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The Bradley Martin Ball 2-10-1897


The much-heralded fancy dress ball given by Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin took place at the Hotel Waldorf last night. Twelve hundred invitations had been issued for the event, but little more than half the number of those invited were in attendance. Of those that came, also, quite a number left early.

Many seemed to have put in an appearance simply out of curiosity, to witness the really superb decorations of the ballroom and the unique spectacle of a large number of persons, prominent in social circles, arrayed in the picturesque costumes of two, three, and four centuries ago.

Within half an hour after the beginning of the ball guests began to leave the place, some for their homes and others to wander about the hotel corridors. That the visitors had a set purpose in leaving early was manifest form the fact that fully half the carriages were ordered for before the time set for the cotillion.

Standing upon a velvet and rug covered dais at one side of the smaller ballroom of the Waldorf Hotel Hotel last night, against a background of rare tapestries and under a canopy of velvet, Mrs. Martin received the salutations of more than 600 men and women, one and all members of the society worlds of New York and other large American cities, and all in their gorgeous robes and garbs personating those Kings and Queens, nobles, knights, and courtiers whose names and personalities take up pages of history, and who, during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries pervaded the different countries of Europe.

Interest in the Entertainment

It is unnecessary to do more than allude this morning to the excitement and interest which the announcement of this ball and the preparations for it have aroused. For three weeks past it has been the universal and engrossing subject of interest and discussion wherever the members of the gay world, not only in New York, but in the other large Eastern cities, have assembled; for weeks past an army of costumers, perruquiers, milliners, dressmakers, caterers, florists, and bootmakers have been busily employed in the arrangemnts for the dressing and reception of the guests, and for weeks past the American public has been stirred by discussions as to the ball and its object lessons, caused by the criticisms of the hostess and her coming entertainment made by a New York minister.

There is something in a fancy dress event of any kind which makes it, as a rule, one of the most popular forms of entertainment. The Latin races can scarcely imagine any entertainment of note that is not accompanied by fancy dress, and the carnival spirit pervades all their diversions. Northern peoples, while not as much addicted to the arraying in costumes of other peoples, times and lands, still feel impelled at intervals by a curious sense of personal vanity to personate characters other than their own, and to strut up and down in apparel that present fashions and their more practical life could never countenance except as a diversion.

Other Events Were Surpassed

It is said that there are few women who have not at some time in their life felt convinced that if arrayed in the costumes that history and fashion have depicted Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth, and the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, they would be an improvement upon the fair originals. Even members of the sterner sex have been flattered by being told that they recalled in appearance especially, when so attired, the pictures of the more famous Kings and personages of English, French, and German history. The desire to gratify this natural personal vanity has led to the holding of fancy dress balls at recurrent intervals of about ten years all through this century in New York.

As the society of the metropolis has grown larger, and wealth, luxury, and the knowledge of the art of living have increased, these successive costume balls have in every instance surpassed in elegance of dress and in lavishness and perfection of appointment their predecessors. It was a far cry from the first fancy dress ball of which the history of New York society gives any authentic record that given by Mme. Brugiere in her old house, on the Bowling Green, in 1829-to Mrs. Martin's ball at the Waldorf last night, and which may truthfully be said to have been the climax in this form of entertainment thus far reached in the metropolis.

Arrival of the Guests

Ten of Capt. Chapman's tallest men flanked the narrow passage from the curbstone to the draped doorway of the Waldorf through which the guests passed, and which was designated in the invitations as No. 13 West Thirty-third Street.

Before the brown and gold portieres, under a group of brilliant electric lights, stood two liveried servants of the great hotel, whose duty it was to draw back the curtain for the passage of the guests and salute each one in turn. The portieres were never allowed to remain open.

What brilliance there was within was for the knights and noblemen and the jeweled ladies, who passed through, and there was only an occasional glimpse for the group outside of a brilliantly lighted hall, with a broad stairway at the end.

