Henry Deming Hibbard

These are my grandmother’s notes about her father, Henry Deming Hibbard (1856-1942). He was born in West Roxbury, near Boston, the fourth child, third surviving child and second son of William Charlton Hibbard and Sarah Anne Smith. My grandmother mentions that he graduated in metallurgy from MIT; she doesn’t say much about his business, but he basically designed safes for banks using manganese steel. His first wife, my grandmother’s mother Rebecca Anne Wickersham, died in childbirth in 1905, a month before her 38th birthday; the baby died too, leaving my grandmother, aged six, and her brother Lyman, aged 12. After her father remarried in 1911, my grandmother more or less moved to Europe with her aunts, and spent the rest of her life there apart from a couple of years in American boarding schools and her newlywed time in Malaya. But she clearly built up a bond with her father in the first decade of the century. Here is what she had to say.

Henry Deming Hibbard

I don’t know nearly as much about my father’s family as I do about my mother’s; I only know little things that he himself told me. He had an elder brother, Tom, and two sisters, Sue, who was the eldest in the family and married a man called Seaver and had one son, Walter. Walter must have been about my own mother’s age, though he was her nephew by marriage, and from one of her letters to my grandmother it was obvious that my mother would have liked to make a match between Lily and Walter. Walter did give Lily a dog, a Newfoundland, which she called Walter.

My comments in red:

In fact there was another older sister, Mary, who died aged two before any of the others apart from Sue had been born.

Susan Hibbard, who lived from 1851 to 1909, and her husband Charles Morse Seaver actually had four children, not just Walter, who was the oldest. My grandmother can be forgiven for not remembering two of them, Alice and Philip, who kept themselves to themselves, but it is puzzling that she does not mention Henry, who became a successful architect in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I note also that in his own reminiscences (linked above), Henry Seaver does not mention my grandmother or her father, his uncle after whom he must have been named. It’s odd because both Henry Seaver and my grandmother were clearly in contact with their aunt Ann Hibbard, the mycologist.

Walter Seaver was born in 1870, three years younger than Dorothy’s mother, Rebecca Wickersham, who was born in 1867, and the same age as Dorothy’s aunt, Lily Wickersham. Lily, later known as Zora, in fact never married, and died in 1956.

Tom [1854-1938] married twice and each time had a son and a daughter. I don’t remember ever seeing his first wife [Jennie Marie Blackinton, 1858-1890, married Tom in 1880], but her son Charlton and her daughter Marion came to stay fairly often; they were quite grown up, 15 years and more older than I was. [Charlton lived from 1884 to 1969 and had two daughters, both of whom have living descendants, three of whom I have met. Marion lived from 1882 to 1978, and also had two daughters, but neither had children.] I just remember seeing the second wife [Bertha Leavitt Bartlett, 1871-1941, married Tom in 1899] one summer when we went to see them somewhere in New England where they had a summer place [Lake Winnisquam, New Hampshire, which I’m glad to say is still used by Tom and Bertha’s descendants.]. She had a boy, Henry, and a girl, Eleanor, both younger than I. [Henry lived from 1904 to 2002, and had two children but no grandchildren. Eleanor lived from 1905 to 2003 and had three children, two of whom are living as of 2023, and numerous further descendants.]

Aunt Ann never married. She was definitely the intellectual type and was a keen botanist; she discovered a fern – or was it a mushroom? – which was named after her, something Hibbardiana. [NW comment: Lactarius hibbardiae.] When she came to stay with us my stepmother found her very trying. She did not enjoy tea-parties at all, in fact I don’t think she cared for society in any form. She did like to drive in the country, but only if one went very slowly so that she could watch the edge of the road and get my father to stop at once if se thought she saw anything of interest; that seemed very dull indeed to my step-mother. For many years I wrote to her but she died years ago, just after the second great war, I think it was. Towards the end of her life Marion Thanisch and her daughters, Kay and Eunice, lived with her, I believe. [Marion married Rudolf Thanisch, whose brother Otto married her cousin Alice Seaver, not mentioned here. Her older daughter Carolyn / Kay did not marry, and her younger daughter Eunice did marry but had no children. They moved to Amarillo, Texas after Ann Hibbard’s death.]

