History Bytes: Theophilus North’s Nine Cities of Newport, Part 8

March 21, 2019

The following History Byte is the eighth of a nine-part series. Click here to read them all.

Harry Lehr at Bailey’s Beach with William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., and Harold Vanderbilt, Newport c.1898. Image shows the three young men posing with a younger boy squatting in the water. NHS, Havemeyer collection, P1714.

The Eighth City in Thornton Wilder’s Theophilus North was comprised of camp-followers, fortune-hunters, and party crashers. Perhaps one of the most notorious fortune hunters to summer in Newport was Harry Lehr, who married New York socialite Elizabeth Wharton Drexel Dahlgren solely for her money. Elizabeth would later author a book titled King Lehr and the Gilded Age, in which she would reveal that on their wedding night Lehr declared that their wedding would never be consummated as he found women repulsive. Lehr however introduced Elizabeth to the powerful women of the Gilded Age, and the couple joined the summer social scene in Newport, renting Arleigh (non-extant), on Bellevue Avenue. It was at Arleigh that the Lehrs cohosted an over the top party with Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish where the honored guests were not the Gilded Age elite, rather their well-dressed canine companions.