Frank Johnson and his five assistants stood on guard at the three openings in the long canvas which covered the sidewalk, receiving the guests as they stepped from their carriages. It is Mr. Johnson's business to know everybody, and last night he did not fail in a single instance to identify the guests and give the proper instructions to the coachmen.

Arrival of the Hostess

Occasionally a guest of the Waldorf passing in or out of the hotel presented himself at the side openings, and was ushered through the procession with but little delay. Only once was there an argument. A little man with a gray beard found his way under the awning, and stood for a moment watching the passage of the guests. He was told to move on. "Bradley Martin and I were schoolboys together," said he. "Do you mean that I cannot stand here and see his guests pass?" With this protest he obeyed the police rule, and got outside the lines.

Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin were the first to arrive. Their carriage stopped at the entrance at 10:15. When the carriage door was opened Mr. Martin stepped lightly to the sidewalk and aided Mrs. Martin to descend. At half-past 10 a group of carriages arrived together, and before 11 o'clock the stream of guests had become continuous.

Nearly all of the guests were cloaked in such a manner as to conceal their costumes, but the cloaks were in most cases appropriate to the period which the costumes were designed to represent.

Many of the ladies passed in with heads uncovered except for coiffures of varying size and fashion. There were among them representations of nearly every style of European head dress, with the high powdered coiffure of the sixteenth century pre-dominating.

Among the gentlemen there were many three-cornered hats, richly plumed, and the hilts of swords protruded from the cloaks of many cavaliers. It was noticed that in ordering the return of their carriages many of the guests set an early hour. Mr. Johnson announced the cotillion at 3 o'clock to each guest, and that supper would be served at any time after 12 o'clock. More than half the guests ordered their coachmen to return before 3 o'clock, and many set the time at 1:30, 2, and 2:30 o'clock.

Saluting the Guests

When the guests had ascended to the corridors on the second floor of the Waldorf they were ushered in by liveried attendants, the men to the famous Astor suite on the right of the corridor, the ladies to the suite of eight rooms on the Thirty-third Street side of the hotel, which include the noted state apartments.

These dressing rooms were not elaborately decorated, but were fitted with every possible appliance for the use and comfort of guests, and in each room were ladies' maids and valets, respectively, to help the guests off with their wraps, to fold the same, and to give checks for them. One or more rooms on each side were fitted up for the wig-makers and maker-up, who put finishing touches to artificial complexions, curled refractory locks, and generally looked over the faces, coiffures, and wigs of the guests. On all the mantelpieces, and here and there on tables and bureaus in these rooms, were placed handsome vases filled with a profusion of mixed roses.

When leaving the dressing rooms the guests passed through the corridors on the second floor to the lobby at the head of the staircase leading to the entrance to the smaller ballroom. At the first turn of this staircase there is a massive mirror, and this was solidly framed in American Beauty roses. The scene as the gorgeously costumed men and women trooped down the white and gold-stairway in twos, threes, and fours, was exceedingly pretty, and recalled some old picture of a stately court function in one of the capitals of Europe.

Receiving Her Guests

Arrived at the foot of the staircase, there was a moment's pause, and then the guests either singly, or, in the case of married couples, by twos, proceeded through a lane formed by two rows of liveried servants, to a position at the left of the smaller ballroom and nearly in front of a dais at that side of the room on which Mrs. Martin stood to receive her guests.

This dais was covered with plush, while on the wall behind there hung rare old tapestries garlanded with roses. The small music balcony on the opposite side of the room had been so arranged as to resemble a huge floral box, with trailing vines of roses extending to other right and left. Mr. Martin stood at the right of his wife, just below the dais.

After a moment's halt, a lackey to whom the guests had meanwhile whispered their names, the characters they personated, or the period of fashion which their costumes represented were announced in a loud tone by name by this same lackey to Mrs. Martin, who in each case curtsied as the men guests bowed and the ladies curtsied to her in turn.

So the stream of guests flowed by, some after they had made their salutations pausing to admire the rich decorations of the room and to listen to the music of the Hungarian Band, which played in the gallery, or to watch their later fellows salute the hostess in turn and to study their costumes.

