Monday, September 4, 2017

The Incarnations of Pauline...Vandervoort Steese Dresser Rogers Hoving

"It matters not one iota what political party is in power or what President holds the reins of office. We are not politicians or public thinkers; we are the rich; we own America; we got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it if we can by throwing all the tremendous weight of our support, our influence, our money, our political connections, our purchased Senators, our hungry Congressmen, our public-speaking demagogues into the scale against any legislature, any political platform, any presidential campaign that threatens the integrity of our estate." Frederick Townsend Martin, The Passing of the Idle Rich (1911), p. 149.[1]

How Poppy Bush Became Controlled by Exxon: Follow the Dresser Money 

by Linda Minor

Dresser ad began running in 1888
Solomon Robert Dresser had a creative, inventive mind, and he was a hard worker, to boot. When he encountered a problem in his business, he set out create a solution. As a result, he became the owner of numerous patents he either designed himself, or paid others to design, for pipe coupling devices which prevented natural gas from leaking from the joined sections of pipelines.

The Dresser company really took off in 1878, when Solomon located his family in Bradford, Pennsylvania, in the state's northwest corner. While he worked, his wife (formerly Vesta Simpson) had given birth to children, only two of whom lived to adulthood--Ione (1870) and Robert Alexis (1877) Dresser. Vesta died of tuberculosis in 1883, but Solomon remarried two years later, and the new wife (Caroline Kirsch) gave him two more sons--Carl Kirsch and S. Richard Dresser.

In 1906, after Solomon had served two terms in Congress, it was reported that he had decided to build a large factory in Bradford, Pennsylvania to mass-produce his most common coupling devices. Having worked too hard, it was said, he became ill around 1907 and died after four years of illness. Robert Dresser married Olive Brady in 1900 and later worked for the Boy Scouts of America organization in Bradford, having little interest in his father's passion.

Solomon Dresser's mansion in Bradford sat atop a rise--at 149 Jackson Avenue--and was not far from his Boylston Avenue office, where the Medical Plaza in Bradford sits today. The factory was situated across town. Caroline, Carl and Richard had lived in the gigantic residence, but by 1911, when Solomon died, Carl Dresser was away at Princeton while Richard was in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, at the Hill School. Carl graduated from Princeton in 1912 and was followed there by Richard two years later.

When Caroline died in November 1916, she was stopping in New York City, with plans of visiting Richard in Trenton to take in Princeton's football game against Yale. Five months earlier, Carl had taken his mother and Richard, by then a junior at Princeton, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was accompanied by his new lady friend, Pauline Steese, divorced since March of that year.

The mansion would remain a relic of Bradford history for many years thereafter. Richard would bring his family there to live, and after his death his widow, who died in 1956, bequeathed it to the Presbyterian church, which made it into a home for the aged. Ione Dresser's husband, Fred A. Miller, worked for the Dresser company all his life, even after the company was sold to W.A. Harriman & Co.

Carl Dresser's Wife, Pauline: Her Many Husbands

Pauline Steese Dresser, 1920
Pauline's father was Charles Ransom Vandervoort of Jamestown, New York, who left his family home at Tonawanda, New York, in 1882 to work in Jamestown, New York, at a large textile mill called Broadhead Worsted Mills. In 1907 Pauline's brother, Sherman B. Vandervoort, went into business for himself manufacturing cement blocks, which he later expanded into coal delivery, taking his father into the company. Sherman's wife was the daughter of a Bradford, Pennsylvania, physician and maintained contacts by joining a Bradford social club through which they knew the Dresser family. Carl, like Sherman, was an avid sportsman.

Pauline's first marriage in 1908 was to Charles J. Steese, Jr., assistant cashier at First National Bank of Massillon, Ohio, where his father was the bank president. Pauline had divorced him in the spring of 1916, a few months before she accompanied Caroline and Carl Dresser to Atlantic City the following June.[2]

Pauline's marriage to Carl Dresser was announced in the "summer resort" section of the Pittsburgh Press on August 13, 1916. Although Carl was secretary of the S.R. Dresser Manufacturing Co., his main focus was finding new supplies of oil and gas, through his own company, Dresser Gas Company, which had drilled for natural gas in 1896, built a pipeline to distribute its gas to customers in northeastern Ohio. He first met Pauline, while she was playing society wife to her banker husband of Massillon, Ohio.

