I’m all about the DeLamar name this week; likely because of a recent stay at the so aptly named, although unrelated, “DeLamar Hotel” in Connecticut. I picked through my Joseph file and decided I’d best glean some new and fresh information from all of this research – what did I discover about Joseph that would lead me to a clearer understanding of dear Alice? She states in typewritten letter written July 1975 on Weston CT stationary to a Palm Beach notable figure with annoyance that he was “helping perpetuate a rather outrageous myth…picked up from some journalist” advising him strongly to “steer clear of this sort of rubbish written about my father. What was Joe’s story? He was indeed born in Amsterdam in 1943 with an ancestry of
Ambassadorship to England from Spain, and in 1775 as Ambassador to Holland where the family eventually settled. Joe was 1 of 7 children, his grandfather and father were bankers, and Joe’s love of adventure and his self reliance started early in life, running away from home as a small boy hiding in a Dutch vessel outward bound in the East India Trade. Once he left for America in 1859 Joe became a sea captain at the age of 23. As America’s Successful Men of Affairs: The City of New York states in the year Alice was born, Joseph “had a singularly romantic and striking career…which should be given some account.” The Who’s Who in America Vol. 1 labelled him a capitalist, mine owner and operator, director and politician. Investment gurus pegged Joe as one of a “speculative temperament and frequently active in the market” and all eyes were on his hitting of the literal mother lode in silver and gold mining in the late 1880’s.
Taciturn, secretive, stern and private he did manage to hook a Manhattan beauty as his wife in May 1893 at the Church of Heavenly Rest on the Upper East Side. Off to Paris they ventured but Nellie Sands’ matrimonial aspirations and practices were less than credible. Rushed to betrothal, wildly flirtatious and privileged, Nellie divorced Joe despite his highly cultured and pedigreed lifestyle – he was a member of the Lotus Club, New York Yacht Club (owning two beauties; “May” and “Sagitta”), art connoisseur and vast collector. What was not to love?
The bottom line is that Joe was accomplished and notable – a true “American Monte Cristo” as the newspapers called him (in addition to the Mystery Man of Wall Street). The trouble was he never had a close relationship with Alice, he was already 52 when Alice was born and she was thrust into a broken home at age 5. Surrounded by Joe’s wealth, extravagance and aloofness did nothing to shape Alice into anything soft, feminine or emotional but rather endorsed her growth into a self-reliant, brave, curious, adventurous and yet somewhat androgynous young woman. Mom had long disappeared, headmistress Clara Spence had helped out on the maternal side of the upbringing but Alice was essentially an orphan shortly after birth. So who became her father figure? Who would have taught her about boys, romance, money management, politics and the ways of the world?