Oil Swells: The Standard Oil Crowd in Palm Beach

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“Money-mad, money-mad! Sane in every other way, but money-mad.” — Senator Marcus A. Hanna’s 1904 characterization of John D. Rockefeller from The History of Standard Oil, by Ida Minerva Tarbell.

As much today as it was yesterday, Palm Beach is an incomparable offshore social conglomerate where bluebloods, barons and tycoons alike take refuge from the mainland’s more accountable and less luxuriant ambiance.

And, just as the island’s secretive private clubs bask in the allure of being as impregnable to outsiders as they were when Old Guard cliques created them, there was, perhaps, no more eminent or scrutinized Gilded Age social set that found refuge within Henry Flagler’s Florida resort empire than his own Standard Oil Company’s trustees. More than a century later, descendants of Standard Oil’s inner circle can still be found behind the walls of Palm Beach’s ficus hedges.

First established in 1870, a new Standard Oil Trust was re-organized in 1882. Separate corporations were set up in each state. Each had its own board of directors with the stock of the various corporations controlled by trustees who issued dividend-bearing certificates of interest to the stockholders of Standard Oil of Ohio. The trustees controlled two-thirds of all the available shares. By 1907, four years before the court-ordered breakup, the largest shareholders were: John D. Rockefeller (248,000 shares), D. M. Harkness (80,000 share), Charles Pratt estate (52,000 shares), Oliver Payne (40,000 shares), Henry M. Flagler (30,000 shares), Henry H. Rogers (16,000 shares), Jabez Bostwick estate (15,000 shares), William A. Rockefeller (11,700 shares) Henry Morgan Tilford (6,000 shares), John D. Archbold (6,000 shares), and William G. Warden (5,800 shares).

The Standard crowd

During the winter of 1888, as private Pullman cars pulled out of New York heading to St. Augustine for the opening of Henry Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel, Albany legislators and Washington congressional committees launched investigations into the Standard Oil Trust, eventually resulting more than a decade later in the Supreme Court’s directive breaking up and reforming the company.

Despite pesky subpoenas and warrants, annoying court and congressional hearings, the Standard Oil cartel’s most prominent trustees escaped the glare from headlines and indictments within several socially-exclusive Gibraltars — Thomasville’s plantations, the Jekyll Island Club’s hunting preserves, St. Augustine’s tea dances and Palm Beach’s jungle trails. Rather than being probed and questioned about the inner sanctum of the world’s most powerful syndicate or denounced by muckrakers, Euclid Avenue and Fifth Avenue moguls engaged in quail hunts and golf games.

In 1890, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The wonder of the century is the growth of the fortunes of the Standard Oil crowd, as they are known the Rockefellers, the Flaglers and their associates …” The New York Times described Standard’s elite more simply “…the most powerful, the most resourceful and the most daring combination of capitalists the country has ever known.”
Beware the Oilyfeller!” Standard Oil’s business practices were the subject of unflattering editorial cartoons, much like today’s hedge funds.

In January 1903, McClure’s Magazine hit the newsstands with the latest installment of Ida Tarbell’s “The History of the Standard Oil Company.” As one of the era’s most influential writers, her series created the model for the type of journalism McClure’s became known. Based on the chronological history of Standard Oil, her indictment of the oil industry claimed Rockefeller and his associates regulated the price of crude and refined oil. Miss Tarbell detailed how Standard Oil controlled the refineries’ output, manipulated the pricing, and dictated the means of distribution. Her articles sought to prove that Rockefeller made every effort to destroy all of his competitors, thus monopolizing the industry.

Ida Minerva Tarbell photographed at her writing desk in 1905, following the publication of her best-seller, The History of Standard Oil Company. In 1911, after the Supreme Court ordered the company’s restructuring, Standard Oil became 38 companies. Two decades later, Tarbell came to Palm Beach where Alice DeLamar commissioned her to write the introduction for a monograph on the work of Addison Mizner.
Visions of Oil Creek and smokestack refineries were soon forgotten once Standard Oil’s trustees crossed Lake Worth onto Palm Beach in their private rail cars.
By 1900, there was no place else in the world like Henry Flagler’s Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach.

As yesterday’s tightfisted corporate villains transformed themselves into charitable philanthropists and reviled robber barons were newly-christened as revered patrons, Henry Flagler reinvented himself from one of the nation’s oil slicks into Florida’s patron saint. With no experience as a real estate developer but with a Ph.D. in creating oil and railroad monopolies, Flagler converted Florida’s East Coast into a packaged resort network while turning Palm Beach’s jungled lakefront into an international destination.

Henry Flagler remains the island’s iconic historical personage although other Standard associates and their scions anchored at Palm Beach. Among them, the Oil Trust’s major stockholders who divided more than $700 million in dividends after the trust was dissolved in 1911. Some like Rockefeller and Flagler’s original partner Samuel Andrews only took brief stays at the Royal Poinciana; others, like the O. B. Jennings and Benjamin Brewster families came to Palm Beach but made the Jekyll Island Club their primary retreat.

Here is a selective panorama of scenes from the lives of some of the original Standard Oil Trust families who became a part of Palm Beach’s history, including Henry Flagler, John D. & William Rockefeller, Oliver Hazard Payne & the Charles W. Bingham family, Jabez Bostwick, John D. Archbold, Henry H. Rogers, William G. Warden, and Henry Morgan Tilford.

Henry Morrison Flagler (1830-1913)

Jean Flagler Matthews inherited her first $1 million in Standard Oil stock at the age of three, after her grandfather Henry M. Flagler died in 1913. Four decades later, she led the campaign to restore Whitehall, the Palm Beach mansion built by her grandfather and designed by Carrere and Hastings.

Henry Flagler developed Florida’s East Coast from Jacksonville to Key West utilizing the same organizational model that he implemented to insure Standard Oil’s domination of the oil industry. After turning St. Augustine into a historical showcase, Flagler pursued his own Fountain of Youth, transforming Palm Beach’s exotic settings into high-hat settings where wealth and extravagance became the standard. Flagler’s vision re-shaped Palm Beach, making it into an exclusive playground for the leisure class.

After Henry Flagler had acquired the ocean-to-lake property where he would build his Palm Beach hotels, Frederick and Anselma Robert hosted a dinner in March 1893 to introduce Henry and Alice Flagler to the local colonists. While they were familiar with what Flagler had built in St Augustine, and realized Palm Beach would never be the same, it is doubtful they could have imagined the scale and extent of the transformation, within a few years Palm Beach became the most famous resort in the world. Although Flagler achieved immense success, his personal life appeared less enviable even for martinet. He lived to see the first train arrive in Key West but had lost his first wife and daughter, was separated from his only son, had his second wife forcibly committed, divorcing her in order to marry, in true Palm Beach fashion, a much younger woman.
Opened in 1894, The Royal Poinciana made Palm Beach an international destination, The six-story Colonial-style resort attained unrivaled success, rapidly expanding into the world’s largest wooden structure. With accommodations for more than 1,200 guests extending seven blocks, the resort afforded golf, tennis, canasta, yachting or a soiree at the Palm Beach Gun Club, the hotel’s lush tea garden, the Cocoanut Grove became the island’s social center offering afternoon outdoor dancing.
Along with The Tattler, Henry Flagler owned all the major newspapers between Jacksonville and Miami for many years.
In 1901, the week after Henry Flagler’s divorce was finalized from his second wife, Ida Alice Shourds, the titan married Mary Lilly Kenan of Kenansville, North Carolina (pictured above with HMF). To commemorate the occasion, Flagler retained Carrere and Hastings to design Whitehall, a wedding cake-styled Beaux-Arts mansion. After Flagler’s death, Mary Lilly inherited her husband’s hotel empire. But, the world’s wealthiest widow died soon after her marriage to one-time beau Robert Worth Bingham. While the circumstances surrounding her sudden death remain shrouded in rumor and scandal, the Kenan family retains ownership of The Breakers, the Flagler flagship.
Until Vizcaya was built, Flagler’s Whitehall may have been the most imposing house of its era built between Washington D.C. and the South Pole.
Having first visited Florida in the 1870s, Henry Flagler’s final days were spent in Palm Beach. Although Flagler remained as vice-president of Standard Oil until 1908, his role in the company was taken over by John D. Archbold. One of the last accounts of Flagler’s life was written by Edwin LeFevre, whose in-depth “Flagler and Florida” article was published by Everybody’s Magazine in February 1910. Courtesy of New York Philharmonic Archives.

Harry Harkness Flagler (above, right) remained at odds with his father. “I don’t think father and son ever spoke during the last twenty years of his father’s life,” said James Augustine Ponce, historian for the Town of Palm Beach.

In 1894, as Henry Flagler celebrated the opening of The Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach his alienated son, 24-year-old Harry Harkness Flagler married heiress Annie Lamont in New York without his father’s presence. Harry and Annie Flagler were a socially popular Fifth Avenue couple, hosting musicales and supporting the New York Symphony, later becoming the New York Philharmonic.

The cause of the father-son divide still remains convincingly unanswered. Was it disinterest in his father’s empire-building, as most often mentioned? Or, was it the second marriage to his mother’s nurse, the unrefined Alice Shourds? The third marriage to North Carolina belle Mary Lily Kenan? When his father fell ill, Harry’s step-stepmother did not notify him to visit his father until the senior Flagler had lapsed into a coma. Harry Flagler accompanied his step-mother, Mary Lilly Kenan and her family to St. Augustine for the funeral.

