A wedding at a glance

Beeckman Steward wedding invitationMy grandfather once told me that his parents had to wait for several years to marry. When they did, in January 1885, my great-grandfather was 32 and his bride 23 – hardly old by our standards, perhaps! My grandfather’s box of family papers yields a copy of the wedding invitation; even better, another envelope contains the tiny (2 5/8” by 4”) notebook in which my great-grandmother listed her wedding presents.

Cam Steward and Daisy Beeckman were “poor relations” at this stage in their lives, so they were fortunate to receive two checks for $1,000, one from “Kate & Louis [Lorillard]”[1] and one from Cam’s brother John Steward (Jr.).[2] The value of money in 1884–85 can be hard to approximate in today’s dollars, but $1,000 was certainly equivalent to a generous year’s income in many parts of the United States.

That they were not expected to remain “hard up” is suggested by the rest of the wedding presents – and their donors. Family was well-represented, of course: Cam’s first cousin J. J. Van Alen[3] sent dishes and an epergne; their cousin Sallie Marié[4] gave coffee cups; Mrs. Foster – presumably Daisy’s grandmother[5] – sent a family Bible and a quilt; and Will Lyman, who would later marry Daisy’s sister Helen,[6] gave the couple a silver tea caddy.

Members of the Knickerbocker Greys, ca. 1863: From left, William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919), later 1st Viscount Astor; Campbell Steward (1852-1936); John Steward (Jr.) (1847-1923); James Hooker Hamersley (1844-1901); James Henry Jones (1846-1919), whose sister Cordelia married John Steward Jr. in 1871; and (kneeling) Ogden Goelet (1846-1897).

Fittingly, as the Steward and Beeckman circles included the novelist Edith Wharton, other presents came from friends with distinctly Knickerbocker names. Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Astor[7] sent a tea set; Mrs. Astor[8] gave a gold bracelet, and Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Goelet[9] a diamond pendant; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Goelet[10] sent a tête à tête; Mrs. Winthrop[11] gave the couple a set of lunch plates; and presents arrived from members of the Brevoort, de Peyster, Iselin, Livingston, and Suydam families.

My great-grandmother listed the flowers she received (“Basket – Mr. Barnwell”); then, leaving a few pages blank, used this little notebook to track the vital statistics of her first child, Campbell White Steward (1886–1960).

Continued here.

Notes

[1] Daisy’s sister Katharine Livingston Beeckman (1855–1941) was married to Louis Lasher Lorillard 1874–1910.

[2] Mrs. John Steward (Jr.) (Cordelia Schermerhorn Jones [1849–1920]) sent a check for $500.

[3] James John Van Alen (1848–1923) was married to Cordelia Steward’s first cousin Emily Astor 1875–81.

[4] Sarah Steward Marié (1861–1886), who married Francis Key Pendleton in June 1885.

[5] Eliza Robinson Atherton (1812–1891) was married to Samuel Henry Foster 1830–61.

[6] William Pratt Lyman (1860–1924) married Helen Beeckman in 1886.

[7] William Waldorf Astor was married to Mary Dahlgren Paul 1878–94.

[8] Charlotte Augusta Gibbes (1825–1887) married John Jacob Astor in 1846.

[9] Ogden Goelet married Mary Reta Wilson in 1877.

[10] Robert Goelet (1841–1899) married Harriette Louise Warren in 1879.

[11] Katharine Wilson Taylor (1839–1925) was married to Daisy’s kinsman Robert Winthrop 1859–92.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

10 thoughts on “A wedding at a glance

  1. That really makes relatives real people. My great grandparents, Alonzo Judson Monroe and Lucretia Anna Huntington were similarly settled in life. He was a lawyer and she had been teaching. Out west, such grandeur was not expected, but a long list of wedding gifts was printed in the local newspaper along with the information about the wedding. We have been able to identify some of those items in the things handed down generation to generation.

  2. The wedding gift of a family bible might explain so many family bibles with everything filled in with the same handwriting.

  3. Any idea why “his parents had to wait for several years to marry”…. other than the obvious (?) that they were poor relations.

    1. Viola, I think it was because they were “poor relations”: poor in the sense that he had to make enough money for them to marry on. Both of Campbell’s siblings married spouses with enough money not to work (or to have to work themselves), but he was a stockbroker who more or less lived on his paycheck, at least until his father and her mother died (in 1901 and 1904).

  4. The list of wedding presents is wonderful. I have a list of my paternal grandparents’ wedding presents from a 1911 newspaper article–nothing so fancy as this, as they were both from poor families in a small town in rural Washington state. He was a civil engineer, or in today’s terms a surveyor. They lived for most of their married lives in various isolated spots like lumber camps, often in tents or log cabins. When he finished a project, they moved on to the next, so they had no need for items like silver or china. In fact, the only items that came down in the family were his engineer’s license, some photographs she took and developed herself, and one fancy ring.

    I understand what all the gifts you mention are except the “tete-a-tete.” I thought that term referred to a social occasion!

    1. I recall a tete-a-tete at my grandmother’s house a long time ago. It is quite out of fashion now, but in Victorian times, it was popular as a means of having a conversation . It is like two chairs conjoined at the sides so that each occupant faced in opposite directions, more or less face to face, thus the name.

      I found this example on eBay:
      http://www.ebay.com/bhp/tete-a-tete-chair?rmvSB=true

  5. When did they actually get engaged? Certainly not before she was 18 (when she would hardly have “known her own mind”, a fine phrase from an earlier post). And he a stockbroker when no stock was safe, not even NY-NH-&-H-RR which did become labeled for widows & orphans.
    Using an old “fact” I know of ($5 per week would cover room & 1 meal at a NYC boarding house during this period or so said the “Reader’s Clearinghouse” raffles of the day) mathed with what my daughter tells me is a good deal for a studio in NYC now (works out to $345 per week), my very rule-of-thumb calculations mean the three mentioned cash donations total $175,000 in our dollars. Of course, what that $2500 could purchase THEN is vastly different than NOW: a cook and a domestic to start. Still, enough to set up the bride to able to receive visitors properly and if managed well enough to cover living costs for more than a year.
    An Arnold-Bartholomew couple (Richard & Sarah) I’ve recently written up got married just a few years before your couple. The bride’s maternal grandfather, from a manufacturing family in RI, gave the couple $5000! The sum was indeed a sub-heading of the story in the Springfield (MA) paper with details high up in the column. (Her father was a prominent city dentist, but grandfather was making sure his deceased daughter’s only daughter was set, given that the new hubby was also going to be a NYC broker.)
    A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound . . . .

  6. Dear Mr. Steward,

    I’d love to find out more about the Knickerbocker Greys photo you have in your post. I’m on the Board of Directors of the current Greys and we are always looking for historical material for our archives. Your photo is dated before the official founding of the Greys in 1881 and it would be great to shed light on the early years if we can especially in our 135th anniversary year. Any information would be most welcome. I can be reached at 917-693-7303 or at knickerbockergreys@gmail.com

    Warmest regards,
    Adrienne

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