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April 22, 2024 35 mins

The Bradley Martin Ball is sometimes referred to as the last big moment of the Gilded Age. It was a very ostentatious event that sparked a lot of debate, and in some ways helped usher in the crumbling of New York’s Victorian-era society culture.


  • “Bradley Martin Ball.” New York Times. Feb. 7, 1897.
  • “Bradley Martin Ball.” New York Times. Feb. 9, 1897.
  • “Bradley Martin Ball.” New York Times. Feb. 11, 1897.
  • “Bradley Martin Ball Burlesqued.” St. Francisville Democrat. March 27, 1897.
  • “Bradley Martin Dies in London.” New York Times. Feb. 6, 1913.
  • Close, John Weir. “A Giant Cow-tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&A.” St. Martin’s Press. 2013.
  • “Cost of the Big Ball.” Chicago Tribune. Feb. 10, 1897.
  • “Dr. Rainsford’s Advice.” New York Times. Jan. 23, 1897.
  • “Dr. Samuel Johnson on the Bradley Martin Ball.” New York Times. March 5, 1897.
  • Hutto, Richard Jay. “The Party of the Century.” Quest. February 1997.
  • Martin, Frederick Townsend. “Things I Remember.” New York. John Lane Company. 1913. Accessed online:
  • “Martin’s New York Estate $1,277,341.” New York Times. May 9, 1913.
  • MUCCIGROSSO, ROBERT. “New York Has A Ball: The Bradley Martin Extravaganza.” New York History, vol. 75, no. 3, 1994, pp. 297–320. JSTOR,
  • Musicians Are Indignant.” New York Times. January 30, 1897.
  • “Newspaper Criticism.” The Kingston Whig-Standard.” March 29, 1897.
  • “On Volcano’s Edge.” The Boston Daily Globe. Jan. 27, 1897.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, a production
of iHeartRadio. Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Holly
Frye and I'm Tracy B.

Speaker 2 (00:15):

Speaker 1 (00:17):
So I finally started watching and quickly got all up
to speed on The Gilded Age.

Speaker 2 (00:22):
I still haven't watched it. There's only two seasons right now,
so it's pretty easy to blaze through it. Yeah. I
binged it all very quickly, in the course of like
a week. It is as spectacular as everyone says. Thus
the binging, and it put me in mind of a
topic that I've had on my list for a minute,
and that is the Bradley Martin ball. This ball happened

in the years following what's been going on in The
Gilded Age for anyone that's watching, and it probably, although
who knows, falls too late on the timeline for the
show to get into it in any upcoming seasons. I've
also debated about doing one on Lord McAllister, but I
I just don't know if I want to. I mean,
he's fabulously interesting, but a lot of people have covered

him in a lot of ways, so that's really more
of the hold up there than anything else. But the
Bradley Martin Ball, which has not been on the show,
and I don't know if it will make it there,
because it happens I feel like a decade after. What's
going on in the main plot right now. Is sometimes
referred to as the last big moment of the Gilded Age,

and it was very ostentatious. This event sparked so much
debate and in some ways ridicule about it. Some people
have said helped usher in the crumbling of New York's
Victorian era society culture and it being considered really important.
But before we get into the details of this historic ball,
we're going to start by talking briefly about its hosts,

Bradley and Cornelia Martin, and the social scene of New
York at the end of the nineteenth century. Bradley Martin
was born December eighteenth, eighteen forty one, in Albany, New York.
His parents were Anne Townshend Martin and Henry Hull Martin.
Henry was a prominent banker and both he and Anne
were from old money. They were very active in Albany's

wealthy social scene. Bradley attended Union University in Albany and
served with the Union in the US Civil War was
a first lieutenant in the National Guard's ninety third Regiment.

Speaker 1 (02:23):
In eighteen sixty nine, Martin married Cornelia Sherman. His brother
Frederick Townshend. Martin described the two meeting in his book
Things I Remember This Way quote. My brother Bradley married
Miss Cornelia Sherman on January twenty sixth, eighteen sixty nine.
He had made her acquaintance at the wedding of Elliott Shepherd,
who was then acting as aide de camp to Governor

