4.12.23

RASHOMON DOWNEAST: The Churchills visit Bar Harbor

In June of 1894, Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill, the parents of Winston Churchill, embarked on a round-the-world tour.  After landing in New York, unpleasant in full summer heat, the Churchills immediately went to Bar Harbor, traveling in a private railroad car loaned by Chauncey Depew. The Bar Harbor Season was entering full swing and the New York Times proclaimed Bar Harbor to be 'delighted' with the presence of the famous couple. Other accounts, however gave more mixed reviews.  

I searched out several accounts of the visit, including Lady Churchill's own, and find that indeed any story has many tellings.  Here, in their own words, are those of the Chicago Tribune, the Lewiston Daily Journal, and Lady Churchill herself, giving very different perspectives on the same events (and proving that Lady Churchill perhaps did not have perfect recall for the names of people and places visited).

Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1894
The West End Hotel, where the Churchills did not stay.
And the Malvern Hotel, where they did

Lord Randolph's stay at the Malvern was not without tension, as recounted by The Boston Evening Transcript of July 28, 1894


 

By the end of July, the bloom was off the Churchill rose, as recounted in the July 28, 1894 Lewiston Daily Journal, above. 

"The Anchorage", the Edith Babb Randolph (later Mrs. W.C. Whitney) cottage, where the Churchills dined
Thirlstane, the R.B. Scott cottage by William Ralph Emerson, leased by the Mortimers for the 1894 season, where they entertained the Churchills

Let's give Lady Churchill the last word, with her own memories, recounted in her 1908 memoir, The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill:

"ON the morning of the 27th of June 1894 I started with Lord Randolph Churchill from Euston Station for a tour round the world Quite a number of friends besides our families came to see us off among them were Lord and Lady Londonderry, Lady Jeune, Lord Rosebery, and Mr Goschen. Randolph was very pleased and touched at his old friend Lord Rosebery coming and frequently alluded to it afterward.  At Liverpool Mr Ismay met us on board the Majestic; he reminded me of the Jubilee trip on the Teutonic which already seemed in the distant past.  Rough seas and uninteresting passengers were not conducive to the time passing quickly The only incidents I remember were the inevitable concert in which I was pressed into the service and the excitement another night of nearly running down a vessel.  It was a strange sensation to awake finding our ship stopped and to feel instead of the throbbing and noise of the machinery an unwonted calm broken only by the incessant and irritating sound of fog horns We remained only two days in New York as the thermometer recorded 81 degrees in the shade Mr Chauncey Depew who was one of the few people we saw was good enough to place his private car at our disposal for the projected journey to Bar Harbor I remember asking him if it was true that he had telegraphed to Lord Rosebery when Ladas won the Derby Nothing left but Heaven He replied that it was This was my first experience of a private car which proved to be as well appointed as a small yacht and was a most enjoyable mode of traveling The colored cook prepared an excellent dinner and we slept as comfortably as we could have done in our own beds After the dust and heat of New York Bar Harbor seemed a haven of rest with its fresh sea breezes lovely drives and mountain walks As far as I could gather the life there was very much a second edition of Newport and consisted in perpetual dressing dinners and dances and that horror of horrors the leaving of cards It was very pleasant notwithstanding and we indulged in all the amusements of the place We were invited to a dance at the Kebo Valley Club a charming house thoroughly suited to the country It was a real joy to dance the Boston which only Americans know properly There we met a number of pretty girls whom I often saw driving or playing lawn tennis and who anticipating the hatless brigade of to day were invariably without hats This I was told was to bleach their hair I made the acquaintance of some delightful women with whom I found myself in that perfect sympathy which can only be felt among compatriots Mr George Vanderbilt a very cultivated young man was then unmarried he had a steam yacht in which he took us to see East Harbor where we had a fine view and a sea below. Close to his house which faced the sea was a swimming bath open to the sky through which salt water was constantly flowing Here he and his friends of both sexes disported themselves bobbing up and down diving and swimming without shyness and I must say without vanity for it must be owned that women do not look their best under such circumstances While in the water there was no hilarity or chaff everything was conducted with the greatest decorum not to say ceremony which added to the ludicrous effect upon the spectators We dined one night with Mrs Van Rensselaer Jones to meet Marion Crawford who was staying with her Mr Marion Crawford was the best of company Tall dark with piercing blue eyes a decided chin and kind mouth adorned with a small mustache I thought him the very best type of a good looking American He has a pleasant voice modulated by his constant use of the Italian language and talked most agreeably on all subjects At that time he took a very gloomy view of the political outlook in America and declared that the problem of socialism would be solved there Some one accused him of being an idle man and loving the dolce far niente Idle he exclaimed and his eyes sparkled with indignation for sixteen years I have worked and made a living by my pen and have produced twenty five novels At the same dinner I met for the first time Mr Court land Palmer a young amateur pianist who was inspired with the real feu sacre and was able then as now to hold his own with professionals During my stay at Bar Harbor we met frequently and played the piano together One of our many expeditions was a sail in the Mayflower the yacht which won the International Yacht Race against the Galatea There was a Bishop on board who was described to me as a bully Bishop but we thought his appearance somewhat disreputable and did not cultivate him Mr C commonly called the Greek god a name which suited him admirably was also there. When I told Randolph his nickname he declared he could have nothing to do with a Greek god But he did and liked him. Before leaving Bar Harbor, the Nourmahal, a big steam yacht belonging to the John Jacob Astors, came into the harbor. Mrs Astor's beauty and grace, not to mention the charming simplicity of her nature, must always command admiration, but had she been the Empress of Russia her arrival could not have caused more commotion. It was with regret that we left Bar Harbor and its bright and hospitable inhabitants and started on our Canadian journey With some difficulty we procured a private car from the Pullman Company the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway notwithstanding our letters to him proving a broken reed. The officials were persuaded to place us at the end of the train, in order that we might make use of the observation room, with which our car the Iolanthe was furnished and which proved a great boon."