression from joy to sorrow at a twist of a knob under her bonnet.

It should be noted here that another name pops up in any research of teddy bear history -- Steiff.  Margarete Steiff, of Germany, is often described as the “mother of the teddy bear”. Suffering from polio as a child, she spent most of her time sewing. She made her first stuffed animal, a pin cushion shaped as an elephant, in 1880. After that, she made the whole farmyard of animals, and her brother and nephews helped her build a toy-manufacturing empire. The first evidence of stuffed bears made by Steiff goes back to 1903, when it was shown in the Leipzig Toy Fair. It was spotted in the Steiff pavilion by an American toy buyer and he placed an order of 3,000 bears to be made for the American market. It appears that the Steiffs did not call them teddy bears at that time, but rather bruins or simply bears. The Steiff bears were used to decorate the wedding reception for Roosevelt's daughter in 1906. When someone asked the breed of the bear, one of the guests reportedly exclaimed, "They’re teddy bears, of course!"

While it may be difficult to pinpoint which came first, the "teddy" or the bear, I suspect neither the Steiffs nor the Michtoms would stake the claim for this talking teddy, which “presided” over Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday anniversary celebration at Roosevelt Savings Bank (Gates Avenue and Broadway) in 1950.