Monday, June 25, 2012

Zelda Harrison Seguin Wallace

Lew Wallace and his brother William each married women from prominent families who brought prestige, money and important Hoosier connections to the Wallace family. These were not, however, the only sons of David Wallace to marry well. David had six children by his second wife, Zerelda. Three of these children died in childhood. Their only surviving son was born in 1852, named David Jr., and married a woman of prestige with connections far beyond Indiana.

When doing historical research it is generally easier to find records on men than it is women. In the case of David Wallace, Jr. however, it is his wife who is much better recorded. In 1870, census records list eighteen year old David, Jr. as a baggage master for a railroad in Indianapolis. Ten years later in 1880 he is living in the home of his sister Mary Wallace Leathers with his mother, Zerelda and working as a transfer agent for an Indianapolis railroad. Reportedly a very handsome man of 28, David, Jr. married the beautiful Zelda Harrison Seguin in Baltimore on July 31 that same year.

Zelda was one of the most famous opera singers of her day. A contralto, Zelda became known as the Gypsy Queen because of her tremendous success in the opera “The Bohemian Girl.” Among her accomplishments on stage, she introduced the role of Bizet’s “Carmen” in English to the opera world in a performance in New Orleans and in her last New York appearances in 1886 she performed in “The Mikado.”

Anne Seguin
Born in 1848, and a native of New York City, her parents discovered that young Zelda Harrison had a remarkable voice. They placed her under the tutelage of Mrs. Anne Seguin one of the most important opera teachers of the late 19th century. Mrs. Seguin was trained at the Royal Academy and had an extraordinary career of her own, including her debut performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London in 1836. Together with her husband, Edward, Anne sang at the coronation of Queen Victoria. From 1840 until his death in 1852, Anne and Edward dominated the opera world. They were particularly famous for their performances of opera in English and the list of their accomplishments is still highly regarded by opera historians.

Zelda made her stage debut at a concert in Saratoga in 1865 when she was seventeen years old singing popular songs of the day. During her time studying with Anne Seguin, she met one of Anne’s children, Edward Seguin, Jr. Although more than ten years her senior, they fell in love and married in 1867. Edward, an opera singer, was trained at the Conservatoire in Paris and the Royal Academy in London and had been touring in America since his return from Europe in 1860. Together Edward, Jr. and Zelda performed throughout the county. In the 1870s, they had a son they named Edward S.R. Seguin.

Zelda’s husband, Edward, was resoundingly successful and, like his father, one of the most popular performers of his day. He taught Zelda about make-up, stage presence, and acting. In 1877, Zelda was one of the featured performers at a New York Press Club entertainment held in Steinway Hall with guest speakers that included Mark Twain. She was singled out in coverage of the evening with the following:

Edward Sequin
Mrs. Zelda Seguin, a favorite among favorites, not only with the journalistic fraternity, who have always expressed good wishes for her success, but with everybody else possessed of taste and feeling, raised a whirlwind of applause by her singing of Hullah's "Storm." The excitement could not be stayed by anything less than a ballad, and the lady sang a pretty little Irish song--"I wrote my love a letter."

Her husband also helped manage Zelda’s career by selecting parts she would and, just as importantly, would not sing. For instance, he would not let her perform in Wagnerian operas because he felt Wagner’s work did not suit the range of her voice. Under his tutelage, Zelda Seguin became internationally famous and, like her in-laws, was especially known for performing operas in English that were traditionally performed in Italian or French.

In early October of 1879, Edward died suddenly of heart disease in Rochester, New York at the age of about 42. Stricken three weeks earlier in Jersey City, he didn’t consider the illness serious as he thought he was having an asthma attack and continued to travel with his wife and other performers. Zelda did not perform the evening of his death and accompanied her husband’s body back to New York, but the show had to go on and in spite of their grief the rest of the cast and crew performed as scheduled at the Grand Opera House in Rochester.

Zelda Harrison Seguin Wallace
The beautiful widow and famed performer based in New York met the Indianapolis based David Wallace, Jr. in February of 1880 at the home of a mutual friend in Indianapolis. At the time, David was the Master of Transportation for the Indianapolis-Terre Haute railway. After a “season of bouquets and correspondence” David went to New York to propose and within ten months of her husband’s death, Zelda and David were married at St. Luke’s Church in Baltimore. David was joined by his sister, Agnes Wallace Steiner and in a detailed description of the ceremony the news account made note that “Diamonds were the jewels” worn by the bride. The quiet service received wide discussion as it was a distinct surprise to many of her friends. This marriage cost Zelda a small fortune because her mother-in-law, Anne Seguin had revised her will just weeks after her son’s death leaving Zelda $20,000 in cash to be held for her benefit provided she not remarry. With her marriage to David, the money was forfeited and returned to the estate.

