Throwback Thursday: The (Un)lucky Bracelet

I was reading about George VI the other day and read that before he married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, he was in love with a woman called Sheila Chisholm.

Sheila was an Australian. Yes, I thought that too, an Australian woman named Sheila, but then I read that she was THE Sheila. The original Sheila!

Sheila was a socialite and model, born in New South Wales in  1895.

Here she is pictured wearing a bracelet given to her by the Italian actor, Rudolph Valentino with whom she allegedly had a fling.

Margaret Sheila Mackellar Chisholm | Laughing Heart

It was Valentino's lucky bracelet.

He died of a ruptured ulcer just six months after giving it to her. He was 31. 

It is said that she thought he'd died because she had taken his luck. 

Rudloph Valentino was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella.

Rudloph Valentino was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella.

When Valentino died, Hollywood mourned the man who had come to embody the 'Latin Lover'. 

Sheila married three times: Francis St Clair-Erskine, Lord Loughborough; Sir John Milbanke; and Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich of Russia and died in London in 1969. 


On their wedding day

On their wedding day

These six pieces were all gifts from Andrew, 11th Duke of Devonshire to his wife Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire.

The couple married in 1941. He was a serial philanderer but claimed that his wife was 'broadminded'. Sure. 

Bugs are really quite lovely (apart from spiders, flies and moths). Here are some of the loveliest bug-inspired items on the market.

Throwback Thursday: Foxtrotting often

This cigarette case was a gift from Edward VIII (when he was Prince of Wales) to Pinna Nesbit Cruger.

Pinna Nesbit Cruger gift from Edward VIII | Laughing Heart

Pinna was a film actress whom Edward met in 1924 while on a visit to North America. The two danced together frequently during his visit. 

Pinna Nesbit | Laughing Heart

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that she was a 'damned attractive woman'. No conclusive evidence exists that they were lovers, but the cigarette case suggests that Edward liked her a lot. 

In a Missouri newspaper, published in 1925, an article on the pair reads:

'[They were] passionate adherents of the foxtrot and the one-step,' and they 'one-stepped and foxtrotted often.'

It sounds as innocent as it does scandalous. I'll leave you to make up your minds. 

The case is gold and the thumb piece set with circular and single-cut diamonds. The inside lid is engraved: 'Pinna 1924 love - EP'. Edward VIII signed off with 'EP' when he was Prince of Wales. 

Eventually the two moved apart and on and as we know from History, Edward found Wallis Simpson ('found' being a gross oversimplification of 'met, loved, abdicated for)  and moved on to other gift-giving successes. 

Throwback Thursday: A white gold crane in flight

Throwback Thursdays took a hiatus but now they're back.

This week’s gift of yesteryear is this brooch.

Designed by Cartier and made in 18k white gold, this crane in flight dates back to the 1930s.

The brooch is engraved with the words 'NO FLOWERS' on the back.

It belonged to Amelia Earhart the record-breaking pilot. 

It was found in the back of a New Jersey van which transported Earhart's belongings from the airport. The company owner tried to return it, but shortly after, Earhart disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean during a round the world flight. She was 41.

It's not possible to say with certainty what 'NO FLOWERS' meant to Earhart but in a 1931 New York Times article about Amelia’s wedding to George P. Putnam, the ceremony was described as being very simple. It mentioned that there were 'no flowers.' 

To me, 'no flowers' sounds morbid, it's the kind of thing you hear when you read details for a funeral. 

Christies, the auction house handling the sale of the brooch, writes: "Perhaps the brooch was a wedding gift to Earhart and the phrase a witticism between the couple? Whatever the significance of “No Flowers” may have been, this brooch is atypical of what Cartier was producing at the time and was most likely a special order for the first woman of aviation around the time of her nuptials. "

Bidding for the brooch starts at $7,000. 


Throwback Thursday: Lauren Bacall's Tiffany & Co. Chain

This week’s gift of yesteryear is probably the most generous gift a boss has given an employee.

Although, on reflection, I’m not sure you can call the relationship between actor and director a boss and employee relationship, more like sports coach and athlete.

This 14k yellow gold chain by Tiffany & Co. was given to the actress Lauren Bacall by Ron Field, who directed her in the musical Applause.

