Name: Audrey Evelyn James
Given Name: Audrey Evelyn
Change Date: 22 APR 2006
Marshall Field b: 30 SEP 1893
18 AUG 1930
in London, England
- Abbrev: Internet
Page: The Marshall Fields
The Marshall Fields
The family that founded
a successful department
store often had trouble
running their own lives
BY AXEL MADSEN
A hundred years ago, Marshall Field was both an American legend and a famously elusive figure. At a time when the average American?s weekly salary was less than ten dollars, the annual income of this quiet, dignified, unemotional man ? some thought him almost delicate ? was $40 million (nearly $800 million in today?s money). His son, Marshall Field II, was a Proustian figure of lassitude and mysterious illnesses who either committed suicide or was shot by a floozy. Marshall Field III was a Jazz Age playboy with a Long Island estate who suffered the peculiar kind of public contempt reserved for idealists with money. After his brother died at 23, Marshall Field III inherited nearly $4 billion in 2002 money and cleverly moved the family fortune from dry goods to publishing. His story is one of the most interesting aspects of the Field family legend.
The founding father had died in 1905, a few months after Marshall Field II. Marshall III grew up in England and when he married Evelyn Marshall in 1915 he was the richest young man in America. Evelyn ? Bunny to her friends ? was four years older than her husband and from Day 1 seemed to have taken charge. They bought Caumsett, a 2,000-acre estate on Long Island?s North Shore, less than 40 miles from midtown Manhattan, and spent the fabulous Roaring Twenties having three children, giving weekend parties that spilled into Monday mornings, and growing apart. That is, Marshall became bored with Evelyn?s bridge parties and sought out a younger and more pleasure-hungry crowd. Marshall and Evelyn eventually separated. To give himself space and occasion to reflect on his 10-year marriage, he moved out of their Manhattan townhouse, got an apartment on his own and spent time in England.
His fortune was not one of those financial constructs, honeycombed with speculative credit that came crashing down Tuesday, October 29, 1929. There were losses, but the damage was limited. The portfolio was shrewdly diversified into real estate holdings and blue chip stocks.
At the time of the crash, Marshall was in England wooing Audrey James Coates. She was the goddaughter of King Edward VII, a onetime fiancée of Lord Louis Mountbatten, and former girlfriend of Edward, Prince of Wales. In Los Angeles, she had gone nightclub hopping with Rudolph Valentino and pronounced him a divine dancer. In London, she danced at the endless revelries hosted by Loelia Ponsonby, later the Duchess of Westminster, and Tina, the marchioness of Blandford, and dined at Sir Philip Sassoon?s parties in his sumptuous apartments at 25 Park Lane. These get-togethers, Evelyn Waugh wrote in Vile Bodies, were ?masked parties, savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as someone else and almost naked parties in St John?s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and nightclubs, in windmills and swimming baths.? Audrey started the craze for Victorian games like musical chairs, blind man?s buff and staged scavenger parties that Elsa Maxwell immediately copied. When Marshall first met her a year after her American tour, she had been the 23-year-old widow of British textile tycoon Captain Dudley Coates, who had been badly gassed during the war. She was everything Evelyn was not ? carefree, glamorous and eager to match him in sports.
Marshall and Audrey were married August 18, 1930. The honeymoon of the 37-year-old groom and 28-year-old bride set the pace of the marriage. After the London wedding, Audrey and Marshall embarked on a big game hunt in Kenya, and had several thrilling brushes with death. Their bush pilot and safari leader was Denys Finch Hatton, the onetime lover of Isak Dinesen, played by Robert Redford in Out of Africa. The list of trophies forwarded to their Caumsett estate after they left included two whole lion skins, the hides of two leopards, a gerenuk (a long-necked antelope), a rhino, a waterbuck, a water buffalo, a pair of rhino horns, and 140 lbs. of elephant ivory tusk.
Audrey proved to be as restless as her husband. She was a crack shot and vied with Marshall in flying airplanes and racing speedboats. The pleasures of Caumsett were not enough. The Fields went hunting in England, yachting on the Mediterranean. They rehabilitated an ancient Virginia plantation to antebellum splendor, and leased a ranch in Wyoming for a party. We do not know what Audrey thought of her husband?s children ? 14-year-old Marshall IV away in boarding school, 12-year-old Barbara and seven-year-old Bettine. The girls were devastated by their father?s absence. Barbara especially missed her father and in late life would attribute much of her and her brother?s harrowing descent into mental illness to the sense of abandonment they felt as teenagers.
