Blind Gut

Writing, the water, and the other things we wade through in between

Clarence King, American Catastrophe: A Critical Review of Sandweiss’s Passing Strange

“Clarence King, American Catastrophe”

A Review of Martha A. Sandweiss’s Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line

When she took her seat at the plaintiff’s table at the New York County Supreme Court, the knot of journalists at the back of the room undoubtedly snickered.[1]  One can hear it in the stories they wrote.  Ada King, elderly, overweight, African American, what a story she had to tell.  A Monday morning, the coffee slow to kick in.  A headache holding over from the weekend.  Thoughts would be elsewhere as the short Thanksgiving week commenced.  It was November 20th, 1933.  Still, this could be a case worth sitting up straight for, the one in a hundred that came along for the stringers covering the courts.  Or at any rate it ought to keep them amused for the morning.  Flip open the steno pads, boys!

A “huge 70-year-old Negress, her kinky hair a soft gray,” as one reporter described Ada King in print, was suing some very important white men for $80,000.  Her claim?  She had been secretly married to one of these men’s most famous friends back in the 1890s.  Not just any fellow indeed.  The kind of white man with a Yale and Mayflower pedigree.  The kind with memberships at the Century and the Knickerbocker.  Ada told the court that morning that Clarence King, first director of the United States Geological Survey and one of the most visible bachelors of the Mauve Decade, had secretly married her—that’s right, then a twenty-five-year-old nursemaid, a colored—and bore her five brown children before he died of tuberculosis in 1901.  She had the love letters to prove it.

This trial, unfolding during the depths of the Depression, dredged up one of the most bizarre personalities of the Gilded Age.  “Above all he loved paradox—a thing, he said, that alone excused thought,” King’s close friend Henry Adams wrote of him.  “No one, in our time, ever talked paradox so brilliant.”[2]  This trial more than three decades after his death was just the sort of paradox that Clarence King would have delighted in reading about in the papers, say over breakfast in the dining room of the Brunswick Hotel.  Instead, it was his own name in the lurid headlines/  He wouldn’t have been amused.

In her engaging and ably researched book on Ada and Clarence King’s clandestine marriage across the color line, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, Princeton professor Martha A. Sandweiss paints a charming portrait of the lengths two lovers, one black and one white, went to share a life together in the face of race, class and the deep prejudices of post-bellum America.  Certainly it’s about time this story gets told.  Yet Sandweiss’s portrait is fundamentally incomplete.  As the author herself acknowledges, incomplete with regards to Ada because all that the woman left behind are the records of the trial, some municipal documents and the memories of a few elderly descendants.  Here, Sandweiss effectively fills in the gaps with circumstantial evidence to offer a nuanced picture of what it was like to be black, female, and working class in New York City in the late nineteenth century.  More shaky, however, is her portrait of Clarence King, about whom much more can be gleaned from the historical record.  Notably, it is King’s love of paradox—the man himself was a paradox, and one in many ways emblematic of the complexity of life in his times—that Sandweiss fails to render.  Whereas, in Passing Strange, the scales are unmistakably tilted towards love and away from deception, the truth is far more ambiguous—and in many ways richer and more fascinating.

 

One

Ada King’s brought her suit against five surviving members of James Terry Gardiner’s family, all women, along with the three trustees of Gardiner’s estate.  Gardiner was Clarence King’s closest lifelong friend, a young man he’d camped with in the woods outside of Hartford as a boy and the one with whom he headed west in the spring of 1863, as fresh college graduates, to join the Geological Survey of California and soon enough find fame.  Besides his mother and, in his final years, Ada and the children, Clarence King loved no one more than Jamie Gardiner.

In 1933, though, Gardiner was dead and buried.  George Foster Peabody, the elderly philanthropist who spent millions rebuilding and educating the South,[3] “wealthy clubman” John S. Melcher,[4] and “millionaire New York lawyer” Seth Sprague Terry[5]—the three trustees of the Gardiner estate—were named in Ada King’s suit as the trustees of Gardiner’s estate.  Not one showed up in court.[6]  After a few short days of testimony and a flutter of media attention, the judge dismissed the case.

Ada King’s attorney claimed in his opening statements that Clarence King had entrusted Gardiner to sell for him his massive collection of artwork upon his death and place the proceeds in a trust for Ada and her children.  The suit sought to regain the principal of that sale.  Ada was unable to produce any legal documents proving a marriage to King.  In fact, none existed.  No marriage license had been issued.  The wedding was a shadowy event, though of a sort not uncommon in the African-American community at that time: held in the home of Ada’s aunt in the fall of 1888, witnessed by family and neighbors, and presided over by a minister the “Rev. Cooke.”  Henrietta Williams, a family friend who accompanied Ada to the trial, testified that she witnessed the event some forty-five years before.  She had been a girl of six at the time.  (Later, she worked for years as one of five servants in Ada King’s household.)  “It was the first wedding I ever saw and I guess I remembered it,” she told the court.  “They had a cake with white icing and candies—chocolates and all kinds.”

In fact, as far as Ada and other attendees knew, no man named Clarence King, no white man, was even in attendance.  Ada believed she was marrying a light-skinned African-American from Baltimore named James Todd—a lie King perpetrated on the girl presumably from the moment they met.  As Sandweiss explains:

If by chance Clarence glimpsed Ada at the home [where she worked as a nursemaid] before she ever saw him, he could have returned another day to find her alone, or waited outside to catch her on the street while she walked with the children.  Wherever he met her, he laid the foundation for his alternative identity from the start.  With an accent or expression, a familiarity with southern culture or a knowing wink at the foibles of Ada’s employers, he could imply that he was a workingman, maybe a fellow southerner.  Such playful and seductive banter would feel familiar to him, akin to the verbal games he had played with women in Hawaii or London or California.  But this time there would be no walking away from the persona he invented with his charming words and beguiling smile.  On a street or in a bar, in a kitchen or on a trolley, King told Ada the story of his life.  He was from Baltimore.  He was a Pullman porter.  And his name, he said, was “James Todd.”  From the circumstances of his life, if not through a clear declaration or the obvious physical appearance of his skin, he let Ada believe he was black.[7]

Why would King conduct such an elaborate and risky lie?  Sandweiss suggests it was love from the start, and this could well have been the case.  The lie was the only way to carry on this somehow vital relationship and maintain his good standing as a son, friend, businessman and member of society:

Psychologists say that to be a successful liar, one needs three attributes: the ability to plan ahead, a talent for managing one’s own emotions and the capacity to read the needs of other people.  Whether King invented the actual details of his alternative identity with careful forethought, the very concept of it suggested advance planning, triggered by his awareness that a public relationship with a black, working-class woman could destroy the web of friendships, familial connections, and business relations that sustained his world.  King was a risk taker.  But in many respects he remained fundamentally conservative—a dutiful son, loyal friend, and responsible mining expert, reliant on his good name for his livelihood as well as his fundamental sense of self.  Quite literally he could not afford scandal.  In concealing his true identity from Ada, he signaled his intention to keep his social world as invisible to her as she would remain to it.[8]

Even taking into account the enormous social pressures a man in King’s situation may have felt, this analysis feels as though it sells Ada’s own love short.  How can a couple build a true and loving marriage upon such a fundamental lie?  At the end of each night he spent in Brooklyn, when King rose to slip back to his Manhattan club or hotel, he would have looked Ada in the eye and uttered some false words or handy excuse.  He did so with a straight face, and for many years.  In fact, he held up the life he built for the Todd family with a flimsy scaffold of lies to the very end—in addition to misleading them about his identity, King told his wife that an inheritance from an aunt (an aunt for shadowy reasons he convinced her she must never meet) would provide for her and the children should anything ever happen to him.  In fact, when King died in 1901, he left behind only a towering pile of debts that had to be settled by his closest friends.  A striking way for a man to show his love.

It was no secret to King’s friends, nor to the gossips, that the geologist long had a taste for exotic women.  King himself preferred the word “archaic” to describe his taste in women, often comparing his ideal to an image of Eve.  This taste was apparently a leitmotif in his stories, making them all the more exciting and outrageous for his straight-laced audiences.  With a wink or a glimmer in his eye, though, one imagines King letting these audiences know he was in on the joke.

But King possessed a view of nature and history constructed in response to moments of apocalyptic-order catastrophe.  In fact, the sporadic upheavals which, as King discovered in his field work, marked the geologic record, resonated with his personal experience.  And so he seemed to be in search of a prelapsarian femininity above all else, a kind of impossible passion that was free from obligation or the risk of loss.  In reference to King’s book Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, the literary critic David Wyatt writes: “King could have given his story no greater permanence than by appropriating the catastrophic history of the Sierra as the self’s most accurate lithograph.”[9]   The geologist was perpetually in search of a companion, another version of the self, that predated the fall into economic and emotional catastrophe that defined his existence.  He looked high and low, and in some remarkably odd places.

From time to time, the gossips whispered that King had a taste for slumming.  But the usual story went that no white women could live up to his lofty standards.  And so he scoured the world—from the cliff tops of California to the back alleyways of London—in search of a better breed.  King promoted the view that it was a heroic, if maybe doomed, search.  He sometimes even revealed a bitterness for a world with which he was not at peace, even betraying a flash of anger.  Of a kiss from one New England lady, he once wrote: “[it] seemed like the only one she had, the little pittance she had saved for heaven knows how long.”[10]  Other times he sounded notes of true longing.  “Paradise, for me, is still a garden and a primaeval women,” he once waxed to his friend John Hay.[11]  But for all we know he kept quiet about the woman in Brooklyn with whom he had gone so far as to exchange wedding vows.  He knew that few would find anything poetic about a kept Negro maid and her children living on borrowed money.

After their wedding, the fictitious James Todd settled his wife in a house in Brooklyn and paid regular visits from a room “at the Brunswick Hotel or one of his clubs”[12] in Manhattan, as Ada’s lawyer put it long afterwards.  For a while, the couple traveled together.  “We went to Washington, to Newport, and to Boston, and finally we settled down,” Ada testified in 1933.  Very soon, she was awaiting the birth of their first son, Leroy.  James Todd, in the meantime, left New York on one of his endless, and imaginary, runs along the rail between Washington, D.C. and New York.  Actually, Clarence King was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for two months’ worth of rest and relaxation, a trip his doctor had encouraged in July but King had postponed.  His friend John Hay, who’d been Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary and sat loyally at the Great Emancipator’s bedside when he died, footed the bill.  Hay was a wealthy man, thanks to his father-in-law’s railroad fortune, and over many decades proved to be King’s most patient and willing benefactor.  King told no one other than Hay and his mother in Newport where he was.[13]

So it would go for another thirteen years, the striking, blue-eyed porter dropping in on his expanding family in Brooklyn, always brandishing gifts and grins.  Perhaps his persuasiveness as a storyteller and the strength of his bond with Ada were so great that any questions were quickly forgotten upon each return.  Perhaps family and friends were too mesmerized to think twice about who he claimed to be.  One can also imagine that the benefits of this marriage—the gifts and the comfortable life free from menial toil, the status in the neighborhood brought by the near-white children—outweighed any nagging sense of unease.  “He always brought [Ada] and the children something from his trips.  He always brought the servants something, too,” said Henrietta Williams, the servant and Ada’s friend.[14]  One wonders what sort of gifts King deposited in the household in Brooklyn.  In the years after his wedding to Ada, he traveled to Cuba and California, London and El Paso.  His family must have marveled how the rail stops of the eastern seaboard were peppered with such exotic treasures and trinkets.  Knowing King, each gift was wrapped in a story that could make Philadelphia seem as fabulous as the Far East.

Only a deathbed telegram from Phoenix in 1901, instructing Ada to have the children’s names legally changed from “Todd” to “King”, revealed to Ada Todd her husband’s true identity.  She knew he was dangerously ill at that time, but it is not clear whether she knew he was in Phoenix—so far from his perpetual railroad route between Washington and New York.  The years of gifts, the stories that came with them, and the heartfelt feelings King spilled onto pages and pages of touching letters to his wife—all of it must have felt cheaper to her then, at the moment Ada Todd realized her family life was constructed on Clarence King’s lies.  Or perhaps she resented him only a little, for in the end finally failing to keep the game going, for both their sakes.  He urgently instructed her to take the children to Canada, where the children would be more accepted—any they were less likely to run into anyone who would know King’s mother or friends.  She did so, but soon returned to New York seeking the money she’d been promised.

