Wednesday, December 07, 2016


Mahonri Young: 
The Greatest Moment
Mahonri Young, a preeminent American sculptor of the 20th Century, was a month short of his 70th birthday when perhaps his most famous work was unveiled: A tribute to his grandfather, Brigham Young, on the centennial of his arrival at what was to become Salt Lake City.
“This is the greatest moment of my life,” Young said at the 1947 unveiling of the 60-foot monument outside Salt Lake City, Utah, attended by 75,000 people.
Yet only two months earlier, his beloved wife, Dorothy, daughter of American Impressionist artist J. Alden Weir, had died.
Mahonri Mackintosh Young was born in Salt Lake City in 1877, the same year his grandfather, Mormon leader Brigham Young, died. Twenty days after his birth, the infant Mahonri received the blessing of his grandfather, who was president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the governor of Utah territory.
Brigham Young had led the Mormons to their promised land in the Salt Lake basin, where they founded the city. As their wagon train approached the the basin, Young was lying exhausted and burning up with fever in the last wagon. As he looked down into the valley, he said, “This is the place.”
A century later, his grandson Mahonri engraved those words atop the the famous “This Is the Place Monument”  — a huge work that was created in Ridgefield.
Mahonri Young grew up in Salt Lake City where he began his art studies with J. T. Harwood, a painter. He was hired as a sketcher for the Salt Lake Tribune and by 1899 had saved enough money to move to New York and enroll in the Art Students League, where he later taught. 
In 1901 he began studies at the Academie Julian in Paris and also traveled to Italy. In Europe he
met prominent personalities in the arts including Leo Stein, brother of Gertrude, who took him to Pablo Picasso’s first exhibit in a Parisian furniture store, and Ernest Hemingway, who admired his work. He also associated with Robert Henri and the Group of Eight, leaders of the Ash Can School of American realism (Henri painted the noted portrait of Ridgefield General David Perry, also profiled in Who Was Who).
Young gained international recognition when his work was exhibited at the Salon, the official exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. 
Like his Ridgefield friend, Frederic Remington, Young was, throughout his career, an exponent of the West. Many of his paintings, etchings and sculptures dealt with Indians, cowboys, horses, and other aspects of Western life.
However, he also created works connected with industrial workers and even prizefighters. “Man with a Pick” and “Stevedore” are bronze figures now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and “Boxer” is at the Whitney Museum.
Young married Cecilia Sharp in 1907. She died ten years later of cancer. Although he had visited  artist J. Alden Weir in Ridgefield early in the 20th Century, Weir wasn’t exactly a catalyst in Young’s second marriage. “No matter how friendly Weir always was to us of the younger artists, he never introduced us to any of his three charming daughters,” Young said. “We never met any of them
until after he died. But it was no use. I married the most beautiful, the finest, the most talented of them, Dorothy.”
That was in 1931 and the next year, he moved to Weir’s farm in Ridgefield where he made his home much of the rest of his life and where he created hundreds of sketches and paintings of life at the farm, including scenes depicting animals, crops and farm laborers.
Soon after arriving Young built a studio behind the Weir homestead and next to his father-in-law’s, roomy enough to handle sizable sculptures and very bright, with large skylights. “At last I’ve got a studio large enough to do anything I want to do in paint or clay,” he said when it was finished. “If I ever have a big thing to do again, I will do it here even if I have to stay the whole winter.” The Young studio has been restored as part of the Weir Farm National Historic Site.
In 1939, he received the commission to create the big, centennial monument to his grandfather that would not be unveiled until eight years later. Most of the work on “This Is the Place” was done
in his Ridgefield studio.
In 1950, Young also created the sculpture that represents the state of Utah in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington: It is a rendering of his grandfather.
Young’s works are also in the collections of many major museums, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Harvard Art Museum.
Skilled at painting, drawing, etching and sculpture, Young taught almost every subject in the curriculum at the Art Students League, said Dr. Thomas E. Toone, author of the 1997 biography, “Mahonri Young: His Life and Art.” 