As the Depression deepened and 13 million Americans were out of work, society columnists distracted the Depression?s victims with reports on Audrey?s redecoration of the Fields? dining room, on how she had taken her cue from Sir Philip Sassoon?s music room to install mirrored walls. Her husband?s directorship in Continental Insurance, Continental Illinois National Bank, Westinghouse Electric and Marshall Field & Company made him acutely aware of the deepening crisis, and how offensive Audrey and his lifestyle was to a majority of Americans. Audrey was tone deaf to economics ? even with London?s Mayfair set. The effects of the Wall Street crash took 12 months to cross the Atlantic, but when it did it was considered bad taste to even look rich. Women who were still wealthy wore plain dresses, furless wool coats, sweaters, and slacks. Economic and washable fabrics were popular and Coco Chanel was persuaded to come to London to help promote cotton as a fashion fabric.
The economic downdraft caught the Marshall Field trust, Marshall Field & Company and several banks with a half-finished 43-story office building. The site was half a block from the Chicago Loop north of Adams and bounded by LaSalle and Clark Streets. Although office buildings were hanging ?to let? signs on every other floor, Marshall convinced trustees and bankers not to get cold feet. He saw the three-year construction as a quasi-civic duty giving the city a psychological lift and buried himself in architectural plans. The gamble paid off. The relative opulence of the Field Building pleased upscale tenants who by 1934 leased entire floors.
Marshall Field & Company adjusted to the vanishing purchase power. The department store earned $1.6 million in 1931, but the wholesale and manufacturing divisions lost so much money that the company closed its books for the year $5 million in the red. The following year the deficit reached $8 million and the company stopped paying dividends for the first time since its incorporation thirty years earlier. Marshall controlled over 60 percent of the preferred stock and almost 10 percent of the common shares. Store manager John McKinley, who had started as a cash boy in 1888, told employees to be upbeat. To show he meant it he asked engineers of Westinghouse Company to design escalators. Two flights of escalators costing half a million dollars were installed in the State Street building, saluting Chicago?s 1933 Century of Progress Exposition. Wholesale and manufacturing continued to slip. And there was an even bigger black hole ? the Merchandise Mart. The idea for the world?s largest building dated from better times. James Simpson, who had played golf with Marshall Field in the snow on New Year?s 1906 and was remembered in the will with a $50,000 legacy, was the company?s CEO. In 1927, he had turned the first spade of sod at the gigantic construction site on the Chicago River. The building, he believed, would do for wholesale what the State Street department store had done for retail. The architects were Graham Anderson, Probst and White who had designed the Civic Opera.
The Field?s wholesale and manufacturing divisions would occupy half the five million square foot building, estimated to cost $15 million, while the rest of the Mart would be leased to some 2,000 jobbers? and manufacturers representatives. The building would have the world?s biggest restaurant and the world?s biggest broadcast studios. The Depression turned the Mart into a losing proposition. The wholesale and manufacturing divisions were in the red and tenants were hard to find. The fate of the Mart first divided Simpson and McKinley, then caused them to clash head-on. The board chairman, who had a $3.3 million investment in Marshall Field & Company stock, fought for the status quo. McKinley knew something had to give. He convinced John Shedd, the successor to Marshall Field I, to come out of retirement. ?Some departments must be killed,? Shedd told McKinley after a quick survey. ?They are gone and gone forever, and they can?t come back. The oldtime country merchant who used to sustain wholesale has dried up, or he?s buying cheaper goods. Another thing ? if wholesale paid its fair rent for space in the Mart, the figures would look worse than they do.?
The liquidation was brutal. Still, the wholesale lost $13 million in 1934, and there was the $18 million loan, which had financed the Mart. Simpson thought he had an ally in the founder?s grandson. But Marshall Field III forced the board to accept outside corporate management. Several board members resented the imposition of an outsider, but Marshall won the day and brought in James O. McKinsey, a management consultant he knew. After McKinsey and his team of experts went through the company?s finances, most of the textile manufacturing was sold off. Simpson resigned and McKinsey was named CEO. It was the first time in the company?s history that an outsider had become boss.
Marshall was wealthy enough not to have to let the shrinking economy crimp his lifestyle. At Caumsett, he nevertheless cut back the staff?s work hours without laying anybody off. Audrey continued to enjoy glamour and the sporting scene. Despite Marshall?s sensitivity to the country?s darkening reality, she insisted on continuing their social agenda, to go wherever they pleased and to invite whoever they fancied to Caumsett. She insisted on wearing the ruby-and-diamond necklace he had given her as a wedding gift to the opera. She wanted to see South Carolina?s old Charleston and he booked overnight sleeper accommodations. When they rolled up the compartment shades the next morning, they discovered they were in Charleston, West Virginia. No matter. Marshall was a director of the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company and a tour of the plant was hastily arranged. After that the Fields retired to the Greenbrier resort at White Sulphur Springs.