From this salon through wide doorways the guests passed through an intervening corridor, which was made to resemble a woodland walk, completely covered with green and lit by tiny electric lights, to the main ballroom. The stream of guests poured by Mrs. Martin for nearly one hour and a half, and it was after midnight before she was able to descend from the dais and enter the main ballroom to take her place in the opening quadrille d'honneur.

Splendors of the Ballroom

The grand ballroom was quite a scene of splendor. The eye scarcely knew where to look or what to study, it was such a bewildering maze of gorgeous dames and gentlemen on the floor, such a flood of light from the ceiling, paneled in terra cotta and gold, and such an entrancing picture of garlands that hung everywhere in rich festoons.

The first impression on entering the room was that some fairy god-mother, in a dream, had revived the glories of the past for one's special enjoyment, and that one was mingling with the dignitaries of ancient regimes, so perfect was the illusion.

Then the strains of the dance began. Where did they come from? On the South end of the ballroom one saw nothing but a wild riot of flowers and vines. They covered the balcony, which is divided into five sections. But the only way to tell this was by counting the superb displays of garlands that hung from one section to another, interlaced and backed with a solid bank of galax, that rich dark leaf gathered in South Carolina from the hillsides.

Over this was a lacework of the long-stemmed pink roses, intertwined with the most lavish abandon, and forming a floral screen in front of the balcony. Behind this were the musicians, a string band of fifty pieces. The opposite side of the room was the one of special splendor. Imbedded in the wall are sixteen large mirrors. They were not hidden from view__that would never do but from the walls above them were hanging gorgeous interlaced festoons of orchids and asparagus vines. They were mauve orchids, those floral aristocrats of the orchid family, chosen to grace this occasion because of their acknowledged standing in the world of flowers. With it was intertwined a royal asparagus vine.

Curious ornaments hung from the sixteen candelabra on the north side of the room. They were made in imitation of the pouches or huge reticules the ladies used to wear in the days of Louis XVI.__large pocket-like concerns of blue silk and alternately filled with pink roses and orchids. As the guests sauntered along that side of the room or sat and chatted on the dainty Louis XV. chairs of white and gold, these garlands of orchids and asparagus and these pockets with the floral treasures hung over them like a canopy, and gave a superb festal effect to the glittering scene.

Like in a Floral Court

And the two ends of the ballroom were radiant with the garlands of roses and vines. Artistic, also, was the play of garlands on the mirrors and fairylike effect thrown back. It doubled the splendor of the display. The galleries, with their jutting sections, gave a magnificent opportunity for the festoons, and not a chance was missed. There were 5,000 roses and 3,000 orchids in the various groupings. Had the floral scheme been more profuse and varied in color effects, it would certainly have been thrown into the shade by the wealth of hues on the floor. The contrast was harmony and art.

It was long after midnight when the dazzling spectacle was at its zenith. Imagine a ballroom with this floral setting and 700 resplendent guests, garbed in every tint-in silks, satins, and velvets, and blazing with precious stones. In the centre of the room is a charmed place set apart for the dancers of honor quadrilles. They meet in their gorgeous gowns, their court costumes of the past, with lofty powdered coiffures of the ladies and powdered wigs of the cavaliers, and then go through the stately measures once in vogue. All is lovely and dazzling and graceful.

It was a the same time a curious patchwork of color and a curious historical composite in raiment. Here could be seen a daughter of the ptolemics, in heavy, embroidered garb of the Nile, in converse with a frilled and jeweled courtier of the Court of Francis I. Over in one corner was a motley group composed of belles of the Louis XV. period, and a quaint Pocahontas and several gentlemen picked from he cavaliers of the First Empire and the days of the American Revolution.

Another group, equally motley, was Catherine of Russia in deep green velvet and ermine, and crowned with diamonds, chatting most amicably with a Venetian of the time of the Doges, while a dainty Priscilla smiled her sweetest in rich, clinging garb, on one of those gaudy butterflies that fluttered around the throne room of Louis the Grand.