The discovery of her late husband’s real name may have been recognized by Ada Todd and her extended household as a windfall.  It is unclear whether Ada King understood in 1901 just how high the places were where her husband had friends.  But by 1933, she understood how well-placed her husband had been, perhaps thanks to the digging of a hungry attorney.  At the time of his death, though, it appears she asked few questions.  James Todd had always promised his wife that she would come into a substantial amount of money, and Ada never seemed to doubt that this would be the case.  In one letter he wrote:

Darling  … The most important thing for us of all others is that the property which will some day come to me shall not be torn from us by some foolish idle person talking about us and some word getting to my old aunt.

At some point the story evolved; later, he referred to the proceeds from his art collection, continuing: “I have left $80,000 with Mr. Gardiner.  You need never worry.”[15]  The terseness is characteristic of later letters King composed addressing the issue of the trust fund.  And he was lying.  It’s almost as though he thought he could will the money into existence with pure rhetorical force.  Upon King’s death, she couldn’t stay cut off in Toronto for long.  Everything she knew lay in New York.  This Mr. Gardiner was in New York.  Ada bought an ad in the paper seeking him and presumably they met.  Soon, a check arrived in the mail.  She was apparently satisfied for almost thirty years, until 1933 when the fifty-dollar-a-month checks abruptly stopped coming.

It begs the question, if King died utterly broke, the mysterious aunt a fabrication, where did the money come from?

King kept a dark little storage room on Tenth Street that contained one of the most prodigious collections in the city.  He knew it was extremely valuable; perhaps he even convinced himself it was worth more than his debts.  But in candid moments, he must have admitted to himself that was not the case.  Instead, it was King’s friend John Hay, the secretary of state under Theodore Roosevelt, who was the geologists most valuable and reliable asset.  For decades, Hay was all that stood between King and utter ruin.  Still, King struggled on, right up until his death, hoping financial stability lay just around the next corner.  Despite his perpetually optimistic assurances to Ada Todd, there was nothing left over for her and the children when the estate was settled.  It could not cover King’s endless loans from Hay, loans that spanned a quarter of a century and bankrolled the lives of the Todd family, King’s mother in Newport, and from time to time King’s younger half-brother, his sister and his sister’s family.  Eventually, Ada learned that Forty-Five Prince Street in middle-class Flushing, her home since 1903, “was not provided for her by her husband, but by the largesse of a former Secretary of State, the late John Hay.”[16]

When the American Art Association put King’s estate up for auction at Mendelssohn Hall in Manhattan (it took two days to sell everything), representatives of the Frick, the Getty, Harvard, and the National Gallery in Washington waited anxiously in the audience to size up the offering.[17]  The collection, housed in dusty crates and boxes for decades—only surfacing to illustrate King’s occasional late-night lectures on art history to John LaFarge—included Turners, Millets, and Ruskins: “paintings and drawings and stuff of all kinds fit for museums,” according to LaFarge.[18]  But Ada King saw none of the proceeds.  Defense attorneys in 1933 explained how the art sale had not settled all the debts King accrued in a lifetime of borrowing from Hay and others.  In the unlikely case that anything was left over, it may have been put into a fund for King’s mother Florence Howland, still alive and twice-widowed, in Newport.[19]

Sometime in 1901 or 1902, although no records of such an exchange have been found, James Gardiner must have told John Hay about the African-American woman who had come to him claiming to be Clarence King’s wife.  The two men could not help but extend a loving hand for his friend King.  As he’d done so many times in Clarence King’s lifetime, with Gardiner’s help Hay devised one last careful plan to bail his friend out of an awful mess.  With any luck, it would protect his reputation as the scientist of their generation too.

William Winn, Gardiner’s personal secretary for seven years, testified he had received a check from John Hay each month until Hay’s death in 1911 and afterwards from Hay’s widow.  When she died, her son-in-law the financier Payne Whitney sent the checks, and finally upon his death, the responsibility fell on his wife until, after about two years, she inexplicably stopped doing so.[20]  Each month, Winn or someone else in Gardiner’s office wrote a check to the Legal Aid Society, the charity providing legal resources to the working poor.  Margaret McDermott, treasurer of the society, then made out and mailed a check in the same amount to Ada.[21]  At some point, Gardiner also instructed Ada to pick out a new house—she chose the property on Prince Street in Flushing.  It was taken care of, and Ada and the children moved in from Brooklyn without ever seeing a deed or a mortgage certificate.

The circuitous route Hay devised for his charity dollars to make their way to Ada King is not described by Sandweiss; it underscores the extraordinary affection that Hay maintained for Clarence King, even after decades of bad loans and lies.  So does the fact that his relatives felt obliged to continue the tradition for over twenty years after Hay himself died.  But it also suggests just how scandalous the relationship between King and Ada would have appeared.  Hay, who had been embroiled in an affair with the wife of Henry Cabot Lodge for decades, knew how to keep from attracting attention.  At least in part, his strategy was diversion.  In 1904, a cadre of his closest friends, organized by James D. Hague, took great pains to etch King’s virtues in stone and bury his shortcomings.  They published a 400-page commemorative volume on him through the Century Club.  It is filled with anecdotes of the scientist, ranging from the touching to the brazenly hagiographic.  Hay dutifully contributed an essay of his own to the commemorative book, but Gardiner declined.  Gardiner was the only person who understood that the sitting secretary of state was contributing to King’s legacy in a far more concrete way.  Then, in 1918, his friend Henry Adams lavished on him some of the most complimentary lines in American literature in his Education.   Surely his friends missed him dearly; King, telling a tale of high adventure in the west, late around a fire at the Union League, say, had been quite larger than life.  But in all the eulogizing there’s a whiff of overcompensation.  Adams summed up their collective feeling best:

There you have it in the face! … the best and the brightest man of his generation, with talents immeasurably beyond any of his contemporaries; with industry that has often sickened me to witness it; with everything in his favor but blind luck; hounded by disaster from his cradle, with none of the joy of life to which he was entitled, dying at last, with nameless suffering, alone and uncared-for, in a California tavern.  Ça vous amuse, la vie?[22]

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Two

So the bothersome question remains: Why would Clarence King marry Ada Copeland—and do it so quickly after they met—in 1888?  What we know about his prior trysts suggests he’d stick around for only a while, enjoy himself and the release the relationship provided, but eventually bore and slip away.  The cover story he adopted from the beginning would make him as untraceable as a ghost.  But that’s not what King did.  He made a commitment and kept it, if only in his own paradoxical way.  The simplest answer, the one Sandweiss espouses, is that the two fell quickly and madly in love.  Letters from Clarence to Ada that were published in the New York press in 1933 suggest an intense love on his end.  One reads:

My dearest, I cannot tell you how delighted I was to see your handwriting again.  To see something you had touched was almost like feeling the warmth of your hand.

My darling, tell me all about yourself.  I can see your dear face every night when I lay my head on the pillow and my prayers go up to Heaven for you and the little one.

I feel most lonely and miss you most when I put out the light at night and turn away from the work of the day.  Then I sit by my window in the starlight and look up at the dark night sky and think of you.  Lonely seems my bed!  Lonely is my pillow!  I think of you and dream of you and my first waking thought is of your dear face and your loving heart.   I thank God that even if I am forced to travel and labor far away from you I have the daily comfort of remembering that far away in the east there is a dear brown woman who loves me and whom I love beyond the power of words to describe.

If it were not for the vision of your dear self, and my absolute confidence in your love and your being true to me in act and thought at all times I fear I should not have the faith and courage to struggle on away from you.[23]

Her testimony shows she felt just as strongly for him.  But few of King’s letters to Ada are dated.  Of the handful that survived to be transcribed in the Daily News in 1933, one was written from his sickbed in Phoenix near the end of his life.  The others contain references to “the little ones” or “the babies.”  So we can say that King showed a strong love for Ada down the stretch of their thirteen-year marriage and in the waning years of his life.  But this does not fully explain why he rushed into it in the first place.  Everything that is known about Clarence King suggests he would never do such a thing.  King was engaged once before, to a Nevada school teacher when he was still in his twenties.  She was the best friend of James Gardiner’s first wife, whom Gardiner married around the same time.  King’s competitiveness with his friend, and even jealousness, seems to have been largely what sparked the engagement, and it was soon called off.  Seeming to reference this episode, King later insisted to a friend:

I would never marry a woman anyhow, just because I said I would.  That is the poorest possible reason men or women can ever have for marrying each other.  People who marry without any better reason than that must surely come to grief.[24]

So even if he’d made some offhand commitment to Ada, in the heat of their passion, this doesn’t seem reason enough for him to stick around.  In fact, the man who had spent a lifetime attempting to outrun the grips of the domestic world showed no sign in 1888 that he’d changed his mind or wished to settle down, even if only in secret.  And New York is the last place one would expect him to choose if he had; just a few years earlier, he admitted to a friend, “The rush and whirl of New York life, the detestable social pressure of the place, are so thoroughly antagonistic to quiet scientific work.”[25]

The place and timing of King’s marriage are even more curious in light of an incident involving a Native American woman named Luciana that took place on a mine-related trip to California in the spring of 1887.  He recounted it to John Hay:

She was “as near as Eve as can be,” … Riding with Luciana in the mountains, King said, the “world was all flowers and Luciana’s face the most tender and grave image of Indian womanhood within human conception….  We came upon a spring high up in the mountains, where the oaks were dewy with sea fog and the orange poppies all aflame in the grass; and there we dismounted and looked out on the silver sea, and I came as near it as I ever shall.”[26]

If King came as near it—an ideal moment of sexual union, say, free from the pangs of financial failure and scandal—as he thought he ever would with a Native American woman across the continent in the spring of 1887, and then left the woman behind almost as soon as it started, would he be ready for a marriage that put what little he had on the line less than two years later?  Sandweiss is silent on this question.  Perhaps he saw something of Luciana in the teenage nursemaid Ada Copeland.  Perhaps something had changed, he regretted always walking away.  His friend Sam Emmons once explained: “[King] has a peculiar weakness for color … especially when it is on a fair cheek, … [a color apropos] the dusky fair ones of Mexico.”[27]  Indeed, physically, Ada may have been of a skin color similar to a Mexican or Native American.  In black-and-white photos of her in old age, reproduced in the newspapers in 1933, she appears quite dark-skinned.  However, according to records from the 1920 U.S. Census, the last before the “one drop” rule superceded the recording of interracial categories, a fifty-seven-year-old Ada King, marked “M” for mulatto under “race,” resided in Queens County, New York.  This Ada King’s birthplace is listed as “GA”, added evidence that this was Clarence King’s widow.[28]  Other newspaper reports and census and Social Security documents suggest that at least one or two of the King children may have been light-skinned enough to pass for white.[29]

King’s faced an increasingly desperate financial situation in 1887 and 1888.  He was driven from his position in the senior management of one Mexican mine and costs were soaring out of control at the other.  If this was an inflection point, it was more likely one towards desperation and despair than a new embrace of love and commitment.  Some evidence overlooked by Sandweiss bolsters the case.  As he’d done before in cities all over the world, from London to California, he “traded his Savile Row suits for rough clothes and prowled the black neighborhoods of New York, registering at hotels under an alias.”[30]  In 1883, a U.S. diplomat in London sent to John Hay the gossip from London:

[King] goes down to the lowest dive at Seven Dials, chirps to the pretty bar maid of a thieves’ gin mill, gives her a guinea for a glass of “bittah,” gets the frail simple thing clean gone on him….  Think, Hay of ten such girls, with their plump red cheeks, their picturesque slang….  I suppose, rather let us say we hope, that King is walking through all these narrow, slippery places upright and unstained as an archangel.[31]

Sexual encounters with socially marginal women allowed King to feel both liberated and empowered, if only for a fleeting moment.  It was one of the few ways he found relief from the strain of financial responsibility.

The connection in his mind between the fetters of economic obligations and the fetters of a domestic relationship with a woman was forged at an early age.  His mother, having lost two husbands, looked to her eldest and most beloved son for financial support.  But King could hardly provide for her and her other children on his salary from the U.S. Geological Survey; in large part, this is why he abandoned his promising career as a government scientist in middle age to try his hand at the high-risk game of mine speculation.  At the times he felt the most strain, King seemed to engage in particularly reckless behavior, seeking refuge with lovers as starkly different from his mother as he could find.

But the rendezvous with this girl, in particular, may not have turned out like the others.  Quickly, there could have been a complication.  From Ada and her family’s point of view, this complication constituted a pressing reason to demand marriage after only a few months: she was pregnant.