Jean Matthews was married five times. “She was fun and vivacious,” recalled Mr. Ponce. “While it seemed everyone else was demolishing the big houses, amazingly, Jean stepped up and saved Whitehall,” said Ponce.

“Harry did not stay at Kirkside, the Flagler home, but with Dr. Anderson, his father’s lifelong friend,” recalled Jim Ponce. “Interestingly, Harry’s wife’s family, the Lamonts, owned the house across the street from Kirkside,” Ponce added. Harry Flagler returned to New York immediately afterwards where he continued his philanthropic interests, having inherited his father’s Standard Oil stock. Other than the bedside visit, there are no available records of Harry and Annie Flagler ever visiting Palm Beach. Harry and Annie’s daughter Jean Louise Flagler made Palm Beach a large part of her life.

“For the longest time, I could not imagine why Jean would save Whitehall,” said Mr. Ponce. “Especially since her father would have never stepped foot in the house. But, the Royal Poinciana was razed and Kirkside, the Flagler house in St. Augustine, had been demolished. She might have thought, if Whitehall goes, there will be nothing left to remember her grandfather,” Ponce added.

Before establishing the company that undertook Whitehall’s restoration as a museum dedicated to the memory of her grandfather, Jean Flagler Matthews was involved in a series of court proceedings. Because of a litany of tax issues, a detailed account of Jean Flagler Matthews’ various trust agreements became part of the court record as Matthews’ accountant made certain claims the IRS had challenged. The subsequent record documented the extent of the Flagler heir’s estate.

The court records show that when her grandfather Henry M. Flagler died in 1913, she, and her sister Mary, were left their first $1 million, as part of the 8,000 shares of Standard Oil stock that they had inherited. Thirty years later, the trust was worth more than $9 million; by 1952, the year her father Harry Harkness Flagler died, the trust had appreciated to about $17 million. At that time, she came into another trust under his will and two other trusts from her mother, Annie Lamont Flagler. Although these trusts produced more than $1.5 million income annually, Jean Flagler was “sometimes unable to stay within her budget.”

Jean Flagler made generous charitable donations to Stetson University, Flagler Hall, and in Palm Beach, including gifts to Palm Beach Private School and the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. But she had accumulated extraordinary living expenses that included her yacht, The Flagler, a 3-acre oceanfront Palm Beach house, Vita Serena, a Lake Placid camp, Fairhaven, and Brookside, her 93-acre estate in Rye, NY. Brookside featured an 18-room main house employing 16 full-time domestic servants and gardeners.

In Flagler’s 1956 federal income tax return, she reported operating expenses for Brookside as $146,301.97. Also, by the mid-1950s, Jean Flagler Matthews had three minor children: George Gregory Matthews, the oldest, from her marriage to Mark Stanley Matthews, and two adopted children, William Morrison Matthews and George Frederick Robert Hanke. Trusts were established for each of them.

At Whitehall, Jean Flagler Matthews with her son, George Matthews, and his family.

When Mrs. Flagler Matthews’ trust was terminated in November 1957, her $42 million trust had reached its highest value, consisting of oil securities valued at $32.4 million in addition to real estate and tax-exempt municipal bonds.

Jean Flagler Matthews died in 1979 while vacationing in Hawaii. She died the same year that Palm Beach established its Landmark Preservation Commission, twenty years after she had taken the initiative to save one of the town’s most architecturally significant buildings.

The Flagler Mausoleum in St. Augustine is where Mr. Flagler is spending eternity with his first wife, Mary Harkness Flagler, and daughter while his granddaughter’s families and the Kenans remain in Palm Beach.

John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937) & William A. Rockefeller (1841-1922)

“None more faithful,” the Rockefeller coat of arms. Palm Beach’s display of wealth may not have been an attraction for the legendary Rockefeller sublime sense of frugality.

A 16 February 1901 NYT story headlined “New Yorkers in Florida,” makes for the only reported mention of JDR Sr. ever visiting Palm Beach. It states that J. D. and William Rockefeller, accompanied by family members, arrived at the Royal Poinciana Hotel in their private rail car. According to the report, JDR remained overnight in the private car before proceeding North. Whether Rockefeller and Flagler met or spoke, the Whitehall mansion was well under construction at the time, remains undocumented.

L. to r.: Bust of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Mr. Rockefeller did not attend Henry Flagler’s funeral in St. Augustine. “Mr. Rockefeller was a fairly religious man and I just don’t think he approved of how Mr. Flagler treated his second wife and his choice for a third wife,” said Jim Ponce, historian, whose father buried Henry Flagler in 1913.; Blessed with a crown of railroads, oil baron John D. Rockefeller, “The King of Combinations,” transformed himself from a malevolent social pariah into an admired philanthropist.