Reuben Fenton. Miss Sherman was one of the bride'smaids, and
my brother fell in love at first sight with the
charming girl. Bradley became a very successful lawyer, and he
amassed quite a nice fortune. And then when Cornelia's father died,
he left a great deal of money that was actually
something of a surprise. No one knew he had as
much money as he did, but it made the Martins

extremely rich. In eighteen eighty one, the Martins started living
a multi national life. They leased the estate of Balmacan,
on the shores of Scotland's Loch Ness. This was a
haven for wealthy guests who visited the Martins for the
hunting season, and they enjoyed Balmacon's twenty eight thousand acre

deer forest. Bradley Martin's New York Times obituary said that
the Martin's routinely had as many as seventy guests staying
with them in Scotland, as well as those guests staff.
This estate was described in the US papers as quote
an irregular pile of buildings. Yeah, every time you see

someone write about it, they're kind of like, this is
interesting in the way that they don't don't want to
describe it as like a weird mess. The Martin's daughter,
Cornelia Martin, married the Earl of Craven, and that connected
the family to London society. While the groom brought a
title to the marriage, Cornelia brought the money her father
gave her seventy five thousand dollars a year as an

allowance once she was married. This also connected the Martin
family to London's social scene, and that gave their state
side standing in society a boost. To contextualize the Bradley
Martin Ball of eighteen ninety seven, we first need to
talk about patriarch's balls. This was essentially a system set

up by the infamous society arbiter, Ward McAllister, and many
of the wealthiest old money families of New York. So
think people like the Astors, the Van Rensselers, Livingstons, and Shermerhorns.
These balls had.

Speaker 2 (04:45):
The stipulation that each of the patriarch families had to
invite five men and four women to the ball as
a means of establishing New York society. And then it's
from this group that Ward McAllister developed his list of
the four hundred, that was the people he deemed worthy
to be considered New York High society. The Martins attended

their first Patriarchs Ball in eighteen eighty three, and soon
they were on ramped into the high society. As the
old names were increasingly commingled with new ones. The four Hundred,
as they were called, were accustomed to very opulent gatherings,
and while the Bradley Martin Ball was in that tradition,
it was over the top by any measure.

Speaker 1 (05:28):
The idea for the Bradley Martin Ball was, according to
the story, actually kind of benevolent. Once again, we have
Frederick Townsend Martin's account of how the ball got its start.
He wrote, quote every year, my brother Bradley and his
wife spent their winters in New York. When they entertained largely.
One morning at breakfast, my brother remarked, I think it

would be a good thing if we got up to something.
There seems to be a great deal of depression in trade.
Suppose we sent out invitations for a concert and pray.
What good will that do? Asked my sister in law.
The money will only benefit foreigners. No, I've a far
better idea. Let us give a costume ball at so
short notice that our guests won't have time to get

their dresses from Paris. That will give an impetus to
trade that nothing else will. Directly missus Martin's plan became known,
there was a regular storm of comment, which arose, in
the first instance, from the remarks made by a clergyman
who denounced the costume ball from the pulpit. There's also
speculation that Missus Martin wanted to throw the most lavish

ball ever seen in the city, and in doing so
out do her peers in society who'd hosted their own
opulent events. This ball was to be huge, too large
to be hosted at a home, so the Waldorf was
selected for the location. As to the exact number of
guests involved, that number fluctuates pretty wildly based on the source.

While some say that Missus Martin would simply not have
had more than six hundred, other accounts say she sent
out twelve hundred invitations. We'll get to a possible explainer
on that discrepancy.

Speaker 2 (07:09):
In a moment.

Speaker 1 (07:11):
While the intent may have been economic stimulus, there was
an early bit of sour grapes over how specifically money
was being spent for this event. This came from the
musicians of New York who felt completely slighted when Missus
Martin hired the Marine Band of Washington for her fete.
In a quote in The New York Times, Alexander Bremer,

president of the Music Mutual Protective Union, said quote, we
were all congratulating ourselves over the coming ball of Missus
Bradley Martin that is to be given on such a
magnificent scale, and which will put money into circulation among
people who need it very badly. We believe in the
very wealthy spending their wealth and enjoying themselves, and thus
giving hundreds and thousands of working people an opportunity to

earn money and maintain their self respect instead of being
obliged to accept charity. Now we have in our union
in this city about twenty eight hundred musicians who are
struggling from day to day to make a living for
themselves and their families. We calculated on getting at least
one thousand dollars for our union musicians from this ball.
But imagine our disappointment when we were told that missus