The Exhibition Dances

A silk cord running through posts of brass enclosed a space in the centre of the ballroom thirty-five feet long by thirty feet wide. Here the participants in the exhibition dances could tread their measures secure from interference by the spectators. At one end there was left an entrance, and to this, as the fanfare of trumpets announced that the ball was to be opened, all eyes were directed. Presently, proceeding majestically as befitted people of the most exalted rank for they were representing a King, a Queen, and their Court appeared Mrs. Bradley Martin and the fifteen of her guests who were to open the ball with the danse d'honneur.

The hostess, in the person of the Queen, escorted by Mr. Astor as the King, led the company. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish and Robert Van Cortlandt, the Princess and prince, followed, and behind them came Miss Gerry and Mr. J. Townsend Martin, Mrs. Whitney Warren and Lispenard Stewart, Mrs. Orme Wilson and Harry Lehr, Mrs. Lee Tailer with Craig Waqdsworth, Miss Lena Morton with Mr. Center Hitchcock, and Miss Madeline Cutting with Fernando Yznaga. Mr. Van Alen was to dance with Miss Cutting, but, owing to the death of a distant relative, he was forced to withdraw.

Each cavalier uplifted with his right hand the finger tips of his partner, and at intervals the partners turned to look into each other's eyes. Proceeding thus, they reached the centre of the enclosure, bowed deliberately, and ranged themselves in position for the dance.

The quadrille d'honneur, or the danse d'honneur, as it is properly entitled, for there were no quadrilles two hundred years ago, when the dance originated, is designed to give particular prominence to one couple, and this is because it was the set in which the King and Queen mingled with their courtiers. An ancient authority upon dancing points out that when no royalties are at hand, the most prominent lady and gentleman present may take upon themselves the royal character. Mrs. Bradley Martin, the hostess, properly received homage as Queen, John J. Astor, her partner, received it as King.

Formed in Double Sets

The dancers formed in a double set. The head couples were Mrs. martin with Mr. Astor, and Mrs. Fish with Mr. Van Cortlandt. Opposite them were Miss Gerry, Mr. Martin, Mrs. Warren, and Mr. Stewart. The other couples placed themselves at the sides, Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Lehr, Mrs. Lee, and Mr. Wadsworth upon the right; Miss Morton, Mr. Hitchcock, Miss Cutting, and Mr. Yznaga upon the left.

The first figure was intended to represent the courtiers as they did reverence to the sovereigns. Mrs. Fish and Mr. Van Cortlandt, the princess and Prince, took their places behind the leaders, and Mrs.. Whitney and Miss Gerry, the opposite ladies, followed by their partners, advanced. The sides also advanced and ranged themselves with the opposites in two parallel lines, ladies forming one side, gentlemen upon the other. Down this aisle their majesties proceeded, while the courtiers did obeisance, and when their turns came joined hands couple by couple and followed. The leaders resumed their places and the set fell into the first form.

In the second figure Mr. Astor led his partner to the centre of the set, turned her about, and received her bow by bending slightly, with his hand above his heart. When they had returned to their places, in turn each pair of opposites advanced and bowed. The head couples then advanced; the gentlemen conducted the ladies to the centre, bowed, and retreated, followed by their partners. Then all advanced to the centre and formed a circle, leaving Mrs. Martin and Mr. Astor in the centre. Having done reverence, they broke the circle and promenaded to their places.

The last figure, in its essential feature, was a repetition of the first. A double line was formed with the ladies of the court upon one side and the gentlemen on the other. The majesties proceeded down the lane thus formed, receiving homage from either hand. Their followers closed in behind them, and the court promenaded out of the enclosure in the stately manner wherewith it had entered. For this danse d'honneur, the orchestra played the music composed by Beethoven, and played at a court dance first in Vienna ninety years ago.

