Suing her 12th husband for divorce

The photo page of the December 28 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star continues to be a source of blog material! Here’s a photograph of a woman who apparently had been married quite often.

To say that Aimée Crocker Gouraud (1864-1941) led an unusual life would be an understatement. Her birth name was Amy Crocker, and she was born into a prominent and wealthy California family. In 1875, she inherited $10 million when her father passed away. In 1880, her mother sent her to a finishing school in Germany, as apparently she was “boy-crazy”; while in Europe, she briefly became engaged to Prince Alexander of Saxe Weimar and had a fling with a Spanish bullfighter.

Returning to the United States, she eloped with her first husband, Richard Porter Ashe, whose family founded Asheville, North Carolina. The train on which the young couple was travelling crashed, killing 21 and seriously injuring 12; the young husband pulled several people from the wreckage.

The Ashes’ marriage fell apart shortly afterwards in spectacular fashion. He was awarded sole custody of their daughter despite being a compulsive gambler and despite having kidnapped the daughter while Ms. Crocker and her mother were at a wedding. The daughter was eventually raised by Ms. Crocker’s mother.

After divorcing Ashe, Ms. Gouraud went to Hawaii, where she got to know King Kalākaua; he was enchanted enough to give her a Hawaiian island and the title of Princess Palaikalani (Bliss of Heaven). She then married Henry Mansfield Gillig, who was a Commodore, a magician, and an amateur opera singer. While married to him, she had what Wikipedia refers to as “a number of affairs with powerful Asian men”. She also apparently escaped headhunters in Borneo, was poisoned in Hong Kong, avoided a murder attempt by knife-throwing servants in Shanghai, and spent a short period of time in the harem of Bhurlana. She also had an affair with writer Edgar Saltus.

Returning to New York, she married her third husband, songwriter Jackson Gouraud; her daughter married Gouraud’s brother. The Gourauds became prominent in the theatre world, regularly attending opening nights of shows, developing friendships with many famous people, and throwing lavish parties. He appears to have been the love of her life; she was devastated when he died of tonsillitis in 1910, and she kept his surname for the rest of her life.

After Gouraud’s death, she moved to Paris and continued throwing interesting parties. She had a number of famous suitors, including occultist Aleister Crowley, who frequently proposed marriage.

She married two more times for a total of five, though she claimed she had had 12 husbands, seven of whom were Asian and “not registered under the laws of the Occident”. Both husbands were Russian princes who were considerably younger than she; the caption above seems to have confused them. The first, Alexander Miskinoff, was accused of an affair with her underage daughter; the second, Prince Mstislav Galitzine, married her when she was 61 (not 50) and he was 26. In 1936, she wrote an autobiography, And I’d Do It Again.

For more information on Ms. Gouraud, you can go to a website about her, visit the Crocker Art Museum, or read this article in Outside magazine, among others.

Wealthy artist and his wife

The December 28 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photograph of a man who had allegedly been shot by his lover.

Wallace M. Probasco, wealthy artist, does not have a Wikipedia page, but his wife, Maud Ingersoll Probasco (1864-1936), does. She was a suffragist and an animal rights activist, and the daughter of Robert G. Ingersoll, a lawyer known as “The Great Agnostic”. The Probascos were actually married in 1912, 14 years before this photo was published.

Robert G. Ingersoll appears to have been no relation to Robert H. Ingersoll, whose wife was involved with Mr. Probasco. The latter Ingersoll was a businessman who invented the first mass-produced pocket watch, called the “Dollar Watch”.

Mr. Probasco recovered from his injuries; he and his wife reconciled. He was charged with Ms. Ingersoll’s murder, but the charge was eventually dismissed when it was determined that she had shot him and then herself when he informed her that he was ending their affair.

666 is a prescription

I’m going to be spending the next few days in the world of December 28 1926, as the Toronto Daily Star edition from that day has a lot of interesting material.

To start with, here’s an odd-looking ad for a patent medicine:

I was a little reluctant to search for this, but I did find out that 666 was the brand name for an anti-malaria drug produced by the Monticello Drug Company, which was founded in Monticello, Florida, in the 1890s by a man named T. S. Roberts, Sr. The 666 had nothing to do with the Bible: the original prescription was number 666 on the druggist’s prescription pad and the prescription’s popularity grew from there.