The travels Ada King described taking after her wedding to James Todd appear to have lasted only a few months, not only because her husband must have been perpetually nervous about attracting attention, but also because Ada may have been carrying a child.  In response to a question from Judge Shientag in 1933, she claimed she couldn’t recall exactly when the children were born.  “Anyhow,” she went on, laughing, “it was between 1889 and 1897 that the children came.”[32]  Did the same woman who recalled her wedding ceremony and subsequent travels in great detail really not remember when her first child was born?  Or was she smarter than the court and its reporters understood, laughing because she still wished to protect one of the few secrets she had actually shared with her husband?  Her evasiveness may be a clue to why King, whose longest relationship with a woman besides Ada lasted only a few months,[33] became so uncharacteristically committed after what Ada herself characterized as a whirlwind courtship.  Clarence and Ada’s firstborn came as a surprise, before King’s mind had turned to slipping away.

That Ada became pregnant sometime before the ceremony in 1888 helps to explain such extraordinary behavior on King’s part and casts serious doubt on Sandweiss’s thesis that King’s lies were extraordinary measures taken by a man who sought to protect true love at all costs.  Necessary measures to maintain love across the color line in Victorian America.  In fact, it seems equally if not more plausible that this prodigious slummer’s tryst with a socially marginal woman, one of dozens or more in which he indulged throughout his life, unexpectedly became something else altogether.  Ada—poor, black, in her mid-twenties—now pregnant outside of marriage by a white man she hardly knew, surely would lose her job and face scorn in her community when the pregnancy became known.  Faced with this reality, she or her family may have pushed hard for a wedding, to which King agreed.  King, himself living with the wounds of never knowing a father, felt bound to remain in Ada’s life.  In the following years, especially as he came to love his young family deeply, his letters show it would become an almost torturous responsibility, piled on top of his already burdensome support for his mother and half-siblings.  “I am poor, and what is worse, so absorbed in the hand to mouth struggle for income that I see the effective literary and scientific years drifting by empty and blank,” he told Henry Adams in 1889.[34]  Nonetheless, in the months following the wedding ceremony, the two traveled until Ada’s pregnancy prohibited it, settling in the house in Brooklyn to await the birth of a little boy.[35]  Even in the face of this unexpected family, one that could instantly spell disaster for his financial credibility and social standing, Clarence King could not resist a joke.  He decided to call the boy Leroy, in homage to the family name he believed his wife and child could never know.  While some may find this touching or bittersweet, others will surely see it as callous—branding your firstborn with the symbol of this existential lie.

 

Three

Though his love letters to Ada veered towards the over-earnest and purple, King did not lose his ability to write beautiful, sophisticated prose the day he wed Ada Copeland.  Throughout the 1890s he submitted deftly argued pieces to magazines like the Forum on far-ranging topics—from his musings on higher education to fiery treatises supporting liberation for Cuba.  In the October 1886 issue of the Century Magazine, he published his only other attempt at literary work besides Mountaineering, a short story called “The Helmet of Mambrino.”  His friends later reproduced it in the Century Association’s Clarence King Memoirs.  It is a humorous account of a journey to La Macha, the birthplace of Don Quixote, in which King searches for an old washbasin like the one the Don wore as a helmet.  In these years, King must have felt the purpose of the life in which he’d found himself was similarly obscure.

Despite the reemergence of his literary dabbling, and the small income it brought, the 1890s brought King no reconciliation between the two disparate halves of his existence.  Ada and her young family, to which were added four more children throughout the decade, did little to pacify the part of Clarence King that needed to prowl the streets in search of sexual release.  If anything, during the 1890s, King’s inner life grew even more divided and strange.  While he may have loved his wife he was not true to her.

Chatting with a western rancher earlier in his life, King once drew a coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air.  “Woman is too one-sided—like a tossed-up penny—and I want both sides or none,” he pronounced.[36]  This was undoubtedly a throwaway comment.  But it may help to unravel the strangest episode of the geologist’s life.

In the years after his wedding to Ada, King dove more determinedly into New York’s club scene.

He had retained his membership in the Century Associaton….  He made a habit, too, of the high yellow dining room of the Union League Club, and he joined still other[s]… the Players of Edwin Booth, in 1888, a group dedicated to brotherhood between theatrical men and leaders in the kindred fields of art, letters, and music; or the Boone and Crockett Club of Theodore Roosevelt, a hundred eminent hunters of big game who pledged themselves to foster “manly sport with the rifle”… or the Tuxedo Club, … the Downtown Club, the dignified Knickerbocker Club, even the Metropolitan, or (as someone christened it) “the millionaires’ stable.”[37]

As much as he despised the stuffiness of the city’s high society, he clung to it more desperately than ever.  He bankrolled his life with ever-tenuous credit and charm.  Meanwhile, his business ventures came further unraveled.  The Panic of 1893 hit with a vengeance as Grover Cleveland began his second term in the White House.  It further ravaged King’s economic interests in silver mines and frontier banks.  The El Paso National Bank, which he had founded and of which he was the absentee president, collapsed.  The associate to whom he’d entrusted the day-to-day management ran off with much of King’s money.  King admitted to insomnia as he failed to think of a way to save the bank.  He spent a month doing consulting work on a Canadian mine, but returned to New York in mid-October 1893 looking gaunt and unkempt.  His appearance startled his friends there; this was not the same Clarence King who had always been so fastidious about clean linens and fine cuisine whether he dined at Delmonico’s or in a mountain camp.

As he clung to some semblance of a dignified public life, his most private urges ran loose.  Besides being a place where King could maintain his social status, the clubs were also King’s residence.  When in New York, he always kept a room at one or more of them.  This arrangement was well-suited for his frequent forays into the city; no one could keep tabs of his comings and goings.  His evening trips to see Ada and the growing brood in Brooklyn could go unnoticed.  So could his prowling.

One Sunday afternoon in October of 1893, King slipped out of the Union League Club, where he was staying.  Perhaps he changed into a set of grubby clothes at one of the public bath houses the New York Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor had begun constructing a few years before.[38]  Then he proceeded to the lion cage in Central Park, where whatever he and another man were engaged in created quite a commotion among a throng of passers-by.  King and “a colored butler, named John W. Jones, who works at No. 417 Madison avenue,” quickly fled the zoo area of the park and the crowd that had developed, rejoining a little ways away at the ball field.  Shortly after, “as King was leaving the park he was arrested” by two park police detectives.  He was locked up for “the technical charge of disorderly conduct.”[39]

One possible explanation is that Jones was an acquaintance of Ada or her family.  Somehow, encountering James Todd out of context, at the zoo, led Jones to the conclusion that Todd was lying about his identity.  But the fact that King was reportedly arrested in shabby clothes and looking disheveled makes this explanation unlikely; surely King, one of the most quick-witted men in America, could have maintained his cover story.  Dressed for slumming, nothing would have betrayed him as a member of society.  His skin wouldn’t have looked any lighter in Central Park than it did across the East River.  Further, there is no recorded hint of the disruption this would have surely caused in the Todds’ marriage.

Clarence King was hauled off to jail.  Immediately, his powerful friends swung into action.  The next morning his lawyer, a longtime friend, appeared on his behalf at the Yorkville Police Court.  He claimed King had been “jostled against Jones by the crowd,” and theorized the police arrested his client “owing to King’s well-known opposition to the candidacy of Mr. Maynard,”[40] the Democratic candidate in a contentious race for the office of New York’s secretary of state.  Perhaps that was the explanation King offered his friend the night before, after his release from booking.  But it is as telling as it is weak.  The two park detectives hardly would have had an interest in King’s political views.  And like Jones they would have had no indication he was a prominent man.

As soon as the detectives described to the court the circumstances of the previous afternoon’s arrest, Parker must have understood just how flimsy his friend’s explanation had been.  Surely he then got their insinuations about this “technical charge of disorderly conduct.”  The judge found Clarence King guilty and fined him ten dollars.  Henry Adams, hearing of the episode from Washington, smelled a rat: “Something remains untold,” he told Hay, “[but] I don’t care to ask.”[41]  When Henry James was written to about King’s predicament, he couldn’t help but respond, “I never thought there was no madness at all in his sanity—and feel indeed as if there may be some sanity in his madness.”[42]  James recognized better than anyone a conflicted man living in conflicted times.

By the 1890s, Central Park had become a well known cruising destination for men in search of male partners.  Unlike other such places—the list included Union Square, Times Square and Riverside Drive—Central Park was “not one where sexual contacts usually involved monetary exchange.”[43]  In the park one could find secluded spots where especially poor men, who were “unable to bring male partners home to crowded tenement quarters, [or] unable to afford even an hour’s stay at the Raines Law hotel or flophouse,”[44] could be alone for a brief, anonymous sexual encounter.  One report filed in 1921, citing a particularly large number of arrests by the two officers posted there, suggests that the zoo cages were the most popular destination in the park for homosexuals to couple.[45]  It was a problem New York’s police battled ceaselessly for decades.  “Around 1910, the police department added surveillance of homosexuals (whom they often labeled ‘male prostitutes’) to the responsibilities of the vice squad, which already handled the investigations of female prostitutes.”  Arrests such as King’s for disorderly conduct, “a misdemeanor that as much easier to prove [than sodomy, a felony] and did not require a trial by jury,” had become so frequent that the police put undercover vice cops on the cruising routes and in the parks to carry out sting operations.  “By the early 1910s, the police had begun to specify in their own records which of the men arrested for disorderly conduct had been arrested for ‘degeneracy,’”[46] in part to quickly identify repeat offenders.  This wasn’t the case with King, but most likely the detectives who arrested him were undercover vice cops.

It may have been A.D. Parker, the attorney, who gathered three of King’s closest friends and hinted at the true dimension of King’s predicament.  John LaFarge was probably there, although he quickly put some distance between himself and his old friend.  He, too, had a wife and children he regularly neglected, and it was well known that he and King spent many late nights together at LaFarge’s studio, the Century, or King’s dusty art closet.  “As you know,” he wrote to Adams, “I have never been really intimate with him.”[47]  Some friend.

Parker knew there was a reporter at King’s appearance in the Yorkville Courthouse that morning, scribbling fiercely on a pad.  Soon others were calling at the Union League Club and the homes of King’s associates.  To preserve King’s reputation, his friends took steps to see that the press’s reaction would not be as ambivalent as LaFarge’s or the justice system’s.  Tuesday’s New York World briefly covered the arrest with the headline “CLARENCE KING’S PREDICAMENT,” recounting its circumstances as they were described in Monday’s court hearing.  It was a breaking story, and the reporter seemed unsure how to handle it.  King was not an “invert”—or a self-consciously effeminate man like most of the gathered to socialize and pair off in Central Park—nor was he lower-class.  Instead, he added at the end of his story a strange paragraph about another case involving the same two park detectives who arrested King:

Detectives Savage and McGinty are the officers who arrested a man named George Williams on Sept. 14 and made a similar charge.  Williams, whose right name was Lang, accused the offices of extortion and the case against him was dismissed.  They had arrested him three years before, and he claimed that they attempted extortion also at that time.  When he appeared before the Park Commissioners he had no evidence to support his charge.[48]

Lang’s repeated arrests and accusations of extortion mark the antagonism between regular “cruisers” in Central Park and the officers whose unending job was to apprehend them.  Surely those antagonisms were baldly clear to the World’s beat reporter in the Yorkville Police Court, who watched a regular stream of disorderly-conduct offenders like Lang filter through the courthouse.  Mentioning him was the reporter’s cautious way of placing King within their rank and file.

The geologist’s friends insisted he be examined by his physician.  Someone also called on Dr. Alan McLane Hamilton, “the well known authority on diseases of the mind,” who helped with the examination.  The two physicians “immediately certified that Mr. King was suffering from mental disturbance with occasional acute symptoms.”[49]  King’s friends immediately took this certification, along with testimonials of their own of King’s unraveling mental health, to a state supreme court judge, who from his bed signed the papers needed to commit Clarence King to an insane asylum.  Sometime in the middle of the week, King was taken into the care of physicians at Bloomingdale, on what is today the campus of Columbia University. Ada, presumably, believed he was still off riding the rails.