By the time Carl and Pauline married in 1916, however, he was president of the Malta & McConnellsville Gas Co. in Malta, Ohio, having succeeded to the company after his father's death in 1911 and his own graduation from Princeton. Steese's parental rights were terminated, apparently with his consent, and both of Pauline's sons, Charles and Bradley Steese, were adopted by Carl. The family moved into the mansion with Carl's mother until Caroline's death that November.

Thede Barnsdall
T. N. "Thede" Barnsdall, who had worked in Bradford before following the oil discoveries in Oklahoma, proposed Carl for membership in the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers. His father had started Thede as an oilman in Bradford, Carl Dresser's hometown, and he eventually acquired over a million acres of oil lands in the Osage Indian reservation in Oklahoma upon his death in 1917. Those acres were found to actually end up in control of Standard Oil of New Jersey, which had given Barnsdall a loan of several million dollars, according to an investigation made by the U. S. Senate in 1917. Newspapers had been reporting that fact since 1908.

By 1918 Carl Dresser was talking of moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he hoped to expand his oil and gas business. He acquired a residence in Tulsa, where Pauline is said to have set up a "salon" to entertain other wives of wealthy oilmen in that location.

Mr. & Mrs. C.B. Wrightsman
At the Tulsa County Club in June 1922 Carl and Pauline Dresser hosted a tea dance in honor of the wedding of Charles B. Wrightsman to his bride, Irene Dill Stafford of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Irene was born into a Catholic working class family, the daughter of Thomas A. Stafford who in 1925 managed a clothing store and lived in a rented residence. Irene's mother died before 1940, her father had remarried, and at age 70 was still selling retail clothing and still living in rented accommodations at 96 S. Main Street.

Casino St. John's baths
It was sometimes claimed that Irene Wrightsman had been a debutante who had wintered in Miami Beach, Florida, but the truth was much different. She had first gone to Florida because her sister Kathryn, who married Thomas McHale in 1918, was there with her husband. Thomas enlisted in the Navy aviation division when the United States entered WWI. Kathryn, a dance teacher in Pennsylvania, worked as a "dancing hostess" at the Casino St. John in Miami Beach while her husband was stationed at the Miami Naval Air Station.
Collins' Pool Older than Beach" - 166th in a series on early Miami by HOWARD KLEINBERG
More than a year before the City of Miami Beach was incorporated in 1915, pioneer developer John Collins and his son-in-law, Thomas J. Pancoast, created a tourist attraction at what is now Collins Avenue between 22nd and 23rd streets. It was given no particular name, people just called it the pavilion, but it became better known through the years as the Miami Beach Casino and Roman Pools. In its lifetime, the casino and pools had a considerable number of owners and names. Among them were the Collins Casino, Miami Beach Casino, Casino St. John's, Roman Pools, Everglades Cabana Club and its last name, the Riviera Cabana Club. Collins opened his swimming pool on Jan. 11, 1914, at a time when Miami Beach had not yet settled upon the name “Miami Beach.”
Social life based on wealth
J.N. Lummus, who owned the property on the southern portion of the beach, called the land Ocean Beach. Carl Fisher called his properties Alton Beach, and Collins used Miami Beach as a name. Fisher bought the facility from Collins in 1917 and, according to “Billion Dollar Sandbar," Polly Redford's 1970 biography of Miami Beach, added "$350,000 worth of improvements to the bathing pavilion that the Collins family had built of driftwood three years earlier. With a second pool and a Dutch windmill to pump in seawater, a restaurant, ballroom, and shopping arcade topped with rococo towers, the old Collins pavilion was transformed into the "Roman pools."
From that point on, the place took on a more social air. It was fashionable to be seen at the Roman Pools and Casino. Leading swimmers appeared there regularly, and visitors dined in an elaborate setting or danced the night away in the main ballroom. By 1925, the casino and pools had moved into the hands of N.B.T. Roney, who was about to build a magnificent hotel on the northern side of the pools-- calling it the Roney Plaza.
At about the same time Irene Stafford met Wrightsman, possibly at the large swimming pool on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, developers began turning the pool into the town of Palm Beach, and wealthy New Yorkers who had introduced polo to C.B. began building polo fields about 20 miles to the north of the new resort, which were to become the town of Gulf Stream:
Starting in 1922, Bessemer Properties, a real estate venture controlled by the family of Henry Phipps, Jr. (co-founder with Andrew Carnegie of the company that became U.S. Steel) began to accumulate parcels of land on both sides of the intracoastal canal for future development. Friends and business associates of the Phipps family in Palm Beach saw the roughly 500 virgin acres of property as an ideal location for a golf course and polo fields, surrounded by seasonal residences.
Charles J. Wrightsman of Oklahoma