JDR Sr.’s winters were most often spent at the Hotel Bon Air, Augusta, Ga. After Flagler’s death, he moved from the Ormond Hotel to The Casements, a nearby estate. A familiar and accessible local figure, he enjoyed being photographed giving nickels-and-dimes to strangers during his walks along the Halifax River. In 1937 JDR Sr. died in Florida and was buried in Cleveland.

In 1882, William Rockefeller became president of Standard Oil of New York. Although he spent several weeks at The Royal Poinciana Hotel, WR preferred the Jekyll Island Club where he maintained a cottage, Indian Mound. William Rockefeller’s estate was estimated at $50 million in 1922. WR and fellow Standard Oil trustee Oliver Burr Jennings were married to sisters, thus Jennings became one of the company’s 1882 trustees. While the Jennings family was also more closely-associated with the Jekyll Island Club, Walter Jennings was president for many years, a grandson, Lawrence K. Jennings, had a presence in Palm Beach for many years.

Before taking residence at Indian Mound cottage in 1905, the William Rockefellers were ensconced on the second floor of the Sans Souci apartments at the private Jekyll Island Club.

While the Rockefeller patriarchs may have never taken to the Palm Beach vibe, their descendants indulged in the island’s pleasures. According to published reports, when patriarch John D. Rockefeller died in 1937, he left 26 direct descendants, among them, Muriel McCormick Hubbard, Winthrop Rockefeller, Marguerite Strong Cuevas de Larrain, and Spelman Prentice, who made headlines in Palm Beach.

Harold McCormick and Edith Rockefeller McCormick’s daughter Muriel became one of Palm Beach’s colorful personalities.
Chicago industrialist Harold Fowler McCormick, president of the International Harvester company, and his daughter, Muriel. Although McCormick’s marriage to Edith Rockefeller ended in divorce, he was one of the original trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1931 Muriel McCormick Hubbard made her dramatic stage debut in Palm Beach in the role as Mona Lisa. From 1930 until 1932, McCormick had underwritten the expenses of the Palm Beach Playhouse.
“Why John D’s Granddaughter Changed Parents” read this 1926 Palm Beach Post headline, attempting to explain why Muriel McCormick had entered into a “ghost marriage” with the late George Alexander “Mac” McKinlock Jr. while a house guest at Casa Alejandro, the Wyeth-designed Vita Serena mansion owned by her good Chicago friends, utility magnate Alexander McKinlock and his wife, Garden Club of Palm Beach president Marion McKinlock. The young McKinlock was an only child, killed in France during WW I. In between lunch at the B & T and dinner in the Orange Gardens at the Everglades Club, Muriel McCormick became the “spirit bride” of the McKinlock’s departed son, during an era when this might not have been considered unusual. Image courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

Following Muriel Hubbard’s death in 1959, Lincoln Center claimed her portion of the Rockefeller trust, claiming her children were never legally adopted. No one was more surprised then the Hubbard children who stood to lose their Rockefeller trust funds. It seems that when JDR Sr. set up a trust for his daughter, Edith Rockefeller McCormick, the onetime “social dictator of Chicago,” in 1917, the trust stipulated that should any of her heirs die childless, their share would revert to Lincoln Center.

Never paying too much attention to details, Lincoln Center stated in court filings that Muriel Hubbard never completed the paperwork that would have legalized the adoptions. Earlier, in 1948, she had lost custody of her two oldest children when her brother, Fowler McCormick, successfully challenged her parenting skills. With her children testifying against her, the court found she was an abusive alcoholic. After five years of litigation, Lincoln Center won. Muriel’s “adopted” children were cut out of larger share of their inheritance by Lincoln Center and were left with the crumbs from their father’s estate and McCormick family trusts.

