This selection of social media posts for the Gracie Mansion Conservancy spanning November and December shows my answer to the problem of generating content for a historical house museum with a living political identity and no collections or archive. My #MayorAMonth series, with industrious research, provided a wealth of mission-appropriate historical content that flowed well with topical events and current programming. Though always respectful of the office of mayor and not losing sight of the entertainment aspect of social media, I made it a point to provide an inclusive and corrective picture of history in my brief biographies.
::swoon:: #MayorAMonth no.97 James John Walker aka Jimmy Walker aka Beau James served, well... almost two terms as a Democrat in post-consolidated (Greater) NY, from 01/01/1926-09/01/1932. Gracie Mansion was then home to @MuseumofCityNY, and the Jazz Age was in full swing. 🎵
With a culturally entrenched diminishment of older and fulsome women, the press was wont to paint Janet Allen Walker, wife of #MayorAMonth No.97 Jimmy Walker from 1912-1932, a pitiable figure as he openly stepped out on the town with Ziegfeld mistress Betty Compton. However...
They met while he was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter and she a Vaudeville musical comedy singer (think @BetteMidler). As such, she would have been a rare example of a woman of independent means. And the singing comediennes were the highest paid act in the circuit. Moreover...
Running to his defense in difficulty, "Allie" is on record in a 1931 issue of @TIME stating, "People wonder why Jim and I vacation in two different parts of the country.... We understand each other perfectly. We love each other but we have been independent" So...
While decorum of the day would have necessitated she publicly deny the very public affair with Compton she most certainly knew about it and a contemporary understanding might see them as functioning in an ethical and respectful open partnership. Further...
Divorce law at the time would have demanded the accusation of "abandonment" she gave, which otherwise seems to have been an amicable suit. Testifying to their enduring friendship, she was handsomely remembered in his will. So...
​Perhaps correcting history with a lens more accepting of personal choice, we can view our Beau James not as a cavalier and injurious victimizer, but a man with a caring and respectful appreciation for self-actualizing and independent women, such as Allie. 🥂
Wishing everyone a great run!
Photo © Ruth Orkin, NYC Marathon, Kathrine Switzer, 1974.
Kathrine Switzer won that marathon, one of only two New York residents ever to do so - the other in the male bracket the same year - but she blazed other trails as well. In 1967, Switzer became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon with an official bib, number 261, having registered with initials before restrictions prohibiting women from competing in that race were lifted in 1972. Standing as testimony to the extreme opposition women faced in even that recent history, photos of race director Jock Semple accosting her on the course in outrage by Harry Trask of the Boston Herald were selected for Time-Life’s “100 Photos That Changed the World.”
Not one to slow down, Kathrine Switzer went on to win multiple Emmy awards for commentary, and found and direct the Avon International Running Circuit which paved the way for the first women's Olympic marathon in the 1984 Games. In 2015 she created @261fearless, a non-competitive international running club empowering women. In 2017, aged 70, fifty years after wearing bib 261, she ran the Boston Marathon again. This time she was joined by one hundred twenty five 261 Fearless runners.
Though not pictured, we would be remiss to omit Nina Kuscsik who was the only woman to participate in the first NYC Marathon held in 1970, who also ran the Boston Marathon in 1967, though without a number, and who was the first woman to win the Boston Marathon when it admitted women officially in 1972.
​Ruth Orkin's "Mother and Daughter at Penn Station" is currently on view in She Persists: A Century of Women Artists. The exhibition may be viewed by registered tour through December 9th: 
#womenatthecenter #herstory #fem2 #women #nycmarathon #nycmarathon2019 #running #athlete #sports #womenssports #fearless
Some #TuesdayTrivia for #NationalRedheadDay -
Who was the famous ginger Ziegfeld girl who makes a cameo appearance with her husband, Florenz Ziegfeld, and #MayorAMonth no.97 James John Walker, aka Jimmy Walker, aka Beau James, in the 1929 Pre-Code film, "Glorifying the American Girl"?
Hint: She went on to produce the 1934 and 1936 editions of The Ziegfeld Follies, created @ziegfeldclub in 1936 to nurture women in musical theater, successfully transitioned onto the screen in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and is best known for her 1939 role as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
​📷 Harris & Ewing, LOC hec.15826
Betty Parsons, “Brick in the Sky,” 1968, acrylic on linen, 39.50h x 30w in (100.33h x 76.20w cm)
Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York, @alexandergrayasscociates
© Betty Parsons Foundation.
Known as The Den Mother of Abstract Expressionism, Betty Parsons' impact on contemporary art cannot be overstated. She literally opens the book "The Art Dealers," and the interview that constitutes that first chapter is essential reading for anyone who professes an interest in art history.
