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  • Writer's pictureKathy Troxler

Women's History Month-Mary Harriman Rumsey

In 1910 the New York Times published an announcement of the engagement of Mary Harriman and Charles Rumsey. Below is a transcript of that article published May 10th, 1910.

May, 1910


Engagement of Charles Cary Rumsey and Miss Mary Harriman

Adds to the Interest of the Work That the Former is Doing in Art

Mary Harriman from NYT May 8 1910

New York Society is still talking of the engagement of Miss Mary Harriman, the eldest daughter of the late E. H. Harriman, to Charles Cary Rumsey, a sculptor of Buffalo. It is not nine days since the announcement was made and later confirmed by Mrs. Harriman, so the wonder is still fresh.

“Not that there is anything remarkable about the engagement, save that it was unexpected. Up to the day when the betrothal was given to the public it was confidently expressed on all sides that Miss Harriman was likely to marry another person altogether, and until the fact that Mr. Rumsey was the man was revealed little seems to have been known about the sculptor and his work—at least among those who were not of the inner circle of Miss Harriman’s acquaintances.

In a case like the present, where a man about whom little has been heard becomes engages to a girl whose inheritance will probably run into eight figures, the public generally looks for a romance. When the particular man is a sculptor it seems certain that there should be a romance.

The romance of the engagement of Miss Harriman and Charles Cary Rumsey is of a very different order to that which might have been expected. Mr. Rumsey is not poor. Neither is he unknown in social and art circles. The romance is connected only with his own work as a sculptor.

In his own particular field Charles Cary Rumsey has done some highly commendable work, although none of it has been of a sort that has appealed to popular enthusiasm. His associates around the studios in East Fifty-Ninth Street, where he lived, speak of him, personally, as a quiet man, of a poetic temperament, aesthetic in taste, and inclined to a certain introspectiveness which might almost be construed into aloofnesss.

He is a son of Laurenzo D. Rumsey of Buffalo, who made a large fortune in the tanning and railroad business. It is from his mothers’ side, however, that the young man acquired his temperament. Mrs. Rumsey was a sister of Seward Cary, a well-known sculptor.

It was in 1902 that Charles Cary Rumsey, then about 23 years of age was graduated from Harvard and began his art studies. He spent some time with the Boston Art School, then went to Paris, where he studied at the Beaux Arts. His principal work is in bronze with a decided penchant for equestrian figures. He is an ardent horseman and moves in a set among whom coaching and hunting are popular. The first work of his which was exhibited publicly was a bronze statue of an Indian at the Pan-American Exhibition at Buffalo. Encouraged by the approval which this statue met he later exhibited some of his other works in bronze.

Charles Cary Rumsey on polo horse

Since that time he has been kept busy modeling bronze statues, of horses mainly , for prominent society people. Among other works of his is a statue of “The Friar” with W. A. Wadsworth in the saddle. For H. P. Whitney he made statues of Hamburg and Burgomaster. The horse known as Good And Plenty was modeled for Thomas Hitchcock, Jr., and August Belmont commissioned him to make a statue in bronze of his horse, Rock Sand. As has already been mentioned in the newspapers, he recently received from John E Madden an order for a model of the horse Nancy Hanks. This statue, when finished, will be erected as a monument to racehorses in the grave-yard of many famous trotters and runners at Lexington, Kentucky.

His love for equine and equestrian groups in his sculpture is only the over-flow of a love for outdoor exercise which brought him in contact with the wealthy girl whom he is to marry. About four years ago he made Miss Harriman’s acquaintance at the Meadow Brook Club. Previously he had seen her while hunting with the Genesee pack.

The intimacy ripened through the mutual love of Miss Harriman and Mr. Rumsey for sport, especially horsemanship. They were presently to be seen together riding in Central Park. That which brought the two almost constantly together was when Mr. Rumsey was commissioned by the late E. H. Harriman to design a fountain for the garden of the mansion house at Arden, the Harriman estate near Tuxedo.

Such romance, in the story-book sense, as may surround the courtship which has just culminated in an engagement, may be said to centre in the figure which Mr. Rumsey designed for the fountain. To those who know the sculptor this figure is the spirit of the open air wrought in the artist’s best manner.

The fountain is surrounded by a Greek figure of Pan. Pan is shown, not as a hairy creature with hoofs, but as a slender, languid, day-dreaming youth, with the freedom of the open in his face and pose. Around his knees a leopard raises its head in affectionate grace, while Pan holds up in outstretched playful arms—a turtle.