Papa told me that his father was an engineer and at one time did some work in Russia; I think it was a railway that he built, but it may have been a bridge. In any case when the work was finished he was given a gold watch inscribed “With gratitude from a Crown” which my cousin Charlton had, and which I suppose his daughter Joan, now Mrs. Walter Fleming, now has, as Charlton died in 1969. [Joan’s son Bill Fleming now has the watch. It is inscribed: “W.C. Hibbard / of the Atlantic Works East Boston / In remembrance of the Mandjoon / by A. Crown / 1858”. So it looks like it was in gratitude for repairing a royal yacht in Boston, rather than for any work in Russia.]

Towards the end of his life Walter Charlton Hibbard, Papa’s father, suffered from what my father thought was premature senile decay. [My grandmother crossed out “William” in this sentence and substituted “Walter”, but “William” was in fact correct.] He seemed to be quite helpless and childish, and his wife, born Susan Smith, [actually Sarah Ann Smith] had to look after all the family affairs. She must have had a good deal of character. Her husband was an atheist, and left to himself he would have preferred his children to have no religious instruction at all, but my step-mother told me that Papa told her that his mother – though I doubt if she had any strong religious belief herself – said that the children must be brought up like the other children in West Roxbury, near Boston, where they lived, and she saw to it that they attended the Unitarian church there. [William Charlton Hibbard got into trouble for his atheism at least once, but then became very interested in Spiritualism towards the end of his life.]

Papa always thought that his mother’s father must have been an alcoholic, as
she was so very determined that her sons should never drink. He himself really disliked the taste of wine, or indeed any drink, though he would sometimes take brandy or whisky if he were chilled. And at a dinner party, when there was wine and he was host, he would take a little to make his guests feel comfortable, but he always made a wry face at the taste of it.

DNA evidence suggests that Sarah Anne Smith, my great-great-grandmother, was not in fact the biological daughter of her mother’s husband John Smith, but of a Benjamin Cleveland from New York state. This makes her, and me, distantly related to President Grover Cleveland, Shirley Temple, and the writer Fritz Leiber. Sarah Anne Smith’s mother’s maiden name was Sarah Locke; she was from Dover, New Hampshire.

As boys, Tom and Henry were given no pocket-money, and just had to earn it. They drove neighbours’ cows and did various odd jobs like that, so that they learned very young the value of money and how hard it was to make. Papa never could understand why Lyman and I were so casual about money, but then we never had to earn every penny as he did. [My grandmother’s elder brother, Lyman Charlton Hibbard, was born in 1893, six years before her. He died in 1956, and had no children of his own, though he brought up his wife’s son from her first marriage.]

When he was still a little boy – I think he was born in 1856 [yep]– the American Civil war was going on. No one in the family was in it – in the Hibbard family, that is, that I know of – but the little children at school were told to bring old linen to school with them, and after school hours they all sat round the table pulling the linen to shreds to make lint, which was used for packing wounds. Nothing was then known about germs. I suppose the linen had been washed at home, but I wonder how well washed the children’s hands were before they started pulling the old linen to bits. No wonder that wounds treated with that lint very seldom healed; it is only a wonder that they ever did! [See anecdote about germs later.]

He and Tom went to the ordinary public school, but their mother insisted on their having piano lessons. This was quite an unusual thing for boys to have, but Papa certainly enjoyed it – I don’t know if Uncle Tom did or not. The other boys used to come and wait in the yard till Tom and Henry had had their lessons and could come out to play. No one teased them about it or called them Sissy as would have happened if they had been less completely boyish. But they were very strong active boys, and Papa at least was a very good shot from an early age. Much later, when I was a little girl, if we were at a fun fair, he would win any thing I liked for me at a shooting gallery. He had to have one shot to see how the gun was biased, and after that he could hit anything he liked.

In due course he went to Boston Tech, now glorified into MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and trained as a mining and metallurgical engineer. [MIT was always officially MIT, but was informally called Boston Tech until the first world war.] Anyone who graduated from there was sure of a good post. He went out to Montana, or Wyoming, and was there in the day of stage-coaches and hold-ups. though he himself was never held up.