Bradley Martin had engaged or would engage the Marine Band
to play at the ball. Bremmer went on to praise
the musicians of New York as being as good as
any found anywhere, even in Europe. We'll talk more about
criticisms of the ball in just a bit, and coming
up right after a quick sponsor break, we will dig
into the press coverage of the Bradley Martin Ball and

all the juicy details of the events planning and how
they were shared in the papers. The days leading up
to the Bradley Martin Ball were covered in detail in
the press. The New York Times rode on February seventh,

quote for nearly three weeks, New York Society has made
the coming ball its one topic of discussion, with the
result that the usual entertainments of the winter season have
sunk into comparative insignificance. English, French and German history of
the period from fifteen hundred to nineteen hundred, which has
been selected by Missus Martin as that to which the
costumes of her guests must conform, has been searched in

quest of facts and information. Old wardrobes have been ransacked,
and costumes milliners, dressmakers and wig makers, and even jewelers
have been besieged by a small army of people bidden
to the ball, and who have labored assiduously to attire themselves.
As was ever Solomon in all his glory.

Speaker 2 (09:44):
The arrangements of what the attendees could expect were shared
in detail, so even people who weren't going to be
in attendance knew all the specifics and of course had
plenty of opinions about them. Even the schedule was included,
the ball was to begin at all eleven pm, with
guests arriving through the manager's door to the Waldorf. The

write up made it clear that this entry was one
used for logistics, and the guests would not see any
decorps in the first five rooms they walked through. The
finery was all reserved for the party proper. Some of
this was because guests themselves were not expected to arrive
party ready in the wintertime. Instead, the Martins had hired

a team of hairdressers, milliners, costumers, etc. To help everybody
put the finishing touches onto their attire. The accommodations for
the guest transformations were spread across fifteen rooms, so the
stylists had plenty of space to prepare everyone. Those dressing
rooms also offered spots where, once the party was underway,

guests could take breaks.

Speaker 1 (10:48):

Speaker 2 (10:48):
I think one of them was set up as like
a smoking lounge for gentlemen and things like that. On
February ninth, The New York Times ran another article, this
one about all of the priceless items that would be
on display in the costumery of the ball's attendees. It
opened with quote, there is no estimating the value of
the rare old jewels to be worn at the Bradley

Martin Ball. All the jewelers who deal in antiques say
they have been cleaned out of all they had on hand,
and people still keep calling for old buckles, snuffboxes, lorgnettes,
diamond or pearl studded girdles, rings, and in fact every
conceivable decoration in gems. The rest of the article walks
through some of the finery that people would be wearing.

It also notes that a lot of people would be
taking their priceless family jewels and heirloom pieces out of storage,
and that there was no way to estimate how much
all of these were worth. Some had been passed down
for hundreds of years from European aristocracy. There was a
rumor that some of the guests were so worried about
their family jewelry that they were having the real gemstones

from them taken out to be replaced with imitations. A
representative from Tiffany's assured the press that this was not
the case, stating, quote, it is ridiculous to suppose that
the quality of people who have these rare and costly
gems whatever, think of attending such a historic function in
sham ornaments. Don't you believe a word of it. So

far as we are concerned, we never set bogus jewels
at all, and we certainly have not been asked to
substitute rhyme stones by any of missus Martin's intended guests.
People who are accustomed to these costly things are not
afraid to use and display them. According to the Times,
there would also be priceless lace everywhere at the ball. Again,

much of it passed down through wealthy families. One expert
on textiles that the paper consulted was quoted as saying
that replicas of some of the laces would go for
fifty dollars a yard. Again, replicas, and then when it
came to the originals, quote, you couldn't buy them for
five hundred dollars a yard. The papers published lists of
who was attending and what they would be wearing. A

Brownick was to be attired as George Washington. Missus John
Jacob Aster was going to be Marie Antoinette. She was
one of several that was the most popular costume, and
there were to be multiple Louis the fourteenths, fifteenth and sixteenths.
Bradley Martin was to be one of the many Louis
the fifteenths, although sometimes he's listed as having been dressed
as Louis the fourteenth though not mentioned in the press beforehand.

Missus Martin dressed as Mary Stewart and wore a very
old and very valuable necklace as part of that costume.
Some costumes, such as one that was intended to be Pocahontas,
would be considered completely inappropriate by today's standards. The most
comedic section of the article on what people would be
wearing focused on the issues that the gentsleman.

Speaker 1 (13:46):
Guests would face.

