Saturday, 1 March 2014

Lady Falkland's connection to the scandalous Josie Mansfield

The increasing availability of newspaper archives online has enabled me to find out considerably more about Mary Reade of New York, the wife of Byron Plantagenet Cary 12th Viscount Falkland – and to find out about her brother, whose story would have made an excellent plot-line in Downton Abbey ...

Such a riveting tale couldn't be resisted, though its link with Cleveland history is tenuous.  My excuse is that the following newspaper account also tells us about Mary, whose philanthropy and kindness were much appreciated in Hutton Rudby.

Mary was related to Anna Livingstone Reade Street Morton (1846-1918), whose photograph you can find here.  She was the much admired wife of Levi P. Morton, Vice President of the United States.  So when Mary's brother married the woman who had been at the centre of a notorious New York murder, the newspapers were naturally very excited:

From The Day of New London, Connecticut: 16 October1891

Josie Mansfield Weds
Jim Fisk's Evil Genius Marries Once More
The Groom a New York Lawyer
His Name is Robert L. Reade, His Family Is a Well Known One, and He Is Alleged to Be a Relative of Mrs Levi P Morton

Paris, Oct 16. - Mrs Lawlor, formerly Miss Josie Mansfield, well known in New York twenty years ago, was married last Friday at St George's church, Hanover square, London, to Mr Robert L. Reade, of New York.  Mr Lawlor [sic – should read Mr Reade], brother of Lady Falkland, his mother and three members of the bride's family were present.  The couple are spending the honeymoon at Brighton.
Josie and Jim Fisk

New York, Oct 16.- The news that Josie Mansfield is married will set tongues wagging from one shore of America to the other.  The woman who was more discussed twenty years ago than any other person in the western hemisphere – the woman who inspired Edward S Stokes to kill Jim Fisk Jr – has again become staid and demure.

Josie Mansfield's History

It is not fair even to guess at Mrs Robert L. Reade's age.  She is as charming today as she was when she ensnared the gallant Colonel Jim Fisk, Jr., more than a score of years ago.  At that time her smart carriages, her gorgeous diamonds and her fetching gowns, all the gifts of Erie's king, were the talk of the city.  Her fame went abroad, too.  Her name was as well known in every backwoods hamlet as John L Sullivan's is today.  Bonnets and gowns and a certain mode of dressing the hair were named for her.

The Shooting of Fisk

Then Josie Mansfield and Jim Fisk quarreled and parted.  The King of Erie was jealous because his handsome friend and ex-partner, Ned Stokes, was too attentive to Josie and spent too many days and nights in the house Jim Fisk's money had furnished for her.

Then came bickerings, a threat of publishing all of Fisk's letters and telegrams to Josie, an injunction by which Fisk prevented Stokes from publishing them or any of them, and finally the shooting of Fisk by Stokes on the main stairway of the Grand Central hotel on Broadway.

Josie sued Colonel Fisk's widow for £200,000 she claimed the dead man owed her, but she did not win the suit.  Josie went to Boston, but she found that city too hot to live in.  Crowds followed her and hooted her in the streets.  Soon she fled to Paris.

She Was Once Reported Dead

It was reported three years ago that Josie was dead and had been secretly buried, but a reporter found her in the little bonbonniere she inhabited near the Boulevard Pereire.  She looked astonishing fresh and blooming, and her auburn hair was wound in a graceful knot upon the top of her head.

Josie Mansfield was married in 1864 to Frank Lawlor, an actor of some note.  She was then living in San Francisco with her parents, whose name was Warren.  Lawlor and Josie led a happy life until 1868, when he found that he could no longer live with her.

Josie had a hard time after that until she met Jim Fisk in the house of Mrs Annie Woods in 1870 and was introduced to him at her own request.  Lawlor died years ago.

Who Robert L. Reade Is

Robert L. Reade has a law office at 31 Nassau street.  He has always enjoyed too much money and too merry associates to become remarkably celebrated at the bar.  He is a short, thickset man with a rich red Burgundian complexion.  He looks like a man who has seen forty-five years or more.
The bridegroom's father was Robert Reade.  He was very wealthy, having been one of the first and most extensive property owners in Minneapolis.