Sometime in one of his jobs out there – I have never quite understood what they were – he lost his temper with a man and nearly killed him; he told my step-mother that he was so horrified at himself that he determined that he would never again lose his temper, and he never did. He had great strength of character. In many ways he was very simple and direct. He had excellent health, and could never quite understand anyone being a semi-invalid; he was full of sympathy for any illness he really understood, a broken bone, or something quite definite, but people who just weren’t well without being really ill always puzzled him. Like his stepson Ames Brooks, my step-mother’s elder son, who had all sorts of minor ailments, and also a very bad digestion. Incidentally I have always wondered if that were not due partly to the way he was made to drink milk as a child. He hated milk, but the doctor said he should drink it. When my step-mother pointed out that he disliked it very much, her doctor said he must take it, and added: “I needn’t tell his mother more than that.” So he was forced to drink milk and I gather that his meals were a nightmare for him and everyone else. [See below for more on the stepmother and Ames Brooks.]

In the summers Patsy, our coloured cook, made the most luscious strawberry shortcake; layers of unsweetened short biscuit with strawberries crushed in butter and sugar between each layer, and a sauceboat full of the same mixture of strawberries heated in butter and sugar. I never remember anything so good! Each time we had it my fatter, who always served, would ask Ames how much he would like.

“I’m sorry, Mr Hibbard” (Ames always called him that) “but I can’t eat that.”

“Really? Think it would hurt you? Just a little?” my father always said. Full marks to Ames, who never showed any impatience, though it must have been trying for him.

[A cook called Patsy is recorded as a member of the Hibbard household in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses. Her surname is unclear but looks like “Lander” or “Sander”; her race is given as “Mulatto” in 1920 and 1930 and “Negro” in 1940; her birthplace as South Carolina in 1920 and 1940, and North Carolina in 1930; and her age as 35 in 1920, 42 in 1930 and 52 in 1940.]

But to go back to Papa. He had so may interests; he loved all games; tennis when he was younger. golf later, bowling, all indoor games, bridge, of course, and most of all chess – he taught me the moves when I was very young, and then taught me to play from books; he played with me himself sometimes, but I had really no idea of the game till I was much older, though I liked playing games from books.

He was interested in all sorts of things, and liked reading history and biography and books of travel; fiction he didn’t care for at all. Once he began a novel in which the new moon rose in the east [note here on the typescript by my aunt Ursula, who died in 1998: ‘?”west” surely: it does rise in the east’; to which I would reply that you can only see the new moon in the west, and only around or after sunset, but it’s setting not rising at that point]; that finished the book for him, and he read no more. Another book made one miner say to another “Pass me a stick of Little Giant dynamite” and Papa objected to that, as he said that no miner would have said “dynamite” but just “Little Giant”. If there was the slightest deviation from fact, the book was worthless as far as Papa was concerned.

When the Paris Exhibition was on, sometime in the 1880’s, he went to it with his sister Ann, I think – it was before he married. Eiffel entertained a group – of American engineers, I imagine – to lunch or dinner in a dining-room at the very top of the Eiffel tower; most people have no idea that there is a room up there, high above where one can now go, but Papa showed it to me once when we had gone up the tower. [More on that later. The Eiffel Tower was completed only in 1889, so this must have been one of the very first groups to dine at the top, as Presidents Macron and Trump did in 2017.]

He could draw quite well, he could play simple accompaniments on the piano – very often on Sunday evenings he would play and Lyman and I would sing, usually Negro spirituals. He was an expert on steel, and was often sent for if things went wrong in a steel mill; he was sent to Norway and Australia and Japan, as well as many places in the U.S.A.

Perhaps he had too many interests. John reminds me of him in some ways, but John has, if anything, too few interests outside his own subjects, history and political Science. [My poor father! This is really unfair to him!]

From all I ever heard he adored my own mother; I know he was heart-broken when she died. He didn’t feel the same way about his second wife, but that is natural enough; he was over fifty by then, and so was she, and though he was undoubtedly very fond of her it just wasn’t the same. He forgot her quite often. Once he had driven her to the Country Club, where she to have tea with friends while he played golf. Tea was over, and the other women had all been collected by their various husbands, but there was no sign of Papa. At last she asked one of the Club servants, who said that Mr. Hibbard had gone home long ago. I was in the house when he came in, and he asked where “Mamma” was; I evidently didn’t know he was supposed to be bringing her home, or I would. have told him. He went into his “den” – probably to work out his next move in one of his many correspondence chess games – and a little later, or anyway some time later, the telephone rang and when I answered my step-mother asked to speak to Papa. He came at once and sounded quite horrified, though he said very little, she did most of the talking. When he had hung up he said:

“I forgot all about her, I’ll have to go to get her at once.”