Speaker 2 (13:48):
It elaborates quote to begin with, the costumer's edict has
gone forth that all gentlemen who attends to appear in
a Louis Catour's outfit must begin by turning a barber
loose on their mista dashes, with plentipotentiary powers to remove
them to the last hair. Apparently, some men formed a
pact that none of them would acquiesce to this requirement.

Speaker 1 (14:12):

Speaker 2 (14:13):
If you have ever thrown a costume party with specific rules,
you know this exact discussion because I have been there.

Speaker 1 (14:20):
Listen. But the bigger issue was apparently the shape of
men's legs. The Times laid out this problem. Quote trouble
number two is of a rather more delicate nature, as
it will unmask delusions about the anatomy of certain gentlemen's legs.
As a rule, it is an easy matter in these

days to disguise any defects of this kind. But it
can't be done at all, so the costumers say, with
those extremely delicate and dainty silk tights which the modern
cavaliers must wear. All sort of devices have been attempted,
even down to the buckram covered pads that Ward McAllister
used to affect. But they will not work, and much

lamentation is abroad in the social world. They're at Any
manufactured legs will be palpable at sight, but the raw
material would be more horrible. Still, many of the cavaliers
have not yet finished losing sleep over this problem. Oh no,
they'll find out I have skinny quads like I.

Speaker 2 (15:23):
Are they are They only talking about the legs, though,
because there's just other parts of the body that's gonna
be in the very thin fitting hose. I yes, I
think so, because the one person that shows up in
thin fitting hoses got thrown out. Yeah, okay, then okay.

Speaker 1 (15:40):
I think they're worried that people will know their calves
are not manly.

Speaker 2 (15:45):
Okay, I just I could just imagine it being a
euphemism anyway. The day of the ball, the Chicago Tribune
published a breakdown of the estimated cost of the whole thing.
Line items included they like the ballroom rental for the
night at one thousand dollars, a small ballroom for receiving

at five hundred dollars, a buffet supper at six thousand dollars,
a regular supper to be available from twelve thirty to
five AM at twelve thousand dollars, and the Ketillion Favors
at twenty thousand dollars. The largest line item was costumes,
which the paper estimated at one hundred and sixty eight
thousand dollars. The total the Tribune came up with for

everything was two hundred and thirty six thousand, six hundred
and twenty five dollars, but the Tribune said this was
a conservative figure. The actual cost of the ball is
often quoted as having been more like four hundred thousand dollars,
which is already a whole lot of money. In very
rough estimates, that would be more like ten million dollars

in twenty twenty four. Yeah, and to be clear, that
costume line item was not for everyone's costumes. That was
like the stuff that the Bradley Martins were providing for
people to help with all of their cars. When the
evening of February tenth came. The weather didn't really cooperate.

There was a massive snowstorm, but the ball went on
as scheduled. This made carriage traffic in New York absolutely awful,
according to Robert Mussegrosso writing for New York History in
nineteen ninety four, and my apologies if I mispronounced that name.
Another thing that literally stopped traffic was people exiting their
carriages as they passed by Gilbert's photo studio on the

way because they wanted pictures of their attire. Gilberts is
said to have stayed open all night, and as a consequence,
the upside is that today we have some very good
photographs of the attendees. Arriving at This ball was unlike
anything the attendees had ever experienced. Frederick Martin described a
scene this way quote The best I can describe the

Bradley Martin Ball is to say that it reproduced the
splendor of Versailles in New York, and I doubt if
even the was solet ever witnessed a more dazzling site.
The interior of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel was transformed into
a replica of Versailles, and rare tapestries, beautiful flowers, and
countless sits made an effective background for the wonderful gowns

and their wearers. I do not think there has ever
been a greater display of jewels before or since. In
many cases, the diamond buttons worn by the men represented
thousands of dollars, and the value of the historic gems
worn by the ladies' baffles. Description the power of wealth,
with its refinement and vulgarity, was everywhere. It gleamed from

countless jewels, and it was proclaimed by the thousands of
orchids and roses, whose fragrance that night was like incense
burnt on the altar of the golden calf.

Speaker 1 (18:52):
The reception of guests alone took almost two hours before
the official party activities began. There was dancing, and then supper,
and then at three am the cotillion. The martins did
not leave until six am. Many guests had taken rooms
at the Waldorf so that they wouldn't have to travel
to or from the ball.