From his cell window, King may have marked the construction of Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb beside the Hudson River.  If so, instead of the magnificent tower of “the richest and deepest of figured glass” he and John LaFarge had conjured up one night when the project had been put to the public, he bore witness to John Duncan’s solemn vault of Vermont granite.[50]  Meanwhile, the newspapers ran articles with headlines such as “IS CLARENCE KING INSANE?”[51] and “HIS MIND UNBALANCED.”[52]  One article ostensibly reported on the “event” of King’s institutionalization, going on to include eyewitness accounts of his visible disintegration: “Until about three weeks ago he took great pride in his personal appearance….  Then his friends noticed one day that he had suddenly become very slovenly and careless about his dress.”  The second half of the article is a glowing summary of scientific and literary achievements.  If this is balanced reporting, it is also cautious.  Conspicuously absent is any mention of the Central Park incident.

One can picture King’s powerful friends making the rounds at the newsrooms, doing damage control.

In another article, in the late Horace Greely’s New York Tribune—incidentally the paper for which King’s friend and financial lifeline John Hay had been a young reporter and more recently editor-in-chief pro tempore—mention of his arrest was also left out.  That article was a more in-depth account of King’s medical examination, then included several quotes from friends of King who were not identified.  All were reassuring that the “unsoundness of mind” was completely reversible and that King himself was much relieved to be retiring to Bloomingdale where he could get some rest.  Dr. Lincoln issued an official statement which the Tribune printed:

Troubles, however, inclement to the financial crisis and to his extreme sensitiveness over his professional obligations brought about the condition of his present nervous depression, which at times assimilates melancholia.  His condition was not such, however, as to make it necessary that he be taken to a retreat, but it seemed best to Mr. King himself, as well as to his friends, in view of the fact that he had no family, that he should go to some place where he could have good nursing and absolute freedom from care.  Under such circumstances, there is little doubt that he will recover his aforetime health and vigor.

The truth was King did have a family; two in fact.  Rehabilitating at the Todd house in Brooklyn was out of the question.  The friends who were administering to King did not even know of it.  And certainly his mother would have wanted him home in Newport where she could care for him.  But his mother would have been the last person King wanted to see.

 

Four

It was James Terry Gardiner alone who came to visit King almost every day at Bloomingdale.  The man whose estate Ada King would sue forty years later was King’s best friend from schoolboy days until his death.  Since the age of fourteen, he once said, he and Clarence King had lived “on terms of intimacy closer than those of most brothers.”  And that is what they often called each other: “Brother.”  They had promised one another as boys “never to get the world’s bashfulness of saying ‘love.’”[53]  King’s first abortive engagement was a reaction to Gardiner’s own engagement.

Before he and Gardiner decided to enroll at Yale’s Sheffield School, during a brief stint living in Brooklyn when he rode the East River ferry each morning to work for a New York flour merchant, King “appealed to his friend Jim for ‘all sorts of moral suggestions, counsellings [sic].’”  “It was very nice to talk about moral purity in a little city,” he went on in the same letter, “but Great Jones!, Jim—how many more seductive, wicked, beautiful, fascinating, jolly, voluptuous, apparently modest, artful women there are to one poor chicken here.”  In another he wrote: “Oh, Jim, my hot nature must need a great deal of checking.  I am sure my trying troubles must be sent for the purpose of teaching me to govern myself.”[54]  And already, as a teenager, the weight of the King family’s financial failure was an emotional burden.  For a while he was determined not to accept a penny from his mother’s new husband.  His own father was dead, buried at sea in east Asia, and the King family business defunct.  Only talking through things with Gardiner ever seemed to reassure him of his place in the world.  Before Ada Copeland was even born, Jamie Gardiner was Clarence King’s lodestar.  King, without a father, found in his relationship with Gardiner a model for love between men.  Aside from his relationship with his mother, which was one of simultaneous adoration and resentment, it was the first love King knew and the most enduring.  Unlike all his other relationships—with his mother and half-siblings, with his wife and children, with the objects of his sexual desires—it was not mired in contradictory forces.  In fact it was quite simple.  Even Gardiner’s second wife, a stodgy bishop’s daughter who had banned Clarence King from her home on account of a raunchy dinner-table tales, could not stand between these two friends when one needed the other.  And even after King’s death, with Ada looking to Gardiner for help that her husband had not provided, Gardiner found the wherewithal to stand behind his friend.  He knew that it was, in fact, love that he shared in his lifetime with Clarence King.  As he surveyed the wreckage of King’s life at the dawn of the twentieth century, Gardiner must have seen that that love was the only coherent and lasting force his friend had ever known.  Gardiner is mentioned only a few times in Passing Strange.

It would be Henry Adams who would immortalize King in his book, The Education, when he wrote:

He knew more than Adams did of art and poetry; he knew America, especially west of the hundredth meridian, better than anyone…. Incidentally he knew more practical geology than was good for him, and saw ahead at least one generation further than the text-books…. He had in him something of the Greek, a touch of Alcibiades or Alexander. One Clarence King only existed in the world.

It was also Adams to whom King wrote after several months at Bloomingdale, once it was clear he would get out.  He was plotting a trip to the Caribbean, and begged the widower Adams to join him.  He had picked out from the papers a steamer bound for Martinique.  From there they could jump a ride to St. Kitt’s, St. Thomas, St. Croix or Barbados, depending on their mood.  If things got dull, they could return home by way of Havana.

As it turned out, King and Adams ended up in Cuba, where they were introduced to the American consul.  King halfheartedly dug in the soil and made notes while Adams muddled away in watercolor.  But at night, by the fireside, King came to life.  Adams marveled at his moves, the way he danced hour after hour with the multitude of languid, brown bodies.


[1] The next day’s coverage in several of the city’s dailies was derisive. “Old negress, suing estate, reveals love,” headlined the New York Daily Mirror story, 21 November 1933, page 3.  The first line of the story read:

More than filling the witness chair, a huge 70-year-old Negress, her kinky hair a soft gray, told in

Supreme Court yesterday of her love for the late Clarence King, Social Registerite, of her life In

Newport, R. I., as his wife, and of a mansion in Flushing of which she was mistress.

“Mammy bares life as wife of scientist,” headlined the New York Daily News in its coverage, 21 November 1933, page 3.  The paper included, below, a lineup of photos: Mrs. King, Payne Whitney, and Mrs. Payne Whitney, under the caption “Mammy and the two who aided her”.  It was not front page news, but the sort of odd racial melodrama that would give a generally somber Depression-era New York a chuckle that morning.

[2] Adams, Henry, “King” in Clarence King Memoirs, published for the King Memorial Committee of the Century Association, New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1904.  page 167.

[3] See Ware, Louise, in the Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 23, pages 520-521.

[4] Daily News, 21 November 1933, page 3.  Possibly the father of John Melcher (b. 1924), U.S. senator from Montana.

[5] Ibid.

[6] None testify, nor are any mentioned as being present in newspaper accounts of the suit.

[7] Sandweiss, Martha, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, New York: Penguin, 2009, locations 2323-2329 (Accessed via Kindle).

[8] Ibid, locations 2331-2336.

[9] Wyatt, David, The Fall into Eden: Landscape and Imagination in California, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, page 66.

[10] Quoted from O’Toole, page 184.

[11] Ibid, page 186.

[12] Adams, page 188.

[13] Ibid, page 195.

[14] Daily Mirror, 21 November 1933, page 8.

[15] New York American, 21 Novemeber 1933, page 2 (page 3, final edition).

[16] Daily News, 21 November 1933, page 3.  There is a discrepancy as to the address of the house in Flushing among the newspaper articles.  45 Prince Street is the address one multiply attested.

[17] From SCIPIO, an index of art and rare book sales catalogues.

[18] LaFarge, John, “Clarence King” in Clarence King Memoirs, page 192.

[19] “That [art] collection was sold … and the remainder, $50,000, was put in a trust fund to provide for [King’s] invalid mother.”  From the Daily News, 21 November 1933.  It seems unlikely that this would be the case.  More probably, Hay himself arranged such a fund, drawn from his own fortune, to take care of Mrs. Howland.  Hay had a documented track-record of inventing way to settle King’s debts without embarrassing King or his family.  See O’Toole.

[20] Perhaps the Depression had taken its toll, even on the north shore of Long Island’s swanky set.  Her late husband’s relative Richard Whitney, had been wrapped up in the fiasco of October, 1929 about as tightly as anyone could have been.  The authoritative scholar on the great crash has called him “one of the most disastrous businessmen in modern history.”   See Galbraith, John Kenneth, The Great Crash: 1929, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988, page 160.

[21] New York American, 22 November 1933, page 3.

[22] Adams Henry, The Education of Henry Adams, Boston: Hougton Mifflin, 1973, page 416.

[23] Ibid, pages 3, 8.

[24] Clarence King Memoirs, page 413.

[25] Clarence King to Daniel Coit Gilman, 27 February 1885.  The D.C. Gilman Collection, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

[26] O’Toole, pages 186-187.

[27] Quoted from Wilkins, Thurman,  Clarence King: A Biography, New York: Macmillan Company, 1958, page 317.

[28] In his contribution to The Clarence King Memoirs, “Memorabilia”, James D Hague recounts a story of a visit King made to Georgia in which he had the occasion to “attend a religious meeting of a colored congregation, assembled in a large barn-like and frigid meeting-house … King took an active part in the proceedings and addressed the meeting.” (page 407).  Hague goes on to describe how King had a stove bought for the congregation and installed in the meeting house, making it a parable of the man’s charitable spirit.  However, the question must be asked what King was doing in Georgia, especially in a situation in which he is given the floor in what is clearly a rural, poor black church.  Furthermore, the story says he returned again to the area, at which time he inquired about the stove.  It is tempting to link this anecdote to the Census record locating Ada’s birth in Georgia, thus showing King was engaged with her family beyond the relatives with whom she lived in New York before the marriage.

[29] Wallace King, who according to newspaper accounts escorted his mother and Henrietta Williams to court in November 1933, was the youngest of King’s five children.  According to SSA death records, a Wallace King, b. 26 April 1897, died in October if 1981 having last lived in Flushing.  The 1920 Census locates a Wallace King in Brooklyn, claiming to be twenty-one years old and deemed white.  In testimony in 1933, Ada King confesses she could not recall even the years of birth of her children, perhaps explaining the age discrepancy between records of Wallace.  Ada King, third of the five children, may also have passed for white.  A 5 September 1916 New York Times article (“8 Killed, 13 Injured in Motor Accidents,” page 20) notes an “Ada King, 28 years old, of 43 West 133d Street, sustained a fracture of the skull, and died” in a hit and run car accident perpetrated by a black chauffeur on a joyride to Coney Island in his employer’s automobile.  Journalistic conventions of the time almost invariably noted if persons mentioned in news articles were African-American (including in this article), leading the reader to believe this Ada King was considered white.  The elder Ada King testified in the 1933 trial that she had lost two of her children; Leroy, the eldest, appears to have died in infancy.  This Ada King would make the second.

[30] O’Toole, page 187.

[31] Frank H. Mason to John Hay, 10 November 1833.  Quoted in O’Toole, page 118.

[32] [New York] Daily Mirror, 21 November 1933, pages 3 and 8.

[33] King proposed to Virginia Dean, a Virginia City, NV schoolteacher, during the fierce winter of 1868.  By the following spring he’d decided to back out.  For an account, see Wilkins.  The standard conjecture is that King’s mother shot down the proposed marriage during a visit to Newport.  It makes sense she would disapprove.  King’s quarantine in bawdy Virginia City at the ripe age of twenty-six may have led to a rash decision to propose, which he did as he packed up to leave with the Fortieth Parallel Survey when the weather broke.  His feelings fizzled quickly as he moved away from that town.

[34] Quoted from Wilkins, page 324.

[35] Not only would it have become physically difficult for Ada to travel as she carried the baby, but whatever cover story King hatched would have been all the more suspect.

[36] O’Toole, page 184.

[37] Wilkins, page 324.

[38] See Chauncey, George, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, New York: Basic Books, 1994, especially Chapter 8, “The Social World of the Baths,” p.207.

[39] The [New York] World, 31 October 1893.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Quoted from O’Toole, page 268.

[42] Ibid, page 269.

[43] Chauncey, page 191.

[44] Ibid, page 195.

[45] Ibid, page 418, see footnote 12 and the reference to Frederick H. Whitin, “Sexual Perversion Cases in the New York City Courts, 1916-1921,” bulletin 1480, 21 November 1921.

[46] Chauncey, page 185.

[47] Quoted from O’Toole, page 268.

[48]The World, 31 October 1893, page 8.

[49] “His Mind Unbalanced,” New York Tribune, 4 November 1893, page 7.

[50] LaFarge, John, page 194.

[51] The [New York] Sun, 3 Novemeber 1893.