The 1948 marriage of Winthrop Rockefeller to Lithuanian model-actress divorcee Eva “Bobo” Sears made daily headlines in Palm Beach. Two years later, the couple separated; in 1954, a divorce was granted. .
Where better to stage an unconventional marriage than Palm Beach. The newly weds, Winthrop and Bobo Rockefeller, with their Palm Beach hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Winston Guest.
The La Coquille Club, Manalapan, was developed by Spelman Prentice, one of JDR’s grandsons, who lived on North Lake Way for several years before moving to California. Prentice was married to Dorothy Ryan in 1937, Lola Noyes in 1953, and Mimi Walters in 1972. He died in Montecito in 2000.
L. to r.: Margaret Strong Cuevas de Larrain. In addition to her Palm Beach escapades, JDR Sr.’s granddaughter and legendary dance patron, Elizabeth Strong de Cuevas was part of Howard Carter’s 1922 King Tut expedition. For her first season in Palm Beach in 1938 as the Marquis and Marquesa de Cuevas, she leased the McCulloch’s villa on El Brillo. For many years in between her NYC and Paris apartments, she lived at 343 El Bravo Way and a Dunster House apartment before moving to Switzerland in 1982.; The “eccentrico empresario de ballet” Marquis George de Cuevas (1885-1961). Margaret Strong and de Cuevas married in 1927. They were a popular Palm Beach couple who enjoyed entertaining.
Following the Marquis’ death, his widow married his “nephew.” Raymond de Larrain’s marriage to his “aunt” Margaret Strong de Cuevas never seemed to affect their level of invitations in Palm Beach.
343 El Bravo Way was designed by Volk and Maass. When not in meetings with her trust officers over her spending habits, the marquesa was attending to the artistic needs of the Ballet de Monte Carlo. Her second marriage in 1977, perhaps even more eccentric than the first, was to her “nephew,” a much younger ballet set designer Raymundo de Larrain. After her death in Madrid, her children and de Larrain engaged in an eight-year will battle over her estimated$10 million estate, eventually split among them, according to press reports.

Oliver Hazard Payne (1839-1917)
Mary Payne Bingham (1854-1898) & Charles W. Bingham (1846-1929)

In 1865, Oliver H. Payne established Clark, Payne & Company, a Cleveland-based oil refinery. Seven years later, he sold to John D. Rockefeller, becoming a stockholder and treasurer of Standard Oil of Ohio. When Payne died in 1917, Standard Oil’s only bachelor trustee left a large share of his estimated $70 million fortune to his nieces and nephews, the children of his sister, Mary Payne Bingham. The Bingham children, Henry Payne Bingham, Frances Payne Bolton, William Bingham II, and Elizabeth Bingham Blossom inheritance allowed them to cultivate their philanthropic interests and social concerns.

In Cleveland, the Binghams were engaged in politics, manufacturing, oil and philanthropy; in Palm Beach, the family pursued the carefree euphoric pleasures of sunrise swims and sunset sails at Figulus, their 160-acre ocean-to-lake estate in the town’s South End. At the same time the Binghams were building their elaborate Shingle-style retreat designed by Cleveland architect Forrest Coburn, their Cleveland Euclid Avenue neighbor and fellow Standard Oil trustee, Henry Flagler, was constructing the Royal Poinciana Hotel and completing his railroad extension to Palm Beach. Just as other Standard Oil trustees had previously followed Flagler to St. Augustine, the Bingham family made Palm Beach their home.

Designed by Cleveland architect Forrest Coburn and built by local craftsman William Lainhart, Figulus was constructed in 1894 for the Charles Bingham family who had acquired the original site of Lake Worth pioneer Potter family’s original homestead. Thus, the name Figulus, was derived from its meaning, “place of the potter.” Figulus was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and demolished in 1974.

Figulus was an architectural and botanical showcase where stands of towering hardwoods, many imported by renowned botanist Dr. David Fairchild, were surrounded by vegetable and ornamental gardens, fruit orchards and wild orchids. The Bingham family retreat once extended from an oceanfront sweep of Australian pines, coconut palms and seagrapes to a chain of mangrove islands, known as Audubon Island, framed by a stately lakefront alee of royal palms.

The Bingham family scrapbooks are housed at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County archive, providing a remarkable unfiltered look at early Palm Beach.
The Bingham family members and their friends congregate on the porch at Figulus. Charles Bingham’s father was an Ohio state senator; Mary. Bingham’s father Henry B. Payne served a U.S. Senator. Mrs. Bingham died at Figulus in 1898; her son Oliver Perry Bingham, whose health the family had hoped would be improved by Florida’s climate, died in 1900.
Elizabeth “Betty” Bingham, left, and her friends at Figulus, c. 1895.
A fragment from the now lost world of turn-of-the-century Palm Beach in 1903.
When Frances Bingham Bolton’s husband Chester C. Bolton died, she completed his congressional term before proceeding to be elected to the House of Representatives for fourteen terms. She championed equal rights for women and desegregation. In 1952 her son Oliver Bolton joined her in the House of Representatives. In 2000, a documentary film was produced about her life, Reaching out for Liberty and Light: The Life of Frances Payne Bolton.
Casa Apava’s west elevation faces the lakefront. Apava is Sanskrit for “he who sports in the water.” Designed by Cleveland architect J. Abram Garfield, Casa Apava was built c. 1919; subsequently Mr. Bingham subdivided the property among his children. Casa Apava was designated a local landmark in 1980.

