Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Delia Spencer Caton Fields and her love affair with Marshall Fields in Gilded Age Chicago

In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.  (From the back cover of WHAT THE LADY WANTS by Renee Rosen) 

For decades, the beautiful. and married society gal, Delia Spencer had been secretly in love with neighbour Marshall Fields, the merchant/founder of the department store that proudly bore his name. Their passionate affair lasted for years and their love for each other endured despite the fact they were both married to others. Sadly, after waiting years to marry, their marriage would be short-lived. Marshall Field died months after their wedding. 

Here is Delia Spencer Field's actual obituary from the Chicago Tribune. It gives a lot of detail regarding her life and finances. Her oppulent life and energetic spirit made her one of Chicago's top society dames of the gilded age!


Actual Obituary from the Chicago Tribune, July 24, 1937 

Delia C. Field, 84, Merchant's Widow, Dead Beverly, Mass., July 23.

Mrs. Delia Caton Field, widow of the multi-millionaire Chicago merchant, Marshall Field, died tonight at her summer home at Pride's Crossing. Mrs. Field, who formerly was a leader in Washington and Chicago society, was 84 years old. She had been in poor health for several months and recently developed pneumonia. Some years after the death of Mr. Field in 1906, five months after they were married, Mrs. Field moved from Chicago to Washington. 


Marshall Field

Before and after the turn of the century Mrs. Marshall Field's talent as a hostess brought her fame from far and wide. The beautiful and dashing matron was long noted for the lavishness and frequency of her entertainments, During the greater part of her life she was prominent in social circles, not only in her home city of Chicago but in the east and abroad as well. Former King Edward VIII, attended her London functions when he was prince of Wales, as did numerous other members of the British royal family. 


Edward VIII

Many of the best known persons of the day were her guests. Fritz Kreisler and Ignace Paderewski were frequent visitors at her home. There was ever a verve and dash to her parties that seemed to radiate from hei own sparkling appearance, heightened by coal black hair, high color and regal bearing. 

During the gay '90s" she was the stately leader of Chicago society. 


Arthur J Caton

Then the wife of Arthur Caton, to whom she was first married, she was a familiar figure at all society; events, including horse shows where her entries took numerous blue ribbons. Mrs. Field was born at Tonewanda, N.Y., one of three daughters, Her father was Franklin F. Spencer, one of the founders of Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. Her mother was Rachel Gifford McCumber of Mass . One of Mrs. Field's sisters, Mary Spencer, died about the time of the Chicago fire. The other, Mrs. Augustus Eddy, died about a quarter of a century ago. 

Mrs. Field's first husband, was the son of Judge John D. Caton. Their marriage culminated a romantic affair that began with a meeting on the Caton homestead at Ottawa. For almost two decades, before his death in 1903, Mr. Caton practiced law in Chicago. For many years Mrs. Caton had been a friend and neighbor of Marshall Field, the Caton home on Calumet avenue being almost directly back of the Field home at 1905 Prairie avenue. 


Marshall Field Mansion

In September, 1905, formal announcement was made in London of the engagement of Mr. Field, then Delia C. Field. The marriage took place a few days later. Mrs. Field continued to live at the Prairie avenue home for many years after Mr. Field's death. Her niece, Mrs. Albert J. Beveridge, spent much time there with her. About 25 years ago, after the death of her sister, Mrs. Field took up her permanent residence in Washington, D. C., where her fame as a hostess acquired ts brightest luster. But for many years she kept the Chicago house staffed with servants and ready for occupancy. She returned annually for a time for briet visits. Several years ago Mrs. Field turned the property over to Marshall Field III to dispose of as he chose. The furniture was given to grandchildren and family servants with the stipulation that none of it ever should be sold. 

In January, 1936, it was announced that the house had been given to the Association of Arts and Industries to be used as an industrial art school. The association plans to start remodeling the 25 room mansion, designed by Richard Morris Hunt of New York, in a week or two and it is expected the school will be opened In the autumn. The only time in many years the house has been ablaze with lights and the scene of a gay party similar to those that formerly were given there was last spring when the association lent the building to a group of young people, including the Shreve Badgers, Alfred Wolfes, Ambrose Cramers, and John R. Winterbothams for a dinner-dance. The guests wore costumes of the '90s. 


Mrs. Delia Fields

While Mr. Field was called the world's richest man at the time of his marriage, his bride also was comfortably situated in her own right. Mrs. Field's fortune was reputed a few years ago to be about $5,000,000. In addition to a settlement made on her at the time of their marriage, Mr. Field left her $1,000,000 by his will. The balance of his fortune, then estimated at $100,000,000, was divided among his children and other relatives. 

See the obituary at: 

Author Renee Rosen has recently launched a new new novel about the life of Delia Spencer Caton Field, her marriages, and the two men she loved. 

Opening Paragraph: She supposedshe fell in love with him at the same time the rest of Chicago did. The Great Fire had raged on for two days, and the flamesdidn't discriminate: they devoured businesses and residences, mansions and shanties alike. In the end, miles of streets and buildings were ravaged. But from this smoldering ash, a handful of men came forward to rebuild the city. Marshall Field was one of them.   

Synopsis: In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair. 

The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she can’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night.… 

Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie—including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation. 

But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893. 



Review by Mirella Patzer

As Delia hurries home from having witnessed the ravages of the Great Chicago Fire, she has no idea how her life will change. It Chicago in the late 1880's. She marries Arthur Caton, a lawyer, and at first they are happy. But as the wheels of time turn, the marriage begins to reveal its problems and secrets. Despite their troubles, they befriend Marshall Field and his wife who live around the corner. And before long, neither Delia nor Marshall can deny the powerful attraction they feel for each other. Soon, they are embroiled in a passionate affair, even though Delia remains loyal to her husband. Arthur is aware of his wife's affair, and their marriage soon becomes an open one as it frees him to pursue his own unusual interests. Despite all the gossip and scandal, and being ostracized from society, Delia holds her head high and offers no compromise to her life, finally overcoming all to ultimately marry Marshall in widowhood. 


It is evident the author has done her research for this story truly came alive. Never boring, the novel tantalized me to keep reading with each turn of the page. I was engrossed in the two marriages, the love that existed between Delia and the two men, and of course, the brilliant mind and honorable intentions of tycoon Marhsall Field. I could not help but be tottally enthralled with the characters. The setting, Chicago during the gilded age added much to enrichen the story line. I love works of fiction that are based on fact, and the novel did not disappoint. 
This is an exceptional story, which exceeded my expectations. Very highly recommended.


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1 comment:

Davida Chazan said...

You should fix the title here. The name is Field, not Fields. The story was called Marshall Field's, but the name was "Marshall Field & Co."