By Nancy Armitage
It was a brand new year, the date: January 13, 1904 a widowed, Arabella D. Huntington was sailing home from France into New York Harbor. Mrs. Collis P. Huntington “Arabella” was traveling abroad the grand steamship, “S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm II”. The ship papers state Mrs. Huntington’s last residence was Paris, France. Arabella was traveling with her son, Archer M. Huntington & his 1st wife, Helen Gates Huntington (a writer & a poet). 1904 was an important year for Archer, he was soon to open his own Hispanic Society of NYC (Museum). He had to get home to the States & prepare for the grand opening in New York City.
The ship, “S. S. Kaiser Wilhelm II” port of departure was Cherbourg, France. It was to arrive at the Port of New York on January 20, 1904. The Huntington passengers were Mrs. C. P. Huntington (age 54) with Arabella’s personal social secretary, Miss Caroline Campbell, Mr. Archer M. Huntington age 34, Mrs. Archer M. Huntington (Helen), Dominguez Marking (age 27, Spanish male & Valet to Mr. Huntington) Angus McGillvery (age 30, Scottish. single male & Mrs. Huntington’s Head Butler), Jane Reifer (age 24, single. German female & Ladies maid to Mrs. Huntington) & Suzanne Gilsmere (age 27, single. Swiss female & Mrs. Archer Huntington’s Ladies maid)
It was highly unusual that Arabella was in Paris especially during the holidays: Christmas & New Years Eve and Day. Mrs. Huntington loved Christmas & they were usually in New York City at Christmas time. By the ship’s document, dated in January 13, 1904, we come to the conclusion that Huntingtons had enjoyed Christmas of 1903 in Paris.
French Punch or Parisian Punch (1918)
This flavorful French punch was served aboard Cunard ships & in Parisian hotels. This recipe was adapted from a book: Richard Bond’s Ships Steward’s Handbook, 1918. (one of Mr. H.E. Huntington’s rare books). This recipe had 2 lbs. sugar which I omitted, because there is enough sugar in the orange juice. Season to taste.
1 qt. orange juice
juice of 2 oranges
1 pt. Brandy [French Brandy]
1-2 t. sugar to taste
Juice of 2 lemons
1 pt. rum
1 pt. brewed orange pekoe tea
3 oranges, sliced (to garnish)
In a stockpot, combine all the ingredients. Slowly warm up this mixture but don’t boil. taste punch, add sugar if needed. Transfer into a handsome punch bowl with ladle. Garnish with sliced oranges. Recipe: Nancy Armitage
Arabella Huntington (Mrs. C. P. Huntington) liked to travel aboard the French lines, the German lines, & the Cunard Lines. She had been traveling on the Cunard line even back in 1870’s: “RMS Auranic” & 1890’s: “RMS Teutonic”. This tradition continued with Arabella when she married H.E. Huntington; they traveled on the grand “RMS Aquitania”, “RMS Olympic”, “RMS Mauritania” & the “RMS Cedric”. They were some of the largest ships in the world, as the time. The Huntington family were also shareholders of these ship lines. The Huntingtons worked & owned Southern Pacific Co. which owned Pacific Steamship Co. which included Atlantic, Panama, & the Pacific Ship lines.
The Huntington Family might have stayed at the elegant Paris Ritz overlooking the Place Vendome (Arabella vacationed there in the years: 1901 & 1902). They might have stayed at the Hotel Bristol or Hotel Continental (where Empress Eugenie would stayed) in Paris.
If they stayed at the Paris Ritz, Mrs. Huntington & her family would have enjoyed the Ritz famous “Five o’clock tea”; later to be called “High Tea” or “Afternoon Tea”. The Ritz Paris was favored by wealthy Americans at this time period; they had the most elegant & elaborate afternoon tea. Everyone came to the Ritz Paris “to see & be seen”. Escoffier, the chef was the one that actually change the time period on “Five o’clock tea”; because it was way too close to the dinner hour. His elegant French diners were not eating his beautiful food at the dinner seating. Tea was too close to the dinner hour. So the Paris Ritz changed afternoon tea time from 5 o’clock to 3 to 4 o’clock.
In “The Cosmopolitan Magazine article, No. 29 (date 1900) called “the American Colony in Paris” gives us a hint of what it was like to live in Paris. The article written by Walter Germain Robinson, states how wealthy Americans ate in Paris at the time:
“one lives absolutely in the Paris Fashion with the light breakfast in one’s room in the morning, the elaborate dejeuner [lunch] at one [1:00pm.] & dinner at eight [8:00 pm]. Tea-rooms established near the Rue Royale, the Boulevard Haussman, & the other central districts are much patronized by the Haute ton [High tone or high society] in the afternoon…..”
By a New York Times article dated Sunday, November 22, 1903, not only did the Huntington Family spend Christmas in Paris, they enjoyed & celebrated Thanksgiving & New Years Eve in Paris, also.