[52] New York Tribune, 4 November 1893.

[53] Quoted from Wilkins, pages 25-26.

[54] Ibid, page 28, 29.

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“Clarence King, American Catastrophe”

A Review of Martha A. Sandweiss’s Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line

By David Finney

            When she took her seat at the plaintiff’s table at the New York County Supreme Court, the knot of journalists at the back of the room undoubtedly snickered.[1]  One can hear it in the stories they wrote.  Ada King, elderly, overweight, African American, what a story she had to tell.  A Monday morning, the coffee slow to kick in.  A headache holding over from the weekend.  Thoughts would be elsewhere as the short Thanksgiving week commenced.  It was November 20th, 1933.  Still, this could be a case worth sitting up straight for, the one in a hundred that came along for the stringers covering the courts.  Or at any rate it ought to keep them amused for the morning.  Flip open the steno pads, boys!

            A “huge 70-year-old Negress, her kinky hair a soft gray,” as one reporter described Ada King in print, was suing some very important white men for $80,000.  Her claim?  She had been secretly married to one of these men’s most famous friends back in the 1890s.  Not just any fellow indeed.  The kind of white man with a Yale and Mayflower pedigree.  The kind with memberships at the Century and the Knickerbocker.  Ada told the court that morning that Clarence King, first director of the United States Geological Survey and one of the most visible bachelors of the Mauve Decade, had secretly married her—that’s right, then a twenty-five-year-old nursemaid, a colored—and bore her five brown children before he died of tuberculosis in 1901.  She had the love letters to prove it.

            This trial, unfolding during the depths of the Depression, dredged up one of the most bizarre personalities of the Gilded Age.  “Above all he loved paradox—a thing, he said, that alone excused thought,” King’s close friend Henry Adams wrote of him.  “No one, in our time, ever talked paradox so brilliant.”[2]  This trial more than three decades after his death was just the sort of paradox that Clarence King would have delighted in reading about in the papers, say over breakfast in the dining room of the Brunswick Hotel.  Instead, it was his own name in the lurid headlines/  He wouldn’t have been amused.

            In her engaging and ably researched book on Ada and Clarence King’s clandestine marriage across the color line, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, Princeton professor Martha A. Sandweiss paints a charming portrait of the lengths two lovers, one black and one white, went to share a life together in the face of race, class and the deep prejudices of post-bellum America.  Certainly it’s about time this story gets told.  Yet Sandweiss’s portrait is fundamentally incomplete.  As the author herself acknowledges, incomplete with regards to Ada because all that the woman left behind are the records of the trial, some municipal documents and the memories of a few elderly descendants.  Here, Sandweiss effectively fills in the gaps with circumstantial evidence to offer a nuanced picture of what it was like to be black, female, and working class in New York City in the late nineteenth century.  More shaky, however, is her portrait of Clarence King, about whom much more can be gleaned from the historical record.  Notably, it is King’s love of paradox—the man himself was a paradox, and one in many ways emblematic of the complexity of life in his times—that Sandweiss fails to render.  Whereas, in Passing Strange, the scales are unmistakably tilted towards love and away from deception, the truth is far more ambiguous—and in many ways richer and more fascinating.

One

 

Ada King’s brought her suit against five surviving members of James Terry Gardiner’s family, all women, along with the three trustees of Gardiner’s estate.  Gardiner was Clarence King’s closest lifelong friend, a young man he’d camped with in the woods outside of Hartford as a boy and the one with whom he headed west in the spring of 1863, as fresh college graduates, to join the Geological Survey of California and soon enough find fame.  Besides his mother and, in his final years, Ada and the children, Clarence King loved no one more than Jamie Gardiner.

In 1933, though, Gardiner was dead and buried.  George Foster Peabody, the elderly philanthropist who spent millions rebuilding and educating the South,[3] “wealthy clubman” John S. Melcher,[4] and “millionaire New York lawyer” Seth Sprague Terry[5]—the three trustees of the Gardiner estate—were named in Ada King’s suit as the trustees of Gardiner’s estate.  Not one showed up in court.[6]  After a few short days of testimony and a flutter of media attention, the judge dismissed the case.

Ada King’s attorney claimed in his opening statements that Clarence King had entrusted Gardiner to sell for him his massive collection of artwork upon his death and place the proceeds in a trust for Ada and her children.  The suit sought to regain the principal of that sale.  Ada was unable to produce any legal documents proving a marriage to King.  In fact, none existed.  No marriage license had been issued.  The wedding was a shadowy event, though of a sort not uncommon in the African-American community at that time: held in the home of Ada’s aunt in the fall of 1888, witnessed by family and neighbors, and presided over by a minister the “Rev. Cooke.”  Henrietta Williams, a family friend who accompanied Ada to the trial, testified that she witnessed the event some forty-five years before.  She had been a girl of six at the time.  (Later, she worked for years as one of five servants in Ada King’s household.)  “It was the first wedding I ever saw and I guess I remembered it,” she told the court.  “They had a cake with white icing and candies—chocolates and all kinds.”

In fact, as far as Ada and other attendees knew, no man named Clarence King, no white man, was even in attendance.  Ada believed she was marrying a light-skinned African-American from Baltimore named James Todd—a lie King perpetrated on the girl presumably from the moment they met.  As Sandweiss explains:

If by chance Clarence glimpsed Ada at the home [where she worked as a nursemaid] before she ever saw him, he could have returned another day to find her alone, or waited outside to catch her on the street while she walked with the children.  Wherever he met her, he laid the foundation for his alternative identity from the start.  With an accent or expression, a familiarity with southern culture or a knowing wink at the foibles of Ada’s employers, he could imply that he was a workingman, maybe a fellow southerner.  Such playful and seductive banter would feel familiar to him, akin to the verbal games he had played with women in Hawaii or London or California.  But this time there would be no walking away from the persona he invented with his charming words and beguiling smile.  On a street or in a bar, in a kitchen or on a trolley, King told Ada the story of his life.  He was from Baltimore.  He was a Pullman porter.  And his name, he said, was “James Todd.”  From the circumstances of his life, if not through a clear declaration or the obvious physical appearance of his skin, he let Ada believe he was black.[7]

Why would King conduct such an elaborate and risky lie?  Sandweiss suggests it was love from the start, and this could well have been the case.  The lie was the only way to carry on this somehow vital relationship and maintain his good standing as a son, friend, businessman and member of society:

Psychologists say that to be a successful liar, one needs three attributes: the ability to plan ahead, a talent for managing one’s own emotions and the capacity to read the needs of other people.  Whether King invented the actual details of his alternative identity with careful forethought, the very concept of it suggested advance planning, triggered by his awareness that a public relationship with a black, working-class woman could destroy the web of friendships, familial connections, and business relations that sustained his world.  King was a risk taker.  But in many respects he remained fundamentally conservative—a dutiful son, loyal friend, and responsible mining expert, reliant on his good name for his livelihood as well as his fundamental sense of self.  Quite literally he could not afford scandal.  In concealing his true identity from Ada, he signaled his intention to keep his social world as invisible to her as she would remain to it.[8]

Even taking into account the enormous social pressures a man in King’s situation may have felt, this analysis feels as though it sells Ada’s own love short.  How can a couple build a true and loving marriage upon such a fundamental lie?  At the end of each night he spent in Brooklyn, when King rose to slip back to his Manhattan club or hotel, he would have looked Ada in the eye and uttered some false words or handy excuse.  He did so with a straight face, and for many years.  In fact, he held up the life he built for the Todd family with a flimsy scaffold of lies to the very end—in addition to misleading them about his identity, King told his wife that an inheritance from an aunt (an aunt for shadowy reasons he convinced her she must never meet) would provide for her and the children should anything ever happen to him.  In fact, when King died in 1901, he left behind only a towering pile of debts that had to be settled by his closest friends.  A striking way for a man to show his love.

It was no secret to King’s friends, nor to the gossips, that the geologist long had a taste for exotic women.  King himself preferred the word “archaic” to describe his taste in women, often comparing his ideal to an image of Eve.  This taste was apparently a leitmotif in his stories, making them all the more exciting and outrageous for his straight-laced audiences.  With a wink or a glimmer in his eye, though, one imagines King letting these audiences know he was in on the joke.

But King possessed a view of nature and history constructed in response to moments of apocalyptic-order catastrophe.  In fact, the sporadic upheavals which, as King discovered in his field work, marked the geologic record, resonated with his personal experience.  And so he seemed to be in search of a prelapsarian femininity above all else, a kind of impossible passion that was free from obligation or the risk of loss.  In reference to King’s book Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, the literary critic David Wyatt writes: “King could have given his story no greater permanence than by appropriating the catastrophic history of the Sierra as the self’s most accurate lithograph.”[9]   The geologist was perpetually in search of a companion, another version of the self, that predated the fall into economic and emotional catastrophe that defined his existence.  He looked high and low, and in some remarkably odd places.

From time to time, the gossips whispered that King had a taste for slumming.  But the usual story went that no white women could live up to his lofty standards.  And so he scoured the world—from the cliff tops of California to the back alleyways of London—in search of a better breed.  King promoted the view that it was a heroic, if maybe doomed, search.  He sometimes even revealed a bitterness for a world with which he was not at peace, even betraying a flash of anger.  Of a kiss from one New England lady, he once wrote: “[it] seemed like the only one she had, the little pittance she had saved for heaven knows how long.”[10]  Other times he sounded notes of true longing.  “Paradise, for me, is still a garden and a primaeval women,” he once waxed to his friend John Hay.[11]  But for all we know he kept quiet about the woman in Brooklyn with whom he had gone so far as to exchange wedding vows.  He knew that few would find anything poetic about a kept Negro maid and her children living on borrowed money.

After their wedding, the fictitious James Todd settled his wife in a house in Brooklyn and paid regular visits from a room “at the Brunswick Hotel or one of his clubs”[12] in Manhattan, as Ada’s lawyer put it long afterwards.  For a while, the couple traveled together.  “We went to Washington, to Newport, and to Boston, and finally we settled down,” Ada testified in 1933.  Very soon, she was awaiting the birth of their first son, Leroy.  James Todd, in the meantime, left New York on one of his endless, and imaginary, runs along the rail between Washington, D.C. and New York.  Actually, Clarence King was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for two months’ worth of rest and relaxation, a trip his doctor had encouraged in July but King had postponed.  His friend John Hay, who’d been Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary and sat loyally at the Great Emancipator’s bedside when he died, footed the bill.  Hay was a wealthy man, thanks to his father-in-law’s railroad fortune, and over many decades proved to be King’s most patient and willing benefactor.  King told no one other than Hay and his mother in Newport where he was.[13]

So it would go for another thirteen years, the striking, blue-eyed porter dropping in on his expanding family in Brooklyn, always brandishing gifts and grins.  Perhaps his persuasiveness as a storyteller and the strength of his bond with Ada were so great that any questions were quickly forgotten upon each return.  Perhaps family and friends were too mesmerized to think twice about who he claimed to be.  One can also imagine that the benefits of this marriage—the gifts and the comfortable life free from menial toil, the status in the neighborhood brought by the near-white children—outweighed any nagging sense of unease.  “He always brought [Ada] and the children something from his trips.  He always brought the servants something, too,” said Henrietta Williams, the servant and Ada’s friend.[14]  One wonders what sort of gifts King deposited in the household in Brooklyn.  In the years after his wedding to Ada, he traveled to Cuba and California, London and El Paso.  His family must have marveled how the rail stops of the eastern seaboard were peppered with such exotic treasures and trinkets.  Knowing King, each gift was wrapped in a story that could make Philadelphia seem as fabulous as the Far East.

Only a deathbed telegram from Phoenix in 1901, instructing Ada to have the children’s names legally changed from “Todd” to “King”, revealed to Ada Todd her husband’s true identity.  She knew he was dangerously ill at that time, but it is not clear whether she knew he was in Phoenix—so far from his perpetual railroad route between Washington and New York.  The years of gifts, the stories that came with them, and the heartfelt feelings King spilled onto pages and pages of touching letters to his wife—all of it must have felt cheaper to her then, at the moment Ada Todd realized her family life was constructed on Clarence King’s lies.  Or perhaps she resented him only a little, for in the end finally failing to keep the game going, for both their sakes.  He urgently instructed her to take the children to Canada, where the children would be more accepted—any they were less likely to run into anyone who would know King’s mother or friends.  She did so, but soon returned to New York seeking the money she’d been promised.