Speaker 2 (19:12):
One slightly scandalous costume was worn by artist Athos Cushing.
He addresses a fifteenth century Italian falconer, and, according to
the New York Times quote was in fact thought to
have gone rather too far in his impersonation. He wore
tights and a short jacket, and he had a stuffed
falcon attached to his arm. Apparently, although this was historically accurate,

this outfit was skin tight and thus rather revealing, and
he caused such a commotion that Missus Bradley Martin asked
him to leave.

Speaker 1 (19:43):
Yes, she apparently lost her breath for a moment before
she collected herself and said that was inappropriate. Once this
entire party was over, accounts went to press. It was
described as a triumph, also as a circus, as something
beautiful and exquisite, and as ridiculous. The New York Times
noted that many guests seemed to leave as quickly as

they could, calling for their carriages before the ktillion even began.
It also stated that the six hundred in attendance was
a much lower number than hoped for, and this may
be part of the confusion over how many invites were
sent out. It's not clear if maybe there was a
retrofit of how many they had invited to make it
look like less people had declined than had actually done so.

But it also describes this whole affair, This New York
Times write up as quote the climax in this form
of entertainment thus far reached in the metropolis. Coming up,
we'll talk about the various opinions that religious leaders and
everyday people and even tax assessors had of this whole event,
and we will get to it after we hear from

the sponsors that keep the show going. Bradley Martin Ball
quickly became a flash point in public perception of how
rich people operated. Cornelia Martin's intentions may have been good,

and the ball certainly did help bolster trades people in
the costuming, catering, and related business sectors, but that was
just a small slice of the population of New York.
To most people, the whole thing just looked wasteful and
decadent and self indulgent. Given how many attendees had chosen
to look to the court of seventeenth century France for
costume inspiration, it became a sort of fitting echo of

out of touch wealthy people thinking they were helping the
lower classes by having fun instead of engaging in more
meaningful charitable works. The press wasn't all bad, though. The
Boston Daily Globe ran a commentary about the ball on
the front page two weeks before the event, under the
headline on Volcano's Edge, where some think the Bradley Martin

guests will dance, it ran information that had been collected
regarding the actual impact the ball was having to working
people in New York. One costume shop had reported that
they had so many orders it had created work for
one hundred and eighty seamstresses. The shop owner is quoted
as telling Bradley Martin of their staff quote, they are

happy because they need work, and your ball has furnished it.
Every woman probably represents a family and maybe its chief breadwinner.
So the good does not end with these one hundred
and eighty people, but in many cases benefits two and
three times that number. The write up also explains that
many of the attendees purchased art reproductions so that costumers

could copy the clothing in them, hinting that the art
market also saw some movement because of the ball. The
opening of this.

Speaker 2 (22:42):
Multi page look at the economics of the Ball also
noted that, in addition to expected beneficiaries of additional work
like wig makers and boot makers, even errand girls were
making a lot more money in the weeks leading up
to the Big.

Speaker 1 (22:57):
Night, The Globe got quotes from all people on the matter.
Francis Peabody Junior was quoted as saying, quote, I believe
in hospitality. The rich should be very hospitable, but ostentation
without hospitality is essentially vulgar. Mister Peabody also mentioned his
two big problems with the ball, noting that such an
extravagance would take away attention from the real issues of

the poor, and also that there were likely people who
might be inspired to live beyond their means as a
result of normalizing such events. Mister Edwin D. Mead stated
to the Globe, quote, wicked, wasteful, and wanton luxury is
one of the greatest sins and dangers in our American
life today. And I repeat it with emphasis now when
such an illustration of it is proposed.

Speaker 2 (23:42):
One man said, quote, I wish this ball costs ten
times whatever it will cost. It will get the money
into circulation. Why the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick
maker get much of the money and they need it.
If the Martins pay their bills, I don't feel I
have any right to criticize. There were other people who
felt like the ball was doing as intended, giving work

to people who would need it, and who would then
spend that money throughout their communities. One of the lengthier
responses from Rabbi Charles Fleischer examined more deeply the ethical
issues of the money that the Martins were spending. He
spoke to the paper about every man having the right
to himself and that not being something other people should
infringe upon. He then continued, quote, I am not blind

to the fact that these expensive functions give employment to
quite a little army of workers. If I thought that
the question had only this temporary interest, perhaps I would
not hesitate to say, eat, drink, and be merrier than usual,
dress and entertain more lavishly than ever. For every unusual
extravagance puts more money into circulation and gives added opportunity

of employment. Your indulgence in luxuries will enable many a
wretch to earn the bare necessities. But my view of
the question is a large one. Even in these times,
we must not expect to revive business and set the
wheels of industry in motion by artificial means. You might
as reasonably expect to sail a boat when becomed by

the wind which results from your whistling for it. After
being questioned for clarity, the rabbi responded, if the fortune
that will be spent and wasted at the ball was
put into some permanent investment that would continue to give
employment and to yield returns, the gain to the world's
wealth and the benefit to labor would be incalculably larger.

