Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Bradley Martins: Their Start and Career in New York Society


On the night of Jan. 26, 1885, which was the coldest of an exceptionally bitter Winter, Mrs. Bradley Martin gave, at her double residence, 20 and 22 West Twentieth Street, what was considered as having been, up to that time, with the exception of the Vanderbilt "fancy dress ball of 1883, " the most unique and beautiful entertainment ever enjoyed by the members of New York society. About 400 guests were invited, and the event created comparatively as much anticipatory interest and excitement as the coming ball has aroused this season.

No better evidence of the marked changes which even the comparatively short period of twelve years can effect in the society and journalistic worlds, can be afforded than a study of the story of this ball as related in two of the morning newspapers of Jan. 27, 1885. Strange as it may seem in this era of the full publication of society doings and events, only two of the New York morning newspapers of that date even alluded to this ball, and these two gave only a brief account of it. A perusal of the list of guests is almost startling, as it shows that of the 400 people who attended Mrs. Martin's ball of twelve Winters ago, scarcely one-half are likely to attend her coming ball of Feb. 10 of this year. The divorce court, the vicissitudes of fortune, and particularly death, have removed from participation in society life what seems a remarkable number of persons in so short a time.

Harry Cannon, who was one of the leaders of the cotillion at the Martin ball of 1885, is dead. Ward McAllister, Mrs. Paran Stevens, her son, Harry Stevens; George Henry Warren, Mrs. George L. Rives the first, Miss Marie, afterward Mrs. Frank Pendleton, and others of the guests of 1885 almost as prominent, have passed away. It will also be recalled that during the ball one of the invited guests, and one of the belles of the day, Miss Ruth Baylies, who had been taken ill only a few days previous, died, and the ball was almost forgotten in the general sorrow when the news of her death became known the next day.

The Huge Temporary Supper Room

The feature of the Martin ball of 1885 was the huge temporary supper room, built of wood, which was erected over the rear yards of the Martin residence. This was 68 feet long by 25 feet wide, and after it had been erected the insurance companies compelled Mrs. Martin to pay a heavy premium for its use for one night, on account of the risk to the adjoining property. This building, or room, was arranged so that access to it was gained by a flight of broad steps leading down from the billiard room, which occupies the entire width of the Martin houses in the rear, and whose three windows were transformed into temporary doorways for the occasion. It was heated by steam and lighted by three enormous chandeliers and many side lights. The ceiling was decorated by Marcotte to resemble the starry sky. The walls were hung with turkey red, and antique armor was used to decorate them. A massive old sideboard was placed against one side of the room, and a long supper table was arranged in the centre. The effect of this room, as the guests walked out from the billiard room and stood on the top of the stairway, was striking and beautiful. Unfortunately the bitter cold of the night, on which the thermometer fell to zero, made the room of little use, as the steam pipes could not keep the temporary structure warm.

The guests when they entered were received by Mrs. Martin, who stood in the reception room at the right of the main hall, and from there they passed on through the library and dining-room into the billiard room in the rear. After viewing the supper room, they returned through a small room on the left of the main hall, where two bands were stationed, which played continuously through the evening. Beyond this small room, in the front of the house, was a room arranged as a large hallway, and decorated with deers' heads and other trophies of the chase from Bal Macaan, Mr. Martin's leased estate in Scotland.

Leaders of the Cotillions

After supper, which was served about midnight, two cotillions were danced. Lispenard Stewart led one, in the dining-room, and Harry Cannon another, in the large entrance hall. The favors were exceptionally beautiful. Those for the women were mother-of-pearl fans and silver and gold ornaments, and for the men scarf-pins with pearl heads and broad satin sashes covered with gilt and silver imitations of foreign orders. In the flower figure, clusters of pink roses tied with satin ribbons were given to the women, and boutonnieres of lilies of the valley were given tot he men. The women's bouquets had each a small stuffed sparrow suspended above it by a vibrating wire. Mrs. Martin wore a superb dress of white satin, made, as was then the fashion, with a long train, and she carried seven or eight large bouquets.

The men, matrons, and maidens, who are middle-aged or are approaching middle age, in New York society, well remember this beautiful and unique ball, now only a tradition to the younger generation.


Mrs. Martin's Brilliant Party in February, 1890, When There Was a Dinner and Dancing.

On the night of Feb 8, 1890, Mrs. Bradley Martin entertained about 300 of her friends at dinner at Delmonico's, the dinner being followed by a cotillion. The decorations of the reception, dining, and ball rooms were on a somewhat novel plan and exceedingly rich in character. Gloire de Paris roses were used chiefly in the adornment of the tables, of which there were six, each set for 46 persons. The walls of the main dining hall were hung with blue silk brocade and adorned with small gilt mirrors, from which hung baskets of lilies of the valley. A notable feature of the decoration was a Roman chandelier of orchids that swung in place of the usual circle of lights.

Mr. and Mrs. Martin received their guests in the small red room, in which many graceful palms and ferns were grouped. Coffee was served in both the red room and the blue room to both ladies and gentlemen after dinner. In the blue room, as well as in the main corridor, banks of palms and roses were placed, also a number of choice tapestries, pictures, and bits of bric-a-brac from the Martin residence.

Lander's Orchestra and the Hungarian Band played throughout the dinner and during the cotillion which George H. Bend led, dancing with Mrs. Martin. There were two figure favors, the men receiving jeweled diggers and fac similes of the Orders of the Golden Fleece, and the ladies were presented with small satin bonnets and oxidized silver chatelaines. The guests included all persons prominent in New York's exclusive society, and one of the most charming features of the occasion was the presence of an unusually large number of debutantes, for whom a special table was reserved and appropriately adorned with rosebuds.
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rticle Name:The Bradley Martins: Their Start and Career in New York Society
Researcher/Transcriber:Miriam Medina
New York Times Feb 7, 1897. p.10 (1 page)

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