The discovery of her late husband’s real name may have been recognized by Ada Todd and her extended household as a windfall.  It is unclear whether Ada King understood in 1901 just how high the places were where her husband had friends.  But by 1933, she understood how well-placed her husband had been, perhaps thanks to the digging of a hungry attorney.  At the time of his death, though, it appears she asked few questions.  James Todd had always promised his wife that she would come into a substantial amount of money, and Ada never seemed to doubt that this would be the case.  In one letter he wrote:

Darling  … The most important thing for us of all others is that the property which will some day come to me shall not be torn from us by some foolish idle person talking about us and some word getting to my old aunt.

At some point the story evolved; later, he referred to the proceeds from his art collection, continuing: “I have left $80,000 with Mr. Gardiner.  You need never worry.”[15]  The terseness is characteristic of later letters King composed addressing the issue of the trust fund.  And he was lying.  It’s almost as though he thought he could will the money into existence with pure rhetorical force.  Upon King’s death, she couldn’t stay cut off in Toronto for long.  Everything she knew lay in New York.  This Mr. Gardiner was in New York.  Ada bought an ad in the paper seeking him and presumably they met.  Soon, a check arrived in the mail.  She was apparently satisfied for almost thirty years, until 1933 when the fifty-dollar-a-month checks abruptly stopped coming.

            It begs the question, if King died utterly broke, the mysterious aunt a fabrication, where did the money come from?

King kept a dark little storage room on Tenth Street that contained one of the most prodigious collections in the city.  He knew it was extremely valuable; perhaps he even convinced himself it was worth more than his debts.  But in candid moments, he must have admitted to himself that was not the case.  Instead, it was King’s friend John Hay, the secretary of state under Theodore Roosevelt, who was the geologists most valuable and reliable asset.  For decades, Hay was all that stood between King and utter ruin.  Still, King struggled on, right up until his death, hoping financial stability lay just around the next corner.  Despite his perpetually optimistic assurances to Ada Todd, there was nothing left over for her and the children when the estate was settled.  It could not cover King’s endless loans from Hay, loans that spanned a quarter of a century and bankrolled the lives of the Todd family, King’s mother in Newport, and from time to time King’s younger half-brother, his sister and his sister’s family.  Eventually, Ada learned that Forty-Five Prince Street in middle-class Flushing, her home since 1903, “was not provided for her by her husband, but by the largesse of a former Secretary of State, the late John Hay.”[16]

When the American Art Association put King’s estate up for auction at Mendelssohn Hall in Manhattan (it took two days to sell everything), representatives of the Frick, the Getty, Harvard, and the National Gallery in Washington waited anxiously in the audience to size up the offering.[17]  The collection, housed in dusty crates and boxes for decades—only surfacing to illustrate King’s occasional late-night lectures on art history to John LaFarge—included Turners, Millets, and Ruskins: “paintings and drawings and stuff of all kinds fit for museums,” according to LaFarge.[18]  But Ada King saw none of the proceeds.  Defense attorneys in 1933 explained how the art sale had not settled all the debts King accrued in a lifetime of borrowing from Hay and others.  In the unlikely case that anything was left over, it may have been put into a fund for King’s mother Florence Howland, still alive and twice-widowed, in Newport.[19]

Sometime in 1901 or 1902, although no records of such an exchange have been found, James Gardiner must have told John Hay about the African-American woman who had come to him claiming to be Clarence King’s wife.  The two men could not help but extend a loving hand for his friend King.  As he’d done so many times in Clarence King’s lifetime, with Gardiner’s help Hay devised one last careful plan to bail his friend out of an awful mess.  With any luck, it would protect his reputation as the scientist of their generation too.

William Winn, Gardiner’s personal secretary for seven years, testified he had received a check from John Hay each month until Hay’s death in 1911 and afterwards from Hay’s widow.  When she died, her son-in-law the financier Payne Whitney sent the checks, and finally upon his death, the responsibility fell on his wife until, after about two years, she inexplicably stopped doing so.[20]  Each month, Winn or someone else in Gardiner’s office wrote a check to the Legal Aid Society, the charity providing legal resources to the working poor.  Margaret McDermott, treasurer of the society, then made out and mailed a check in the same amount to Ada.[21]  At some point, Gardiner also instructed Ada to pick out a new house—she chose the property on Prince Street in Flushing.  It was taken care of, and Ada and the children moved in from Brooklyn without ever seeing a deed or a mortgage certificate.

The circuitous route Hay devised for his charity dollars to make their way to Ada King is not described by Sandweiss; it underscores the extraordinary affection that Hay maintained for Clarence King, even after decades of bad loans and lies.  So does the fact that his relatives felt obliged to continue the tradition for over twenty years after Hay himself died.  But it also suggests just how scandalous the relationship between King and Ada would have appeared.  Hay, who had been embroiled in an affair with the wife of Henry Cabot Lodge for decades, knew how to keep from attracting attention.  At least in part, his strategy was diversion.  In 1904, a cadre of his closest friends, organized by James D. Hague, took great pains to etch King’s virtues in stone and bury his shortcomings.  They published a 400-page commemorative volume on him through the Century Club.  It is filled with anecdotes of the scientist, ranging from the touching to the brazenly hagiographic.  Hay dutifully contributed an essay of his own to the commemorative book, but Gardiner declined.  Gardiner was the only person who understood that the sitting secretary of state was contributing to King’s legacy in a far more concrete way.  Then, in 1918, his friend Henry Adams lavished on him some of the most complimentary lines in American literature in his Education.   Surely his friends missed him dearly; King, telling a tale of high adventure in the west, late around a fire at the Union League, say, had been quite larger than life.  But in all the eulogizing there’s a whiff of overcompensation.  Adams summed up their collective feeling best:

There you have it in the face! … the best and the brightest man of his generation, with talents immeasurably beyond any of his contemporaries; with industry that has often sickened me to witness it; with everything in his favor but blind luck; hounded by disaster from his cradle, with none of the joy of life to which he was entitled, dying at last, with nameless suffering, alone and uncared-for, in a California tavern.  Ça vous amuse, la vie?[22]

Two

So the bothersome question remains: Why would Clarence King marry Ada Copeland—and do it so quickly after they met—in 1888?  What we know about his prior trysts suggests he’d stick around for only a while, enjoy himself and the release the relationship provided, but eventually bore and slip away.  The cover story he adopted from the beginning would make him as untraceable as a ghost.  But that’s not what King did.  He made a commitment and kept it, if only in his own paradoxical way.  The simplest answer, the one Sandweiss espouses, is that the two fell quickly and madly in love.  Letters from Clarence to Ada that were published in the New York press in 1933 suggest an intense love on his end.  One reads:

My dearest, I cannot tell you how delighted I was to see your handwriting again.  To see something you had touched was almost like feeling the warmth of your hand.

My darling, tell me all about yourself.  I can see your dear face every night when I lay my head on the pillow and my prayers go up to Heaven for you and the little one.

I feel most lonely and miss you most when I put out the light at night and turn away from the work of the day.  Then I sit by my window in the starlight and look up at the dark night sky and think of you.  Lonely seems my bed!  Lonely is my pillow!  I think of you and dream of you and my first waking thought is of your dear face and your loving heart.   I thank God that even if I am forced to travel and labor far away from you I have the daily comfort of remembering that far away in the east there is a dear brown woman who loves me and whom I love beyond the power of words to describe.

If it were not for the vision of your dear self, and my absolute confidence in your love and your being true to me in act and thought at all times I fear I should not have the faith and courage to struggle on away from you.[23]

Her testimony shows she felt just as strongly for him.  But few of King’s letters to Ada are dated.  Of the handful that survived to be transcribed in the Daily News in 1933, one was written from his sickbed in Phoenix near the end of his life.  The others contain references to “the little ones” or “the babies.”  So we can say that King showed a strong love for Ada down the stretch of their thirteen-year marriage and in the waning years of his life.  But this does not fully explain why he rushed into it in the first place.  Everything that is known about Clarence King suggests he would never do such a thing.  King was engaged once before, to a Nevada school teacher when he was still in his twenties.  She was the best friend of James Gardiner’s first wife, whom Gardiner married around the same time.  King’s competitiveness with his friend, and even jealousness, seems to have been largely what sparked the engagement, and it was soon called off.  Seeming to reference this episode, King later insisted to a friend:

I would never marry a woman anyhow, just because I said I would.  That is the poorest possible reason men or women can ever have for marrying each other.  People who marry without any better reason than that must surely come to grief.[24]

So even if he’d made some offhand commitment to Ada, in the heat of their passion, this doesn’t seem reason enough for him to stick around.  In fact, the man who had spent a lifetime attempting to outrun the grips of the domestic world showed no sign in 1888 that he’d changed his mind or wished to settle down, even if only in secret.  And New York is the last place one would expect him to choose if he had; just a few years earlier, he admitted to a friend, “The rush and whirl of New York life, the detestable social pressure of the place, are so thoroughly antagonistic to quiet scientific work.”[25]

The place and timing of King’s marriage are even more curious in light of an incident involving a Native American woman named Luciana that took place on a mine-related trip to California in the spring of 1887.  He recounted it to John Hay:

She was “as near as Eve as can be,” … Riding with Luciana in the mountains, King said, the “world was all flowers and Luciana’s face the most tender and grave image of Indian womanhood within human conception….  We came upon a spring high up in the mountains, where the oaks were dewy with sea fog and the orange poppies all aflame in the grass; and there we dismounted and looked out on the silver sea, and I came as near it as I ever shall.”[26]

If King came as near it—an ideal moment of sexual union, say, free from the pangs of financial failure and scandal—as he thought he ever would with a Native American woman across the continent in the spring of 1887, and then left the woman behind almost as soon as it started, would he be ready for a marriage that put what little he had on the line less than two years later?  Sandweiss is silent on this question.  Perhaps he saw something of Luciana in the teenage nursemaid Ada Copeland.  Perhaps something had changed, he regretted always walking away.  His friend Sam Emmons once explained: “[King] has a peculiar weakness for color … especially when it is on a fair cheek, … [a color apropos] the dusky fair ones of Mexico.”[27]  Indeed, physically, Ada may have been of a skin color similar to a Mexican or Native American.  In black-and-white photos of her in old age, reproduced in the newspapers in 1933, she appears quite dark-skinned.  However, according to records from the 1920 U.S. Census, the last before the “one drop” rule superceded the recording of interracial categories, a fifty-seven-year-old Ada King, marked “M” for mulatto under “race,” resided in Queens County, New York.  This Ada King’s birthplace is listed as “GA”, added evidence that this was Clarence King’s widow.[28]  Other newspaper reports and census and Social Security documents suggest that at least one or two of the King children may have been light-skinned enough to pass for white.[29]

            King’s faced an increasingly desperate financial situation in 1887 and 1888.  He was driven from his position in the senior management of one Mexican mine and costs were soaring out of control at the other.  If this was an inflection point, it was more likely one towards desperation and despair than a new embrace of love and commitment.  Some evidence overlooked by Sandweiss bolsters the case.  As he’d done before in cities all over the world, from London to California, he “traded his Savile Row suits for rough clothes and prowled the black neighborhoods of New York, registering at hotels under an alias.”[30]  In 1883, a U.S. diplomat in London sent to John Hay the gossip from London:

[King] goes down to the lowest dive at Seven Dials, chirps to the pretty bar maid of a thieves’ gin mill, gives her a guinea for a glass of “bittah,” gets the frail simple thing clean gone on him….  Think, Hay of ten such girls, with their plump red cheeks, their picturesque slang….  I suppose, rather let us say we hope, that King is walking through all these narrow, slippery places upright and unstained as an archangel.[31]

Sexual encounters with socially marginal women allowed King to feel both liberated and empowered, if only for a fleeting moment.  It was one of the few ways he found relief from the strain of financial responsibility.

            The connection in his mind between the fetters of economic obligations and the fetters of a domestic relationship with a woman was forged at an early age.  His mother, having lost two husbands, looked to her eldest and most beloved son for financial support.  But King could hardly provide for her and her other children on his salary from the U.S. Geological Survey; in large part, this is why he abandoned his promising career as a government scientist in middle age to try his hand at the high-risk game of mine speculation.  At the times he felt the most strain, King seemed to engage in particularly reckless behavior, seeking refuge with lovers as starkly different from his mother as he could find.

            But the rendezvous with this girl, in particular, may not have turned out like the others.  Quickly, there could have been a complication.  From Ada and her family’s point of view, this complication constituted a pressing reason to demand marriage after only a few months: she was pregnant.