Charles B.'s father, C. J. Wrightsman, had been born in Ohio but got into the oil business in Pawnee, Oklahoma, before his son was born there in 1895. C.J. was a lawyer, leasing lands of members of the Osage Indian Reservation tribe. At first his family lived in the tiny community south of a bend of the Arkansas River, on the west side of the Indian lands, but by 1910 had moved to Tulsa.

Somewhat more prosperous now, C.J. added two live-in yardmen to a household that also included a Swedish house maid. Tulsa was fifty miles away, now on the southeast side of the Osage Reservation, north of another bend of the Arkansas River. Today the United Way building sits where their home on Boulder once stood. There were no tall buildings in 1910, such as the Boulder Towers which Skelly oil built in 1959 across from where their house sat.

In 1915 C.J. set up Wrightsman Oil company, a Delaware corporation, which he located at the top floor of the then-new Kennedy Building, 321 S. Boston Avenue in Tulsa. Wrightsman sold most of his oil leases to Harry F. Sinclair:
Early in his career, Sinclair attracted the attention of wealthy speculators like Chicago meatpacker J.M. Cudahy, Pittsburgh capitalist Theodore Barnsdall, and James F. O’Neill, president of Prairie Oil Company, a subsidiary of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Kansas. Unlike his backers, Sinclair came from humble beginnings.
Exeter Academy and the Dekes

C.J.'s only son, Charles B. Wrightsman, was away at school during this time--first at Phillips Exeter prep (class of 1914) then pre-law at Stanford University in California, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (ΔKE) during 1915. From there he went on to Columbia University in New York, where he became interested in becoming a pilot in 1917, as America began revving up to enter WWI.

As a resident member of the Aero Club of America, at Madison Avenue at 41st Street in Manhattan, C.B. served on the Central Committee which funded the Liberty Loan. He was also an ensign in the Naval Militia of New York, and thus came into contact with men from the East Coast and Ivy League schools involved in the Aerial Coast Patrol. F. Trubee Davison, Henry P. Davison and Robert A. Lovett were three of the twelve who constituted the "First Yale Unit." After training all summer at Peacock Point and Port Washington on Long Island, they returned to New Haven in the fall and organized the Yale Aero Club.

The first new training base to open was at Bay Shore, Long Island, which was headed by Albert Cushing Read, with help from his chief aide, C.B. Wrightsman.

As cold weather approached, Lewis Rodman Wanamaker, son of John Wanamaker and brother of the late Thomas B. Wanamaker, allowed them to use the property at West Palm Beach, where he was building a new flying boat, and airplanes were also supplied by Henry Woodhouse through the Aero Club of America. As more airplanes were donated, the size of the group increased. William A. "Bill"
Rockefeller and Samuel Sloan Walker were among the 18 new recruits in early 1917, and the pilots of Unit #1 were sworn into the Naval Reserve Flying Corps on March 24, 1917.

The unit which trained C. B. Wrightsman, Columbia's Aerial Coast Patrol #4, was engaged in a balloon training camp with St. Louis millionaire Albert Bond Lambert--the St. Louis Lambert family profiled in Part IV of our series here on George Bush 41's grandfather Bert Walker. There were other ACP units as well, including one in Dayton, Ohio, of which Harold E. Talbott, Jr., whose father was president of the Dayton-Wright company, was part.

After his Naval Aviation service during the war, C.B. went abroad to Roumania and Russia, to "make investigations of petroleum markets and production" for his father's company. We must assume he also reported back to the appropriate government officials at the time. President Woodrow Wilson had been re-elected in 1916, and his head of the War Council of the Red Cross, banker Henry P. Davison, was father of two of the young men who instigated the group of college men with which C.B. trained. F. Trubee Davison in 1951 would be named director of personnel for the newly established Central Intelligence Agency, leaving us to wonder if he had not been involved in the agency from its first days.

C.B. Wrightsman, poloist
Intriguingly, Wrightsman claimed that he first saw polo played in 1921 at the Westchester Cup. That event took place at Meadow Brook, the polo fields closest to Bert Walker's Long Island residence, and all the players lived nearby. More than a decade after watching his first polo match, Wrightsman was still an avid polo enthusiast, frequenting clubs such as Gulf Stream in Florida, developed by, among others, the Phipps brothers and Stewart Ighlehart, close neighbors of George Herbert (Bert) Walker in Old Westbury, Long Island.

Gulf Stream polo fields
The Wrightsmans in 1935 gave their address as Wheatley Hills in Old Westbury, the same address used, not only by the Walker family, but also by Cornelius Vanderbilt "Sonny" Whitney, frequent polo teammate of Tommy Hitchcock, Jr. In 1939 Wrightsman would still be playing with his team known as the Texas Rangers, against Hitchcock's team. Sonny Whitney was not only an heir to his mother's Vanderbilt fortune, he was also a pilot who ran an airline company, and he was heir to a fortune from his father, Harry Payne Whitney, from whom Bert Walker and Averell Harriman acquired the first horses with which they set up a partnership known as Log Cabin Stud based in Wheatley Hills, Old Westbury.

Palm Beach polo
The Phipps land in Florida was purchased by Henry Phipps in 1912, when he paid $90,000 for one-thousand feet of vacant oceanfront land located on Palm Beach’s North End, but the family eventually amassed 25 miles of ocean-front property, and they "financed the Miami International Airport, the Venetian Causeway and the University of Miami, as well as developed the Miami Shores and Bay Point subdivisions. Their portfolio included the two miles of oceanfront that became the Town of Gulf Stream." In 1923 they built the Gulf Stream Golf Club. Before that, however, they had constructed the polo grounds next to the Everglades Club.

Polo near Meadow Brook
Within this circle of millionaire sportsman, George Herbert Walker had insinuated himself. We do not know the exact location of the residence he acquired in the early 1920 at Wheatley Hills, Old Westbury, but we do know it was surrounded by polo fields and golf courses, not to mention fellow horse breeders.

The sale to W.A. Harriman & Co.