Born in New York City in 1900, she studied fine art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Returning to New York and showing watercolors at Alan Gruskin's gallery in 1938, he offered her a job. She went on to run a gallery in the basement of the Wakefield Bookshop where she came to recognize her aptitude for spotting talent, showing the likes of Hedda Stern and Ad Reinhardt.
In 1946, the opportunity presented itself for her to take a space and she opened the Betty Parsons Gallery "intent on showing all those people nobody had really wanted up to then." Meeting artists through one another Adolph Gottlieb introduced her to Barnett Newman, and he to Jackson Pollock, who was looking for new representation in the face of Peggy Guggenheim’s imminent departure for Europe.
Demonstrating both her business acumen and faith in her artists, she paid Guggenheim whenever she sold a Pollock that first year as Peggy had proved a more able patron than dealer. Betty Parsons Gallery operated successfully for over thirty years. Artists she represented, Adolph Gotleib, Clyfford Still, Ellsworth Kelly, Mark Rothko, Richard Tuttle, Agnes Martin, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg are now instantly recognizable.
She sustained her own practice throughout, closing the gallery every summer to go to her studio. Her work, deservedly esteemed in its own right, is held in the collections of the Carnegie Museum of Art, the High Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
​#BettyParsons #ClyffordStill #EllsworthKelly #MarkRothko #BarnettNewman #JacksonPollock #MoMA #Guggenheim #AgnesMartin
Betty Compton was Beau James’s second wife. He was her third husband.
Like his first wife, Janet “Allie” Allen Walker (m. 1912-1932), who had been a Vaudeville singer, Compton (m. 1933-1941), a Ziegfeld girl, was a rare example for the time of a woman with independent income.
​ They met at the Alvin Theater, while he was still married to Allie. During a rough patch in their affair she was briefly wed to @Paramount director Edward Duryea Dowling. (Dowling himself went on to marry Chinese-American performer Jadin Wong, whose fame surpassed them all, once being called “the original Dragon Lady” by @benstiller and earning a Lifetime Achievement Award at Lincoln Center in 2002.) It was all deliciously risqué and the press lapped it up. They adopted two children. She went on to marry civil engineer Theodore T. Knappen. He stayed single.
​#MayorAMonth No.97 Jimmy Walker
#TuesdayTrivia - In what Broadway musical did Betty Compton, second wife of #MayorAMonth No.97 Jimmy Walker, seen here with fellow support players William Kent and Gertrude McDonald, tread the boards with Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire? Hint: Opening November 22, 1927, it was the first production staged at the newly built Alvin Theater (now the Neil Simon Theater), and the first time Astaire danced in tails. Astaire would star in a movie of the same title in 1957 with Audrey Hepburn. Although the plot of that latter production was based on another Broadway musical, "Wedding Bells," the film featured four songs from the original musical including the title song, "He Loves and She Loves," "Let's Kiss and Make Up," and "'S'Wonderful."
​🔎 Last week's answer: @gramercyparkhotel Image courtesy of @WalterFilm
Before he was mayor, Walker was a member of the New York State Assembly 1910-1914, and Senate 1915-1925 where he strongly opposed Prohibition, censorship, and introduced a bill that required private organizations disclose membership lists, effectively unmasking the KKK.
​📷 L. Jones @BPLBoston #MayorAMonth No.97 Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker took vacations. Often. When criticized for raising his own salary from $25k to $40k he quipped, “That’s cheap! Think what it would cost if I worked full time!”
​Museum of the City of New York. Portrait Archives. F2012.58.865 @MuseumofCityNY
#tuesdaytrivia - What vaudevillian turned unlikely silver screen icon seen here in her debut production "Sex," proved too risqué even for our hedonistic mayor Jimmy Walker (famously on record as saying in the Senate, "I have never yet heard of a girl being ruined by a book"), beleaguered as he was by mounting scrutiny over corruption and immorality?
Hint: Endlessly quotable, her line to budding talent co-star Cary Grant, "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?" is often transposed. Other quotes cary the wisdom of a Zen master: "Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often." “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” They go on.
Not to mark her as aberrant, "sex plays," including those with mixed-race casts and homosexual content, were popular entertainment and highly visible political pawns in a period of great social unrest. Jimmy Walker, consummate politician, took a vacation down to Havana shortly before the crackdown was implemented. Theaters were raided and, in the tenth month of its run, the cast of "Sex" was arrested.
As deft at leveraging bad press as Walker was at avoiding it, she bailed out her company, refused release contingent upon closing the show, and rode a limousine to her eight day incarceration. Paid $1,000 for an exit interview, she founded a library for female prisoners.