Both this and 1999 biography, “A Song of Joys: The Biography of Mahonri Mackintosh Young, Sculptor, Painter, Etcher,” by Norma S. Davis, point out that despite his ancestry and upbringing, Young was not a participating member of Mormon church. “He liked cigars and wine and he found it humorous when he had to go to church twice in one day,” said Dr. Todd A. Britsch, a Brigham Young University reviewer of both books. Nonetheless, he was devoted “to his Mormon heritage and friends.”

Young died in 1957 at the age of 80 and is buried in Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Herb Olsen: 
Wonderful Watercolorist
America, Herb Olsen once said, probably leads the world in the number of excellent watercolor artists. He was certainly among them in the last half of the 20th Century, producing paintings for the covers of magazines, winning dozens of awards, writing five instructional books on the subject, and winding up in museum collections. 
Olsen started out a traditional oil painter. His move to watercolors came at around the same time the latter were gaining full acceptances as a fine art medium — many traditional artists had considered watercolors a medium of illustrators rather than artists.
Herbert V. Olsen was born in Chicago, Ill., in 1905 and studied at the Art Institute and the American Academy of Art, where he also taught for 10 years. In his younger days he painted almost solely in oils, but in the early 1940s decided to switch to watercolors, preferring the fast-drying characteristic of the paint.
Olsen lived on Peaceable Street in the 1940s and early 1950s. He and his wife,  Doris would head out into the Connecticut and New York countryside on many weekends, looking for subjects he could use for his landscapes. She would drive and stop the car so that he, in the passenger’s seat, could do a quick sketch of a scene — or, if it was a fairly busy roadway, snap a picture with a camera. Sketches and photos would be used later in the studio for inspiration.
“Like most watercolor painters,” he said, “I once believed that a watercolor should be painted on the spot — directly from nature in one sitting — to have freshness and authenticity. I was wrong. The effectiveness of the final painting is not determined by where it is done or how long it takes to do it, but by how well the painter knows his business.”
Olsen became a widely recognized watercolorist, and taught many courses locally and regionally. When art museum founder Larry Aldrich moved from New York to Ridgefield in 1939, he worried that his wife, Wynn, would be bored in the country; he hired Olsen to teach her how to paint, and she went on to be an accomplished artist.
His paintings appeared on the covers of and as illustrations in Reader’s Digest, Collier’s, Good Housekeeping and other magazines.
Olsen’s books, including “Watercolor Made Easy,” “Painting the Figure in Watercolor,”  “Painting Children in Watercolor,” and “Herb Olsen's Guide to Watercolor Landscape,” were published by Van Nostrand Reinhold, and were popular in the 1950s and 60s.  Doris — who had trained as a concert pianist — helped with the text of each book.
Olsen won more than 70 major awards — including first prizes from the Salmagundi Club and the National Academy of Design — and he was elected to academy as well as to the Society of Royal Arts in London. 
He had more than 60 one-man shows, and had been exhibited in many museums in the United States. He was one of 57 living American watercolor artists who was represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Smithsonian American Art Museum maintains a collection of his papers.

In the mid-1950s, the Olsens moved to Westport where he died in 1973 at the age of 68.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dean Arnold: 
The Baker Who Feared Flour
When Admiral Richard E. Byrd came to a Boy Scout fundraising event in Ridgefield in October of 1956, he was driven to the Community Center by Dean Arnold. The two were not only friends who shared an interest in supporting scouting, they had also worked together to develop a method of freezing bread to keep it fresh.
Byrd, of course, knew a lot about cold: He was the famous Arctic and Antarctic explorer.
And Dean knew a lot about bread: He founded Arnold Bakery.
Which seems unusual for a man who was allergic to flour.
Paul Dean Arnold was born in New York City in 1908. He grew up in Greenwich and New Rochelle, N.Y., and graduated from the School of Business at Columbia University in 1930. 
The Arnold family was a New Rochelle neighbor of Frederick Beers, the head of the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), who offered the recent graduate a job at the company’s bakery in Manhattan. 
“Mr. Arnold liked baking, but his allergy soon left him sneezing, coughing and red-eyed,” said The New York Times. “Because he showed promise, the company put him in charge of its Portland, Maine, bakery in 1935, but his misery only continued there.”