Carl Dresser's marriage to Pauline became a casualty of divorce in 1927, the year after he sold his father's company to W. A. Harriman & Co., whose president was G. H. "Bert" Walker. Pauline appealed the Oklahoma decree regarding alimony, alleging fraud by Carl in his monetary evaluation of his Dresser Manufacturing Co. stock. The court's opinion ruled against her, stating the facts as follows:
They were married in 1916, he being 25 years old, the son of wealthy parents, and worth over $1,000,000, among his assets being some Dresser Manufacturing Company stock upon which this litigation principally turns. That was a close corporation, and the stock was held in the family. She was 26 years of age, but in both marital and financial experience was much older than he, having been married and divorced, then facing the world with one child six years, and one three years, of age, with a total financial worth, according to her own testimony, of about $15,000, principally the proceeds, over attorney's fees, of $23,000 alimony. He owned a gas company and a torpedo company, but later sold them. About two years after marriage they moved to Tulsa, Okla., and he was reported in 1919 and 1920 as worth $2,000,000, largely speculative, paper value of oil leases, although he did have considerable production. In 1919 and 1920 and subsequently he spent about $750,000 in drilling many dry wildcat wells, but much of that was paid from production, of which he once had considerable, and much was met from the proceeds of the sale of leases around the drilling sites. That did not put him on the verge of bankruptcy and in the terribly embarrassing condition existing at the time of the divorce. That condition was due to expenditures for living expenses, which ran about $100,000 a year, and which she refused to appreciably reduce. His stock in the Dresser Manufacturing Company in 1925 and 1926 paid about $60,000 in dividends each year, and in 1927 about $70,000.
The opinion seemed to conclude that the divorce had stemmed from Pauline's desire for a living standard exceeding their means, which caused Carl's inability to pay debts. Part of the difficulty, the court concluded, was that the manufacturing company was not a public corporation and had no market for its shares. It was for that reason, we have been told by Darwin Payne, in his book Initiatives in Energy, that Carl sought out the W.A. Harriman & Co. investment bank. Additional facts are given in the same opinion:
The Harriman deal came about because Mr. Atkins [bookkeeper for S. R. Dresser Manufacturing Co., called as a witness by Pauline] knew Mr. [Alexander O.] Cushny of that concern and sold him the idea of getting control. Carl Dresser was in debt and had to have money, and at first W. A. Harriman & Co. loaned him $225,000, out of which Mr. Atkins got a commission of $15,000. Later he borrowed $15,000. And in closing up the deal they paid $17,000 on his debts, paid $30,000 to his [Carl's] second wife [Gloria Jack], whom he married December 13, 1927, about eight months after the divorce, and issued the balance, $555,000 of paper price to her in class A stock, 12,000 shares at $46.25 each. Also, in the original agreement they agreed to loan him up to $400 a share on up to 500 more shares, evidently to permit him to try to get the stock from his brother [Richard], in which he was unsuccessful. Also, they took an option on the 1,000 shares at $650 a share, but nothing indicates that they would have exercised it if the deal had not gone through. Nobody got $850, that price to Carl Dresser being largely a paper price, and the others got only a paper price of $700 share, plus about $38 tax, which would be a paper price of $738,000 for 1,000 shares, which was the number owned by Carl Dresser, if the owner paid the tax from his own money. If we were to adopt either price as a basis to work from, the price to the others would be the better basis, for they did not have to sell, and none of that was for aiding in putting over the deal. The other stockholders took new stock for about all of the price, and it seems that had they not done so, the deal would not have been made, for W. A. Harriman & Co. put as little money in as it had to, and busied itself in getting it out with despatch.
The above details of this opinion were not made public until April 1933, two years after Carl's death from "liver trouble," and five years after his remarriage in 1927 to Gloria Jack of Kane, Pennsylvania. We know, however, from Darwin Payne's book that what followed next was putting Neil Mallon in place as Dresser's president. In 1931, instead of selling or dividing the Dresser company, the stock was shifted to the new Brown Brothers Harriman company, of which Prescott Bush became a partner. Bert Walker remained at the old offices (39 Broadway) while Prescott moved to the new digs--Brown Brothers offices at 59 Wall Street.

Four months after losing her appeal against division of the Dresser assets, Pauline made headlines once again: "Pauline Dresser To Wed Col. Rogers". The friendships she had made in Tulsa in 1922 paying dividends by 1933.

Port of Missing Men, Southampton
Pauline was honored by an engagement dinner given by her stepdaughter-to-be, Millicent, daughter of Col. Henry Huddleston Rogers. Millicent was then married to an Argentine millionaire named Arturo Peralta Ramos. It is not rightly known exactly how Pauline snared her wealthy third husband. Their wedding took place at Col. Rogers' "summer home" on Long Island. Fortunately for her, Pauline did manage to stay married to her multi-millionaire husband, becoming a widow after only a two-year marriage.