​🔎 Last week's answer: Funny Face
Walker was elected to his first term (1926-1928) in a time of wealth that, jubilant, modern, and fast, matched his easy-going style well. He was re-elected by an overwhelming margin but the stock-market crash in October of 1929 turned the tides against him. Archbishop of New York, Patrick Joseph Hayes, denounced him with the suggestion that his immorality was a cause of the economic downturn, Tammany Hall withdrew its support, and general social unrest spurred investigations into corruption.
Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, campaigning for reelection in November of 1930 at Carnegie Hall pointed to Walker as an Example of the corruption rampant in New York government, and in 1930 initiated investigations. The Hofstadter Committee, sometimes referred to at the Seabury investigations after the lead investigator, looked into corruption in New York's municipal courts and police department. Corrupt police had routinely framed women for prostitution for purposes of extortion, and kickbacks were the order of the day. A lead witness, Vivian Gordon, was murdered.
Though he had denied problems with police corruption, Walker (who we should remember worked for women's suffrage in the senate and appreciated independent women) seems to have taken the issue with more gravity than usual, and after the trial noted, “There are still more frames than there are pictures.” But he was not in the clear. Gordon’s death prompted Roosevelt to grant Seabury broader powers, which resulted Walker being indicted on charges of corruption in 1932.
He took it on the chin, “there are three things a man must do alone,” he said, “be born, die, and testify.”
​Facing threat of removal by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt then campaigning for the presidency, Walker resigned September 1, 1932 and went on a grand tour of Europe with Compton, there marrying her. After a dignified absence Walker returned to the United States, and his roots in music, acting as head of Majestic Records.
Our favorite rascal #MayorAMonth no.97 Jimmy Walker, aka Beau James, here in a rare photograph at his desk, conducted his self-imposed exile in style, going on a grand tour of Europe and marrying Compton in Cannes, France, in 1933.
After a discreet interval he made good his assertion, "I'd rather be a lamppost in New York City than Mayor of Chicago" (apologies to @chicagosmayor Lori Lightfoot), and returned.
He was given the four-year appointment of labor arbitrator for the garment industry by former nemesis, Fiorello La Guardia, the 99th mayor of New York, whom Walker proclaimed “the greatest mayor New York ever had,” before returning to his roots in music and serving as prexy of Majestic Records. Compton divorced him in 1941 and when she died in 1944, their two adopted children, his widowed younger sister, Anna Burke, and her two older children, moved in with him.
Popular to the last, 38 percent of New Yorkers wanted him to be the next mayor in a 1945 straw poll run by the New York Daily News. La Guardia received only 25 percent of the votes. He died November 18, 1946 and his Requiem Mass on November 21st filled St. Patrick's Cathedral to standing room capacity with 4,500 mourners, including La Guardia, Senator Robert F. Wagner, Sr., Joe DiMaggio, and every member of the New York Giants, with 10,000 more lining the streets beyond.
In his Tin Pan Alley days Walker had written a few popular ditties. We'll send him off with a song. Here is his very own, "Will You Love Me in December As You Do In May?" We will, Jimmy. We will. 🎧
Edward Livingston served as mayor by appointment from 1801-1803. Born of a wealthy and influential family, he was a Democratic-Republican in a pre-consolidated NYC still scorched from British occupation. Gracie Mansion had only just been built, and was occupied by Archibald Gracie and his wife, Esther Rogers.
​This portrait, captioned "Engraved by E. Wellmore from a Drawing by J. B. Longacre," is catalogued as belonging to "Booth's History of New York, v. 4," but the origin is almost certainly "The national portrait gallery of distinguished Americans" produced in four volumes between 1834-1839 by portrait painter James Herring and James Barton Longacre, Chief Engraver to the United States Mint.
​#MayorAMonth no.46 🖼️ @nypl
The 1864 biography "Life of Edward Livingston," by Charles Havens Hunt, places his residence "through post-Revolutionary years" at "No. 51 Queen Street, which was a part of the present Pearl, above, and beginning at, Wall Street."
This exquisitely detailed 1777 "Plan de New-York et des environs," shows it, bow-shaped, as well as Ft. George, a hospital, prison, workshop, school, churches of several denominations, and a synagogue.
