Friday, April 26, 2013

"The most popular of the Teutonic's Passengers"

On April 18, when J. S. Hogg returned from England, The New York Times reporters met him at the pier:
Ex-Gov. James S. Hogg of Texas, who has since February been in London, arrived home on the White Star Liner Teutonic yesterday. The Governor was in splendid health, as well as humor, and though he said that he was mighty glad to get back home, he nevertheless took occasion to say a lot of nice things about the Britons, whom he said had received him as one of the family, and had done everything they could to make his stay with them an enjoyable one.

The big, jovial Governor was undoubtedly the most popular of the Teutonic’s passengers, especially with the younger women. When he left the pier he was given a hearty send-off, the demonstration, according to one of the passengers, who, like the Governor, comes from Texas, being a regular old-time Lone Star ovation.
At the Waldorf-Astoria, where he lives while in New York, Mr. Hogg was seen yesterday and asked about his experiences while abroad.
         “What about those knee breeches they wanted you to appear in at Court?” he was asked.
         “Now, let’s don’t talk about that. I am too good an American to hob-nob around in any such get-up. A nice figure I’d cut in knee pants and a cockade hat, with red rooster feathers in it.”

         To imagine J. S. Hogg, all 6 feet three inches and 300 pounds of him, in such a costume, boggles the mind.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Balked at Knee Breeches"

In the spring of 1902 J. S. Hogg, now in the oil business, went to England in search of investors. He had never been abroad, and was royally entertained, but declined an invitation to be presented to King Edward VII at a royal levee.
On March 2, 1902 The New York Times headline reported that Hogg had "balked at knee breeches." Said the Times: 
         All arrangements had been completed with the United States Ambassador, Joseph Choate, to enable the well-known Texan to be presented to King Edward at the forthcoming levees. A hitch occurred, however, for Mr. Hogg found that he must appear in knee-breeches, with a sword and all the accompaniments of the regulation Court dress.
         “Never,” said Mr. Hogg: “if I cannot appear in the ordinary evening dress of an American citizen, I will not appear at all. A pretty sight I would look rigged up n all those gewgaws. I have not the faintest idea of trying to revolutionize or even criticize English customs, but blamed if I’ll wear another country’s uniform; no not even for the sake of meeting the King.”
Said J. S. Hogg to Ima:
         My rule is to observe the customs of the people wherever I go, aiming at all times to preserve my own self-respect without offense to others. I could not attend this levee and “shake hands” with the King except in “Court dress” as it is called – Knee breeches, Silk stockings low quartered shoes, full-shirt front, low cut vest, “cut-away” coat and plug hat; the coat, pants and vest to be of black velvet. So I have this day called, thanked Ambassador Choate and notified him of my respectful but positive declination.

Then he wrote to Ima after the levee:

         Well, the King’s Levee is over and I am glad I declined to attend the foolish affair. Accounts of it have been given me by a Count who attended it in a bran new Court Suit, which cost him 250.00. He said all he did, or got a chance to do, was to “bow to His Majesty!” No hand shaking. Now you know from observation that I am a great hand-shaker. Had I been there right on this point I should most likely have made a mistake by shaking the King’s hand! Then criticisms would have made you blush for me.

When Ima teased him again about the knee breeches in her next letter, he answered:

         I must say that any American who would change the dress suit of a gentleman for the Court Suit of a King is a snob whose example at home, if he had influence, would in time raise up in our Country a race of flunkies contemptible among freemen. . . .

J. S. Hogg of Texas was not called “the People’s Governor” for nothing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"What were you doing at West Point?"

In January 1902 Ima’s youngest brother, Tom, wrote to her in New York and asked, “What were you doing at West Point?”
What Ima was doing at the U.S. Military Academy is best described in her memoir:

Mrs. Greene, the owner [of Ima’s New York boarding school] was from Virginia. She was one of those impoverished remnants of the Old South Aristocracy. She was hardly fitted to discipline a school of girls. Any girl who was a belle or received such attention from young men ranked high in her esteem. She encouraged us to accept invitations from cadets at West Point. When we went to balls . . . our programs were already made out for us by the cadet escort. [Among the young men’s names Ima remembered on her dance cards were Douglas MacArthur and George C. Marshall.] We were invited up on Saturday nights. There was one hotel. Bitter cold did not deter us from making the train trip. We were always met and escorted to the hotel. As many as four or five girls from Mrs. Greene’s School went periodically to West Point. All the cadets looked handsome in their unusual grey blue uniforms with big brass buttons.
When some cadets said they were coming down to New York to celebrate Christmas with us, of course we visualized them escorting us to the theatre in their uniforms. They appeared in fatigue suits—to the girls’ dismay. Their glamour was gone.

West Point’s shine may have dimmed, but Ima sparkled: After she attended a Confederate Veterans’ Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria, an admirer wrote to her that was “the undisputed Queen of that night. This is no ‘taffy’ but a fact.”

But New York was not all parties and dances:

I really was a hard student of music, in spite of some dissipation. A strong constitution made it possible for me to work and attend concert after concert, opera after opera, with theater thrown in, almost every night. . . .
While I enjoyed social life, it was mostly going to some theater, concert, or opera with my escorts—but always with chaperones.

       Mrs. Greene was careful of her girls’ reputations.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"He patted me on the back..."

In the fall of 1901 Ima was beginning music studies in New York City. She was no stranger to the city, having visited there with her father in 1894. But since then it had more than doubled in population, with over 3,500,000 people. On her 1894 visit she had seen the sights--the Brooklyn Bridge (1883), the Statue of Liberty (1886), and the tallest building, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World Building, at 20 stories, completed in 1890. By 1901 a taller landmark, the Flatiron Building at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street was under construction. It would be finished in 1902. This triangular architectural oddity, shaped like a flatiron, was 21 stories tall.

Ima boarded at Mrs. Greene’s School for Young Ladies, just off Riverside Drive at 311 West 82nd Street, but she attended the National Conservatory of Music on East 17th Street, just off Union Square. That was about 60 blocks from Mrs. Greene’s, so Ima would most likely have taken a trolley car across Manhattan. With numerous stops, the trip would have taken half an hour or more. New York had no subways until 1904.

The nineteen-year-old from Texas found Manhattan a cultural wonderland: Plays and musical comedies and operettas flourished on Broadway (though electric lights on marquees did not make it the “Great White Way” until 1906).  Operas and concerts (the Metropolitan Opera had been there since 1883) beckoned.

As for her studies at the National Conservatory of Music, she met with disappointment at first: 
My teachers in Austin had greatly exaggerated my talent and status as a performer. I was advised to play for the great master pianist and teacher, Rafael Joseffy. When he heard me play he patted me on the back and suggested another preparatory teacher. . . .
Ima’s audition was evidently a disaster. She told Vivian Breziger, her best friend in Austin, and word spread. Another friend wrote to Ima, consoling her for her “complete failure , improvising, etc., etc., and of his [Joseffy’s] refusing to accept you as a pupil.”
But all was not lost, as Ima wrote later:
Soon after that I heard Adele Margulies [another pianist/teacher at the Conservatory] play with her trio and I knew at once she had what I wanted. She was an amazing pedagogue who knew how to impart what she knew to others. . . . Under her I felt transformed and for two or more years with intervals in between for a long time I progressed rapidly.

         And she enjoyed herself immensely, as we shall see.