Wednesday, April 1, 2015

To Be Eighteen in the '80s

Annie Cooper Boyd (nee`Burnham Cooper) grew up sailing, riding and climbing trees. At the close of 1882 she bemoans turning 18, "I can't bear to think how fast my happy youth and childhood is slipping from me, that I soon will be too big to climb trees, and ride horse back straddling, etc. yes, that in fact I am too big already, it makes me feel badly, for although I love the deeper and more sound stuff, yet too I love nature, in all its phases... " Diary excerpt December 11, 1882
Annie (far right) with her cousins
photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Historical Society
Turning 18 did have some benefits. In the spring of 1883, Annie spent three weeks in the Brooklyn and New York City visiting friends and family during one of New York's more notable eras, the Gilded Age.

"I went to Brooklyn and Greenpoint to visit Annie Rhodes, had a lovely time, went everywhere nearly, stayed three weeks, went to my first ball and a grand ball it was! And to four Theaters or Operas. Saw Olivet and The Merry War and Rip Van Winkle twice! I had plenty of fellows and attention, and all that sort of thing! I can't begin to tell how I enjoyed it! It was so kind of Papa to let me go and he went up with me on the boat. I went over the bridge. Got me a new silk dress and hat, picked it out myself and had a good time spending money generally, in all I spent $33.43 while I was away and I did not buy many nicknacks either. Money melts in N.Y. Papa was so good and generous!" Diary excerpt, June 2, 1883

"Went to my first ball and a grand ball it was!"
Annie went to her first Ball within months of one of the biggest social extravaganzas of the Gilded Age, the Vanderbilt Fancy Dress Ball. The Vanderbilt Ball set the bar high. I imagine Annie's party truly was grand as hosts all over the city did their best to emulate this recent gala. The spectacular dress worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II at that event is in the Metropolitan Museum Collection. (More about the Ball with photos of other costumes here.)
Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt as "electric light" 
at the ball on March 26, 1883
photograph by Mora 
The Spirit of Electricity 
Ball Gown, Label: Worth/Paris
Golden yellow and blush white silk satin, midnight blue silk velvet, heavily embroidered in beaten gilt and silver tinsel filaments. Worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II (nee' Alice Claypoole Gwynne) on March 26, 1883 to the costume ball held by her sister-in-law Mrs. William Kissam Vanderbilt. image via

"And to four theaters!"
The Merry War, an operetta by Johann Strauss Jr. opened in New York City while Annie was visiting. (the overture here) The cast list below is from the New York Times archives. Annie would have seen the famous Adele Cornalba dance.
New York Times, Published May 20, 1883
Adele Cornalba (1866 - 1936)
photograph by Frank N. Tomlinson
"I went over the Bridge."
image via
May 24, 1883, was the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. Annie's historical walk got scant mention in the diary excerpt that I read, but she was only 18. Some things were more important!

"I had plenty of fellows attention, and all that sort of thing."
The "two Annies", Annie Cooper and Annie Rhodes received gentleman callers and "all that sort of thing"at Annie Rhodes' home in Brooklyn. I'll just say, what happened in the '80s stays in the '80s. A few years later, Annie met her husband to be, John Boyd on one of her spring city visits. 
John Boyd
courtesy of the Sag Harbor Historical Society

Sources available at the Sag Harbor Historical Society
"Anchor To Windward" The Paintings and Diaries of Annie Cooper Boyd  - Edited by Carolyn Oldenbusch
Annie Burnham Cooper, Her Diary (1881-1894)

1 comment:

  1. And I am sure what happened in The Hamptons..stays in The Hamptons..

    Chramed little life..
    You always think the Brooklyn bridge was there forever!


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