The travels Ada King described taking after her wedding to James Todd appear to have lasted only a few months, not only because her husband must have been perpetually nervous about attracting attention, but also because Ada may have been carrying a child.  In response to a question from Judge Shientag in 1933, she claimed she couldn’t recall exactly when the children were born.  “Anyhow,” she went on, laughing, “it was between 1889 and 1897 that the children came.”[32]  Did the same woman who recalled her wedding ceremony and subsequent travels in great detail really not remember when her first child was born?  Or was she smarter than the court and its reporters understood, laughing because she still wished to protect one of the few secrets she had actually shared with her husband?  Her evasiveness may be a clue to why King, whose longest relationship with a woman besides Ada lasted only a few months,[33] became so uncharacteristically committed after what Ada herself characterized as a whirlwind courtship.  Clarence and Ada’s firstborn came as a surprise, before King’s mind had turned to slipping away.

That Ada became pregnant sometime before the ceremony in 1888 helps to explain such extraordinary behavior on King’s part and casts serious doubt on Sandweiss’s thesis that King’s lies were extraordinary measures taken by a man who sought to protect true love at all costs.  Necessary measures to maintain love across the color line in Victorian America.  In fact, it seems equally if not more plausible that this prodigious slummer’s tryst with a socially marginal woman, one of dozens or more in which he indulged throughout his life, unexpectedly became something else altogether.  Ada—poor, black, in her mid-twenties—now pregnant outside of marriage by a white man she hardly knew, surely would lose her job and face scorn in her community when the pregnancy became known.  Faced with this reality, she or her family may have pushed hard for a wedding, to which King agreed.  King, himself living with the wounds of never knowing a father, felt bound to remain in Ada’s life.  In the following years, especially as he came to love his young family deeply, his letters show it would become an almost torturous responsibility, piled on top of his already burdensome support for his mother and half-siblings.  “I am poor, and what is worse, so absorbed in the hand to mouth struggle for income that I see the effective literary and scientific years drifting by empty and blank,” he told Henry Adams in 1889.[34]  Nonetheless, in the months following the wedding ceremony, the two traveled until Ada’s pregnancy prohibited it, settling in the house in Brooklyn to await the birth of a little boy.[35]  Even in the face of this unexpected family, one that could instantly spell disaster for his financial credibility and social standing, Clarence King could not resist a joke.  He decided to call the boy Leroy, in homage to the family name he believed his wife and child could never know.  While some may find this touching or bittersweet, others will surely see it as callous—branding your firstborn with the symbol of this existential lie.

Three

 

            Though his love letters to Ada veered towards the over-earnest and purple, King did not lose his ability to write beautiful, sophisticated prose the day he wed Ada Copeland.  Throughout the 1890s he submitted deftly argued pieces to magazines like the Forum on far-ranging topics—from his musings on higher education to fiery treatises supporting liberation for Cuba.  In the October 1886 issue of the Century Magazine, he published his only other attempt at literary work besides Mountaineering, a short story called “The Helmet of Mambrino.”  His friends later reproduced it in the Century Association’s Clarence King Memoirs.  It is a humorous account of a journey to La Macha, the birthplace of Don Quixote, in which King searches for an old washbasin like the one the Don wore as a helmet.  In these years, King must have felt the purpose of the life in which he’d found himself was similarly obscure.

            Despite the reemergence of his literary dabbling, and the small income it brought, the 1890s brought King no reconciliation between the two disparate halves of his existence.  Ada and her young family, to which were added four more children throughout the decade, did little to pacify the part of Clarence King that needed to prowl the streets in search of sexual release.  If anything, during the 1890s, King’s inner life grew even more divided and strange.  While he may have loved his wife he was not true to her.

            Chatting with a western rancher earlier in his life, King once drew a coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air.  “Woman is too one-sided—like a tossed-up penny—and I want both sides or none,” he pronounced.[36]  This was undoubtedly a throwaway comment.  But it may help to unravel the strangest episode of the geologist’s life.

            In the years after his wedding to Ada, King dove more determinedly into New York’s club scene.

He had retained his membership in the Century Associaton….  He made a habit, too, of the high yellow dining room of the Union League Club, and he joined still other[s]… the Players of Edwin Booth, in 1888, a group dedicated to brotherhood between theatrical men and leaders in the kindred fields of art, letters, and music; or the Boone and Crockett Club of Theodore Roosevelt, a hundred eminent hunters of big game who pledged themselves to foster “manly sport with the rifle”… or the Tuxedo Club, … the Downtown Club, the dignified Knickerbocker Club, even the Metropolitan, or (as someone christened it) “the millionaires’ stable.”[37]

As much as he despised the stuffiness of the city’s high society, he clung to it more desperately than ever.  He bankrolled his life with ever-tenuous credit and charm.  Meanwhile, his business ventures came further unraveled.  The Panic of 1893 hit with a vengeance as Grover Cleveland began his second term in the White House.  It further ravaged King’s economic interests in silver mines and frontier banks.  The El Paso National Bank, which he had founded and of which he was the absentee president, collapsed.  The associate to whom he’d entrusted the day-to-day management ran off with much of King’s money.  King admitted to insomnia as he failed to think of a way to save the bank.  He spent a month doing consulting work on a Canadian mine, but returned to New York in mid-October 1893 looking gaunt and unkempt.  His appearance startled his friends there; this was not the same Clarence King who had always been so fastidious about clean linens and fine cuisine whether he dined at Delmonico’s or in a mountain camp.

As he clung to some semblance of a dignified public life, his most private urges ran loose.  Besides being a place where King could maintain his social status, the clubs were also King’s residence.  When in New York, he always kept a room at one or more of them.  This arrangement was well-suited for his frequent forays into the city; no one could keep tabs of his comings and goings.  His evening trips to see Ada and the growing brood in Brooklyn could go unnoticed.  So could his prowling.

            One Sunday afternoon in October of 1893, King slipped out of the Union League Club, where he was staying.  Perhaps he changed into a set of grubby clothes at one of the public bath houses the New York Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor had begun constructing a few years before.[38]  Then he proceeded to the lion cage in Central Park, where whatever he and another man were engaged in created quite a commotion among a throng of passers-by.  King and “a colored butler, named John W. Jones, who works at No. 417 Madison avenue,” quickly fled the zoo area of the park and the crowd that had developed, rejoining a little ways away at the ball field.  Shortly after, “as King was leaving the park he was arrested” by two park police detectives.  He was locked up for “the technical charge of disorderly conduct.”[39]

            One possible explanation is that Jones was an acquaintance of Ada or her family.  Somehow, encountering James Todd out of context, at the zoo, led Jones to the conclusion that Todd was lying about his identity.  But the fact that King was reportedly arrested in shabby clothes and looking disheveled makes this explanation unlikely; surely King, one of the most quick-witted men in America, could have maintained his cover story.  Dressed for slumming, nothing would have betrayed him as a member of society.  His skin wouldn’t have looked any lighter in Central Park than it did across the East River.  Further, there is no recorded hint of the disruption this would have surely caused in the Todds’ marriage.

            Clarence King was hauled off to jail.  Immediately, his powerful friends swung into action.  The next morning his lawyer, a longtime friend, appeared on his behalf at the Yorkville Police Court.  He claimed King had been “jostled against Jones by the crowd,” and theorized the police arrested his client “owing to King’s well-known opposition to the candidacy of Mr. Maynard,”[40] the Democratic candidate in a contentious race for the office of New York’s secretary of state.  Perhaps that was the explanation King offered his friend the night before, after his release from booking.  But it is as telling as it is weak.  The two park detectives hardly would have had an interest in King’s political views.  And like Jones they would have had no indication he was a prominent man.

            As soon as the detectives described to the court the circumstances of the previous afternoon’s arrest, Parker must have understood just how flimsy his friend’s explanation had been.  Surely he then got their insinuations about this “technical charge of disorderly conduct.”  The judge found Clarence King guilty and fined him ten dollars.  Henry Adams, hearing of the episode from Washington, smelled a rat: “Something remains untold,” he told Hay, “[but] I don’t care to ask.”[41]  When Henry James was written to about King’s predicament, he couldn’t help but respond, “I never thought there was no madness at all in his sanity—and feel indeed as if there may be some sanity in his madness.”[42]  James recognized better than anyone a conflicted man living in conflicted times.

            By the 1890s, Central Park had become a well known cruising destination for men in search of male partners.  Unlike other such places—the list included Union Square, Times Square and Riverside Drive—Central Park was “not one where sexual contacts usually involved monetary exchange.”[43]  In the park one could find secluded spots where especially poor men, who were “unable to bring male partners home to crowded tenement quarters, [or] unable to afford even an hour’s stay at the Raines Law hotel or flophouse,”[44] could be alone for a brief, anonymous sexual encounter.  One report filed in 1921, citing a particularly large number of arrests by the two officers posted there, suggests that the zoo cages were the most popular destination in the park for homosexuals to couple.[45]  It was a problem New York’s police battled ceaselessly for decades.  “Around 1910, the police department added surveillance of homosexuals (whom they often labeled ‘male prostitutes’) to the responsibilities of the vice squad, which already handled the investigations of female prostitutes.”  Arrests such as King’s for disorderly conduct, “a misdemeanor that as much easier to prove [than sodomy, a felony] and did not require a trial by jury,” had become so frequent that the police put undercover vice cops on the cruising routes and in the parks to carry out sting operations.  “By the early 1910s, the police had begun to specify in their own records which of the men arrested for disorderly conduct had been arrested for ‘degeneracy,’”[46] in part to quickly identify repeat offenders.  This wasn’t the case with King, but most likely the detectives who arrested him were undercover vice cops.

            It may have been A.D. Parker, the attorney, who gathered three of King’s closest friends and hinted at the true dimension of King’s predicament.  John LaFarge was probably there, although he quickly put some distance between himself and his old friend.  He, too, had a wife and children he regularly neglected, and it was well known that he and King spent many late nights together at LaFarge’s studio, the Century, or King’s dusty art closet.  “As you know,” he wrote to Adams, “I have never been really intimate with him.”[47]  Some friend.

Parker knew there was a reporter at King’s appearance in the Yorkville Courthouse that morning, scribbling fiercely on a pad.  Soon others were calling at the Union League Club and the homes of King’s associates.  To preserve King’s reputation, his friends took steps to see that the press’s reaction would not be as ambivalent as LaFarge’s or the justice system’s.  Tuesday’s New York World briefly covered the arrest with the headline “CLARENCE KING’S PREDICAMENT,” recounting its circumstances as they were described in Monday’s court hearing.  It was a breaking story, and the reporter seemed unsure how to handle it.  King was not an “invert”—or a self-consciously effeminate man like most of the gathered to socialize and pair off in Central Park—nor was he lower-class.  Instead, he added at the end of his story a strange paragraph about another case involving the same two park detectives who arrested King:

Detectives Savage and McGinty are the officers who arrested a man named George Williams on Sept. 14 and made a similar charge.  Williams, whose right name was Lang, accused the offices of extortion and the case against him was dismissed.  They had arrested him three years before, and he claimed that they attempted extortion also at that time.  When he appeared before the Park Commissioners he had no evidence to support his charge.[48]

Lang’s repeated arrests and accusations of extortion mark the antagonism between regular “cruisers” in Central Park and the officers whose unending job was to apprehend them.  Surely those antagonisms were baldly clear to the World’s beat reporter in the Yorkville Police Court, who watched a regular stream of disorderly-conduct offenders like Lang filter through the courthouse.  Mentioning him was the reporter’s cautious way of placing King within their rank and file.

            The geologist’s friends insisted he be examined by his physician.  Someone also called on Dr. Alan McLane Hamilton, “the well known authority on diseases of the mind,” who helped with the examination.  The two physicians “immediately certified that Mr. King was suffering from mental disturbance with occasional acute symptoms.”[49]  King’s friends immediately took this certification, along with testimonials of their own of King’s unraveling mental health, to a state supreme court judge, who from his bed signed the papers needed to commit Clarence King to an insane asylum.  Sometime in the middle of the week, King was taken into the care of physicians at Bloomingdale, on what is today the campus of Columbia University. Ada, presumably, believed he was still off riding the rails.