To Dance the Minuet

Before the sensation caused by the splendid appearance and grace of the dancers had ended, the orchestra, with the opening bars of the most popular of Chopin's polonaises, announced the approach of Mrs. Edmund Baylies and her associates for the minuet. The entrance of the polonaise was most picturesque. This formal promenade began as a "march past" before Henry of Anjou, enthroned in 1573, and was intended to exhibit each dancer at his proudest. The step was both graceful and impressive. The couples, holding their hands high, as in the minuet, advanced with rapid paces, paused, and with one shoe tip described a small circle upon the floor, then took up the three paces once more, and again paused to make a circle with the other shoe. According to the ancient convention, each gentleman looked as fierce its possible and, from time to time, handled his sword hilt, and the ladies bore themselves with Hauteur.

The twenty-four ladies and gentlemen who took part in this were Mrs. Edmund Baylies, whose partner was Winthrop Rutherfurd; Mrs. Ogden Mills, with Worthington Whitehouse; Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr., with H. D. Robbins; Mrs. J.F.D. Lanier and Fred Watrous, Miss Evelyn Burden and Frank Bishop, Mrs. Henry Sloan and Stanley Mortimer, Miss Edith Morton and Creighton Webb, Miss Lena Morton and Alphonse Navarro, Miss Van Rensselaer and E.A. Crowninshield, Miss Alice Blight and James Eustis, and Miss Edith Hall with Craig Wadsworth.

In the centre of the enclosure they halted, and formed for the minuet, while the orchestra struck into Mozart's dance music out of "Don Giovanni." The formation was not the square usual in this country, but two lines, as the dance is executed abroad.

One of the lines was led by Mrs. Baylies herself, with Mr. Rutherford; the other by Mrs. Mills and Worthington Whitehouse. After the preliminary bow for the ladies very low, for the gentlemen slight-the partners touched finger tips, and gazing into each other's eyes, passed by each other, turned, and passed back to place. In the next figure occurred one of the most attractive of the pictures. The figure began with a ladies' chain across from one line to the other, and as it was about completed, before the hands were dropped the dancers paused, and each lady regarded, not her own partner, but her opposite. The fan figure that followed was graceful, too. A "visiting" figure came next. The leaders and the opposite ends half faced about, so as to confront each other, and meanwhile the second and fourth couples in each line swung completely around. The two lines were thus evolved into a circle, arranged as in a Portland fancy, and the couples saluted and "passed by" somewhat in the manner of that dance, but with the bowings and posing of the more graceful measure of older days. At the end of the minuet the dancers took up the polonaise once more and disappeared.

Dance of the Debutantes

The dance of the debutantes, as it was called, because the participants were chiefly members of the younger set, was an excellent foil to the slow and dignified ceremonies that had preceded it. It was livelier than the others, and undoubtedly the most difficult of all. For the participants had not only to remember figures, but also to execute them in varied steps, none of which looked easy to do gracefully. The members of this set, organized by Mrs. Bronson, were Miss Bronson, Mr. E. Iselin, Miss Davis, Mr. Rogers, Miss Babcock, Mr. Livingston, Miss Spofford, Mr. Hoppin, Miss Wood, Mr. A. Robbins, Miss Rogers, Mr. Harrison, Miss Josephine Brooks, Mr. William Sloan, Mrs. Post, and Mr. Pelham Robbins.

They danced a Hungarian Court quadrille, the Kormagyar, to music arranged by Allen Dodworth from that performed by the Court band of strings. The quadrille has never before been performed in this country.

The entrance was a gavotte, for which also the music was composed by Mr. Dodworth. The step is unlike the polonaise in that it is rather graceful than pretentious. It consists of three moderately long paces and two short quick paces. "step, step, step, and step," the teachers of dancing say. The formation for the quadrille was the same as that of an ordinary double set.