Records indicate that Zelda and David, Jr. had a son in October of 1881, who was also named David, but it appears this child died within a year. Census records in 1900 indicate that David and Zelda may have had one more son born in 1891, but the name and fate of this child is unknown. In these records from 1900, David and Zelda are living in Indianapolis adjacent to the prominent Claypool family.

After Edward’s death and her marriage to David, Zelda resumed performing throughout the country. Her last operatic performance in New York was in 1886, but she continued to sing in important venues across the country for a few more years. In 1895, Zelda was still appearing on the concert stage when she was badly injured in a train accident when a train she was on jumped the tracks as it rounded a curve near Coatesville, Indiana. Two people were killed and although she did recover, Zelda was among the most seriously injured. As her professional career came to an end she still supported favored charities with small programs.

After her marriage to David, it appears that Zelda left New York behind and Indianapolis, where David had his railway jobs, became home. As she became a part of the social scene in Indianapolis in the early 1880s, Zelda provided musical performances for receptions and events sponsored by her mother-in-law, Zerelda Wallace, in support of suffrage. Her mother-in-law had not swayed Zelda on this issue. At her first meeting with Zerelda, Zelda confirmed that she was a firm believer in women’s rights. She had been a working woman all of her life and while she did not speak widely on the issue, when she was questioned, “ . . . she expressed her opinion with an effective eloquence as charming as her marvelous voice. To hear her sing you would think she was made for that alone; to hear her talk you would wonder at the naturalness of manner and clear, unsullied, mind.”

In the 1910 census, David’s occupation was listed as the manager of a motor company in Indianapolis and the couple was living along prestigious North Delaware Street—although they may have been living in an apartment rather than a detached home.1911, was terrible year for Zelda. She had all of her costumes and memorabilia in storage but a fire destroyed everything she had saved from her storied career. To add to her burden, David died in May of 1911 at the age of 59. Shortly after his death, Zelda made a much publicized return trip to New York to visit her son, Edward and two grandsons. In newspaper interviews she reminisced about famous people she had worked with, productions she had performed in, and trends she had seen in opera during her career.

In these interviews in 1911, although she was 63 yeas old, Zelda is described as still a young woman in thought, action and manner of speech. Friends who came to call on her found her very much like the Zelda Seguin of old. Just three years later, Zelda passed away at her home in Indianapolis in February of 1914. Timing is everything and while she was remembered in the press for her great stage career with small mentions, Zelda’s death was eclipsed in the newspapers because of the passing of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson the same day. David and Zelda are buried together very near his father and adjacent to his uncle, Richard Gatling, in Crown Hill Cemetery. In a family of accomplished men and women, Zelda Harrison Seguin Wallace was certainly one of the most talented and widely admired members of the Wallace family.

Census records 1860-1880, 1900, 1910
Aurora Daily Express, September 17, 1883
Thanks to Erin Gobel and Roger Adams

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Wallaces and Indiana's Governor's Mansions

While there have been six official residences for Indiana's chief executive, only five have been occupied by a Hoosier Governor and the first two in Indianapolis had a checkered history. Indiana's first official Governor's Residence was located in Corydon, the first state capital. This home stood on a small rise overlooking the Statehouse. It served as a home to Governor Jonathan Jennings and his wife, Ann, from 1816 until 1822. While the home no longer stands, it was an important social center and was visited by Presidents Andrew Jackson and James Monroe.

In 1821, Alexander Ralston and Elias Fordham were charged with planning Indiana's new capital. Ralston had worked with architect Pierre L’Enfant in mapping the city of Washington, D.C. and Ralston used some the designs he learned there in the plan he developed for Indianapolis. James Brown Ray, the 4th governor of the State, was the first to live and work out in Indianapolis and he pressed the state government for an official residence. Ray’s wife, Esther, was not considered in decisions made with respect to the new governor’s mansion, which Ralston ultimately decided should be placed near the center of the city on what is now Monument Circle. This residence was completed in 1827 at the impressive cost of $6,500.