Finally, his wife, Betty, wrote to Beers: “Dear Fred, If you can’t put Dean in a position where he won’t breath flour, kindly fire him. With best regards, Betty Arnold.”
In January of 1940, Beers did just that.
Within two months Arnold was starting his own business — and it still involved flour, but on a small scale that, he and his wife hoped, would not affect his allergy. 
Arnold did not like the quality of the mass-made breads that were available, and he began experimenting with different recipes, using a brick oven with stone hearth that he set up in his garage in Stamford. 
“Placing their trust in superior ingredients, like unbleached spring wheat flour, honey, butter and eggs, they developed the golden rich bread that would soon become a leading premium brand with an international reputation,” the company says today. They called their product Arnold's Brick Oven Bread.
Dean did the baking and Betty did the packaging (sealing the waxed wrappers with her flatiron). At first they sold the bread only to neighbors and a few local stores. However, it soon
became so popular, Arnold had to hire bakers to meet the demand. He eventually set up a baking plant in nearby Port Chester, N.Y.
The company grew rapidly and, in 1964, Arnold built one of the largest baking plants in the world in Greenwich, able to produce 10,000 loaves of bread and 10,000 dozen rolls an hour. 
When he began expanding into distant markets, including Europe and the Caribbean, he used Admiral Byrd as a consultant and, according to The Times, “pioneered the development of freezing bread for wider distribution.”
Arnold was also one of the first major employers in the United States to provide medical and dental insurance for his employees.
In 1952, the Arnolds bought the 180-acre Eleven Levels estate on West Mountain from Joseph and Nora Shapiro — Joseph (also profiled in Who Was Who) was another entrepreneur, the founder of the Simplicity Pattern Company.  Grosvenor Atterbury and John A. Tompkins designed the Eleven Levels house in 1907. Atterbury was a prominent Yale-educated architect who specialized in “weekend homes of the wealthy.” 
In 1959, Arnold decided to return to his old home town of Greenwich, where he would soon build his giant bakery. He sold Eleven Levels to Jerry Tuccio, who lived in the house and subdivided much of the land.
The Arnolds were generous contributors to the Ridgefield community, including supporting Boy Scouts. “As well as making cash donations, they could be counted on to furnish their bakery products to many of the charitable affairs that were held,” said Town Historian Richard E. Venus in “Dick’s Dispatch.”
In Greenwich, Dean Arnold remained involved in Boy Scouting. He was also active in the Rotary Club, Urban League, Community Chest, and Red Cross.
When he retired and sold the business in 1970 to Schaefer Brewing, his original investment of $600 with himself as president and Betty as treasurer — the only employees — had grown to $80 million in annual sales ($500 million in 2016 dollars) and a workforce of 3,000 people. Arnold Foods Company is today owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA, the American branch of the multinational Mexican company that owns such other brands as Thomas’, Sara Lee, and Entenmann’s.

Paul Dean Arnold died in 1985 at the age of 76. Betty had died three years earlier. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Charles Bluhdorn: 
The 'Mad Austrian'
His death seemed like his life: face-paced and high-powered. Charles G. Bluhdorn, who began his career as a $15-a-week worker and became one of the world’s richest and most powerful men, died of a heart attack on a corporate jet in February 1983, returning from a Caribbean resort he created. 
Born in Vienna in 1926, Bluhdorn as a boy was considered such a “hellion” that his father sent the 11-year-old to an English boarding school for disciplining. 
At 16, he came to New York, studying at City College and Columbia and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. In 1946, he went to work at the Cotton Exchange, earning $15 a week. Three years later, he formed a company that would make him a millionaire at 30. 
In 1956, he acquired Michigan Bumper, a small auto parts company that eventually grew into Gulf and Western, a conglomerate that ranked 61st in the Fortune 500 by 1981 and owned  Paramount Pictures, Madison Square Garden, and Simon & Schuster publishing as well as the Bohack supermarket chain, companies that made guitars and survival equipment for astronauts, and jet engine parts. He was CEO and chairman of the board.
In 1965 he was on the cover of Time magazine as one of a handful of millionaires under 40; he was said to be worth $15 million ($114 million in today’s dollars).
