The Van Alen Sister's Saga ~ Better Than A Soap Opera

"Miss Sarah Van Alen Now Mrs. R.J. Collier; Wedding Quietly Solemnized at Newport Yesterday"

"Special to The New York Times July 27, 1902, NEWPORT, R.I., July 26. -- The wedding of Miss Sarah Stewart Van Alen to Robert Joseph Collier to-day did not attract the attention of the society people of Newport as did the Martin-Oelrichs wedding of Thursday. The two functions differed widely. One had been long heralded and invitations were numerous; the other came as a surprise, was in a measure of a private character, and the invitations were very few in number." 

A Gilded Age Bride

The wedding of a young, Newport Rhode Island woman, in high society is "quietly solemnized"?  The newspaper article goes to the trouble of telling the readers that this particular wedding was not "long heralded", did not "attract the attention of the society people of Newport" as a wedding of one of her peers had, and it came as a surprise. I am going to post the whole article below, as it goes into great length describing the beautiful Wakefield event.  


Maybe quiet weddings, attended by the Astors and Condé Nast, among others, seemed like small potatoes in the Gilded Age, but the details sound absolutely wonderful.  Again though, as you will read in the article, many friends were invited to the church mass for the couple, but few attended.  Made me wonder...


Did she marry a cad?  Was this on a whim?  Was she already in a "delicate state"?  Maybe, none of those reasons.  It is highly possible that her father was not happy about his daughter May's "love entanglements", long list of broken unofficial engagements, one of which was to the Duke of  Manchester. Maybe her younger sister Sarah was as well.

Another of May's many notable 'entanglements' was supposedly her future brother in-law, Mr. Collier.  The newspaper goes on to say that she tired of him, and "Accordingly, she turned him over to her sister, Miss Sarah Van Alen, an arrangement, which up to the present time, appears to be eminently satisfactory both to Mr. Collier and the younger Miss Van Alen."  That particular quote is from an article from August 20, 1902. Less than a month after theVan Alen-Collier wedding.  The article is headlined "Miss May Van Allen (sic); Something About the Girl for Whom Remington Killed Himself" 


 August 19, 1902, Robert Reading Remington committed suicide.  He too was another jilted lover of May's.  The article, headlined "Sensational Suicide of One of New York's Society Young Men; Disappointment Over a Broken Matrimonial Engagement Believed to Be the Cause" goes on to say he "Blew out his brains with a revolver in his rooms at La Forge Cottage" and explains how despondent he had been over May's jilting him.


He actually shot himself 3 times.  The first and second bullets didn't do the trick, one shot from the side "ploughed across his forehead" and the next, shot with the gun pointing at his front, "glanced over the top of his head ... "  The young man described by the paper as having "a wonderful amount of grit" finally killed himself by firing the gun through his mouth with "death probably resulting instantly."  You cannot make stuff like this up!  

I wanted this blog posted yesterday, as promised, however the more I read about the Van Alen sisters, family, the weirder things get.  Keep in mind this all began with a society dinner party by Miss Leary.  I just thought I would quickly look up the two young ladies the dinner party was honoring.  Nothing more.  Reading these articles is like watching a soap opera, and it gets better with every click of my mouse.  That being said, the Gilded Age Etiquette will be posted tomorrow.  Right now, I want to get back to my soap!



  1. Broken engagements, a suicide & Gilded Age entanglements! This really does read like a soap opera. I have to wonder why no one has written a book or movie based on these sisters. Can't wait for the next post.

  2. Truth is much stranger, and sometimes, certainly more entertaining, than fiction!


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