Red Roses, BonBons, Champagne, and the H.E. Huntingtons

by Nancy Armitage

What are some key ingredients to “Courting” a lady: flowers, roses, a bottle of champagne, chocolate candy, jewelry, & a kiss!

It was between 1911 & 1912, Mr. H. E. Huntington was truly “courting” Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington. She was the widow of his uncle, Collis P. Huntington who died in August 1900. In the early 1900’s, H. E. “Edwards” Huntington had moved to Los Angeles area from San Francisco, California. He had bought a huge ranch, & just finished his newly built mansion on the San Marino Ranch. He moved in 1910 with a small servant staff of 6: chauffeur, valet, head butler, launderess, maid, & cook. Henry Huntington had spent a fortune decorating his mansion with English master paintings, French Boucher tapestries, to start the famous H. E. Huntington Library. When he came to New York City for business; he stayed at the Metropolitan Club. It was years he spent settling Collis Huntington estate. He had been divorced his 1st wife, MaryAlice Huntington since 1906. Henry “Edwards” Huntington would come “to call” on Arabella Huntington for tea or formal dinners, while he was “in-residence” in New York City. But without someone to share life with, what does it mean?? And they became closer.

Mrs. Huntington was known to be a romantic & a Southern Belle. Arabella like red roses “American Beauty” which was the vogue in the Gilded Age; other times she preferred pink & white roses . She decorated her mansions in the style of Louis XVI with gilded angels, cupids, soft tea lights, & Marie Antoinette chandeliers. She loved French champagne, French chocolate Bonbons (truffles), Champagne Punch, & Jordan Almonds. Mr. H. E. “Edwards” Huntington was quite a romantic, too. He knew how to court a lady, like an old-fashioned Victorian gentlemen & he did it quite well I might add.

A Victorian man courting a lady.

French Chocolate Bonbons (Truffles) Recipe

The chocolate French “Bonbon” or truffle is a delightful confection made of cream & melted cocoa; sometimes liqueur or spices are added. Once cooled, it is sometimes dipped in dark chocolate, rolled in powdered cocoa, or powdered sugar. The center of the truffle can be a variety of nuts & things added like pistachios, walnuts, pecans, or mint. For a different flavor, change the vanilla extract to orange, lemon, or rose extract.

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

1/2 c. French or Belguim cocoa

2 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar

1/4 c. heavy cream

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract or French Grand Marnier

Cream the butter & sugar together. Add cream, cocoa, flavoring, & mix. Chill in refrigerator until firm. Spoon out bits & roll into small balls with your hands. To make three different kinds of Bonbons, have a small bowl of each of these powdered sugar, French cocoa, & chopped nuts. Roll balls in one of the coatings. Place on a plate. Serve in a bonbon dish (see below). Recipe: Nancy Armitage

This is a “BonBon” spoon in Gorham silver “Chantilly” pattern. Mrs. Huntington owned 100’s of pieces of Gorham silver, this could have been her pattern. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

In Mr. H. E. Huntington 1912 personal bill ledgers, I found recorded some “courtship” bills. Edwards was sending all these thoughtful romantic presents to Arabella Huntington in her mansion in NYC. Mrs. Huntington must have loved surprises because this treats were always labeled “G & D” meaning “gift-wrapped & delivered” to her residence. In January 4. 1912, he started strong by buying jewelry from Black, Starr & Frost “D & G”for $220.00”; on the same day he buys her flowers from Chas. Thorley. On Jan. 13, 1912, he spends $1,790.00 for an expensive something at Arabella’s favorite store, Gorham Silver Co. in NYC.

A silver, footed “BonBon” dish; my mother had one of these; I always thought it was a peanut dish. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

In Mr. Huntington’s Bill “Personal Ledger”, throughout the year in 1912, there were monthly & bi-monthly entries for flower arrangements & roses. There were charges from $70.00-160.00 at Chas. Thorley, a florist in New York City. There were Tiffany & Co. bills for jewelry for $100.00 to $1,320.00 bills. From the famous Louis Sherry restaurant in NYC: he bought jellies & cherries, pastries, & “c” for cake or teacake. From a confectionery named “Huylers Chocolates and Confections” in NYC he bought 1 lb. each: Chocolate bonbons & peppermint bonbon candies. Dec. 1912, he purchased from Cartier “a diamond fan” (Delivery & gift wrap) for $380.00. Also, included were several florist entries & from M. Lawrence & Comstock Co. for “Apricot Cordial”.

Sharing the Love with hearts & Valentines!

Apricot Cordial (Recipe)

I found these “courtship bills” of Mr. Huntington’s dated in 1911 & 1912. Mr. H.E. Huntington gave Mrs. Arabella Huntington Apricot Cordial, Chocolate BonBons, Jewelry & lots of flowers set to her home. I thought Apricot Cordial sounded really delicious. I went to my gourmet store to find this Victorian “Apricot Cordial”. They didn’t carry it, so I made my own, & it tastes really nice.

1 qt. (750 mo) Potters triple distilled vodka (80 proof)

1 jar (10 oz.) apricot preserves

Spoon out the preserves into a 1 qt. measuring cup. Add vodka with a hand blender (Braun) mix thoroughly & puree preserves. Add more vodka. Blend. Let marinate for several weeks & strain through fine sieve or tea cloth. Pour into 5 (1 c.) jars. Recipe: Nancy Armitage

So sometime in 1912, H. E. “Edwards” got his wish & asked Arabella “Belle” Huntington to marry him & she said “yes”. In April of 1913, they were legally married in downtown Los Angeles at the courthouse. In Spring of 1913, they sailed to France on a luxury liner ship. They were married in the American Church in Paris in July of 1913. They had a homeplace in Paris at the Hotel Bristol. On their Parisian honeymoon, he spent 5 months trying to buy the Chateau Beauregard Le Celle-Saint-Cloud (by Paris). This was to be a wedding gift for his new wife, but he was unable to buy the Chateau. He was able to secure a 10-lease on the Chateau Beauregard; they had many happy times there. They lived bi-coastally on his San Marino Ranch in California in the wintertime & then in her numerous New York mansions & estates in New York & Chateau Beauregard in the summer & autumn.

A Valentine “surprise” box & the red roses are named “Love”. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage


HEH Coll. 13/8/1-13 (HEH Personal Ledgers 1910-1912)

HEH Coll. MS 41-10 (10 Ledgers Apricot Cordial) (located at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

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