She had allowed the friends with whom she was having tea to drive her to their house, but not all the way home; she made Papa go to fetch her. It must have been very humiliating for her.

Sarah “Sally” Ames, born in Wisconsin in 1858, married Charles Brooks in Plainfield in 1881 and, as noted above, had two sons. Ames Brooks lived from 1883 to 1931. His brother Van Wyck Brooks, who is not mentioned here, was a Pulitzer prize-winning critic, and lived from 1886 to 1963. Their father Charles Brooks died in 1906, and Sally married Henry Hibbard in 1911. She herself lived to 1946, outliving her second husband by three and a half years.

Another time he went up to Schenectady on business, and took his golf clubs with him, saying that he might get a game of golf. However Sally was quite convinced that he was coming back that same night, and got more and more worried as it got later and later. Lyman, who was at home, suggested that Papa might have stayed on to get a game of golf next day, but that suggestion wasn’t well received; Sally annihilated him, saying that he shouldn’t accuse his father of such selfishness, so Lyman shut up. Then Sally made Ames ring all the New York hospitals and the police, but there was no trace of Papa. Next day he returned, well and cheerful, having enjoyed a good game on the course – which I think he had never played on before, and he rather collected golf courses. At first Sally was so glad to see him safe and sound that she hugged him, and then remembered how much anxiety he had caused her, and went to lock herself in her room.

Papa had a pet theory that the ancient Egyptians had used steel. He thought that he had found proof of this in the way that some of the stone slabs he had seen in Egypt had been cut; he thought that steel must have been used. He had some correspondence with Sir Flinders Petrie over this, but Sir Flinders didn’t agree. I remember going to the British Museum to get them to send some photographs to Papa, I think it was to illustrate an article he had written on the use of steel by the Egyptians.

Papa himself invented a process for making wrought iron – can I be right about that? I am almost sure that it was wrought iron and not steel. It was tried on a small scale and worked very well. Then a firm in Scotland was interested and started to use it; this was sometime in the late twenties, I think. But they did not install the proper rolling plant, Papa told me; they thought they could use one they already had, to save expense, and it didn’t work. And then the depression came and they gave up the whole thing. Papa would have been a rich man, he would have drawn royalties. When I say rich, I don’t mean a millionaire, but very comfortably off. As it was, he never had much money. When I was a child he had his own steel works where he made steel safes with the manganese steel that uncle Bobby [Sir Robert Hadfield, married to my grandmother’s aunt on her mother’s side] had invented. I loved going there with him when I was little, the steel mill fascinated me. But somehow that folded up. From what my step-mother told me once I understood that it was the manager’s fault, and that Papa had left too much to him and he had messed things up – I certainly got the impression that he had been dishonest and that Papa had accepted all responsibility and hadn’t gone bankrupt, but I don’t know if that was the right and true story or not. I shall never know now; I never asked my father. He invented some modifications to the machinery that was used there, I do remember his telling me that. He sometimes showed me diagrams of things he had invented, but I didn’t always understand them.

The “cannonball” steel safes invented by Henry D. Hibbard and made at his Plainfield factory still look good and come on the antiques market every now and then.

He was quite good at golf, anyway he won lots of cups and things, the house was full of them. He went on playing golf till he was over eighty.

I never fully understood his last illness; it was during the war, and he wrote once asking if I could go to him. I couldn’t; Billy [my grandfather] had been very ill and I couldn’t leave him, and at that time it was very difficult to get permission to cross the ocean. I don’t think he quite realised the difficulties and he was disappointed and oh how I wish I could have gone! Lyman told me that he died of cancer of the stomach. He was always a very hearty eater; he told me that when he was a boy various relations asked his mother if she didn’t think that Henry ate too much, but she said he seemed to need it. Towards the end of his life he couldn’t eat at all, I think. My step-mother didn’t even take in that he was ill; her mind had quite failed by then.

Once she disappeared; she had a companion by then, who kept the doors and windows locked as Sally was apt to wander out and get lost, but even so that day she vanished. They had to tell Papa, but he was too ill to do anything and said they must send for the police. Just as the police walked in, Sally came down the stairs, very dirty and dusty, and said in a complaining tone that she had been where it was very dirty and very cold. I don’t think they ever found exactly where she had been but I suppose it was in one of the attics.