Jabez Bostwick (1830-1892)

When Jabez Bostwick was mortally overcome with “excitement” at his Mamaroneck estate following a nearby stable fire, his neighbor and Standard Oil co-trustee, William Rockefeller, was among the first to extend condolences to his longtime friend and business partner. Twenty years earlier, Standard Oil had acquired Bostwick and Tilford, a company that owned barges, lighters and a large refinery on the East River. Mr. Bostwick was Standard Oil’s first treasurer.

L. to r.: Jabez Bostwick. In 1892 Mr. Bostwick’s estate was estimated at $12 million. He was as generous a supporter of Wake Forest College and the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church as he was in his belief that women deserved equal educational and professional opportunities. His daughter Nellie pursued dressmaking; his daughter Frances was a clinical researcher and surgeon. His son, clubman and sportsman Albert C. Bostwick pursued fast cars and yachts.
Frances “Fannie” Evelyn Carstairs Francis Voronoff co-authored a book with her third husband Dr Serge Voronoff about surgically implanting animal glands as a way of extending human life. Her first marriage resulted in a daughter Barbara “Joe” Carstairs, known as “the fastest woman alive,” as a world champion powerboat. Her second marriage to Englishman Francis Francis, when she became Frances Francis, resulted in two children, a daughter, Frances Francis, and son, Francis Francis Jr. This scramble of names was further complicated when her trust officers after her death discovered the fine print where Jabez Bostwick had stipulated that all of his heirs must be American citizens at birth.
L. to r: The unbelievable story of Barbara “Joe” Carstairs, Frances Bostwick’s daughter from her first marriage, is told in Kate Summerscale’s must-read book Queen of Whale Cay. For a graphic account of Joe Carstairs extraordinary accomplishments, visit the Motorboat Museum; “Joe” Carstairs had a lengthy affair with Marlene Dietrich who kept a separate guest house on Whale Cay.
L. to r.: Sportsman and clubman Albert C. Bostwick married Marie Stokes. During his brief lifetime, Bostwick, he was 35 when he died, was a renowned auto enthusiast, setting several land speed records in the US and Europe.
Marie Stokes Bostwick and her children, Albert C. “Brother”, George “Pete”, Dunbar, Dorothy and Lillian, photographed in France, c. 1910, perhaps a year before Albert C. Bostwick died. In 1928 Albert C. Jr., Lillian, Dunbar and Pete, all accomplished horseman, bought 25 acres in Old Westbury, establishing Bostwick Field polo grounds. His oldest son, and namesake, who was called “Brother,” won the Preakness Stakes in 1931. An accomplished aviatrix, Dorothy Bostwick was also a talented artist. Dedicated to many charitable causes in Cooperstown and Sarasota, her great-grandchildren have lived in Palm Beach for many years. Dunbar Bostwick’s marriage to Electra Havemeyer Webb, daughter of Lila Vanderbilt Webb, was a major social event. A formidable horseman, known for his trotters, he was inducted into Saratoga’s Hall of Fame in 1988. Here are some snapshots of George H. “Pete” and his sister Lillian Bostwick.
L. to r.: The legendary Pete Bostwick often stayed at the Everglades Club whenever he played at Phipps Field in Gulf Stream. Pete Bostwick’s second wife was Dolly Van Stade, an accomplished equestrienne. George Herbert Bostwick Jr., also known as “Pete” like his father, lives in Delray Beach. Image courtesy Polo Museum and Hall of Fame; The Bostwick’s believed in popularizing the sport of polo, their 50 cents entrance charge was part of their “polo for the people” program.
Bostwick Field players Alan Corey and Pete Bostwick with Patsy Pulitzer.
L. to r.: Lillian Bostwick McKim Phipps, at the track. “No one loved her horses like she did,” remarked one of her longtime trainers; Ogden Phipps. Several weeks after Robert V. McKim ended his nine-year marriage with a Reno divorce in 1937, his ex, Lillian Bostwick married Ogden Phipps.
Lillian Phipps, at the steeplechase.
L. to r.: Lillian Phipps at The Four Arts in Palm Beach.; Photographed in 1960s Palm Beach, Liza Pulitzer with her mother, fashion icon Lilly McKim Pulitzer, a great-grand of Jabez Bostwick and Lillian Bostwick Phipps’ daughter.
L. to r.: Albert C. Bostwick III and Mrs. Bostwick photographed having a night out at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse. Following her 1966 divorce from Mr. Bostwick, Mollie Netcher Bragno Bostwick became Mrs. Paul Wilmot.
Albert C. Bostwick and his wife Mollie enjoy a night in Palm Beach.

John Dustin Archbold (1848-1916)

John D. Archbold became president of Standard Oil in 1911. “Every cent I have was made through good honest toil,” said Mr. Archbold in 1907.