The description of rapid transition contained in that biography, which it is useful to recall is contemporary to that of Archibald and Esther Gracie, is worth recounting:
"THE city of New York retains hardly a trace of the features it wore in 1785. Its population and the area of its built-up portion are each forty times as great as they were in that year. Chambers Street was then a northern outskirt, beyond which the island was all as rural as the vicinity of Kingsbridge, except the village of Haarlem. Canal Street was a creek, Spruce Street a swamp, and the whole neighborhood of The Tombs, city prison, a fresh-water pond. Mayor Duane had a farm, through which ran a winding brook, where Gramercy Park is. The present Charlton Street passes the site of the house at Richmond Hill to which Aaron Burr carried his household gods every spring. Similar farms and country-seats abounded as far, or still farther south than these. Broadway was not paved or flagged above Vesey Street. The Park was a rough, unenclosed common. The Battery was the one fashionable place of promenade. The great fire of 1776 had left a large blot upon the face of the city, and most of the houses which remained standing bore plain traces of the worse than careless occupation of the enemy's soldiery. No daily stage-coach as yet plied on the road to Albany, and travellers between the two cities usually braved the perils and delays of sloop navigation on the river. The newspaper was an infantile institution.... A leading sample, 'The New York Packet,'... was a rusty little folio of four pages...."
Setting the stage for Gracie to host, in 1801, a fundraiser for Hamilton to found the New York [Evening] Post, today the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country.
Remember that beautiful engraving by "E. Wellmore from a Drawing by J. B. Longacre," from "Booth's History of New York, v. 4," in the collection of @nypl that seemed likely to have originated from "The national portrait gallery of distinguished Americans" produced by James Herring and James Barton Longacre?
​What would you say the odds were that that "drawing" was this watercolor from the collection of @smithsoniannpg?
​Ready for a real brain-teaser (don't worry, there's no wrong answer)? What makes a drawing a drawing and a painting a painting?
Artist: James Barton Longacre, 11 Aug 1794 - 1 Jan 1869
Sitter: Edward Livingston, 28 May 1764 - 23 May 1836
Date: c. 1833
Type: Drawing
Medium: Watercolor on paper
Dimensions: 26.2cm x 21cm (10 5/16" x 8 1/4"),
Accurate Credit Line: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number: NPG.76.62
​#MayorAMonth no.46 #art #history #arthistory #meta #criticalthinking
Edward Livingston was by all accounts possessed of an extraordinarily gentle personality. Turning again to the 1864 biography by Hunt, his siblings recount a story. “Once, and but once, they said, when he was about eight years old, he was charged with violent conduct. The accusation was brought by one of the sisters to the mother. ‘Then go in the corner,’ said Margaret Beekman, ‘I am sure you have been very naughty, or Edward would not have done so.’”
He is further credited with a great sense of duty. As mayor during the same 1803 epidemic of yellow fever that caused the Gracies to take refuge at their country estate, Gracie Mansion (their primary residence at the time being 110 Broadway, which they rented from Livingston's immediate predecessor, Richard Varick), Livingston is known to have "regraded himself bound, as by a sacred contract, to remain steadfastly at his post, and calmly face the public enemy, without the slightest attention to what might be the consequences upon himself." He achieved great popularity visiting hospitals and the houses of the sick, assessing need, and dispensing aide (which famously emptied his wine cellar).
The consequences were profound, upon himself and otherwise. Falling ill toward the end of the outbreak and not by nature a lover of "pecuniary affairs," he had delegated responsibility for "such moneys belonging to the United States as were collected by legal proceedings," to a clerk, who spent them on "riotous living." Taking full responsibility, Livingston consigned his property for sale to settle his debts, resigned his dual posts as mayor and district attorney for NY state, and set out for New Orleans, which promised great opportunity having just been acquired through the Louisiana Purchase. It is his work there for which he is best known....
Anson Dickinson, c. 1827, watercolor on ivory, 4 1/8 x 3 1/4 in. @metmuseum Treat yourself to the amazing resources available through the Timeline of Art History and MetPublications click-throughs on the object page: 
#MayorAMonth no.46 #miniature #miniaturepainting #edwardlivingston #NYC #history #mayor #art
Chag Sameach!⁣ ⁣ This stunning Hanukkah lamp from the collection of @thejewishmuseum was made in the United States and dates to the 19th century, a span that allows for possible overlap with Archibald Gracie and his contemporary, #MayorAMonth no.46 Edward Livingston.⁣ ⁣ #chagsameach #menorah #hanukkah
If last-minute shopping for a favorite bibliophile leads you to a bookstore today, you can gorge on beautiful photos of historic houses and glean further context on the dynastic power from which #MayorAMonth no.46 Edward Livingston descended by browsing the delicious pages of @rizzolibooks “Life Along The Hudson: The Historic Country Estates of the Livingston Family.” There are thirty-five of them—more than enough to torment yourself with a good game of “which would I live in?” While you’re thumbing through the pages take special note of Clermont, where he was born, and Montgomery Place, which he inherited from his sister Janet in 1828. Both of which are open seasonally to the public.