He went to Paris in 1876 and was accidentally drowned.  Robert L. Reade remained in this city and practised law.  Mrs Reade and her daughters made their home in England.  The elder daughter, Miss Katharine, married General Francis Strachan, governor of the Burmudas.  Captain Byron Cary, aide-de-camp to General Strachan, fell in love with Mrs Strachan's pretty sister and married her.  By the death of his uncle Captain Cary succeeded to the title of Viscount Falkland five years ago.

Related To Mrs Levi P Morton

Mrs Reade spent last summer at Carlsbad with her cousin, Mrs Levi P Morton and her daughters.  Lawyer Robert L Reade went over to visit his mother in July.  There he met Josie Mansfield, who, in spite of her years, was as much of a belle as ever.  She called herself Mrs Frank Lawlor, and the number of her devoted admirers was legion.  Lawyer Reade was fascinated.  He urged the fair Josie to marry him, but she was coy.  She told him to take ample time and consider well what he was about to do.

Thereupon Mr Reade returned to this city and considered.  He gave a little dinner to a very few companions early in September.  After they had all dined well Reade said:
"I'm going to marry Josie Mansfield.  I'm drinking myself to death.  Well, Josie Mansfield is the only person who can save me.  I'll marry her if she'll let me, for I think she has been more sinned against than sinning."
Thereupon Mr Reade's chums told him that he was all right and drank his fiancee's health.
Three members of the bride's family were present at the ceremony, but the cable says nothing as to the presence of the bridegroom's mother, who has long occupied a very lofty social position in England.  Lady Falkland doubtless could not find time to assist at the wedding.

Four years later, the marriage was at an end:

Galveston Daily News, Saturday 9 November 1895

Josie Mansfield Divorced
New York, Nov 8. - The Herald says: The following notice has been printed in the official law journal of Paris: 
"From the judgment rendered adversely by the fourth chamber of the civil tribunal of the Seine on August 1, 1895, between Mme Helene Josephine Mansfield, widow of M Frank Lawler and wife by a second marriage of Mr Robert Livingstone Reade, the woman's legal residence being with her husband, but she residing, as a matter of fact, at 53 Rue Empere, Paris, and M Robert Livingstone Reade living in Paris at the Hotel Brighton, it appears that the divorce was granted between the Reades at the request and for the benefit of Mme Reade"

This wasn't the end of the story.  Two years afterwards, the newspapers – it was picked up by even the Teesdale Mercury – took up this story.  Here it is in one of the fuller reports:

Duluth Evening Herald, Friday 16 July 1897

Insane and Poor
Sad Condition of Robert Livingstone Reade Who Has Lost a Fortune
Drink and Chloral
His Wife is the Once Famous Josie Mansfield, Fisk's Fancy

New York, July 16. - Robert Livingstone Reade, a Yale alumnus, a lawyer, once reputed a millionaire, has been pronounced insane by a sheriff's jury.  His fortune has dwindled until his income is inconsiderable.  He owns a lot of valueless stocks and Western property mortgaged for nearly as much as it can bring in the market.  Mr Reade's mental infirmity is due to excessive drink and chloral.  He is actually confined in the Bloomington asylum, and a committee will be appointed by the court to take charge of his person and estate.
The petition to have him declared insane was made by Mrs. Reade.  Mrs Reade was Josie Mansfield, a woman whose career was a subject of world-wide gossip twenty-five years ago.  It was on her account that Edward S Stokes killed James Fisk.  Stokes met Fisk on the stairs of the Grand Central hotel.
Reade met her in the summer of 1891 and they were married in October of that year in London.  They soon disagreed and separated, Reade coming to New York and the woman staying in Paris.  She obtained a divorce in November 1895.  Reade contemplated suicide and would probably kill himself the doctor says, if not restrained.

In 1901, Edward S Stokes, the man who shot Jim Fisk Jr., died and the story was resurrected again.  According to a report in the Watertown Herald the following spring, Robert L Reade was "cured at Bloomingdale [and] married a good woman and is now a respected citizen".

I hope that report was true.  Reade died in January 1910.

Visit for this fascinating piece on Edward S Stokes.  It includes a still from the 1937 film based on the Fisk killing – I should think it's about time another film was made, or a tv drama - and a vivid piece of journalism from The Sun of New York, in which Josie Mansfield is described as "a fat Cleopatra."

H W Brands' The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield tells the story for a modern audience.

No comments:

Post a Comment