He had no fear of death, at least he had none when once we talked about it. He said he had had a very good life, and that the thing that most interested him was what was going to happen next. He told me that when my mother died her face suddenly lit up and it was as though she saw something glorious. That impressed him very much.

He had very violent prejudices. He could never bear to read anything of Lewis Carroll’s because he said that the verses “The Walrus and the Carpenter” were putting the carpenter on the same plane as the lower animals. He might just as well have accused Lewis Carroll of lèse-majesté because of the way he treated kings and queens! But he couldn’t see that.

He was very fastidious; he didn’t really like to have his shoes cleaned except in his own home; he said the boot-blacks’ hands might be so dirty.

When he was a little boy in West Roxbury the first bananas were imported, and the children thought they were wonderful. The grocers sold off the ones that were over-ripe at two for a nickel, I think Papa said, and he and the other children used to buy them instead of buying candy; they thought they were wonderful. So many things that we all take for granted now have come in really very recently. Papa was thrilled at the first cars, and bought one in 1908, when few people had cars – at least in Plainfield. That first car, a Buick, was quite open, two high seats in front and a “rumble” at the back – very uncomfortable; that is where I usually sat, with my father driving and my, step-mother beside him. The sides of the seats were very low, so there wasn’t much support. There was no cover of any sort, and I think there was not even a wind screen on that first car; the next one did have a hood that could be raised over the front seats, though it didn’t protect the rumble at all. Then the third car we had was made so that one could put up side-curtains of more or less transparent celluloid if it rained, but it took so long to put them up that unless one was miles from anywhere it was quicker to drive to the next shelter. Really those first cars were most uncomfortable, and they so often broke down! Over and over again, when we were out in the country, I would be sent to the nearest farm house to ask the farmer if he could bring his horses to pull us out of wherever we had stuck. I remember hearing that some farmers made quite a good thing out of keeping a bit of the road near them so boggy that cars couldn’t get through and the farmers were always being called on to help and made a lot.

Once I can remember my father driving me to see “Aunt” Lucy Taylor – she was a Quaker, and said “thee” to her intimates – and it was in the winter and very cold. He was wearing a great goatskin coat which I think Bunnie [sister of my grandmother’s mother, married to Sir Robert Hadfield] had given him. We both had hoods with ear-muffs, and lots of scarves, and heavy fur gloves, but in that open car it was freezing and Papa made me get down on the floor under the rug while he tried to get up a bit of speed – I don’t think that car would every do more than 30 an hour. When we got to High Bridge Aunt Lucy made me drink either brandy or whisky, and even Papa had some – he would take it for medicinal purposes.

My step-mother told me that when she was a young married woman the germ theory was just coming in. She said she and her friends laughed heartily at the idea that those tiny little things that one couldn’t even see could do any harm. She herself always claimed that though she did sometimes catch cold, it was never from any germ, it was because she had got her feet wet, or something like that.

Tante also scorned the idea of germs. She thought it was quite cruel to kill flies, which did no one any harm. Mosquitoes were different, they bit you and hurt you and you were justified in killing them – but a Poor little fly! She grew very indignant over that.

Papa was, as I have said, an excellent shot, and he loved going camping in the woods in Maine or Canada. He went till he remarried, but I think he never went after that – I suppose Sally wouldn’t have liked it. Perhaps he didn’t while my own mother was alive either. But in the time of Zora and Nama [as noted above, Zora was the nickname for Lily, sister of my grandmother’s mother and of Lady Frances “Bunnie” Hadfield; Nama is their mother, my grandmother’s maternal grandmother, born Frances Wyatt Belt, the third wife of Samuel Morris Wickersham, who lived from 1837 to 1912. They lived with Henry in Plainfield after the death of Rebecca, his first wife, until he remarried. Zora, Nama, Bunnie, Bunnie’s husband Sir Robert Hadfield and my grandmother are all buried in the same plot in Brookwood Cemetery near London.] he went, I think, nearly every summer, taking Lyman and another boy. I was never allowed to go, and resented it bitterly, but I can quite see that a little girl in the party would have spoiled the fun of the others – but I couldn’t see it then. They went off for several weeks, I think, taking a few supplies – coffee and salt and sugar, things like that – and otherwise lived on the game they shot and the fish they caught. Papa was a very good cook for that sort of thing.