Each heart is engraved with a letter which spell out: ‘To my own beautiful star from her proud director Ron’

New Yorker Bacall was born Betty Perskein in 1924. She worked as a model and was soon encouraged to try her hand at acting in Hollywood.

She went on to star in To Have and Have Not and How to Marry a Millionaire. She also voiced the part of Evelyn in Family Guy.

The necklace certainly reflects the success of her performance. In 1970, Bacall won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, and the show won Best Musical.

Last year the chain was sold at auction in New York for $52,500. 

Throwback Thursday: The Great Gatsby

Late spring makes me excited for summer. And the thought of summer and of leaving the city makes me think about The Great Gatsby.

This week’s Throwback Thursday gift is a first edition of The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby book auction gift | Laughing Heart

The author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, gave this to fellow writer and friend Harold Goldman.

Goldman and Fitzgerald worked together in Hollywood in the 1930s, after the book was first published. 

They worked together on the film A Yank at Oxford which was released in 1938. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby famously assets himself an ‘Oxford man’ (a half-truth) and says and all his ancestors were educated there (a full lie).

Not much is known about the friendship between the two writers but this gift suggests that they were close enough to joke around.

The inscription humorously reads: ‘For Harold Goldman, the original ‘Gatsby’ of this story, with thanks for letting me reveal these secrets of his past. Alcatraz Cell Block 17 (I’ll be out soon, kid. Remember me to the mob. Fitzgerald.)’

The name of the high-security prison, Alcatraz, was a nickname for MGM studios. Cell Block 17 is a reference to the office where the pair worked. It’s more than a hint at Fitzgerald’s feelings about the place.

When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, critics called it a ‘dud’. It is now considered one of the greatest works of American literature.

The copy above was sold in 2015 at Bonhams’ ‘Voices of the 20th Century’ auction for $191,000, doubling the estimate.

Buy a copy of the Great Gatsby for £5.99

Throwback Thursday: The original care package

I recently came across the phrase: ‘hurt people hurt people’. Without knowingly carrying out research, I’ve found this to be true.

Thankfully, we are prevented from living lives which constantly alternate between terror and trauma because there are people in the world who do not repay hurt with hurt. These people cheerfully interrupt the vicious cycle by showing love.

Which brings me to this week’s Throwback Thursday gift, the CARE package.

Care Package | Laughing Heart

In late 1945, when much of Europe was broken and barely recovering from the Second World War, an organisation called CARE, the Co-operative for American Remittances to Europe was formed. Made up of an host of different charities, CARE provided food to those starving and displaced by conflict in Europe.

It was officially established by President Harry S. Truman, after receiving pressure from the American people who wanted to provide poor relief to those suffering.

Americans paid $10 and a care package was assembled and sent on their behalf, originally to family members living in Europe. Donations and demands increased to the point where Americans could donate a package to a stranger.

Some packages were addressed to ‘a hungry occupant of a thatched cottage’ and ‘a school teacher in Germany’. The packages were initially made up of food supplies donated by American companies. They were later assembled to include other items like blankets and clothes.

© CARE International

Millions of packages were sent until 1955. Over half of all packages were sent to Germany. The last package was sent to the UK.

Gillian Roberts, 73, from Kent recalls receiving a care package as a child: “We must have gone back to our bombed out bungalow which was still being repaired from the war. Then the absolute joy and disbelief, and I can remember a huge tin of peaches, a bag of flour in a muslin bag, and I think a tin of butter. My grandmother, she just sat in the middle of the floor, just sobbing. We were just opened mouthed.

“It was the thought of somebody being so kind. The impact that it had on us was indescribable. Because my grandmother was crying so much she couldn’t see any logic in it. She said, ‘well it’s from people a long way away, and they realise that we’ve got problems and we need help, and they were kind enough to send it to us.”

During war and after it, ideas of 'otherness' surface. Usually from the mouths of politicians but perpetuated in the media. You hear phrases like 'the enemy', 'the opposition' and 'the bad guys'. The CARE packages demonstrate that strong-minded and loving people were able to recognise human suffering in people just like them, looked past 'otherness' and were moved to do something useful about it.

CARE became CARE International, which now provides life-saving assistance across the world in Syria, Yemen, Ecuador and Nepal to name a few.