After the first salute the couples took hands, except at the corners, and danced an odd little slide to right and left, then faced slightly to the left, rose upon their toes, and clicked their heels together with a sharp noise. Then, with a wavy pace, the head couples advanced and exchanged partners and separated into the sides. They made a short slide and hop combined to either side, and turned partners. The two lines now advanced, and the head couples returned to places and turned partners. This maneuver was repeated for the sides.

There followed a short wait before the second figure. The head couples passed their partners and crossed with the graceful wavy step ending in the balance on tip-toe and the clicked heels to the other side of the set; the ladies passed between the gentlemen. The gentlemen turned the corners passed their partners, and the couples returned to place.

The most effective figure in this quadrille was the one wherein the ladies formed a circle inside the circle of the gentlemen, facing out , while their partners faced in. The inner circle moved about, each lady clicking her heels at each gentleman in turn and turning him till she reached her place. This quadrille ended the exhibition dances.

In the Supper Room

Between the grand ballroom and the cafe, used on this occasion for the supper room, is a barricade of windows, which were thrown open about 1 o'clock in the morning, and the guests were then at liberty to enjoy the delights of the cuisine. The menu was as follows:

Consomme de Volaille,
Bouillion de Clovis,
Homard a la Newburg,
Huitres a la Viennoise.
Poularde farcie aux truffles.
Filet de Boeuf Jardiniere.
Terrapene desossee a la Baltimore.
Canard canvasback,
Galantine a la Victoria.
Terrine de Foie Gras,
Cailles piquees a la Gelce.
Chaud-froid de Pluviers.
Jambon en Danier.
Mayonnaise de Volaille.
Gelee aux Fruits.
Gouffres Chantelly.
Gateaux Madeleine.   Biscuits glaces,      Fatma.
Sorbet fin de Siecle.
Cafe Parfait.
Plombiere aux Marrons.
Glaces de Fantaisie.
Petits Fours. Fruits, Bonbons.

The supper room was ornamented florally in the same graceful way as the rest of the apartments. It was Mrs. Martin's order that nothing should be heavy, and certainly nothing was. There were delicate and graceful touches, here and there, where they would show to the best effect. In the supper room, for example the decorations were a tracery of clematis vines around the large Dutch chimney pieces, banked with yellow forsythia, which showed up in fine effect against the dark oak surroundings, while the tables were adorned with centre pieces of Beauty roses.

That was all, and the effect was very artistic. The tables seated about six persons each, and about 100 waiters were on hand to meet their wants.

Danced Wearing Swords

For the first time in the history of costume balls in this city, since Colonial days, the gentlemen danced the cotillion with swords at their sides.

A great deal of merriment was caused by the awkwardness of many in handling so unfamiliar an appendage of high dress; but all who were masquerading as Princes, knights, and courtiers felt that their swords were a part of the costume, and took their lives in their hands as they paced through the stately figures of the old Court dance.

Swords got tangled in gowns and laces, and courtiers tripped over them, to the delight of the spectators and the despair of the dancers. One or two of the dancers tucked their swords under their arms or gripped them tightly to their sides, to keep them out of harm's way. Elisha Dyer, Jr., led the cotillion. Only the ordinary figures were danced. One of the dancers was observed with a Louis XV. costume and modern eye-glasses.

Favors for the Dancers

In selecting the "favors" for her guests, Mrs. Bradley Martin's first consideration was to have them novel. She found it a difficult task, as almost every article of jewelry or ornament had been used for this purpose in former balls.

After long search she finally selected small silver figures of appropriate design for gentlemen and ladies. To these two sets a third "favor" was added in the form of a staff, such as was carried by heralds and courtiers in the days of the magnificent courts of Versailles and Paris.

This consisted of a staff crowned by plumes and other ornaments, and was in harmony with costumes of a century and two centuries ago. The staves were a little too heavy to be carried about by the guests, and they were intended chiefly as souvenirs of the ball. The "favors" were awarded by Elisha Dyer, Jr., as leader of the cotillion.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Bradley Martin Ball 2-10-1897
Researcher/Transcriber: Miriam Medina


New York Times February 11, 1897
Time & Date Stamp:  


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