The mansion Pauline inherited in Southampton, Long Island, New York, had also been the scene of Millicent's 1927 wedding to the Argentinian polo player. Intriguingly, Millicent divorced him in December 1935 after a six-week stay in Reno, obtaining her divorce on the same day that "Sidney" Wrightsman obtained a divorce from Irene Wrightsman--the same person Pauline had honored with a tea on the eve of her wedding in Tulsa in 1922. Possibly one of those amazing coincidences?

No mention of the Charles B. Wrightsman divorce has been found, although we know he did marry Jayne Larkin in 1944. His obituary failed to mention his first marriage, which had occurred at the time the Dressers had known them in Tulsa in 1922 and produced two daughters, Irene Margaret and Charlene. The daughters were living with their divorced mother in a modest apartment building in Santa Monica in 1940, a mile from the Pacific Coast highway. Five years earlier they had all lived at the Warwick Hotel in Houston, and C.B. had his office for Standard Oil of Kansas at #1540 Mellie Esperson Building.

In May 1937, Walter Hoving, after leaving Chicago and obtaining new employment as president of Lord & Taylor in New York, married Pauline at her New York City apartment on 57th Street, and they immediately sailed to Bermuda, along with her son (Bradley Steese Dresser) and his new wife--a sort of double honeymoon. 

Pauline received one-third of the income from Rogers' estate for the remainder of her life, including the use of the Port of Missing Men property pictured above:
a lavish estate in Southampton on Long Island, ... set on 1400 acres of prime land, including an 800-acre shooting preserve called The Cow Neck and a 400-acre lake, called Scallop Pond. As designed by the renowned architect John Russell Pope, the Rodgers’ manor house resembled not one, but several modest Colonial cottages, all strung together, to form an abode of palatial proportions with opulent appointments, not so different from Marie Antoinette’s retreat at Versailles. It included perhaps the most lavish Greco-Roman indoor swimming pool ever conceived in this country, which has since been destroyed.
Pauline would later be described by stepson, Thomas Hoving, in his 1994 book--Making the Mummies Dance: Inside The Metropolitan Museum Of Art--as a woman for whom he "developed an instant hatred" (page 85). Tom's parents were divorced when he was five, in August 1936, only seven months before Pauline married his father, and he recalled spending summers with two governesses at Pauline's Long Island estate as his stepmother tried to teach him how to live "in society."

During cooler months when he lived as a boy in Manhattan, Tom would go to the Hovings' apartment on the top floor of River House, 435 East 52nd Street on the East River. Sonny Whitney had a residence one building down at the corner of First Avenue, and Bert Walker's Manhattan residence was a few doors away at One Sutton Place South. Tom would even hint in his book about a possible romance between his stepmother Pauline and Charlie Wrightsman.

The Exxon story, too, is also hinted at here, but further research articles will hopefully bring it into clearer focus.


[1] Frederick Townsend Martin wrote the book from which the quote is taken about three years before his death. When his brother's obituary appeared in the Washington Post (1913), Frederick was said to be "a Bowery settlement worker." The real "idle" wealth of Frederick's brother came in the form of his wife's inheritance of hundreds of millions from her parents, with which she became noted for exceptionally elaborate balls at the Waldorf-Astoria.

[2] In Atlantic City, Pauline apparently encountered her ex-husband with an actress using the name Mae Francis, (a niece of "Wild Bill" Donovan, a famous baseball player of the day, not the spy). Steese, in his roadster, was insanely racing against aviator E. Kenneth Jaquith, flying above him. Steese married the actress early in 1917. The next time he was heard from, however, he was married to a woman named Blanche, with whom in 1925 he had built a house at Lake Salubria near Bath, New York, and moved there from Ohio. When Steese's mother died in 1929, Blanche was named Executrix. Soon after that, he received another inheritance from Anna Steese Baldwin, his late father's sister. He had no problem inheriting from family, but he suffered no qualms it seems in disinheriting his own two sons, giving them up to be raised by Pauline's second husband.