On last month’s Short Story, curator Sarah Coffin paraded us through the Gilded Age decadence that led to a substantial gift of decorative arts to Cooper Hewitt’s collection from Annie Schermerhorn Kane.

Bells for a Royal Wedding in London will ring in a few weeks. We hope you enjoy our short story on two beautiful Hewitt weddings—the marriage of Sarah and Eleanor’s older sister Amy, and the royal wedding of Amy’s daughter Eleanor, to the Prince Viggo.

Margery Masinter, Trustee, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Sue Shutte, Historian at Ringwood Manor
Matthew Kennedy, Publishing Associate, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Wedding Bells at Ringwood Manor

Amelia Bowman Hewitt (1856–1922) and James Oliver Green (1842–1924)

Amy Hewitt and James O. Green had known one another for many years. A Ringwood guest book first notes their signatures on the same page in 1878. The drawing by “J.O.G.” shows a couple taking a carriage ride. Could this be Amy and James? Amy was then 22 and James was 36. His signature appears again and again through guest book pages, often accompanied by amusing drawings.

Ringwood Manor Guest Book, 1876–1884, pp. 52 and 53. Courtesy of Ringwood Manor

Amy’s brother Edward wrote that Amy had lots of suitors over the years, but she accepted the eventual President of Western Union Telegraph, James O. Green. Their wedding took place on November 15, 1886. Guests received an invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Abram Hewitt to board a special train to Ringwood for the ceremony and reception and the return trip to New York City.

Invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Abram Hewitt

“In every way Miss Hewitt’s wedding was the most notable one which it has ever been New York society’s good fortune to attend.” Members of the press also attended, and the New York Times, November 15, 1886, “Society Topics of the Week” recorded the details.

Ringwood Manor, ca. 1876. Courtesy of Ringwood Manor

Ringwood Manor oak stairway from which the bride descended; contemporary image

Modeled on the English tradition of country wedding feasts, the Times wrote that Miss Sallie Hewitt arranged and managed all the details—and there were many, from turning the manor interior into a floral conservatory, planning delicious lunches served at small tables, and hiring a full orchestra. Ringwood tenant farmers were asked to loan their teams to convey the city guests from the train station to Ringwood Manor and back again and “right cheerfully did they respond” with two hundred wagons ready to greet the train. Along the route, guests saw flagpoles erected on the hills of the 20,000-acre estate flying the American flag and herds of Jersey cattle stationed at intervals grazing in fields near the fences.

The ceremony was splendid.  Amy wore a gown of ivory satin, with a train and veil of tulle edged with “rare and costly lace.” She wore a diamond crescent at her throat and diamond stars in her hair and carried a bouquet of roses. Bridesmaids Sarah and Eleanor wore striped gowns flocked with pink rosebuds and carried pink roses. The bride and groom stood before a “perfect floral bower” with rare plants and twining greens from the Ringwood property greenhouses. Following the ceremony and formal lunch reception, the bride shook hands with all the farmers, expressed warm appreciation, and invited them to partake of the banquet.

As a wedding gift to the couple, Abram and Amelia Hewitt gave them a summer estate directly across from Ringwood Manor. Amy and James had two children, Norvin and Eleanor.

Although they lived and traveled extensively in Europe, Amy was always a generous donor to the Cooper Union and its museum.

The wedding gift. Tudor mansion on the Hewitt estate, 1868

Amy and James on horseback in Paris

Norvin Hewitt Green (1893–1955)

Eleanor Margaret Green (1895–1966)

A Royal Engagement

“Viggo of Denmark Gives Up Royal Honors to Wed New York Girl” was the headline. “Through her marriage with Prince Viggo Christian Georg of Denmark, Eleanor Margaret Green, great-granddaughter of Peter Cooper, becomes allied to the royal families of England, Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Scandinavian countries.” Here’s the story.