​ #bibliophile #historichouse #architecture #christmaseve #windowshopping
Joshua Johnson Grace Allison McCurdy (Mrs. Hugh McCurdy) and Her Daughters, Mary Jane and Letitia Grace, c. 1806, Oil on canvas, 43 5/8 x 38 7/8 in. (110.8 x 98.8 cm), Collection @corcorangallery
Joshua Johnson, contemporary to Archibald Gracie and mayor Edward Livingston, is the first African American known to have made a career of art. He worked as portrait painter for over thirty years in Baltimore, Maryland, which, notably, had a greater population of freemen than slaves.
An advertisement for "Portrait Painting" he ran in the Baltimore Intelligencer, December 19, 1798 reads: "As a self-taught genius, deriving from nature and industry his knowledge of the Art; and having experienced many insuperable obstacles in the pursuit of his studies, it is highly gratifying to him to make assurances of his ability to execute all commands with an effect, and in a style, which must give satisfaction."
​Anyone interested in art history will appreciate the comprehensive object information on the Corcoran collection page: Further details on what is known about his life can be found on his entry on the Smithsonian @americanart site:
#africanamericanhistory #arthistory #selftaught #portrait #portraitpainting #folkart #americanart
Edward Livingston is celebrated as a brilliant legal mind. Arriving in New Orleans in 1804 he soon distinguished himself and devised a Code of Civil Procedure regulating the practice of law in Louisiana, which is unique in the US.
A deliciously ironic excerpt from Columbia Law Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, from January, 1902 observes that "his literary style was vigorous but ponderous; it rolled on with a deliberate affluence and grandiloquence of language which seems to have been highly effective seventy-five and even fifty years ago, though in broad contrast with simpler, more direct and terse style demanded by modern taste."
Ok then.
He is best known for law that was never adopted. The region having undulated through Spanish then French rule, with a new overlay of English common law, the penal code was convoluted and contradictory. In 1820 the Louisiana legislature passed an act to unify the penal code under the guiding principle of prevention. Here his childhood "sweetness of temper" comes into evidence as he structures a code based not on punishment, but rehabilitation.
Completed in 1824, his library catches fire and it, with all of the notes taken in preparation of it, is destroyed. Preparation of a second manuscript takes another two years. Requiring a complete overhaul of the extant system, the code was deemed unfeasible. It was, nevertheless, immediately reprinted in England, France, and Germany as the ideal of empathy for which to strive.
But nature and nurture can coexist in diametric opposition in the complex human psyche, as we shall discover.
​Portrait by John Trumbull, 1805, oil on canvas City Hall Portrait Collection
Scholars of history may have noticed something about the dates with which we have been dealing. This was the period when slavery was legal in New York. (Notably, during their occupation of NY, the British offered the slaves of rebels freedom, and relocated some 3,000 persons to Nova Scotia upon evacuation.)
March 29, 1799, the year Gracie Mansion is built, NY passes "An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery," which begins "Be it enacted ... That any child born of a slave within this state after the fourth day of July next shall be deemed and adjudged to be born free: Provided nevertheless. That such child shall be the servant of the legal proprietor of his or her mother until such servant, if a male, shall arrive at the age of twenty-eight years, and if a female, at the age of twenty-five years." Another act in 1817 grants freedom to slaves born before 1799 after ten years. Emancipation is achieved July 4, 1827. To be absolutely clear—only slave ownership ended in NY—the business of slave trading, shipping, continued long after.
Both Livingston and Gracie owned slaves.
By 1801, the year Livingston was appointed mayor, Gracie had become an Abolitionist and freed those he had held as slaves.
Livingston left for New Orleans in 1804. His first wife deceased, he married the daughter of a French sugar planter, and supported French planters who opposed the congressional ban on the import of Africans as slaves. As a diplomat, he rankled at British refusal to relinquish escapees who had reached British soil.
This image shows "Old Iron Sides on a lee shore The U.S. Frigate Constitution Captn. Elliott, weathering Scilly, on her return from France, with the Hon. Edward Livingston on board on the night of the [Eleventh] of May 1835." He died 1836.
Anyone wishing to research further might start with @nyhistory and @johnjaycollege
Now, in the tradition of New Years Eve, let's discard what is broken and cary forward only what is good.
​LOC This stunning litho by A. Hoffy depicts that noble lady, the USS Constitution. Launched 1797, she is the oldest commissioned warship afloat. You can go aboard. @usscm