Sunday, Nov. 22, 1903 New York Times, “Doings of Americans in France”, “Miss Getty gave a ladies luncheon at her apartment in the Avenue des Champs Elyssees [Paris] last Saturday. The table was most artistically decorated with choice chrysanthemums & Indian apples. The guests were Mrs. Warren, Comtesse, de Rodellac, Mrs. La Montaingne, Miss Patterson, Comtesse Rene de Coetlogon, Mrs. Dunlop, Miss Dana, Mrs. Waters, Mrs. Audenreid, & Mrs. Huntington.”
Mrs. Arabella Huntington loved Christmas especially in New York City. The usually time for Arabella & her Huntington Family was to be at the Huntington Mansion at No. 2 East 57th St. in New York City for Christmas. The Thanksgiving holiday was always at Archer M. Huntington’s estate in Pelham, Oyster Bay, New York City. Weekends & Holidays were spent at the Huntington Family Estate at Throgg’s Neck estate called “the Homestead” on the Long Island Sound in Westchester Co. in New York .
In 1900, that all changed with the death of Collis P. Huntington. While traveling up to their Camp Pine Knot on Racquette Lake in the Adirondack Mts.; Collis P. Huntington died. After Collis died, his wife Arabella D. Huntington changed all her holiday plans.
Arabella was lost without her husband Collis, so she traveled to her favorite place, Paris. Arabella was very sad after her husband of 16 years had died, & Paris was a lovely distraction. I think she felt as long as her son, Archer Huntington was with her, she could be anywhere. But Paris for Christmas is especially magical place during the holidays, the Eiffel tower & snow on the ground. In 1903-4, whichever 1st class hotel the Huntingtons stayed out (Hotel Ritz Paris or Hotel Bristol) there would be amazing & charming Christmas decorations & lights. Arabella could shop, at the Parisian Christmas markets, look at the “Le Sapin de Noel” (the Christmas Tree), with French fancy ornaments. See all the Parisian Christmas decorations: Christmas wreaths, Red candles, & decorated with beautiful electric lights and French Ribbons.
There is a possibly that Mrs. Arabella Huntington could have stayed with her friend, Mrs. Charles Alexander (Harriet Crocker) who had a mansion in Paris. These two ladies often would get together in New York City or San Francisco for afternoon tea. From an affidavit of Mrs. Alexander signed after Mrs Huntington died (1924), the two were very close & would see each other when they were in the same city & have tea & a chat.
The Paris Ritz would have been decorated in a magical way for the wealthy Parisians & Americans to enjoy. They would have had a large Christmas Tree decorated with red bows & lights, candles and very large ornaments.
In Paris, Mrs. Huntington would have had some many wonderful choices for Christmas gifts. What a fun time to shop in Paris, at Christmas time. They called them the “Marche de Noel” (Christmas Market). The smell of mulled wine & spiced apple cider. They had roasted chestnuts, foie gras, & French Speculaas spiced cookies. So much Parisian food to buy and bring home like French macaroons, madelines, & Christmas gingerbread. Lovely French Condiments like French Dijon Mustard, Lavender Honey, Lavender Jelly, Parisian Candies like French Chocolate Bonbons (Chocolate truffles), Citrus Tea from Maxims.
Parisian Christmas treasures for Mrs. Huntington to buy for her loved ones & wrapped up in French ribbon & beautiful packaging. She could have purchased large Christmas Creche (the Nativity Scene) in porcelain, French perfume & Lavender & Violet soaps, French wine & champagne. Her favorite French dishware: Sevres, Havilland, & Limoges.She could buy a art book or souvenir from the Lourve Museum or tea from Maxims. For the little children: a Bishop St. Nicholas medal or statue or spicy Speculoos (St. Nicholas) French “sables” (cookies) or chocolates. All these places the Huntingtons visited while living in Paris.
HEH Coll.MS 38/6 (Affidavit for Mrs. Arabella Huntington signed by Mrs. Chas Alexander- Harriet Crocker Alexander); HEH Coll. HEH EPH E40 (Huntington family menu ephemera) all at the Huntington Library, San Marino CA. www.ellisisland.org (January 13, 1904 Ship with Mrs. C.P. Huntington & Entourage); New York Times article: Connecticut Museum City of Lights/Electric Paris by Susan Hodara (Paris installed 20,000 gaslights in 1889); Christmas Traditions in France Saint Nicolas Day by Stephanie Hajjar Dec 6,2016 http://www.wonderfultime.com; Book: Richard Bond’s Ship Stewards Handbook 1918 (Alfonso Gomez was a wonderful steward on a Cunard ship in 1911. Archer Huntington met him & he said go meet my mother in NYC. Alfonso was hired on the stop, maybe this book was Alfonso’s book.