By Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor
In 1925 Leonard Rhinelander, the youngest son of a prosperous ny society kinfolk, sued to finish his marriage to Alice Jones, a former family servant and the daughter of a "colored" cabman. After being married just one month, Rhinelander pressed for the dissolution of his marriage when you consider that his spouse had lied to him approximately her racial historical past. the following marital annulment trial grew to become a major public spectacle, not just in big apple yet around the nation—despite the truth that the kingdom had by no means outlawed interracial marriage. Elizabeth Smith-Pryor makes broad use of trial transcripts, as well as modern newspaper assurance and archival assets, to discover why Leonard Rhinelander was once allowed his day in court docket. She strikes fluidly among criminal heritage, a daily narrative of the trial itself, and analyses of the trial's position within the tradition of the Twenties North to teach how notions of race, estate, and the legislations were—and are—inextricably intertwined.
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Extra resources for Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness
Reporters tracked down Alice’s school records and interviewed former teachers and classmates. ’ ’’ In addition, Grace Robinson announced ‘‘the surprising fact’’ that the Jones family attended an exclusive Episcopal church in Pelham Manor, a small Westchester village. ∫∏ The pink edition of the Daily News on Saturday, 15 November, called Alice a ‘‘mulatto’’ and observed, ‘‘Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Kip Rhinelander could not be found yesterday by reporters. It was said they had left town. ’’ The paper then provided for its readers a lengthy discussion of color and Alice Jones’s family: ‘‘Alice is the daughter of Mr.
26 : curious acts The Times’s article on the Rhinelanders went on to describe the condition of the Jones family home, ‘‘one of three small frame dwellings on the outskirts of New Rochelle,’’ in an unspoken comparison to the family home of the Rhinelanders. The comparison also served to reinforce the Jones family’s lower social status. ’’ Readers of the Times would have known that Tuxedo Park was an exclusive, all-white suburb of New York City. ’’ The article on page three (a greatly expanded version of the earlier ‘‘pink’’ article), now captioned ‘‘blueblood weds colored girl,’’ painted the marriage as interracial.
When Leonard’s great-grandfather William Christopher Rhinelander died in 1878, the family resided in a handsome home in Washington Square, a location made famous a few years later by the novels of Henry James. ∏ William Christopher’s only son, Leonard’s grandfather, another William, helped start New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House in the 1880s. Philip Rhinelander, Leonard’s father, graduated from Columbia College in 1882 and worked for the Rhinelander family’s real estate interests. By 1902, the Rhinelander heirs to William’s 1878 estate shifted the estate’s properties to a newly created corporation: the Rhinelander Real Estate Company, with shares divided among the heirs.
Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness by Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor