Rose and Hobart Chatfield-Taylor
By Megan McKinney
Charles and Mary Farwell’s youngest daughter, Rose, was, like her sisters, a recognized beauty, an attribute not well represented in the above image by the English painter John Elliott. She was also painted twice in the early 1890s by Swiss artist Adolfo Müller-Ury; however, both canvases, which were exhibited in Knoedler Gallery in New York, are missing today.
Rose was also widely known and valued for characteristics other than her appearance, some of which were athletic. She was an accomplished horsewoman and owner of a thoroughbred racer; she played an excellent game of lawn tennis; and she made golf a fashionable sport for women.
In 1890, when Rose was 20, she married the intriguing Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, author, journalist, diplomat, horseman, golfing pioneer, prominent club founder and supremely self-confident social arbiter.
Hobart, who received his preparatory education in Europe and at Trinity School in Tivoli, New York, was a Cornell graduate. Raised partly on the genteel, languid West Side, he was able to savor the charming attributes of the district—its large houses with wide porches, surrounded by shady gardens in an area where the cooking and hospitality were Southern and its lively dancing parties featured reels and cotillions.
Hobart’s family name was Taylor; however, his mother’s childless brother, the courtly and immensely rich Wayne Chatfield of Cincinnati, made the boy his heir in exchange for adopting his name. Hobart later wrote of his uncle, “Never have I known his equal either in courtesy or thoughtfulness, or in kindness of heart without ostentation.”
It was a legal agreement as notable and mutually rewarding as another Chicago-linked adoption of a male relative many years later, when William Wood became William Wood-Prince through his adoption by Frederick H. Prince.
For several decades, there was not a Chicago social or arts-related event in which Hobart was not a central figure. He was co-founder of the weekly political review America in 1888 and was a catalyst in the start of Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine in 1912. He was also a special correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, and, in the early 20th century, he founded the Society of Midland Authors with fellow members of the Cliff Dwellers Club and was its first president. Among SMA members were Edna Ferber, Clarence Darrow, Vachel Lindsay, Jane Addams, Carl Sandburg, Lorado Taft and William Allen White.
In addition to writing a number of successful novels and contributing to principal national magazines, Hobart was an expert on the French and Italian drama of the 17th century, subjects in which he lectured at leading universities and colleges. Additionally, he wrote major biographies of Molière and Goldoni, Molière’s Italian equivalent. And his foreign honors included decorations from England, France, Spain, Portugal and Venezuela.
That he was one of the very few younger men within the inner circle of the icy Marshall Field and was said to be a Ward McAllister to the lofty Mrs. Potter Palmer—who did not need a social adviser but treasured Hobart’s company—speaks for his charm and self-possession.
He was also central to the Chicago coaching set, having been raised to know fine horses by his father and uncle. In his own estimation, Hobart had, in 1889, one of the five finest coaches in Chicago, which he described as “a yellow-wheeled Kimball drag drawn by a team of golden chestnuts.” Others among the five were Hall McCormick and Potter Palmer.
Hobart led an eventful life, but Washington Park on Derby Day held a special spot on his calendar, as it did for many Chicagoans.
When a distinguished event was to be staged, Hobart was the man to take charge as he did of the grand ball in 1900 to honor Admiral George Dewey, hero of the Battle of Manila Bay. And it was in his role as Chicago’s consul of Spain at the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition that Hobart became central to one of the great causes célèbres of the Fair. He was assigned to escort the difficult Infanta Eulalia of Spain, who was a special guest at the Exposition. After accompanying Her Royal Highness on incognito visits to the Fair, so that she might see the exhibits as others did, he gained her trust and confidence.
As has often been told, one of the great social events of the 1893 season was to be the reception Bertha Palmer was hosting in the Infanta’s honor at her magnificent Lake Shore Drive castle. All of fashionable Chicago and the crème of visiting dignitaries had been invited; in addition, a crowd stood in the rain outside the Palmer mansion to watch the Infanta and other guests enter.
The ill-mannered Infanta Eulalia of Spain.
Shortly before the reception, Eulalia, who had been installed in a luxurious suite in the Palmer House, noted the similarity between the name of the hotel and that of her hostess. “An innkeeper’s wife!” she shrieked and refused to go to the reception. But how many who have heard this tale are aware that it was only with the deftest cajoling on Hobart’s part that the ill-mannered woman attended the reception at all, arriving late, leaving early and behaving rudely during the time she was there. As is also often repeated, Mrs. Palmer’s unfailing courtesy throughout and her refusal to comment on the incident increased the esteem in which all held “the innkeeper’s wife.”
Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, another view.
In addition to the requisite social clubs to which a gentleman of his standing belonged, and a few more raffish arts-related organizations, Hobart belonged to the infamous Whitechapel Club, which met in a back room of Kosters’, a saloon at the corner of LaSalle Street and Calhoun Place. Calhoun Place was then known as Newsboy Alley, with offices of three Chicago newspapers backing onto it, and, therefore, a natural haunt for newspaper writers and editors who slipped away from their desks for a quick nip periodically during the day and returned for more serious drinking after work.
The Whitechapel Club.
Across the Atlantic, Jack the Ripper was at large, stalking, murdering and mutilating young women in Whitechapel, a London slum district, inspiring both the name of the club and its décor. A coffin served as a table, lamps were fashioned from skulls, and scattered here and there were trophies from famous murders. Club membership, limited to 51 but never more than 40 despite a long waiting list, was primarily of newspapermen, including columnist George Ade and political cartoonist John T. McCutcheon. Among guests who visited the club were Theodore Roosevelt, then governor of New York, Governor William McKinley of Ohio, poet James Whitcomb Riley and Rudyard Kipling, who later wrote, “Having seen [Chicago], I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages.” It may be that Mr. Kipling formed his opinion of Chicagoans from his visit to the Whitechapel Club.
Among the Whitechapel’s notably successful writers was reporter and novelist Frederick Upham “Grizzly” Adams, who was the club’s first treasurer, a job he reported “was a sinecure, for the club never had any money.” Partially because of this, it was necessary for Whitechapel members to be ingenious in raising funds, including a scheme to which Hobart was central. One year, when the club treasury was particularly low, they put a compliant Hobart up for mayor of Chicago and collected $900 in campaign funds, which they used to clear arrears.
Both Hobart and Rose were also members of the Little Room, a group of artists, musicians and writers who met for tea and fellowship on Friday afternoons following the Symphony. Initially, the group had no fixed location for meetings, therefore, they borrowed its name from a short story by a member, Madeline Yale Wynne, about a mysterious room that would magically vanish and then reappear when kindred spirits gathered together.
Chicago’s fabled Fine Arts Building is today inhabited by many legendary ghosts, including those of Little Room fellows.
After meeting for a time in various locations, members finally settled in Michigan Avenue’s Fine Arts Building in the airy two-story studio of Ralph Clarkson. It was an ideal location, for both Chatfield-Taylors and many of their friends kept Fine Arts Building studios. Hobart wrote in his space, and, in hers, Rose bound fine books, utilizing a craft she had learned during a year’s study in Paris.
After Charles Farwell died in 1903, Rose, Hobart and their children lived at his Lake Forest estate, Fairlawn, and spent a portion of the year at their house in Santa Barbara, the California outpost popular with wealthy Chicagoans. Their eldest child, Adelaide, had been born while the couple was visiting London in 1891—presumably on an extended honeymoon.
Adelaide Chatfield-Taylor, with her cousin, Farwell Winston, son of Grace Farwell’s first marriage.
Adelaide was followed by Wayne two years later, Otis in 1900, and Robert in 1908. An athlete like his parents, Wayne was a member of the Yale football team of 1915. He would also be notable while an undersecretary, twice, in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet. And Robert, as second husband of Depression era super-debutante Brenda Frazier.
When the influenza epidemic of 1918 hit Santa Barbara along with much of the rest of the world, killing some 70 million people, 48-year-old Rose was stricken. She died suddenly, shattering the Farwell-Chatfield-Taylor idyll.
Following her death, Hobart decided to make Santa Barbara his full-time home and donated his library of French and Italian literature to Lake Forest College. In 1920, he married Estelle Barbour Stillman, a widow.
The Farwells of Lake Forest, Megan McKinney’s series of articles on this remarkable dynasty, will conclude in Classic Chicago next Sunday with an account of the Chatfield-Taylors’ role in bringing golf to America and Hobart’s founding of Onwentsia Club.
Robert F. Carl