The new elegant yellow brick mansion was well designed for official entertaining, but not for family life. Each floor was cut into four large rooms separated by wide intersecting hallways. The walls had large sliding doors that could be opened for grand entertainments but were not convenient for daily life. There was no kitchen, the rooms were drafty and the basement was damp. When the construction was completed and Esther was shown the house she refused to live there saying that every family in town would be able to inspect her washing on Monday morning.

Ultimately, no first family ever lived in this first official governor’s mansion in Indianapolis. The building was used for the Supreme Court offices and the State Library. In his writings, Lew Wallace said he read almost every book in the state library when his father was governor, so Lew probably knew this building very well. It went on to serve as a bank and a kindergarten before it was abandoned and fell into great disrepair. It was auctioned off in 1857 for $667 and torn down to make way for a park that later became Monument Circle.

In the years between 1827 and 1837, Indiana’s governors selected their own places to live and received a housing allowance. When David Wallace became governor in 1837 and he moved his family to Indianapolis, the state legislature provided funds for the purchase of a new official residence and the state purchased the home of Dr. John Sanders for $9,000. This house was located on the corner of Illinois and Market Streets and, coincidently, belonged to David Wallace’s father-in-law.

This is the home where David and Zerelda reared their children until David’s governorship ended in December of 1840. However, like the first governor’s mansion in Indianapolis, this residence also proved to be damp and unhealthy. In 1848, barely ten years after the state had purchased the house, Governor James Whitcomb blamed it for his wife, Martha’s, death. She had been first lady for only 479 days, passing away two weeks after the birth of a daughter—a little girl who later became the 22nd first lady of Indiana when her husband, Claude Matthews, was elected governor in 1893. The house at Illinois and Market continued to be used as the official residence through the 1850s and in a sense, Lew Wallace was returning home when he answered Governor Morton’s call to service in 1861. Morton was living in the home that Wallace’s father had used as Governor and that his step-grandfather Sanders had built. After a short stay, however, Governor Morton found the building unacceptable and refused to live in it. The structure was sold in 1865 and eventually destroyed.

After these two unsuccessful ventures at providing home for the governor in Indianapolis, the State of Indiana did not provide a formal residence for over 50 years. The three homes used for Indiana’s governors since 1919 have offered their residents more comfort, space, and privacy and no first lady since 1919 has had to worry about what the neighbors might say about her Monday morning wash.

Sources: First Ladies of Indiana and The Governors 1816-1984 by Margaret Moore Post, 1984.

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jacob Cox, William Merritt Chase, & Lew Wallace

Teaching is a noble profession and many times a student will ultimately outshine the instructor. Such was the case with Jacob Cox. Jacob was born in 1810 in Philadelphia and arrived in Indianapolis as a young man in 1833. He opened a business selling tin ware, stoves and worked as a coppersmith. In 1835, he also opened an artist’s studio. Although he was known as an artist, in 1840, he painted a banner promoting William Henry Harrison’s bid for president that spurred interest in Cox’s artistic work and in 1842 he moved to Cincinnati to open a studio with John Dunn, a former treasurer of the State of Indiana.

The move didn’t work out and after five months, he returned to his business in Indianapolis and continued painting as a sideline, exhibiting annually at the shows of the Cincinnati Art Union. By 1860, he was devoted to art full-time and became well known in Indianapolis for his portraits and landscapes. Among the portraits he became best known for were of a number of the early Indiana governors, including James B. Ray, Noah Noble, Samuel Bigger, Joseph A. Wright, Henry S. Lane and David Wallace.

Although self-taught, Cox was proud to share his talent and he taught willing students—some formally and others informally. Perhaps the most accomplished artist he taught in a formal setting was William Merritt Chase. Chase was a native Hoosier born in 1849. Chase’s family moved to Indianapolis in 1861 and young William worked in the family business as a salesman. Chase showed an early aptitude for art and began studying with a couple of local artists, including Jacob Cox. Chase served briefly in the Navy, and then at his teachers’ urging, he moved to New York City for more formal instruction.