President of Standard Oil when it dissolved in 1911, John D. Archbold began his career in western Pennsylvania’s oil fields as a critic of Rockefeller’s company before becoming a leading part of it.

Archbold’s $25 million estate or was it $100 million, which $15 million was believed made up of Standard Oil of New Jersey stock, was equally divided between his wife and their three children, Annie, John F., and Mary Archbold Van Beuren. After Mr. Archbold’s death, his widow married her late husband’s first cousin Judge Charles Dustin; in 1918, the couple moved to Thomasville where they lived next door to her son’s several thousand-acre plantation.

While Mr. Archbold lived in Tarrytown near the Rockefeller’s Pocantico estate, his children and grandchildren became part of the Thomasville – Palm Beach set.

His son John Foster Archbold built Chinquapin, a hunting preserve in Thomasville; there, he donated the funds for the Archbold Medical Center, named for the family’s patriarch.

To the south in Lake Placid, his grandson Richard Archbold established the Archbold Biological Station featured in a previous New York Social Diary column. In Palm Beach, granddaughter Frances Archbold Hufty was an island presence for more than seven decades.

John D. Archbold’s yacht, Vixen.
The Archbold family tomb is in Sleepy Hollow.

Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909)

Associated with Charles Pratt’s Astral Oil Company that was merged in 1874 as part of Standard Oil, Henry Huttleston Rogers, “the Mastermind of Standard Oil,” is often credited with organizing the company’s pipe-line system. At the time of his death in 1909 from apoplexy, Mr. Rogers left an estimated estate of more than $50 million including more than 16,000 shares of Standard Oil stock. Along with a close personal friendship with Mark Twain,H. H. Rogers was survived by four children, one son, Henry H. Rogers Jr.,and three daughters, Mrs. William E. Benjamin, Mrs. Urban Broughton andMrs. William Coe.

Standard Oil trustee Henry H. Rogers and his close friend Mark Twain.
At Mr. Rogers’ funeral in 1909, Mrs. Rogers attended with a customary full-length veil, accompanied by her only son, Henry H. Jr., who often spelled his middle name “Huddleston.”

Mr. Rogers’ son, H.H. Jr. and his children became well-known Palm Beach personalities. His great-grandson William “Bill” E. Benjamin II purchased the Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsam estate during the mid-1950s and developed The Manalapan Club during the same era when Spelman Prentice, JDR’s great-grandson, opened The La Coquille Club.

But, it was probably Millicent Rogers, Rogers’ granddaughter, who garnered the most headlines when she arrived in Palm Beach during the 1920s as Countess Salm van Hoogstraten.

In 1925, Countess Salm fled Europe and came to Palm Beach where her parents were spending the winter. Within days of her front-page arrival, she claimed there had been an attempted kidnapping of her 16-months-old son at Waikiki cottage, her Sunrise Avenue house. Tabloid headlines screamed, Salm baby woos, Grandma Cries, Pa and Cops Row.

L. to r.: Left, Peter Salm, with his newly-born half-brother Arturo Ramos and their mother Millicent Rogers. In Paris, she became Mrs. Arturo Ramos. In Vienna, she was well-known as Mrs. Ronald Balcom. A style and fashion icon, she was named to the Best-Dressed list in 1940, Millicent Rogers spent her final years in remote New Mexico. Courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
During the mid-1950s, H. H. Rogers’ great-grandson William E. Benjamin II bought Casa Alva, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan’s more than 100-acre Manalapan estate, and developed it into a private club with a residential enclave. To furnish the club, Mr. Benjamin was one of the principal buyers at Anna Dodge’s auction of furnishings from her soon-to-be-demolished Playa Riente estate. In 1926, Anne Rogers Benjamin, Bill Benjamin’s grandmother, had left a $14 million estate.

Then, as Count Salm arrived in Palm Beach to contest the divorce, the Countess moved to La Chosa, the Pillsbury mansion, hiring private detectives and security guards to surround the South End estate in fear her husband would kidnap her son. Servants reported a mysterious car circling La Chosa; the police were called, as the household help, three detectives, a nurse and a chauffeur said they thought they heard gunshots.

Nonetheless, Count Salm checked into the Royal Poinciana Hotel. In court filings, he made 67 different allegations against his wife. Publicity reached such a fever that the island’s real estate firms offered to hire Count Salm and pay him to represent their firm whether he ever sold anything or not. The rumors and innuendoes were enough to keep Palm Beach in the national headlines for weeks. The local newspaper claimed the town’s “aristocratic quietude” had been shattered $325,000 later, the Count left Palm Beach and the couple was divorced in Paris.

In 1928, the former Countess Salm married Argentinian Arturo Peralta-Ramos.