Once called “Wall Street’s Mad Austrian,” he was a classic workaholic. “My wife thinks I’m nuts,” he told an interviewer. “But when you’re building something, you’re spinning a web and tend to become a prisoner in the web.” 
While Bluhdorn was a high-powered, hard-driving executive, he was surprisingly informal. “Charlie makes a great impression at first,” an associate once said. “He dazzles you until you suddenly draw back. You wonder: Why is he acting this way? What is his game? Later you realize how natural and straightforward he really is. It can be a little scary. I mean you would expect the head of a huge corporation like Gulf and Western to be a little more, well, formal.”
A Life magazine profile by Chris Welles in 1967 offered this description of his work “style”: “Formality is the last thing anyone would accuse Charlie Bluhdorn of. His impatience throws his whole behavior out of whack. He never walks but runs, flat-footed, slightly off-balance, as if he were racing down a railroad track on snowshoes, jotting down thoughts on scraps of paper as he goes. The last time he was talked into a golf game, he smashed his golf cart into a cement wall. He distrusts anything mechanical. Often in his oflice, surrounded by telephones, he becomes Hercules battling the Hydra, cursing wrong numbers, crossed lines, small delays, hopelessly entangled in wires. stabbing wildly at the buttons on the receivers. ‘Bluhdorn is like a race horse,’ says an associate. ‘Put him on the track and he runs a great race. But somebody has to lead him back to the stable, cover him with a blanket and give him some food.”
When he died, Bluhdorn’s corporate jet was flying from the Dominican Republic to New York. He had a special fondness for the Dominican Republic, and spent millions on the economic and social
development of the island nation. Some called him the father of the Dominican tourism industry after he developed what became the world-famous Casa de Campo resort, which includes three internationally renowned golf courses designed by Pete Dye. Oscar de la Renta, a Dominican and a friend of Bluhdorn, designed the interior of Casa De Campo
Gulf and Western had some 300,000 acres of sugar plantation there, with a workforce of 19,000 people — it was the nation’s largest private employer, biggest landowner, and top taxpayer.  
After he bought Paramount in 1966, Bluhdorn planned to develop moviemaking center on the island. Scenes from such films as Godfather Part II (1974), Sorcerer (1977) and Apocalypse Now (1979) were shot there.
In 1963, Bluhdorn and his wife, Yvette, bought a 28-acre estate on lower Florida Hill Road. Over his years here, he quietly contributed to the community; for instance, he bought the Ridgefield Police a boat and trailer for its scuba team. He was also a trustee of Texas Wesleyan College and the Trinity Episcopal Schools Corporation in New York,  and bought a 12-story building at 2 Columbus Circle in order to donate it to the city in 1980 as a cultural center.
Bluhdorn was also modest in his tastes for a home. While his estate on Florida Hill Road had a pool, tennis court, greenhouse, and other amenities, his house had only eight rooms. When designer Alexander Julian bought the spread in 1988, he and his wife built and lived in a new 6,000-square-foot house on the property.

Bluhdorn was only 56 when he died. Among those who attended the private funeral services at St. Mary’s Church was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. 

Friday, December 02, 2016


Dr. Blandina Worcester Brewster: 
Early Woman Physician
A respected physician when relatively few women were practicing medicine, Dr. Blandina Worcester was “one of the pioneer women doctors of this country, her example having inspired other women to enter the profession,” The Ridgefield Press reported in 1984 when she died at the age of 82. 
Dr. Worcester was not only a leading pediatrician in New York City, but also a professor of pediatrics at a top university. 
What’s more, she and her husband established a family that 80 years later, is a significant part of Ridgefield’s life.
A native of Geneva, N.Y., Dr. Worcester was born in 1902, graduated from Radcliffe College in 1923, and from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1927. During her internship at Johns Hopkins, she worked with the Frontier Nursing Service in rural Kentucky, riding to her patients on horseback. 
She established a practice of pediatrics in New York City in the 1930s, was on the attending staff at Bellevue Hospital’s Children’s Medical Service from 1933 until 1968, was medical director at The New York Infirmary for many years, and was a professor of clinical pediatrics at New York University’s Medical School for 38 years. 