The company moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1908. In 1919, it moved to a building on which the 666 brand name was prominently displayed; this was intended to catch the eye, and it did. Roberts passed away in the 1940s, and the building was torn down in 1989 – ironically, on a Sunday.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has a bottle of 666 in its collection; the listed date is about 1947.

500 radio benches

Here is an ad from the December 16 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for furniture on sale:

I’m not sure what the radio bench was used for. Did the radio go on the bench, or were listeners expected to sit on it? Or did you put your feet on the bench while you sat in an armchair and listened to the radio?

Royal Chesterfield Manufacturers were a new business at the time of this ad, as they did not appear in the 1932 Toronto city directory. The 1933 directory lists them at 64 Richmond East, which is close enough; the proprietors were Samuel Himelson and Philip Gordon.

In the following years, the firm not only survived but thrived, as they bought a bold-face entry in later editions of the city directories. By 1938, they had opened a second branch at 91-93 Queen East. By 1953, they were calling themselves the Royal Chesterfield and Furniture Company and had opened a third branch at 356 Yonge that became their new main branch.

By 1957, they were calling themselves simply Royal Furniture and had moved one of their three branches from 66 Richmond East to the Northtown Shopping Centre at Yonge and Finch. By 1960, Samuel Himelson was listed as the sole owner. The company was in the 1965 directory but was not listed in 1969.

Candies of excellence

Here’s an ad for a chain of confectioners from the December 16 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that suggested that a box of candy would make a perfect Christmas gift.

Jenny Lind (1820-1887) was a Swedish opera singer who toured the United States in 1850, earning more than $350,000 (equal to over $10 million today) before returning to Europe in 1852 to raise a family.

The chain of candy shops that used her name was managed by a man named Ernest G. Robinson. The shops survived into the 1960s: there were 18 locations listed in the 1960 Toronto city directory. The chain was not listed in 1965.

Husband held

The December 16 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained pictures of the perpetrator and one of the victims of a horrific crime: a man burned down his house with his wife and child in it.

A search revealed that Melville Wilkie was judged to be criminally insane and was locked up in the Ontario Hospital in Penetanguishene. He apparently used to escape regularly; reports on him and his escapes appear here, here, and here. A detailed report of his crime can be found in a 1932 edition of the Border Cities Star; his confession is horrific reading.

A desperate plight

Here’s the Christmas message from Simpson’s that appeared in the December 21 1940 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, when it looked like Hitler might conquer all of Europe:

The Simpson’s chain of department stores joined forces with Sears-Roebuck in 1951, with some stores being called Simpsons-Sears. The Hudson’s Bay Company took over Simpson’s in 1978.

James Hilton (1900-1954) was an English novelist best known for Lost Horizon (1933) and Goodbye Mr. Chips (1934). He became an American citizen in 1948. A heavy smoker, he passed away from liver cancer.

‘Tis Christmas Eve

Every Christmas Eve, I always post the same image in this blog because I like it a lot. This is from the Circle of Young Canada page of the December 22 1928 edition of the Toronto Globe.

As I type this, a new and more contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus is blasting its way through the world. I hope that you and everyone you care about are staying safe and healthy, and I hope that you have as good a holiday season as is possible in these difficult times. Thanks for reading.


Santa in the 1920s and 1930s (part 3)

This post continues looking at Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade ads from the Toronto Daily Star. We’ve done the 1920s; let’s move to the 1930s. (Click on any ad to view it in a larger size.)

As you may recall, in 1929, Santa arrived on a giant Arctic fish. I wondered: did the fish return in 1930? Let’s see:

In this year’s parade, Santa was back to his traditional reindeer – though only six of them – and was in a sleigh. Unfortunately, this parade included what the ad referred to as “two little pickaninnies” on elephants. The past was not a better place to live. (The parade also included Amos and Andy in the Fresh Air Taxi Cab, which made things even worse.)

1931 looks like it was also a sleigh and reindeer, judging by the picture at bottom right:

This year, Santa sent a Santagram from Moose Factory, and reminded all the good little boys and girls that he would be broadcasting that night on CKGW radio. There was also a broadcast of the parade on the radio for boys and girls who had to stay indoors.

In 1932, it looks like the giant fish is back, but it also looks like Santa is still with his reindeer.

It turned out that this is how it continued throughout the 1930s: Santa always appeared on his sleigh with reindeer, with no Arctic fish, ducks, war canoes, locomotives, or anything else included. Part of this might just have been because the parade might have repeated itself a bit more in tougher times, of course. Here’s links to the ads up to 1938, if you’re curious: