I was asked by the blog, "Campaign for the American Reader," to submit a short piece on how I would cast a film of my book. Here it is:
Kate Chase Update
I recently obtained this photo album of “cartes des visites” (CVs) from a genealogist/researcher who obtained it from a client. As explained below, it seems to be connected to the Chase family—Kate, Nettie, Salmon, or all three:
The researcher’s client acquired the album from an antiques dealer in Wyoming. It turns out that the Wyoming connection may have significance. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact me.
If I had to bet I would bet that it is Nettie's album, because the single most personal item is the photo of her in mourning for her mother, Belle Ludlow, at age 4 (# 14). That photo must have come into Nettie's possession via her father, Salmon (Belle's husband), or their Ludlow relatives, whose family papers (which include correspondence from Nettie), are located at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The Wyoming connection seems too coincidental to discount.
The reference to "Kittie" in one of the photos (whether to Kate or, more likely, her daughter Kitty) also establishes a Chase connection.
The places in Europe depicted in the CVs are also places that Kate and Nettie are known to have visited (specifically, Germany, Wales, and Scotland). One or both of them were definitely at Inverness and Stuttgart, the subject of a couple of the CVs,. The dates do not quite match up, but there does seem to be a definite connection there.
Then we come to the issue of the handwriting. For purposes of clarity I will break the CVs into two categories: Group 1, from Germany (Cologne and Stuttgart), seemingly dated January 1873, though it's not 100% clear it's a "3." Group 2, in different handwriting (more like printing) is from Wales/Scotland--again, places that Nettie and Kate visited. They are dated in July and August 1872.
If we assume that the Group 1 cards were dated, contemporaneously, in January 1873 and the Group 2 cards in July/August 1872, by the person visiting those places at those times, then they cannot be in Nettie's handwriting. That is because SP Chase's diary/journal definitively establishes that Nettie was not in Europe at those times. I found a December 29 entry in Chase's diary which has him and Nettie attending church in Washington that day. Obviously she was not in Germany on January 2, 1873, the date of one of the Group 1 cards. And Chase's journal has her in DC all through the summer of 1872 (when her first born was a few months old), so the Group 2 cards cannot be in her handwriting, either. But that doesn't mean it isn't Nettie's album; to the contrary, she might have received the cards from a family member or a friend. She had lived in Germany in 1866-67 and visited both Stuttgart, Germany and Inverness in Scotland/Wales, so the cards might be from someone she befriended during those visits.
Which brings us to Kate. We can rule her out as the writer of the Group 2 cards since, again, Chase's diary definitively places her in the US through the entire summer of 1872, when her daughter Kitty was but a few months old.
Could Kate be the author of the Group 1 cards, in January 1873? It's possible, but there are some issues here. The handwriting is somewhat similar to hers, but there are important differences. Most notably, if you look at Kate's diary (and other letters) she almost invariably crosses all her "t's" with great emphasis. But in the card from Stuttgart, the two middle t's are conspicuously uncrossed. The "R" on the Royal Palace card is unlike the capital "R's" in her letters, and the capital "C" on Cologne and Cathedral lack the flourish of her capital C's in her letters. However, this isn't conclusive, since a few scribblings on small cards might be written with less flourish than formal letters. So it's not definitive either way.
I did find a letter where her father notes she will not be in DC before January 10, 1873. That could mean that she was in Europe, but it's an odd way of putting it if she was overseas. To me, saying, as he did, that Kate would "not be in Washington" before January 10 sounds more like she is somewhere else in the US--most likely, Narragansett, to get away from her husband, who was living in Washington at the time. And January 10 is awfully specific if she was overseas. If she had been overseas I would have expected Chase to say something like she "won't be back from Europe" before January. I went through his other letters and diary and there's no mention of her being in Europe in late 1872/early 1873 (on her prior Europe trips, he always noted her presence in Europe). Passenger lists do not show her going out of or into the US during that time. And Kitty would have been less than one year old in January 1873. I think it more likely she was staying up in Narragansett with Kitty and away from Sprague. Still, it's possible that that the January 1873 notes are hers, again assuming the 1873 date is correct. (she definitely was in Germany in January 1875, which would make more sense, although the numeral doesn't look like a "5.").
Another possibility: were the dates put on by someone at later times, and either misdated, or did not relate to the actual dates of visit? Possible but I think very unlikely, as the dates have the feel of having been placed there contemporaneously with the visits. It’s also possible this is a cumulative album, put together and added to at different times over the years and possibly by different people.
All in all, I'd say the album is either Nettie's or one of the Ludlows, and that the CVs are from friends or family members and, for Group 1, possibly Kate. One additional factor pointing to the Ludlows is that some of the Civil War officers depicted in the album seem to be from New Orleans and Virginia, and the Ludlows had connections to both places.
An interesting mystery!
I was extensively interviewed in this documentary on the Christie Mullins case. The episode was very stylishly done.
Mary Tyler Moore, RIP
January 25, 2017
Mary Tyler Moore died today at age 80. She was an extremely talented, intuitive actress (comedy and drama) with no formal training. Had a great sense of timing. Not all of the MTM episodes hold up today; some are dated or a little silly, but many if not most were very good, and almost all had some belly laughs. TV comediennes like Jennifer Aniston, Tina Fey, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus can trace their roots to her.
She definitely had a dark side that the public and even co-workers often didn't see (it pre-existed the fallout from the death of her son). It was memorably on display in the film "Ordinary People." It sprang from an unhappy childhood that she never fully forgot. She could be difficult to work with, at least in later years, on less successful ventures than her hit shows, and she did not hesitate to criticize the creative personnel whom she felt let her down. She was a complex, multifaceted woman who could veer between sunny and overcast. “I’m like a chameleon in that I take on the colors of success or failure, happy or sad, depending on what’s going on, or how it seems to be going on,” she once explained.
She was quite private and reserved, but had a strong, indomitable streak, as evidenced by her long bout with Type 1 diabetes and shooting herself up with insulin twice a day for years. Many people have Type 2 diabetes, and it's a serious thing, but it is not nearly as debilitating as Type 1.
Her animal rights activism was real, and ahead of its time, like her vegetarianism.
Over the years I've interviewed lots of showbiz people, and I would say she was very much like many of them: someone who became an actor to escape or obscure her private life. Great actors really are a different breed from you and me; they absolutely crave--indeed, can't live without--that attention that comes from being on stage or before the camera. She certainly was that way.
Asked once how she would like to be remembered, Moore responded, “as somebody who always looked for the truth, even if it wasn’t funny.” To her, the truth was that life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. She was, as she described herself, a “devotee of laughter and tears,” and said that if asked to choose between making people laugh or cry she would be unable to do so.
That is why her most famous tour de force as an actress came in an award-winning sixth season episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show entitled “Chuckles Bites the Dust.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihLJrcS8lsg).https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihLJrcS8lsg). Ranked # 1 by TV Guide in its 1997 list of “The 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time,” it is the best thing she ever did. In it, the oft-mentioned but seldom seen character Chuckles the Clown, dressed as a peanut in a local circus parade, is killed when a rogue elephant tries to shell him. The freak accident becomes the source of macabre jokes among the WJM newsroom staff, except for Mary, who fails to see the humor in the clown’s demise and admonishes her co-workers to show some respect for the dead.
But then, at the funeral, she suddenly breaks out in quiet giggles during the reverend’s eulogy at the mention of various characters Chuckles created (“Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo,” “Billy Banana,” “Aunt Yoo-Hoo”). She receives looks of disapproval from the other, somber mourners, including the same people who were cracking jokes earlier. Mary tries to mask her escalating snickers as coughs and throat clearings until, unable to suppress it any longer, she lets loose with loud guffaws. The reverend asks her to stand and, instead of scolding her as we might have anticipated, tells her to laugh if she feels like it—that nothing would have made Chuckles happier, that he hated to see people cry. “So go ahead, my dear, laugh for Chuckles,” he says, at which point Mary bursts into uncontrollable, full-throated sobs.
She didn’t have to choose between laughter and tears after all.