In 1935, she married Carroll H. Brewster, a lawyer and partner of Davis Polk in New York City, and a year later, the couple bought the Farmingville farm that had been “The Hickories,” the home of George H. Lounsbury (also profiled in Who Was Who), governor of Connecticut. When the Brewsters bought the place, it had recently been used as a private girls school.
Dr. Worcester — she used that name throughout her career — lived in New York and spent summers and weekends here until her retirement in 1971, after which she moved fulltime to Ridgefield. 
She was a voracious reader but in her last few years, became nearly blind. Nonetheless, she continued to play bridge with some of her many Ridgefield friends.
Dr. Worcester was also a woman of scholarship and a keen mind, and both of her two sons became leaders in academia. When he retired in 1999, the Rev. John Gurdon Brewster had been Episcopal chaplain at Cornell University for 34 years — a position he held longer than any other university Episcopal chaplain in the country. He is also a sculptor and his work is in many collections, including Union Theological Center and The Vatican.
Carroll Worcester Brewster, a Yale Law School graduate, was a dean at Dartmouth, and then president of Hollins College. He was later president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, his mother’s birthplace (she was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters there in 1983).  
In 1966, Carroll Brewster became a member of the Ridgefield Conservation Commission. He resigned in 1969 to pursue careers that included legal counsel to the government of Sudan, as well as college leadership. On his retirement, he returned to Ridgefield and rejoined the Conservation Commission in 2000 and is still serving today — a half century after he began the job.
Carroll Brewster lives on the family farm, whose development rights the family deeded to the town in 1996, preserving more than 100 acres in Farmingville. 

His daughter, Dina, resurrected The Hickories as an organic farm in the early 2000s, and continues to run the operation, now the largest and one of the last working farms in Ridgefield.

Abel Bahr: 
The Art of China
One of the 20th Century’s top experts on — and collectors of — ancient Chinese art spent his final years in Ridgefield.
Abel “Billy” Bahr’s vast collection, begun when he was a young man in Shanghai, is today distributed among some of the world’s finest museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which considered him and his daughter major benefactors.
Abel William Bahr was born in 1877 in Shanghai, a son of a German father and a Chinese mother. After receiving an education at a Catholic school in Shanghai, Bahr began his career as a clerk with a wholesale and retail coal merchant, and eventually established his own firm in 1898 at the age of 21.
“Bahr’s interest in Chinese art seems to have begun around 1905, when he began collecting porcelain from the Kangxi period (1662–1722),” says the Smithsonian Institution, whose Freer Gallery focuses on  Asian art and holds many of his papers. The idea of exhibiting art for the masses was virtually non-existent in China at the time, and in 1908 Bahr promoted the first exhibition of Chinese art in Shanghai, organized under the auspices of the Royal Asiatic Society. 
From 1910 until 1946, Bahr lived in England where he continued to amass a collection of  Chinese art, often making trips to China. One of his specialties was early jades, and his jade collection was acquired by the Field Museum of National History in 1928. (The privately printed, 51-page catalogue of the collection today can bring more than $2,000 on the rare book market.)
Bahr had both written and been the subject of books. He donated two of his favorites to the Ridgefield Library in the 1950s, but both — now worth thousands of dollars — are no longer in the library’s collection. One, “Early Chinese Painting from the A. W. Bahr Collection” (1938),  can fetch more than $1,000 at auction today. The other, his own “Old Chinese Porcelains and Works of Art in China” (1911) sells for as much as $2,500 today.
Bahr moved to Montreal in 1946 and then to Ridgefield in 1951 when he acquired “The Coach House” on Branchville Road opposite Ivy Hill Road.  There, amid his old Chinese art and artifacts, he enjoyed entertaining. 
“A gracious host, he insisted his male guests have a drink and advised them that scotch and water, not soda, was most healthful,” wrote Ridgefield Press publisher Karl S. Nash, who knew Bahr. “He offered them cigars and asked everyone to write a message in the guest book he maintained in the front hallway. He enjoyed talking about art, proper diet and his famous friends around the world, who called him ‘Billy.’ ”
Among the treasures in The Coach House were a magnificently carved, 10th Century wooden Buddha, a six-foot tall silk scroll, and Chinese Chippendale chairs from the 1700s.