After he married my step-mother, for some reason they let the maid stay away on holiday until after Papa and Sally had come back – I think it was to her house, not his. So they were to be alone there till the maids returned – the next day, I imagine. That first morning Papa went down and got the range going, put on the coffee, and went upstairs to wash and dress. He told Sally that as she didn’t know much about cooking, he thought they might just have boiled eggs. When he came down to the kitchen he found her sitting in tears at the kitchen table with a bowl of eggs in front of her; she had no idea of how to boil an egg! He thought that was a great joke and often told it; she didn’t seem to mind. In her young days girls of good family didn’t learn to cook. But they did keep their rooms in order, and she expected me to dust mine – I don’t think I made the bed, just dusted. I resented that. We always had a cook and house parlourmaid, as it would be called in England, and while I wouldn’t have minded a bit doing much more if it had been really necessary, I just didn’t sea the point of doing it especially when Anna was so much better. Anna was Swedish; she had arrived in the States knowing no English at all. Sally had to show her everything, but she learned quickly and never forgot. sally made her sit down in the dining-room and served a meal – a pretence meal, I suppose – just as she wanted Anna to do it, and Anna copied everything and never made a mistake after that. [Anna Nelson, aged 31 and born in Sweden, is recorded as part of the Hibbard household in the 1920 census.]

She was trained to stand in the room while we were having meals, in case anything was wanted ; this always seemed to me rather hard on her, as it was very seldom that anything was wanted, and she could always have been rung for, but it was the way that Sally wanted it. Anna was devoted to her, indeed all her maids were, and never left her except to get married. She once told me something which was really good advice; never to reprove a child or a servant in front of other people; wait till you had him or her alone.

Papa had a great prejudice against Catholics, and was most upset when I first wanted to become one; so much so, that on the advice of a priest at the Oratory I put it off and was actually not received into the Church till just before I married. I asked him once why he felt so strongly, and he told me of two incidents which had impressed him very much as a boy. One was that when they were building a new Catholic church, a poor woman he knew, or knew of, was told she must contribute a sack of potatoes – presumably some grown by her or her family. He was quite sure of that, though I don’t know how old he was at the time or how accurate his information was. The other incident was when a penknife of his was stolen from his desk at school. He was quite sure that an Irish-American boy, a Catholic, had taken it. A few days later it was put back in his desk and he supposed that the boy had been to confession and that the priest had told him he must put it back. I couldn’t see why Papa thought that was such a dreadful thing, and he couldn’t see why I thought it wasn’t. But once I had become a Catholic he didn’t seem to mind at all. I think the idea about the boy and the knife was that he shouldn’t have given it back just because the priest told him to.

It was while Zora and I were living in Egerton Gardens, near the Oratory, that I first seriously wanted to join the Church, though I had often thought of it especially since Billie McKeever had been received while we were at Foxcroft. [For Billie McKeever see below.] Zora didn’t mind at all, but said that I should tell Papa, so I wrote to him, and got a cable begging me to wait until I heard from him; Sally told me afterwards that it upset him so much that he couldn’t sleep at night. I hadn’t the faintest idea that he would mind at all.

Papa would never let me have a dog, for fear of being bitten. But we had cats, and be was very fond of them and they of him; if I couldn’t find my pet kitten I would go to Papa’s den and nearly always the kitten was there, curled up as near to him as it could get.

Oh, but I was going to say that when I was thinking of becoming a Catholic, Papa and Sally came to Europe, and Sally said to Zora that she supposed I was influenced by the big buildings in Europe, which Zora thought very silly. I suppose she really meant cathedrals. But St. Patrick’s in New York is quite imposing; I needn’t have come to Europe to see a cathedral!

[Repeated from earlier] Papa’s memory of his father was rather vague; he told me once that he thought his father suffered from premature senile decay.

We nearly always had breakfast together before he married for the second time; Zora had hers in bed and I don’t know where Lyman was, I don’t remember him at breakfast; perhaps he had his earlier or later – or not at all, I don’t know. But I loved it with Papa, who would always answer questions and tell me things I wanted to know, all sorts of things about current events and history and travels abroad. We were both interested in many different things. I remember when Blériot flew the Channel – I don’t remember anything about the Wright brothers; either I was just too young to take it in, or it wasn’t so much talked of. But Blériot’s flight across the Channel, in 1909, made a terrific impression. I remember saying to Papa that soon we might be able to fly anywhere.