By the late 1860’s his family’s fortunes had turned and Chase was forced to leave his training in New York and he moved to St. Louis where his family had relocated. He became active in the local art community and sold paintings to help support his family. In 1871, he exhibited for the first time in the National Academy. The quality of Chase’s Impressionistic work elicited support from wealthy clients in St. Louis, some of whom offered to sponsor him for two years in Europe. He settled in Munich and began producing work that was recognized internationally. In 1876, his painting “Keying Up”-The Court Jester won a medal at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
William Merritt Chase, ca. 1900

In 1878, Chase returned to the United States and settled in New York. Chase proved to be a cultivated, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and devoted family man, and an esteemed teacher. He married Alice Gerson in 1886 and together they raised eight children during Chase's most energetic artistic period. He counted among his close friends, Winslow Homer, Augustus Saint Gaudens, and later Georgia O’Keefe. Like Jacob Cox, Chase enjoyed sharing his knowledge and taught many of the most important artists on the east coast and he was influential in establishing California art in the early 20th century. Among his many teaching endeavors he established the Chase School which became known as Parsons the New School for Design in New York—now commonly called Parsons. By the time of his death in 1916, he was one of the most well-known, most decorated, and much admired artists in the country.

While William Merritt Chase was the most successful of Jacob Cox’s formal students, one of his informal students also achieved world-wide fame—though not necessarily for his paintings. About 1840, young Lew Wallace watched as Jacob Cox painted a portrait of Governor David Wallace. In his autobiography, Lew Wallace, told a story about his early aspirations to become an artist. He found his father posing one day in Jacob Cox's studio. "When I heard that Mr. Cox painted pictures in oil, I nerved myself and boldly invaded his studio. He was painting my father's portrait when I went in. The coincidence excused me. We became good friends, and not a few of my truancies were spent watching him at work."
David Wallace as painted by Jacob Cox, ca. 1840

According to his recollections, Lew was allowed to help mix the pigments used for the portrait. At that time, paints came in hard cakes and artists had to carefully grind the colors on a marble slab before mixing them with oil. Lew volunteered to do this for Mr. Cox. After a time Lew gave in to temptation. While he admitted that Mr. Cox would probably have given him the paint, he was hesitant to voice his passion. Instead he loaded a tin plate with “dabs of paints, hastened home, and with the coveted plunder, stole up into the garret as the safest place from intrusion.” Realizing he needed further equipment, he pulled hairs from the tail of a dog and tied them on a stick to make a brush, used the bottom of a wooden box as his canvas and appropriated castor oil from the sickroom supplies as his mixing fluid. His subject was Chief Black Hawk.

When he was finally located intently involved in his new activity, Lew said he had never heard his father laugh so long and heartily as when his art equipment was produced. Nevertheless, his father discouraged the interest in art. “You must give up drawing. I will not have it. If you are thinking of being an artist, listen to me…to give yourself up to [that] pursuit means starvation.” Lew continued for a time to pursue his artistic talents, but because of the lack of support at home and the comments made by school mates he let his interest in painting drift slowly away. As he later said:

“to give up the dream. Still it haunts me. At this day even, I cannot look at a great picture without envying its creator the delight he must have had the while it was in evolution.”
The Conspirators one of Lew Wallace's paintings that was highly regarded during his lifetime

However, the dream never completely died. In the 1860s, he again began creating artwork. For much of the rest of his life, when time permitted, he sketched, painted in oil, and in watercolor but, perhaps because his father had so discouraged his interest in the profession, Wallace seldom signed his work. Even though his painting ability was known during his lifetime and some of his works were very well received when they were on public display, other careers and accomplishments in his full life overshadowed Lew Wallace’s artistic creations and the early lessons he learned from Jacob Cox.

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Growing plants and animals at the Study

Everything is planted and growing in the gardens of the Museum. The gardens are planted and flowers are bursting open every day. I am keeping track of blooming plants on our Facebook page with a 'Bloom Report Photot Album'.
Things are growing in the trees also! We have the pleasure of watching hawks nest and raise triplets this spring! The nesting pair was very patient with our visitors who got too close, only becoming territorial when the young were ready to leave the nest. While walking across the lawn to the best viewing spot of the nest, a hawk decided to 'dive bomb' me and caught my hair with its talons! I sprinted across the lawn, dropping the binoculars, holding onto the camera and never looked back until a safe distance away. what excitement! Later that afternoon, I went back to find the binoculars and watched a baby raccoon on the house across the wall. Screaming and crying for its mother, the raccoon finally was rewarded by mama raccoon racing across the roof and hovering over the young one while they climbed to the ridge line and over to the other side. They crying immediately stopped when mama raccoon appeared. 

Three days later, a baby raccoon was at the base of a large pin oak tree on the front lawn of the Study. Up the tree, approximately 10' was another baby raccoon, and then I noticed another face peering down on me from a hollow section of the trunk. Mama raccoon kept hidden while the babies were trying to climb this large tree. The baby raccoons finally were scurried up the tree to safety. It has been quite a spring, I wonder what the summer will bring?