Over the years Bahr donated or sold many of his pieces of art to museums including the Met, the Field, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, England, the Montreal Museum of Art, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. 
Bahr died in 1959 at the age of 81, and is buried in St. Mary Cemetery. 
Nash observed in his obituary: “He often minimized the importance of money and emphasized the pleasure he received from donating his art collection so that future generations could see and appreciate ancient Chinese culture.”
After his death, his daughter, Edna, gave many pieces of his remaining collection to various institutions in her father’s memory, particularly the Metropolitan Museum, which had made her a fellow in perpetuity, and the Ashmolean. A Ridgefielder from 1951 to 1962, she died in 1986 in England where she had lived most of her early life.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Lewis June: 
Circus’s Advance Brigade
Early in the morning of Aug. 29, 1877, during a powerful thunderstorm, a Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific railroad train was rolling along the tracks near Altoona, Iowa, on its way to Des Moines. The train pulled a mail car, three passenger cars, and a sleeper as well as a brand new Barnum and Bailey advertising car, used to promote the coming appearances of the circus. 
Aboard that car was Lewis June of Ridgefield, a circus executive, along with other circus employees.
As the train approached the swollen Four Mile Creek at around 30 mph, the engineer had no idea that the raging waters had washed out the bridge. The rails were still intact, but the stone trestle beneath them had collapsed.
The engine and all the cars, except the sleeper, plunged 20 feet down into the stream, whose channel was 20 feet deep. Eighteen people were killed, including seven aboard the Barnum and Bailey car, and an escapee from a mental asylum — the worst railway accident in central Iowa history.
It was a wild night for a man who had spent his life in wild world of circuses.
Like many other survivors, June helped rescue the injured and trapped. A New York Times account of the wreck described the scene:
“A horrific rain was falling in torrents, accompanied by wind, lightning, and thunder. The crash put out the lights, and the scene of terror which ensued may be imagined. 
“The men who were not injured, and could get out, went to work at once to rescue the living and wounded. They had to go a mile to a farm house to get axes to chop them out, but they worked heroically, and by daylight had most of the wounded rescued. 
“There were many pitiful scenes and tender incidents. One mother was killed while sitting between two children, who escaped unhurt. One little girl, who had lain in the water for four hours with a heavy man lying dead beneath her body, was discovered to be breathing, and was rescued and restored, and now shows no signs of injury.”
Oddly enough, June had supported the idea of using a special train car to promote the impending arrival of the circus, and this was the first car Barnum and Bailey had commissioned. Circus promotion was, in fact, June’s specialty during his four-decade career. 
Lewis B. June was born in 1824 in North Salem, N.Y. He entered the circus world in his early 20s, serving as a cage driver for VanAmburgh’s circus. By 1851, he had become a partner with Ridgefield native Aaron Turner in the June and Turner Circus. An advertising promotion for that circus, no doubt penned by June, read: “Newly Equipped and Greatly Enlarged for the Traveling Campaign of 1851. Upwards of 80 Men and Horses Are Employed. This Monster Establishment Presents a Rare Opportunity for Wholesale Amusement and Character. A Few Hours Thus Innocently Spent Inevitably Serves to Resuscitate the Unbiased Mind from the Cares and Anxieties of a Business Life.”
“And that,” said circus historian George S. Cole, “was before circus press agents.”
In the following years he became a part owner of Franconi’s Hippodrome in New York City, the Big Bonanza, and various other circuses until 1876 when he joined Barnum and Bailey. For a while in the 1870s, that circus was officially known as “P. T. Barnum's Greatest Show On Earth; P. T. Barnum, John J. Nathans, George F. Bailey and Lewis June, proprietors.”
With all of these circuses, his specialty was promotion and he was always in charge of the “advance brigade,” as one circus historian put it. 
June married a member of the Scott family of the Scotland District in town, and soon moved
his home there. His first house burned down and in 1865 he built a handsome Victorian that still stands today and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the few “Second Empire” style homes in town.