More than fifty years later, Mr. Benjamin still owns Casa Alva, now on five acres, with a Fatio-designed loggia featuring a centuries-old Portuguese tile mural. Here is a look at Casa Alva when it was featured here on NYSD.

William Gray Warden (1832-1895)

When Pennsylvania oilman and Standard trustee William G. Warden died, he left an estate of $10 million and more than ten children to divide it. Not only did Warden follow his associate and friend Henry Flagler to St. Augustine but also was among the founders of the St. Augustine Improvement Association and headed up the local oil and gas utility company. Years later, his son, William G. Warden II and his granddaughter Elizabeth Donnell Kay made Palm Beach their winter residence.

William G. Warden’s Warden Castle in St. Augustine remained in the family until the 1930s.
Yesterday’s Warden Castle is now Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum.
Warden House, east elevation. Palm Beach. Addison Mizner, architect. One of Addison Mizner’s middle-period Palm Beach houses, the Warden House was saved from demolition when it was converted into condominiums.
Warden House, Palm Beach. East elevation, detail.
Courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach residents for 64 years, Elizabeth and Alfred Kay were among the island’s most active residents, one of the founders of St. Mary’s Hospital and the Palm Beach Day School. A former stockbroker, Mr. Kay served as president of the Civic Association, The Society of the Four Arts and the Everglades Club. For more than two decades, Elizabeth Kay was editor for the Garden Club of America’s national journal. Following the well-received publication of The Plant World in Florida in 1933, Elizabeth and Alfred Kay co-wrote botanist David Fairchild’s autobiography “The World Was My Garden, Travels of a Plant Explorer” and edited Mary Baker’s book “Florida Wildflowers.” Though best known for the artful design of their Palm Beach houses, Audita and Ananda, the couple established their own experimental 100-acre “experimental garden,” that became known as the Pine Jog Environmental Center.

Today, Pine Jog, often supported by Mrs. Kay’s close friend, Frances Archbold Hufty, granddaughter of Standard Oil president John D. Archbold, is under the auspices of Florida Atlantic University and is among the nation’s leading environmental educational research sites.

L. to r.: Elizabeth Donnell Kay was William Gray Warden’s granddaughter. Her uncle, W. G. Warden Jr., built the Warden House on North Ocean Boulevard at Seminole Avenue; Elizabeth Kay photographed with man’s best friend.
Casa Ananda, 710 South Ocean Boulevard. Although Mrs. Kay is most often credited with the house’s design, some believe the drawings were done by an associate in Addison Mizner’s office. Today, after substantial alterations, the house is owned by author James Patterson.
Elizabeth Kay made headlines when she erected a wall between her property and her neighbor, Harold S. Vanderbilt. Courtesy of Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

Henry Morgan Tilford (1857- 1919)

During the two decades H. M. Tilford was associated with Standard Oil he was believed to have accumulated an estimated estate of $20 million. Immortalized in the film There Will be Blood, after Mr. Tilford and his partner Jabez Bostwick merged with Standard Oil, he headed up Standard’s west coast operation, later known as Chevron. Following his return to the east coast, where the Tilfords were primarily settled in the Poor Mansion at Tuxedo Park, he served as president and vice- president of various Standard Oil companies. Upon John Archbold’s death in 1917, he succeeded him on the company’s board of directors. Two years later, Tilford was succeeded by Walter C. Teagle who served a s president of Standard Oil of New Jersey from 1917 until 1937.

L to R.: Mrs. Henry Morgan Tilford, left, and her daughter Katharine Tilford Mortimer, photographed in a Palm Beach wicker wheelchair. Courtesy of Eve Pell, We Used to Own the Bronx.;
Katharine and Stanley Mortimer often stayed with her mother in one of The Breakers’ oceanfront cottages.

After spending several seasons at the Royal Poinciana Hotel, the Tilfords became familiar residents along The Breakers’ oceanfront cottage row. The Tilford daughters married within their social orbit: Katharine married Stanley Mortimer, Isabelle married David Wagstaff, and Annette married Amory Haskell. When their father died in 1919, he provided a trust for each of them where they received income from the trust until age 48; then, they received the principal.

In memory of Henry and Isabelle Tilford, their children donated stained-glass windows in their honor at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea.
Part of the Tilford Suite of windows located on the east wall of the South Ambulatory at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea, the 13th-century Gothic-styled windows were crafted during the 1940s and given to the church by Annette Tilford Haskell.
“Cast the net on the right side of the ship.” After Annette Haskell died, her husband, Amory L. Haskell, donated another set of windows in 1948 along Bethesda’s north aisle known as “The Maritime Trilogies” with the Tilford family’s coat of arms, according to Jethro Hurt, church historian.
The Standard Oil crowd may well make for Palm Beach’s most influential and formidable social establishment.

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