After the completion of this figure Mr. Rumsey was engaged in other work upon the Arden house, and during idle hours he is said to have ridden a good deal in company with Miss Harriman. When he returned to New York, Miss Harriman, who had always admired Rumsey’s sculptural work in horses, decided to have a bas relief made of herself mounted upon her favorite horse.

This work—a plaque about 8 feet high and wide—which few have see and which is not yet finished, is said to be, if not exactly Mr. Rumsey’s masterpiece, at least a highly commendable piece of work, into which the sculptor has, naturally enough under the circumstances, thrown a great deal of spirit.

The posing for this work, in which Miss Harriman is depicted with her horse, has taken quite a number of sittings, and it is said that during Miss Harriman’s visits to the studio, accompanied by her friend, Miss Dorothy Whitney, daughter of William C. Whitney, the acquaintance formed in and around the “forest of Arden” ripened into the present engagement.

An interesting phase of the event, and one which is still being discussed in society circles, is the surprise which the engagement occasioned even among those who were supposed to be well informed. For several years it was supposed a certainty that Miss Harriman would marry Robert Walton Goelet, one of the richest land owners in this city. The rumor was natural because Mr. Goelet was largely interested with the late E. H. Harriman in his railroad operations and accompanied the financier in most of his trips through the South and West. In several of these trips Mr. Harriman was also accompanied by his daughter, in whom he placed great trust as a young woman of business and acumen.

Miss Mary Harriman is one of the most admirable young women in New York Society. She is particularly free from the foibles that are popularly attributed to daughters of the rich. It is said that when she made her debut over six years ago she showed considerable indifference to that which is usually a great event in a young society woman’s life and presently developed even an aversion to the doing of the “Four Hundred”.

From her mother, who was Mary Averill of Rochester, she seems to have inherited a strong domestic tendency, together with a keen practical instinct acquired from her father. Fond of outdoor life, the only society pleasure in which she takes a keen interest is the hunt and other doings of country clubs. She is a member of the Meadow Brook, at which she met Mr. Rumsey, and of the Genesee Valley Hunt.

While in town she is to be seen frequently riding in Central Park. When in the country her greatest delight is in the practical management of the great Arden estate. After her father’s death she took complete charge of Arden, and has proved herself to have been an apt pupil of E. H. Harriman, who trained her in the successful handling of affairs, not only agricultural, but financial as well.

A great portion of the estate has, since Mr. Harriman’s death, been presented to the State to be converted into a beautiful park. But Miss Mary Harriman is still the overseer of the big farm, which the family will retain. There are over 8,000 acres under grain cultivation. The experienced farmers who have charge of the various sections of wheat, rye and corn are under the personal supervision of Miss Harriman, who is making the farm pay as it never did before. This Spring it is said that she is putting an extra thousand acres under cultivation.

Miss Harriman is also Superintendent of the Arden Farms Dairy Company, which was capitalized at $100,000, and is now paying dividends. In connection with this dairy company there are nearly 400 registered cows, from which milk and butter are daily marketed in New York City.

In other ways Miss Mary Harriman is a very capable young woman. Her horsemanship attracted the attention soon after her entry into the social whirl of Tuxedo, where she seldom failed to win a blue ribbon for her mount. At Southampton, L.I., where the Harrimans used to spend their Summers, she invariably carried off the honors in the hunt and in riding contests. As a member of the Orange Hunt Club, too, she was rated one of the best woman whips in the country. Prior to her father’s death she was to be seen every Spring tooling four horses in a regular run to Arrowhead Inn or Washington Heights. She is a member of the Ladies’ Coaching Club.

Her love of the outdoor, and the athletic spirit which usually goes with it was very evident when she accompanied her late father on his Western trips. She never missed a chance of seeing a bronco-busting contest among the cowboys, and she herself showed considerable prowess in rough-and-tumble equestrian feats.

Her quiet charities, however, are what have endeared her to such of the public as know anything about her private life. As a member of the Junior Hunt Club she, with a following of young society women, did a great deal toward improving the condition of the poor.

One of her charities was the purchase and presentation of an old Brooklyn ferry boat to be moored in the river and used as an open-air sanitarium for consumptive children. Another charity in which she has been active recently is the introduction of dental clinics throughout the east side, a movement based upon a comparatively recent assertion that much of ill-health is caused by poor teeth.

Mary Harriman Rumsey


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