“Circus horses were wintered in the large barns on the June farm on North Salem Road as well as the farm next door,” reports historian Silvio A. Bedini. “Local legend reports that a bear and giraffes were also quartered here at various times.”
By the mid-1880s, June was retired and living off his investments. An article on former leaders of the circus world that appeared in The Providence (R.I.) Sunday Telegraph in 1885 says June “takes it easy at Ridgefield, Conn., with nothing else to do but cut the coupons off his bonds and he has to have the shears sharpened pretty often, too, at that.”

He died in 1888 at the age of 63 and is buried in the June Cemetery on June Road in North Salem. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hubert Main: 
Holy Music
Ridgefield has had a surprisingly noteworthy history in the world of religious music: It was childhood home of one of the world’s most prolific hymn writers, it was the adulthood home of a major hymn publisher, and it was the birthplace of a major hymn composer. Oddly enough, Fanny Crosby, Lucius H. Biglow and Hubert Main all knew each other.
Hubert Platt Main was born in Ridgefield in 1839. His father, Sylvester Main, was a music teacher who became a compiler of hymn books and eventually joined Lucius Biglow in the music publishing business. 
But Sylvester was also a childhood friend of Fanny Crosby, the blind author of more than 3,000 hymns, who grew up on Main Street. In fact, Crosby fondly recounted how Sylvester often protected her from the local bullies when she was a young girl.
Hubert displayed an early love of both music and independence. According to J.H. Hall in his book, “Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers,” Main had an amazing memory of his early childhood to as far back as 1842 when he was three years old. “He hasn’t forgotten a whipping received in that year for repeatedly running off from home at evenings to the band room, hiding under the benches and listening to the music.”
As a child, he would compose tunes by speaking “do, re, mi, fa...” for the notes. “If, when walking on the street, any air came to his mind, he would apply the syllables to it, and sing away,” Hall said.
As a young man, he moved to New York City where compiled books of music, was a choir leader and organist in churches, and eventually joined Biglow and Main, the music publishing company that his father had owned with Lucius Biglow. (Biglow moved to Ridgefield in the late 1880s, buying the estate that is now Ballard Park — donated to the town by his daughter, Elizabeth Biglow Ballard.)
Over his lifetime, Main composed more than 1,000 works, including “singing school pieces, Sunday-school songs, hymn tunes, gospel hymns, anthems, sheet music songs, love songs, quartets, and instrumental pieces,” Hall reports.
He composed the music for hundreds of popular hymns of the mid-to-late 19th century, among them “We Shall Meet Beyond the River,”  “Blessed Homeland,” and “The Bright Forever”— the words of the last two were written by Fanny Crosby.    
In the 1915 book, “Fanny Crosby’s Story of Ninety-Four Years,” she called Hubert Main “one of my most precious friends.” The book includes a picture of the two, seated together, called “Fast Friends.” 
Main also collected a huge library on music — he was “a veritable antiquarian in old music books,” said Hall. In 1891, he sold 35,000 volumes to the Newberry Library in Chicago, one of the world’s leading research libraries to this day.
Main was known not only for his independent thinking but for his sense of humor. “In regard to his religious proclivities,” Hall reports, “he was brought up a Methodist, joined the church in 1854 before he came to New York but he quaintly says that he is not outrageously pious, and could laugh at a funeral, even his own, if he saw anything comical, and he could just as easily shed tears at anything tender and pathetic.”
Hall added, “He is full of sunshine and good humor. He is immensely entertaining in his conversation, and one of  the best of companions. His letters to his friends are usually full of wit and humor. He remarks that he might be more dignified, but it would increase his doctor's bills.”

Main lived his later life in New Jersey where he died in 1925. He is buried there beneath a stone that says, “We shall meet beyond the river.” 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Howard Young: 
Art and Ike
One weekend in 1952, four men gathered to discuss a decision that was to affect the history of the nation and even the world.
The four were multimillionaire art dealer Howard Young, Hearst newspaper columnist Bob Considine, former Scripps-Howard columnist Frank Farrell, and the president of Columbia University, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower.
Eisenhower had been toying with the idea of running for president. At the meeting Farrell told the general that he thought the powerful Scripps-Howard newspaper chain would support him if he were the Republican candidate. 