“No,” he said. “That won’t happen; they can never make aeroplanes reliable enough for that.”

“But they used to say the same thing about automobiles,” I objected.

“That is quite different. I’m an engineer and I know what I’m talking about; it will never be possible to make aeroplanes that can carry passengers as trains or ships do, leaving and arriving at fixed times; the sort of thing like this Channel flight may be done again, but there is too much beyond human control in flying.”

We never talked of it in later days, but I expect he changed his opinion eventually.

He was always ready to investigate anything and try anything once. One day when he and Sally were staying with friends somewhere on the New England coast, Papa went off swimming by himself. He swam out to a raft, and, taking it for granted that the raft was there so that one could dive off it, he dived. unfortunately the tide was low, and it could be dived from only at high tide, and he cut his head on a rock. He swam ashore and then had to wailk all the way back to the friends’ house streaming with blood. Poor Sally was frantic; she was never quite happy after that when he was out of her sight. He always wanted to climb up things, or go down them; I remember once in France – I think it was at Chinon – there were rough stone steps going down into the lower part of the castle, and Papa wanted to go down them all – I would have gone too – but I think Sally made such a fuss that we didn’t. It was on that trip that Papa was so interested to find chimneys with separate flues for each room; the early chimneys had openings from the one chimney in each room, all one above the other, so that in order to get the chimney to draw properly each room had to have a fire going at the same time. Then some bright soul had the idea of making the chimneys separate, and of course then you could have a fire in any one room you liked, without bothering about the others. He had found one chimney with separate flues in Scotland, eleventh century, I think, and was hoping to find an earlier one in France, but I don’t think he did.

You couldn’t think of many things that didn’t interest him. Perhaps if he hadn’t had so many interests he would have been more successful financially, but he really did enjoy life more than most people, it seems to me. I wish I’d seen more of him in later life, but his marriage made a great barrier. Sally was very jealous; I don’t think it was so much jealousy of me that she felt, as of my mother’s memory. Papa was devoted to my mother, though he was very fond indeed of Sally and she was an excellent wife. If only she could have refrained from criticising my mother and my aunts to me ! Nothing very frightful, just saying that Papa had said that my mother was extravagant and spent too much – it was probably quite true, but why say it to me? Another time it was Zora who was extravagant. I used to get so angry when she said these things, and was so rude to tier – she complained to Papa, I know, though he never said much to me, but she seldom said these things in front of him. Once she was saying that Bunnie helped the poorer members of the family in a way that they didn’t like, and that uncle George [George Woodward Wickersham (1858-1936), older half-brother of Bunnie, Zora, and my great-grandmother; Attorney-General of the United States 1909-13] was much more tactful. I blew up at that and said they didn’t need to accept her help, then, and Papa said the same, and that they shouldn’t accept things from Bunnie and then run her down for the way she did it. Sally shut up after that, at least when Papa was there. Sometimes Ames was, and it made him very uncomfortable; when I flared up Sally would appeal to him to agree that she hadn’t said anything very dreadful, but he refused to take sides.

When they were in China of course they went to the Great Wall, and equally of course Papa wanted to climb up and see what it was like on top – there were steps going up. Sally got very upset and I think he came down before he got to the top, and somehow he stepped on her foot. Then they came to stay with us in Malaya, and Sally’s foot was quite painful and she always said it was so ever since he had stepped on it at the Great Wall of China, which somehow made it sound much worse than if he had stepped on it anywhere else!

She wasn’t very reasonable at times. When they went to the Grand Canyon she wanted to go down it. Papa knew she wouldn’t like it, and explained that once they had started down on mules, there would be no way of turning back, they’d have to go all the way down. Nevertheless, part way down she got very nervous and wanted to turn back, and of course couldn’t, and they had an awful time with her, Papa and the guides. I think she somehow managed to get off her mule – or donkey – and walk the rest of the way. When she was in that sort of mood you couldn’t argue with her or make her see reason.