Even before the ball happened, According to Bradley's brother Frederick,
there was criticism from the city's religious leaders. He quoted
one minister who included mention of the ball in his
Sunday sermon, quote, you rich people put next to nothing
in the collection plate, and yet you'll spend thousands of
dollars on Missus Bradley Martin's ball.

Speaker 1 (25:48):
Reverend William S. Rainsford urged invitees in his congregation to
skip the ball, noting that social conditions were already both
awful and a hot button issue, and hinting that it
would make them look really bad to attend. When he
was questioned by a New York Times reporter about the sermon,
he stated that what he said in his church was
between him and his parishioners, But he also noted to

the reporter that while spending for the ball quote, might
benefit a large number of well to do people, and
through them the poorer people. He thought such benefit was
overbalanced by the discord which would or might be created.

Speaker 2 (26:23):
On March fifth, The New York Times ran a brief
piece quoting doctor Samuel Johnson's opinion of the ball, which
read quote, A man cannot make a bad use of
his money, so far as regards society. If he does
not hoard it, or if he rather spends it or
lends it out, society has the benefit. It is in
general better to spend money than to give it away.

A man who spends his money is sure he is
doing good with it. He is not sure when he
gives it away. A man who spends ten thousand a
year will do more good than a man who spends
two thousand and gives away eight. Public opinion about the
Martins and their massive ball had become so vitriolic in
the days leading up to it that there was concern

there might be a riot outside of it, or even
a violent attack on the attendees invit. Theodore Roosevelt, who
was on the board of Police Commissioners in New York
at the time, skipped the ball while his wife attended
because he wanted to be outside with his police force
ready to lead them in case something happened. I read
one theory that he didn't really want to go to
the ball, and this was a good excuse, but we

don't know.

Speaker 1 (27:28):
There were two hundred police officers covering the area, as
well as a number of plane closed policemen. No problems
ever really arose, other than people on the street being
kind of irritated by all the commotion. It hadn't helped
that a huge chunk of thirty third Street had been
closed to pedestrians the night of the ball, so that
the carriages of the wealthy attendees could more easily make

their way. This was presumably also a security measure, given
the large number of valuables that were walking in and
out of the event. The sent a message that rich
people were more important to the city than average citizens. Roosevelt,
because of his.

Speaker 2 (28:05):
Role with the police, dismissed these complaints as nonsense, and
stead in a statement to the press that anyone with
business on the street had been able to pass, and
that the police were trying to avoid accidents from onlookers
obstructing traffic on the clogged street more than anything else.
He insisted they would have done the same thing for
any event, regardless of the grandeur. As for Frederick Martin's account,

though he did mention the combination of refinement and vulgarity
in his description, he also said to the ball, quote
I cannot conceive why this entertainment should have been condemned.
We Americans are so accustomed to display that I should
have thought the ball would not have been regarded as
anything very unusual. Everyone said it was the most brilliant
function of the kind ever seen in America, and it

certainly was the most talked about, not just talked about,
but also satirized. On March twenty sixth, just forty five
days after the Ball, a new burlesque musical opened at
the Olympia Music Hall titled Missus Radley Barton's Ball in
Greater New York. This work, created by Oscar Hammerstein, got

mixed reviews, while one syndicated review said, quote all the
manifold resources of the Olympia were concentrated in the music
Hall with a superb production. In the opinion of competent critics,
the production equals in splendor anything of the kind ever
seen in New York. Other critics were far less kind,
with one commentator noting quote on the whole it was

without a redeeming feature, and Hammerstein got embroiled in a
back and forth with the press about it. Alas, the
libretto to this has not survived and there seems to
be no real information about the contents of the play itself. Yeah,
even historians of Hammerstein are like, we don't know, we
don't know what was in it.

Speaker 1 (29:55):
Wouldn't it be fun?

Speaker 2 (29:56):
Though? Oh?

Speaker 1 (29:57):
The dream? That's my dream for unearthed? One day in
the wake of this ball, the Martins found that they
faced a significant increase in their taxes. Their property in
New York was reevaluated and determined to be word double
what it had previously been assessed at. This was not
a case where all of the high end homes of
New York simultaneously got reassessed and went up in value.