That was enough to make Eisenhower decide to run for president. As Farrell explained later, “without Scripps-Howard support, he would not have ventured into politics.”
The place where the meeting took place was Howard Young’s country estate on lower Branchville Road in Ridgefield.
Young called Eisenhower his closest friend, and over the years the two spent countless hours together, not only in Ridgefield but at Young’s Wisconsin retreat where the two would hunt and fish together.
A number of notable people spent time at the Branchville Road home on the shore of Candee’s Pond, including one of the 20th Century’s most famous actresses. Young’s longtime secretary was his nephew, Frank Taylor, the father of Elizabeth Taylor. As the actress’s great-uncle, Young played host to her on a number of occasions.
Stephen Howard Young was born in Belle Center, Ohio, in 1878, a son of a highway construction supervisor. “His mother told him at the age of nine that Belle Center would never be big enough for his ambitions,” said columnist Farrell, a longtime friend of Young.
He left home at the age of 10, earning a living with a newspaper route and delivering laundry.  
By 15, he was working for the sales staff of a printing company that was using a new method of color lithography. Three years later, he had amassed a small fortune, some $400,000, which he promptly lost in the panic of 1896.
Still only a self-educated teenager (he read voraciously), Young started over by establishing his own business of creating custom portraits in oils, hiring artists to do the paintings. He would read obituary notices, obtain a photo of the deceased person, hire an artist to paint a portrait from the picture, and then convince the family to spend $2,000 on the painting.
That soon led him into the world of buying and selling the artworks of established, even famous painters. He opened his first gallery in St. Louis, Mo., when he was in his 20s. 
While delivering a Frederic Remington painting to a customer in Oklahoma, Young happened to be invited into a poker game with Harry Sinclair, head of Sinclair Oil, and Frank Phillips, who founded Phillips Petroleum. It was the early days of the automobile, and the two oilmen encouraged him to invest in oil. He did so and eventually gained considerable wealth and with it, the ability to expand and improve his business. 
Sinclair also told Young he should move his art business to New York City, even offering financial assistance with the move. Young opened on Fifth Avenue and eventually became what The New York Times called “one of the world’s wealthiest art dealers.”
Over the years Young bought and sold some of the most valuable pieces of art to come on the market, including works worth more than $1 million. 
“His proudest single achievement was his discovery of ‘The Lost El Greco,’ titled ‘Christ Healing the Blind,’” Farrell wrote. Young found the picture, then attributed to Tintoretto, on sale at Christie's in London. He bought it for a customer for £37,000 (about $745,000 in today’s dollars), and had it authenticated in the Prado as the original ‘Lost El Greco.” The painting now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Young admitted making two major mistakes during his career. One was selling IBM stock that would have been worth millions of dollars had he held onto it. The other occurred in the 1930s when he bought a Van Gogh in Rotterdam for $5,000 and soon sold it for $10,000 ($174,000 in today’s dollars). While he doubled his investment, the same painting sold three decades later at a Parke-Bernet auction for $850,000 ($5.2 million today).
Young enjoyed vacationing at Minocqua, near Woodruff and Lakeland, in the north woods of Wisconsin. There, Eisenhower — and sometimes the president’s brothers — would visit to enjoy the woods and lakes; Eisenhower especially liked to swim in a lake on Young’s property.
After learning of his victory at his headquarters on election night in 1952, Eisenhower turned to Young and asked him where he would like to be ambassador. Young reportedly replied: “In Minocqua, Woodruff and Boulder Junction.”
After Eisenhower had his famous heart attack in 1955, Young built an electric tramway — a small funicular railway — down a steep hill from his home to the lake. “Its car carried Eisenhower for his daily swims that he loved so well,” The Lakeland Times reported. “Without it, Ike could not have negotiated the steep hill.”
Young had been a patient of a local Lakeland physician and once promised the doctor to donate to the Lakeland Memorial Hospital. After Young’s death in 1972 at the age of 94, it was discovered that he had more than kept his promise: He left some $20-million (more than $115 million in 2015 dollars) in a trust to build a new hospital. In 1977, the Howard Young Medical Center opened its doors in Woodruff.