Once when we were at Nantucket Papa woke early, as he usually did, though Sally hated him to get up before about eight o’clock as she said it woke her. However this particular morning he did get up, about seven, and dressed and went out. At breakfast I found him alone at the table, and asked where Sally was. He said she wasn’t coming to breakfast, and I asked if she were ill. No, he said, and that I wasn’t to go to see her – as I offered to do, in case there were anything she wanted. So I didn’t go, out I couldn’t think what was going on and hung round all morning. Later that morning Mary Charles, a cousin of Sally’s of whom I was very fond, came to see her. I waited at the foot of the stairs till Mary came down. When she saw me she said:

“Dorothy, your father is a saint. I don’t know how he puts up with Sally! All this is just because he wanted to get up early, and she says he woke her, and now she is too tired to get up.”

Of course now I realise so much that I didn’t understand when I was younger; she was not a happy woman, and she never felt safe; for one thing she was always convinced that there wasn’t enough money and that the strictest economy was necessary, yet when she died she left $300,000 so she might as well have had more fun than she did. Once she promised me five dollars if I would read the Bible through, and I did. But before I’d finished I heard her talking to some friend about how hard up we were, so I told her that she mustn’t give me the $5 – I really thought she couldn’t afford it. She was quite touched by that and insisted on giving it to me all the same. They always seemed to travel second-class and stay at second or third class hotels, and eat at cheap restaurants, and once in Paris she got terribly upset because I suggested their having Moriț Bateman, who was a great friend of mine, to lunch; she said all my friends thought they were rich but that they couldn’t afford to entertain like that. It was the same when I wanted to have school friends to stay; she never wanted them, partly because of the expense, but also because she thought we lived much more simply than they did – that was true of many of them, but not all. Billie McKeever, who was my greatest friend at Foxcroft [US boarding school, still open], came once, after I had said to Papa that I couldn’t go on accepting her invitations and never having her; he saw my point and insisted. The only other person who came was Kitty Merrick, from St. Mary’s; I stayed with her and she stayed with me and I don’t remember so much difficulty over having her. And I think Gertie Olmsted came once.

Moriț Bateman was DGH’s Romanian friend, married to Philip Bateman during their stay in Sinaia in the summer of 1922.
Marianne Goodhue “Billie” McKeever (1898-1934) married Edmund Steuart Davies in 1925; she was also one of the early lovers of the writer Mercedes da Acosta, who was probably the most visible lesbian in American culture in the early twentieth century.
Kitty Merrick (1900-1988), from 1946 Countess Wielopolska, became a leading exponent of the Alexander Technique.
Gertie Olmsted (1901-1973), later Gertrude Nauman, was the daughter of Marvin Olmsted, a Republican Congressman from 1897 to 1913, and herself became a well-known fund-raiser for the Republican Party in later life.

Her jealousy meant that it was almost impossible for me to talk to my father alone. Not that we had any secrets, but we were interested in a lot of things that she disliked hearing even talked of; it seemed to me sometimes that the only things she did like were gossip – friendly, not malicious – and perhaps a little talk about plays or books. But anything to do with science really bored her and she thought, and said, that it wasn’t a suitable thing for me to care about.

Once when they were in Paris I said to Papa that it would be so nice if we could have just a little time together. He looked doubtful at first and then had an inspiration.

“We could go up the Eiffel Tower!” He exclaimed. “She won’t come. she doesn’t like heights.”

So off we solemnly went, father and daughter, and had an hour or so together.

It seemed to me a pity that when they did come to Paris, Sally wanted just to see the people from Plainfield who were also there, and whom she saw all the rest of the year. She really didn’t want to meet any of my friends, nor to have Papa meet them.

Oh well, she wasn’t a happy woman and I wasn’t at all nice to her a lot of the time then, though I improved later. If I had been a different kind of girl, more ladylike and refined and loving tea-parties and paying calls and all that sort of thing, we might have got on quite well; she always said that she had wanted a daughter, but that was the kind of daughter she wanted. She didn’t like the idea of women being well-educated and using their brains, she thought it was unfeminine.

[Repeated from earlier] She told me once that when the germ theory was first coming in she and her friends used to laugh merrily at the idea that things so small that they could only be seen through a microscope could possibly do any harm to anyone.

Of course there were times when we got on well and I felt really fond of her. She could laugh at herself, which is always endearing, and sometimes when she had been very aggravating she would say cheerfully what a fool she was, and that was most disarming.