Friday, September 7, 2007

Grandma Helen's Débutante Ball

I've been going through the online archives of the New York Times, looking for anything relating to family members, and I've found quite a few items. I realize these may be of little interest to my readers, but I find them weirdly fascinating, and besides, hey, it's my blog! So, here is the first one, about the coming out ball of my maternal grandmother Helen. She died when I was 12, and I only remember her as an old lady who seemed a little scary and disapproved of me because of my poor table manners. But my older brother Richard says he has quite fond memories of her. First a portrait of her, painted after she had already married my grandfather:

Helen Dunscombe Auerbach Emmet
painted by my great, great aunt,
Lydia Field Emmet

NY Times, December 3, 1910
"Mrs. Joseph S. Auerbach gave a dance last night at Sherry's for her débutante daughter, Miss Helen D. Auerbach. The dance was preceded by several dinners, from which the hostesses took their parties to the dance, which was an early one, the guests being asked for 10 o'clock.

Mrs. Auerbach and her two daughters, Miss Katharine H. Auerbach and Miss Helen, the débutante, in white satin, received the guests near the entrance to the small ballroom, which was decorated with pink tapestries and pink roses and azaleas, and where the cotillion was danced.

There was general dancing to the music of the Rosenberg Orchestra until midnight, when a seated supper was served at small tables placed in the adjoining suites of rooms and the cotillion followed.

William Baylis, Jr., dancing with Miss Helen Auerbach, led the cotillion. In the several favor figures, gold pencils and scarf racks were given to the men and the girls received fancy work bags and fans.

Those invited included a number of the married friends of Mr. and Mrs. Auerbach, and also a number of young married people and most of the débutantes of the season. "

Then it goes on to name a long list of the guests who attended. I've never heard of any of them, and you probably haven't either, so we'll just leave that part off.
One interesting point concerns the other Miss Auerbach, Grandma Helen's sister, Katharine. She was my great aunt, but I didn't know she'd even existed until about 10 years ago, when my Aunt Kate (another Katharine) happened to mention her. She had been presented to society at her own débutante dance just the month before my grandmother was.
These dances happened in 1910. Three years later, Great Aunt Katharine became engaged to William Baylis, Jr, the man my Grandma Helen was dancing with in the article above. And then, five years after that, while still a young woman, she died, in the Plaza Hotel in New York City. My Great Aunt Katharine died, along with over twenty-one million others, of influenza, in the great flu pandemic of 1918.
emergency hospital during 1918 influenza epidemic,
Camp Funston, Kansas
Photo from the National Museum of Health and Medicine


CapricornWoman said...

It is fascinating learning how others in the past lived their lives!

CapricornWoman said...

Just to let you know:

You have an award @

Anonymous said...

It reads like a Poe story...

Why am I always surprised at how late people stayed up in those days? Dinner at midnight! Perfect.

I would have preferred the gold pencil though to the work bag. Needlework do you suppose?

I love reading this stuff, Jaya.

Jaya said...

Yes, Lady Banana - i also find it very interesting to peek into the lives of those who lived before our time... And thanks for the award -that is cool.

And MaLu- glad you enjoyed it. Perhaps one of these incarnations you and I shall get together for a midnight dinner.

Ed Dunscombe said...

Do you know much about the Dunscomb line of your ancestors?

Ed Dunscombe

Jaya said...

Hi Ed-

I don't know much about where my grandmother got her middle name. In looking to see if there was any information, though, I discovered that I'd spelled it incorrectly, and her middle name ended with an 'e', as yours does. So I will go back into this post and correct that. It looks as though it was a family name from her maternal lineage. Her mother was Katharine Hone, who would have been born in the mid 1800s, and Katharine's
father was a John Hone. John's parent were Philip Hone (1780-1851) and Catharine Dunscomb (without an 'e' on the end). I have a further note saying that Catharine Dunscomb was the daugher of Daniel & Margaret Dunscomb. Does this sound like it connects to your line of Dunscombes?