For this next installment of Ellen Glendinning Frazer’s photographic chronicle, I selected images from more than ten volumes containing several thousand photographs from 1942 to 1945 and arranged them within two separate topical headings: Social Rites: War and Weddings and At Ease: Chestnut Hill, Watch Hill, Mackay Point Plantation, Long Island, and Palm Beach.
The first section relates how the war directly affected the Glendinning- Frazer family and their Social Register friends, combining Ellen’s photographs with a detailed archival record of wartime documents, newspaper accounts, and ephemera. It portrays the era’s s predilection for brief romances, big weddings, and overnight honeymoons before husbands and sons shipped out to Normandy beaches and Italian trenches.
Western Union telegrams and handwritten letters from the heart convey how WW II affected every American family who shared the same passions and intense patriotism no matter how separated by social class. And no matter the circumstance or sacrifice, Chestnut Hill weddings were done by the book from the church to the champagne.
The second part records the activities Ellen Frazer and her set exercised as distractions from ration cards and blackouts that placed them out of harm’s way whether a traditional Chestnut Hill hunt breakfast at The Squirrels or a weekend at Mackay Point, George Widener’s low country plantation in South Carolina. During this period Palm Beach became the predominate getaway.
While many Palm Beach mansions closed during the war, the Glendinning-Frazers spent time at Casa dei Leoni, their Worth Avenue lakefront house, and at Villa Tranquilla, Felix and Ann du Pont’s oceanfront estate. With the Everglades Club often hosting “at homes” for army officers, Club du Pont, as Ellen called it, became a refuge for many of the Wilmington-Philadelphia-New York social network.
Social Rites: World War II and Weddings, 1942-1945
Wartime Palm Beach
Palm Beach residents mobilized to provide support for the troops much like every other town in the nation. While flower shows may have been supplanted by the need to tend victory gardens and midnight dinner dances replaced with providing home-cooked meals for servicemen, Palm Beach because of its resources became a focus for providing “civilian defense and war relief.”
Oceanfront beach clubs became observation points for German U-boats invading the waters off the Florida shore. The Breakers and the Biltmore hotels were converted into military uses. The Breakers rolled up its carpets and stowed away its paintings to become the Ream General Hospital for hundreds of recovering soldiers, specializing in plastic surgery and neuropsychiatric care. The Biltmore became a US Naval Special Hospital and a Coast Guard Women’s reserve training facility for SPARS. The Everglades Club and the Four Arts hosted “at homes” for officers.
The towns leading socialites hosted the Volunteers for Victory Canteen at the corner of Worth Avenue and South County Road. The south end of the public beach was reserved for use of the troops.
Wartime Weddings, 1942-1945
“A Newport debutante is married …”
Bettina Frazer and Hugh Gayle Bayne
21 March 1942
Virginia Glendinning and John Edward Zimmermann
16 May 1942
Nina Cooke and Alan Lukens Emlen
30 December 1944
Persifor Frazer IV and Mary Vaughan “Mollie Williams
15 August 1942
To be continued: Social Rites; 1942-1945
At Ease: Chestnut Hill, Long Island, Watch Hill, Mackay Point Plantation, and Palm Beach