Gibson Girls -- 07/20/05

There was a special presentation at the Towers on Monday night about artist Charles Dana Gibson and The Gibson Girls... There were two parts to the evening -- a talk by an author who is researching a biography on Gibson and a video introduced by a man who is a great-grandson of the artist..
Nancy got involved with this when she was asked to be a greeter. She and two other women dressed in turn-of-the-century (the previous century) tennis costumes (on loan from the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport).

Here they are welcoming people to the Towers.

There was a large turnout and, as an interesting demographic note, the audience was at least 85 percent female (and probably about the same percentage of the crowd was over forty years of age).
At the same time, in the village park just the other side of Memorial Square, there was a band concert going on... people sitting on folding chairs or picnic blankets while the Wakefield Community Band (or the Wakefield Civic Band?) played at the park bandstand. It was a pleasant evening for that, with some relief from the heat and humidity of the day being provided by cooler air (and fog) moving in from Narragansett Bay just two hundred feet away.
I'm not sure that Nancy was all that keen on dressing in a century old costume, but once she got into it she began having a good time. She (and her two friends who were also in costume) sometimes got very serious looks on their faces as they tried to be appropriately dignified and reserved in the proper Victorian fashion, but then sometimes just burst out laughing.

I thought she looked rather fetching in her 1900 vintage tennis outfit. (But can you imagine trying to play tennis or engage in any king of athletic activity in summer weather while wearing clothing like that?
Author Suzanne Finstad, who delivered a fascinating talk about the life of Charles Dana Gibson, told us she was beginning a research project into his life and times, with the intent of writing his biography as her next book project. She is the author of several non-fiction books, mostly biographies, including Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood and her latest (due to come out this September), Warren Beatty: A Private Man. (The Natalie Wood one seemed interesting and I've saved it on Amazon, waiting to accumulate an order greater than $25 so I get free shipping.)

I had known of Gibson (and the Gibson Girl) but I had not realized just how much of a super-star he was in his era.
Author Suzanne Finstad addressing the crowd at the Towers.
Ms Finstad's talk was followed by the showing of a video about Charles Dana Gibson's life. His great-grandson had brought the video and, after it was shown, he answered questions from the audience.

One fascinating anecdote from the video -- Gibson's granddaughter (already in her sixties when this video was made about ten years ago) told how she and the other grandchildren did not know of him as being wealthy or famous, they only knew him as their grandfather. And then, in 1944, while living on a private island in Maine, he was stricken with a heart attack. She told how she realized something amazing about her grandfather when her grandmother made two phone calls for help. The first was to the local man who served as their handyman; the second was to the White House -- and her grandmother said (I'm attempting to recreate this from having watched the video) "Franklin, help! Charles is dying. Send a plane to take him to a hospital." And three hours later a military seaplane landed near their dock to fly him to a hospital. (To no avail; Gibson did not survive.)

Side note just to show how everything connects -- the building we were in was designed by the noted Gilded Age architect Stanford White of McKim, Meade, and White -- who was shot and killed by the jealous husband of a beautiful young woman who had once been one of Gibson's models for The Gibson Girl.

The meeting of two different centuries?

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