It was the Martins alone, and they felt this was
retribution for the Ball. This led to a lengthy dispute
with New York authorities and large tax sums being paid
by the Martins. And having that issue after also having
endured constant criticism from the press, really soured Bradley and
Cornelia Martin on New York society life. In the spring

of eighteen ninety nine, Martin sold his home in New
York with the address twenty and twenty two West twentieth Street,
that is in the Flatiron District, and he hosted a
much smaller farewell dinner for their closest friends, eighty six
of them, before leaving the US for good. They purchased
a home at for Chesterfields Gardens in London, and from
that point on Bradley and Cornelia lived exclusively in the

British Isles. They continued to spend summers at their Scotland estate.
Bradley Martin died in London on February fifth, nineteen thirteen,
after a short case of pneumonia which developed at the
tail end of about of the flu. Even then, sixteen
years after the Ball, his obituaries ran with subtitles like

gave great Ball in eighteen ninety seven. When he died,
he left his entire estate, which was valued at between
ten and fifteen million dollars, to his wife, Cornelia, much
to the chagran of American tax assessors, because he had
established legal residency in England that massive accumulation of assets,
which consisted of railroad bonds, stock and cash, was not

taxable in New York according to newspaper records of the time.
His wife, Cornelia died seven years later. Yeah, and all
of that bad press, some people have said, kind of
harkened the of New York society. I could talk about
this ball forever because it fascinates me. It's such a
weird and sort of wonderful. But also what kind of

situation in the meantime? Listener mail? I have delightful listener mail.
Oh good our listener Jen who writes Hi, guys, longtime
listener here And whilst I've threatened to write in before
the episode on Margaret E. Knight tipped me over the edge.
You speak about industrial mill accidents and I specialize in
Lancashire dialect weaving songs and ballads from Manchester and Lancashire,

UK from the nineteenth century. Shuttles were certainly dangerous and
this is reflected in the songs. In Poverty Knock there's
a verse about a shuttle flying out and giving a
weaver a clout, and Sam Fitten of Oldham caricaturist and
weaver drew an image of a weaver being hit in
the head with a shuttle and a caption of e
how nice, Oh, how nice in the cotton factory times.

I have dedicated my life to making the songs relevant
to a modern popular to keep the flame of local
history lit, and most recently have written a manuscript using
the songs to understand the contemporary garment industry in Bangladesh today.
My work is here. You can go to Jennifer Ballads
dot com if you want to check that out. Jennifer
also writes, keep up the good work. I love driving

the van and listening to you both. I don't have
a pet, but here's a picture of my boyfriend and Puffin.
She also answers to Tiffin and she has the sweetest heart.
Puffin looks like a husky or malamute and is gorgeous
and looks like a big baby, which I love all
the best, And she writes all my best, Jen, thank
you so much. I love knowing that there's someone out

there working to make sure this stuff, which we talk
about as historical past events, yes, stays relevant to people
and is easy to draw the line from things that
happen in history to things that are happening today, because
that's really kind of our whole jam and it's cool
and I love it. I haven't gotten to go check

out your work kitchen, but I will after this.

Speaker 2 (34:02):
I only clicked on the url, but I do already
know the song Poverty Knock because I used to hang
out with a lot of Renaissance festival performers and folk singers,
and I think the like, unless that's your jam, unless
that's like the circle that you move in. I feel

like the place that people might have encountered that song
is on a chumble Wamba album, which if the only
chumbawamba song you know is tub Thumpin' that one.

Speaker 1 (34:36):
That one.

Speaker 2 (34:37):
There's just a whole catalog of songs about like anarchy
and labor and all of that, including a whole album
called English Rebels Songs that includes a version of Poverty
Knock on there. I actually like that song quite a lot,
so I was very glad to get an email about it.

Speaker 1 (34:56):
Nice. Nice. If you would like to write us an email,
you can do so at History Podcast at iHeartRadio dot com.
You can also find us on social media as Missed
in History, and if you have yet to subscribe, you
can do that right now. It's super easy on the
iHeartRadio app or anywhere you listen to your favorite shows.

Speaker 2 (35:18):
Stuff you Missed in History Class is a production of iHeartRadio.
For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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Tracy V. Wilson

Tracy V. Wilson

Holly Frey

Holly Frey

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