Marshall Field III turned 40 on September 38, 1933. Six months later, Audrey and he divorced, perhaps not so much victims of divergent lifestyles as of different outlooks. Before Audrey fled to Paris where Cecil Beaton, the gay celebrity photographer, made her his fashion model for a season, she had Marshall pay dearly for their four-year marriage. In the divorce agreement, he agreed to pay her $400,000 in 16 equal installments of $25,000 due on the first day of each January, April, July and October every year until 1938. The settlement further specified that should he live to be 45, another $2 million were due. In the meantime, he made her the beneficiary of a £250,000 life insurance policy, and agreed to amend his will so that Audrey would inherit one fourth of his wealth. No wonder he said his second failed marriage made him introspective.
He was more than ever the Field. The Depression was grinding on and he was quoted as saying that if he couldn?t make himself worth three square meals a day he didn?t deserve them. Though tolerant of the faults of others, he hated brutality and doubledealing. He was in good health. He was honest, generous, a good friend to his friends, but he felt diminished by his two failed marriages. While Audrey was in Reno waiting for the divorce, he turned to psychoanalysis to get some answers.
His psychiatrist was Dr. Gregory Zilboorg. A Russian-Jewish intellectual three years older than Marshall, Zilboorg had embraced the Revolution in 1917, joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party and served as the secretary to the labor minister in the shortlived government of Alexander Kerensky. He was less enthusiastic when Vladimir Lenin?s Bolsheviks overthrew the Kerensky government. Via Austria, Germany and Holland, he made his way to the United States in 1919 to become the psychiatrist to Manhattan?s liberal rich and famous and a minor figure in avant-garde New York. Virginia Bloomgarden Chilewich would remember him as a heavily mustachioed, walrus-looking personage holding forth like an egomaniac.
Zilboorg was a Freudian of progressive views. He considered it his mission to counteract the oversimplifications of Sigmund Freud?s ideas popularized by magazines and Hollywood. He later converted to Catholicism, worked vigorously to reconcile psychoanalysis and the Church and in the early 1950s attacked L. Ron Hubbard?s ?dianetics? cures of psychosomatic and other ills as dangerous. George Gershwin, Moss Hart, Lillian Hellman and Broadway producer Herman Shumlin were among his analysands. At a time when the average fee for psychoanalysis was $4 an hour, Zilboorg charged $75, which didn?t deter his celebrity patients. That he was a gossip, however, disturbed some of them. Kay Swift, George Gershwin?s ladyfriend who recommended the composer see Zilboorg, was shocked when the psychiatrist discussed Gershwin?s sessions with her. A trip Gershwin, Swift and Zilboorg made to Mexico City in 1935 was a fiasco. The psychiatrist overwhelmed and embarrassed Gershwin at a party given in the composer?s honor and attended by Diego Rivera and Miguel Covarrubias. As a reformed Bolshevik, Zilboorg loudly condemned the left-leaning artists. Hellman, with whom Marshall became a friend, sought out Zilboorg to help her with her alcoholism. She found his analysis helpful and dedicated the play Another Part of the Forest to him. Her longtime lover Dashiell Hammett claimed he had learned more about himself from Zilboorg?s treatment of her than Lillian learned about herself.
Audrey was in Reno when Marshall began a five-days-a-week analysis. The New York News? London correspondent reported her friends saying she wouldn?t be seeking a divorce ?if the fabulously wealthy merchant prince hadn?t met a psychiatrist who told him his second wife would be unlucky for him.? Marshall?s own take on his two years of Zilboorgian analysis was positive. He came away felling a better man and believing his failed marriages were the result of the psychic circumstances of his childhood and that wealth in itself was not creative.
Zilboorg delved into his millionaire patient?s motives, needs and wishes, and, in accordance with the professional credo, refrained from giving advice. He helped Marshall dig deep into his childhood and his father?s death. While his grandfather and mother had insisted Marshall Jr. shot himself by accident that November afternoon in 1905, Marshall III was convinced, or became convinced through Zilboorg?s analysis, that his father had indeed committed suicide. In gratitude for the insights Zilboorg helped him discover, Marshall funded his analyst?s research into suicide. In a paper presented to the American Orthopsychiatric Association in 1937, Zilboorg suggested the will to die was latent in most people, that the act was not impulsive, but the result of unconscious desires rooted in biology.
Analyst and patient also explored the present and Marshall?s less than sterling opinion of himself. Zilboorg made him understand that his need to be ?of service? didn?t mean kissing lepers, weaving Christmas baskets or attending weekly charity functions. It could simply mean getting involved, to offer help, influence, perhaps leadership. The world had given Marshall wealth, health and a good mind. Perhaps it was his turn to give back.
From The Marshall Fields: The Evolution of an American Business Dynasty, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 2002 by Axel Madsen. Printed by permission of Multimedia Product Development, Inc. of Chicago, IL.