            From his cell window, King may have marked the construction of Ulysses S. Grant’s tomb beside the Hudson River.  If so, instead of the magnificent tower of “the richest and deepest of figured glass” he and John LaFarge had conjured up one night when the project had been put to the public, he bore witness to John Duncan’s solemn vault of Vermont granite.[50]  Meanwhile, the newspapers ran articles with headlines such as “IS CLARENCE KING INSANE?”[51] and “HIS MIND UNBALANCED.”[52]  One article ostensibly reported on the “event” of King’s institutionalization, going on to include eyewitness accounts of his visible disintegration: “Until about three weeks ago he took great pride in his personal appearance….  Then his friends noticed one day that he had suddenly become very slovenly and careless about his dress.”  The second half of the article is a glowing summary of scientific and literary achievements.  If this is balanced reporting, it is also cautious.  Conspicuously absent is any mention of the Central Park incident.

            One can picture King’s powerful friends making the rounds at the newsrooms, doing damage control.

In another article, in the late Horace Greely’s New York Tribune—incidentally the paper for which King’s friend and financial lifeline John Hay had been a young reporter and more recently editor-in-chief pro tempore—mention of his arrest was also left out.  That article was a more in-depth account of King’s medical examination, then included several quotes from friends of King who were not identified.  All were reassuring that the “unsoundness of mind” was completely reversible and that King himself was much relieved to be retiring to Bloomingdale where he could get some rest.  Dr. Lincoln issued an official statement which the Tribune printed:

Troubles, however, inclement to the financial crisis and to his extreme sensitiveness over his professional obligations brought about the condition of his present nervous depression, which at times assimilates melancholia.  His condition was not such, however, as to make it necessary that he be taken to a retreat, but it seemed best to Mr. King himself, as well as to his friends, in view of the fact that he had no family, that he should go to some place where he could have good nursing and absolute freedom from care.  Under such circumstances, there is little doubt that he will recover his aforetime health and vigor.

The truth was King did have a family; two in fact.  Rehabilitating at the Todd house in Brooklyn was out of the question.  The friends who were administering to King did not even know of it.  And certainly his mother would have wanted him home in Newport where she could care for him.  But his mother would have been the last person King wanted to see.

Four

 

            It was James Terry Gardiner alone who came to visit King almost every day at Bloomingdale.  The man whose estate Ada King would sue forty years later was King’s best friend from schoolboy days until his death.  Since the age of fourteen, he once said, he and Clarence King had lived “on terms of intimacy closer than those of most brothers.”  And that is what they often called each other: “Brother.”  They had promised one another as boys “never to get the world’s bashfulness of saying ‘love.’”[53]  King’s first abortive engagement was a reaction to Gardiner’s own engagement.

Before he and Gardiner decided to enroll at Yale’s Sheffield School, during a brief stint living in Brooklyn when he rode the East River ferry each morning to work for a New York flour merchant, King “appealed to his friend Jim for ‘all sorts of moral suggestions, counsellings [sic].’”  “It was very nice to talk about moral purity in a little city,” he went on in the same letter, “but Great Jones!, Jim—how many more seductive, wicked, beautiful, fascinating, jolly, voluptuous, apparently modest, artful women there are to one poor chicken here.”  In another he wrote: “Oh, Jim, my hot nature must need a great deal of checking.  I am sure my trying troubles must be sent for the purpose of teaching me to govern myself.”[54]  And already, as a teenager, the weight of the King family’s financial failure was an emotional burden.  For a while he was determined not to accept a penny from his mother’s new husband.  His own father was dead, buried at sea in east Asia, and the King family business defunct.  Only talking through things with Gardiner ever seemed to reassure him of his place in the world.  Before Ada Copeland was even born, Jamie Gardiner was Clarence King’s lodestar.  King, without a father, found in his relationship with Gardiner a model for love between men.  Aside from his relationship with his mother, which was one of simultaneous adoration and resentment, it was the first love King knew and the most enduring.  Unlike all his other relationships—with his mother and half-siblings, with his wife and children, with the objects of his sexual desires—it was not mired in contradictory forces.  In fact it was quite simple.  Even Gardiner’s second wife, a stodgy bishop’s daughter who had banned Clarence King from her home on account of a raunchy dinner-table tales, could not stand between these two friends when one needed the other.  And even after King’s death, with Ada looking to Gardiner for help that her husband had not provided, Gardiner found the wherewithal to stand behind his friend.  He knew that it was, in fact, love that he shared in his lifetime with Clarence King.  As he surveyed the wreckage of King’s life at the dawn of the twentieth century, Gardiner must have seen that that love was the only coherent and lasting force his friend had ever known.  Gardiner is mentioned only a few times in Passing Strange.

It would be Henry Adams who would immortalize King in his book, The Education, when he wrote:

Need the right quote…

It was also Adams to whom King wrote after several months at Bloomingdale, once it was clear he would get out.  He was plotting a trip to the Caribbean, and begged the widower Adams to join him.  He had picked out from the papers a steamer bound for Martinique.  From there they could jump a ride to St. Kitt’s, St. Thomas, St. Croix or Barbados, depending on their mood.  If things got dull, they could return home by way of Havana.

            As it turned out, King and Adams ended up in Cuba, where they were introduced to the American consul.  King halfheartedly dug in the soil and made notes while Adams muddled away in watercolor.  But at night, by the fireside, King came to life.  Adams marveled at his moves, the way he danced hour after hour with the multitude of languid, brown bodies.


[1] The next day’s coverage in several of the city’s dailies was derisive. “Old negress, suing estate, reveals love,” headlined the New York Daily Mirror story, 21 November 1933, page 3.  The first line of the story read:

                More than filling the witness chair, a huge 70-year-old Negress, her kinky hair a soft gray, told in

Supreme Court yesterday of her love for the late Clarence King, Social Registerite, of her life In

Newport, R. I., as his wife, and of a mansion in Flushing of which she was mistress.

“Mammy bares life as wife of scientist,” headlined the New York Daily News in its coverage, 21 November 1933, page 3.  The paper included, below, a lineup of photos: Mrs. King, Payne Whitney, and Mrs. Payne Whitney, under the caption “Mammy and the two who aided her”.  It was not front page news, but the sort of odd racial melodrama that would give a generally somber Depression-era New York a chuckle that morning.

[2] Adams, Henry, “King” in Clarence King Memoirs, published for the King Memorial Committee of the Century Association, New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1904.  page 167.

[3] See Ware, Louise, in the Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 23, pages 520-521.

[4] Daily News, 21 November 1933, page 3.  Possibly the father of John Melcher (b. 1924), U.S. senator from Montana.

[5] Ibid.

[6] None testify, nor are any mentioned as being present in newspaper accounts of the suit.

[7] Sandweiss, Martha, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, New York: Penguin, 2009, locations 2323-2329 (Accessed via Kindle).

[8] Ibid, locations 2331-2336.

[9] Wyatt, David, The Fall into Eden: Landscape and Imagination in California, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, page 66.

[10] Quoted from O’Toole, page 184.

[11] Ibid, page 186.

[12] Adams, page 188.

[13] Ibid, page 195.

[14] Daily Mirror, 21 November 1933, page 8.

[15] New York American, 21 Novemeber 1933, page 2 (page 3, final edition).

[16] Daily News, 21 November 1933, page 3.  There is a discrepancy as to the address of the house in Flushing among the newspaper articles.  45 Prince Street is the address one multiply attested.

[17] From SCIPIO, an index of art and rare book sales catalogues.

[18] LaFarge, John, “Clarence King” in Clarence King Memoirs, page 192.

[19] “That [art] collection was sold … and the remainder, $50,000, was put in a trust fund to provide for [King’s] invalid mother.”  From the Daily News, 21 November 1933.  It seems unlikely that this would be the case.  More probably, Hay himself arranged such a fund, drawn from his own fortune, to take care of Mrs. Howland.  Hay had a documented track-record of inventing way to settle King’s debts without embarrassing King or his family.  See O’Toole.

[20] Perhaps the Depression had taken its toll, even on the north shore of Long Island’s swanky set.  Her late husband’s relative Richard Whitney, had been wrapped up in the fiasco of October, 1929 about as tightly as anyone could have been.  The authoritative scholar on the great crash has called him “one of the most disastrous businessmen in modern history.”   See Galbraith, John Kenneth, The Great Crash: 1929, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988, page 160.

[21] New York American, 22 November 1933, page 3.

[22] Adams Henry, The Education of Henry Adams, Boston: Hougton Mifflin, 1973, page 416.

[23] Ibid, pages 3, 8.

[24] Clarence King Memoirs, page 413.

[25] Clarence King to Daniel Coit Gilman, 27 February 1885.  The D.C. Gilman Collection, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

[26] O’Toole, pages 186-187.

[27] Quoted from Wilkins, Thurman,  Clarence King: A Biography, New York: Macmillan Company, 1958, page 317.

[28] In his contribution to The Clarence King Memoirs, “Memorabilia”, James D Hague recounts a story of a visit King made to Georgia in which he had the occasion to “attend a religious meeting of a colored congregation, assembled in a large barn-like and frigid meeting-house … King took an active part in the proceedings and addressed the meeting.” (page 407).  Hague goes on to describe how King had a stove bought for the congregation and installed in the meeting house, making it a parable of the man’s charitable spirit.  However, the question must be asked what King was doing in Georgia, especially in a situation in which he is given the floor in what is clearly a rural, poor black church.  Furthermore, the story says he returned again to the area, at which time he inquired about the stove.  It is tempting to link this anecdote to the Census record locating Ada’s birth in Georgia, thus showing King was engaged with her family beyond the relatives with whom she lived in New York before the marriage.

[29] Wallace King, who according to newspaper accounts escorted his mother and Henrietta Williams to court in November 1933, was the youngest of King’s five children.  According to SSA death records, a Wallace King, b. 26 April 1897, died in October if 1981 having last lived in Flushing.  The 1920 Census locates a Wallace King in Brooklyn, claiming to be twenty-one years old and deemed white.  In testimony in 1933, Ada King confesses she could not recall even the years of birth of her children, perhaps explaining the age discrepancy between records of Wallace.  Ada King, third of the five children, may also have passed for white.  A 5 September 1916 New York Times article (“8 Killed, 13 Injured in Motor Accidents,” page 20) notes an “Ada King, 28 years old, of 43 West 133d Street, sustained a fracture of the skull, and died” in a hit and run car accident perpetrated by a black chauffeur on a joyride to Coney Island in his employer’s automobile.  Journalistic conventions of the time almost invariably noted if persons mentioned in news articles were African-American (including in this article), leading the reader to believe this Ada King was considered white.  The elder Ada King testified in the 1933 trial that she had lost two of her children; Leroy, the eldest, appears to have died in infancy.  This Ada King would make the second.

[30] O’Toole, page 187.

[31] Frank H. Mason to John Hay, 10 November 1833.  Quoted in O’Toole, page 118.

[32] [New York] Daily Mirror, 21 November 1933, pages 3 and 8.

[33] King proposed to Virginia Dean, a Virginia City, NV schoolteacher, during the fierce winter of 1868.  By the following spring he’d decided to back out.  For an account, see Wilkins.  The standard conjecture is that King’s mother shot down the proposed marriage during a visit to Newport.  It makes sense she would disapprove.  King’s quarantine in bawdy Virginia City at the ripe age of twenty-six may have led to a rash decision to propose, which he did as he packed up to leave with the Fortieth Parallel Survey when the weather broke.  His feelings fizzled quickly as he moved away from that town.

[34] Quoted from Wilkins, page 324.

[35] Not only would it have become physically difficult for Ada to travel as she carried the baby, but whatever cover story King hatched would have been all the more suspect.

[36] O’Toole, page 184.

[37] Wilkins, page 324.

[38] See Chauncey, George, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, New York: Basic Books, 1994, especially Chapter 8, “The Social World of the Baths,” p.207.

[39] The [New York] World, 31 October 1893.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Quoted from O’Toole, page 268.

[42] Ibid, page 269.

[43] Chauncey, page 191.

[44] Ibid, page 195.

[45] Ibid, page 418, see footnote 12 and the reference to Frederick H. Whitin, “Sexual Perversion Cases in the New York City Courts, 1916-1921,” bulletin 1480, 21 November 1921.

[46] Chauncey, page 185.

[47] Quoted from O’Toole, page 268.

[48]The World, 31 October 1893, page 8.

[49] “His Mind Unbalanced,” New York Tribune, 4 November 1893, page 7.

[50] LaFarge, John, page 194.

[51] The [New York] Sun, 3 Novemeber 1893.

[52] New York Tribune, 4 November 1893.

[53] Quoted from Wilkins, pages 25-26.

[54] Ibid, page 28, 29.

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