Partying Like It’s 1909

Society graphicPar-tay!!! Starting with Ursula’s 6th birthday fete, from 1908 through 1910, the Society columns in the local newspapers noted Clara’s (or Clara and Alfred’s) attendance at party after party, as well as mentioning the couple as hosts of a few events themselves. The Cheshires had recently moved to Los Angeles, and immediately began establishing themselves in “society” circles.

sheet music for "mexican nightingale"

Sheet music for “Mexican Nightingale” (by Paolo Giorza), one of the whistled solos at a party Clara and Alfred attended

At one event, a “musicale” at the residence of Mrs. W.G. Provines, Clara, Alfred and other guests enjoyed a program of piano solos, vocal solos, monologues—including one on “Playing ‘500’” (more on that later)—and whistling solos, including “The Bird Catcher” and “Mexican Nightingale.” A rollicking time was had by all.

In July 1908, the Los Angeles Times tells us Clara would be entertaining her sister Miss Mathilde Uphoff, “a fine musician” from northern California (Grass Valley), during the summer. And entertain she did, throwing a card party (at which the guests play cards) in Mathilde’s honor in July, six weeks after Ursula’s party. About 40 women and men joined in the fun at the Cheshires’ home, which Clara had adorned with “roses and asparagus plumosus.” Clara-Gives-Card-Party-Mathilde-picThe Times even ran a picture of Mathilde to illustrate the story, which appeared in the newspaper’s column “Some Notable Festivities Incident to Society During the Past Week.”

I think the family may have been trying to help Ursula’s aunt find a suitable suitor. In 1909, at age 28 and unmarried, Mathilde again visited for the summer and was the guest of honor at several “pretty affairs,” including another card party hosted by Clara and Alfred. She visited again for the winter holidays, and was again guest of honor, this time at a “box” party, during which attendees—including Clara—occupied a box at the Orpheum (the second home of Orpheum Circuit vaudeville in Los Angeles and later known as the Lyceum Theatre) for a performance by Daniel Bowles.

Hotel Alexandria

The Hotel Alexandria in Los Angeles

Afterwards, they proceeded to the luxurious Hotel Alexandria for a fancy tea, with Empress roses and green-shaded candelabras adorning the table. (Aside: Over the years, the hotel—which eventually was rumored to be haunted—has gradually transformed from deluxe inn to SRO to its current loft-style apartments. You can read about its history on Wikipedia, and there was an interesting article in the LA Times in October 2012 about a sealed, abandoned wing, which investors are planning to turn into small apartments.)

News clipping about party for Mathilde

In addition to attending “500” card parties, the Cheshires held one in honor of Clara’s sister Mathilde, as reported in the Los Angeles Herald on July 3, 1910.

The following summer, Clara and Alfred decorated their home with Shasta daisies and yellow roses for a “500 party” in honor of Mathilde. What in the world is a 500 party? According to the Bicycle playing cards website, 500 is akin to a combination of Euchre and Bridge, and was the favorite social game of the United States in the early 1900s. It was promoted by the United States Playing Card Company, which copyrighted and marketed the rules in 1904. I imagine some guests playing with a deck of cards like the one below, issued by the U.S. Playing Card Company in 1908. Gilded around the edges, the deck featured on each card a different theatrical actor or actress, including the legendary Lillian Russell and future silent film actor Tyrone Power, Sr. (You can view the entire deck of cards on the Immortal Ephemera website.)

card deck with theatrical actors

A 1908 deck of cards featuring different theatrical performers of the day, including Lillian Russell

Lest we think Ursula’s parents did nothing but party, the papers noted that Clara participated in at least a couple more serious pursuits. In May 1909, she attended a Women’s Press Club of Southern California luncheon, which featured as guest speaker Mrs. Elizabeth Towne of Holyoke, Massachusetts, a lecturer, writer and leader in the New Thought movement. And in January 1910, for the Woman’s Club of Hollywood’s Literary Day, she accompanied Mrs. Bessie Thew Miller on mandolin for a performance of “Original Monologues, a travesty on the vagaries and inconsistencies of woman.”

P.S. Although I don’t know when or where, Ursula’s aunt Mathilde did get married, to a man named Claudius Henry von Essen.

Until next time…