In 1923, Prince Viggo met his future bride while she was visiting her cousin Baroness Schilling (formerly Ethel Green) in Denmark. A calvary officer, Viggo was described as a brilliant daring horseman and a quiet young man who disliked formality. Eleanor was known as a charming girl of many accomplishments, and, like her aunts, was a fine equestrian and lover of outdoor sports. Viggo was smitten. He followed Eleanor to New York and proposed.

Prince Viggo on horseback, courtesy Cooper Union Library Archive. Portrait of Eleanor Hewitt.

After the formal engagement was announced, the bride’s maiden aunts Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt feted Prince Viggo and members of the royal family at an American-themed reception and dinner at the Hewitt home, 9 Lexington Avenue.  In keeping with the Hewitt sisters’ tradition of planning novel parties, entertainment included a band of Pueblo Indians, who performed ritual songs and dances.

Excerpt of a newspaper article with the title in capital letters "GIVES UP ROYAL HONORS TO WED NEW YORK GIRL". A horizontal line separates that headline from the subtitle, in title case, which reads, "Viggo of Denmark, Who Marries Miss Green on Tuesday, a / Democratic Prince—Brother Recently Chose Canadian Bride—Third Brother Took Commoner as Wife".

New York Times, June 8, 1924.

Wedding ceremony at Calvary Church

On June 10, 1924, they were married at the Calvary Church on 21st Street. The press reported in great detail the guest lists and crowds fascinated with the marriage of an American girl to royalty. (Sound familiar?) On a sad note, Eleanor’s mother Amy died in 1922 and her father James died right before wedding took place. The bride was accompanied by her brother Norvin to the church in the Hewitt family landau, formerly used by Peter Cooper.

Portrait of Eleanor in her cream-colored charmeuse wedding gown. The lace panels at the front had adorned her mother’s gown, as well as her mother’s wedding veil.

Following the ceremony, the bride and groom were driven in the landau a few short blocks to the Hewitt mansion which was transformed with elaborate floral decoration for the reception. Crowds eager to see the royal prince marry an American girl included 200 girls from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls who serenaded the couple.  Inside the home, masses of gifts and cable messages from royal family throughout Europe were displayed.

Ballroom of the Hewitt home, 9 Lexington Avenue

Prince and Princess Viggo, Count and Countess of Rosenborg, had no children. They were a popular couple in Denmark and active in charity work. In 1931, Princess Viggo gave a collection of gowns and accessories belonging to her mother and aunts Sarah and Eleanor to the Brooklyn Museum.

The Princess Viggo wearing a ballgown designed by the House of Worth, ca. 1880. Vogue magazine, May 1931. In 2009, The Brooklyn Museum transferred its Hewitt collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Prince and Princess Viggo

Prince and Princess Viggo

In 1930, The Prince gave Eleanor the Rosenborg Kokoshnik Tiara, with garnets, pearls, pearls and diamonds, set in platinum and gold. The top row of diamonds detaches for use as a necklace. (right) Portrait of Prince and Princess Viggo, with the princess wearing the tiara.

Fondly known as “Peggy,” the Prince and Princess enjoyed annual cycling vacations through Jutland.

They lived happy ever after.

 

Sources

Primary Source:  Ringwood Manor Archive.  Ringwoodmanor.org

2 thoughts on “Cooper Hewitt Short Stories: A Tale of Two Weddings

I always appreciate learning more about the history and families that lived in and associated with Ringwood Manor. I always remember the gardens behind the house where my grandpaents took me when I was around 5 years old. And when I was in 5th grade , my school had a class trip to Wanaque Reservoir and Ringwood Manor, where we were given tours and then played outside hunting for frogs by the waterfall and pond…..and my grandfather was fishing in the pond!

I always appreciate learning more about the history and families that lived in and associated with Ringwood Manor. I always remember the gardens behind the house where my grandparents took me when I was around 5 years old. And when I was in 5th grade , my school had a class trip to Wanaque Reservoir and Ringwood Manor, where we were given tours and then played outside hunting for frogs by the waterfall and pond…..and my grandfather was fishing in the pond!

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