Not in Sympathy

Posted in: Monticello, the House, A Summary View

I’ve spent the last several months going through the library’s files, neatening things up, eliminating duplicates and inconsistencies, and generally satisfying my compulsion to organize things and make sure everything is spelled correctly.  I found something the other day which has turned out to be very interesting indeed.  Before I get to that though, I have to explain a bit of background.

In 1909, Maud Littleton, wife of New York Congressman Martin Littleton, visited Monticello.  At the time, the estate was owned by Jefferson Monroe Levy.  J.M. Levy and before him his uncle, Uriah Phillips Levy, had owned Monticello for a very long time, and had done more than anyone else to preserve Monticello for posterity during the 19th century.  Littleton decided that she wasn't pleased with Monticello's current situation and subsequently launched a campaign to force Levy to sell Monticello to the federal government so that it could be preserved as a shrine to Jefferson in a manner more satisfactory to Maud Littleton.  The campaign got pretty vicious.  By way of illustration, here’s an exchange between Littleton and a woman named Mrs. Walke, of Norfolk, Va., in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on November 18, 1912:

Mrs. Walke said: “Monticello belongs to Virginia in future, and the government shall not own it, because Jefferson Levy has told the Daughters of the Confederacy that they shall have the house.”

“Don’t pay any attention to Mrs. Walke,” [Mrs. Littleton] said.  “She is just a silly little thing, a little, foolish thing, a busybody, who is trying to get even with me because I wouldn’t pay her railroad fare to Washington and her hotel expenses there.  Have you got that?”

This was a front-page headline in the newspaper that day.  “Mrs. Walke “Silly Little Busybody.’”  Ouch!  Clearly Maud Littleton was a lady not to be messed with.

Stakes were high, and clearly so were feelings.  Levy fought back, however, and eventually Littleton’s campaign died.

Back to what I found in our files.  Here it is.

1912 Albemarle DAR declaration

The text reads:

At a regular meeting of the Albemarle Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, of Charlottesville, Virginia, held at the residence of Mrs. Wm. M. Thornton, University of Virginia on Wednesday, November 13th, 1912, the following preamble and resolutions, offered by Mrs. Thomas Barton Lyons, and seconded by Mrs. R. T. W. Duke, Jr., were adopted without a dissenting vote.

WHEREAS:  The Albemarle Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has noticed with regret various newspaper articles and letters from private persons as to the Government ownership of “Monticello” and reflections upon the Honourable Jefferson M. Levy, the owner of this historic place, and desiring to put on record the Chapter’s views as to such ownership and appreciation of Mr. Levy’s uniform courtesy and consideration to the Chapter, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED:  That  this Chapter is not in sympathy with the methods adopted by which private property of historic interest is proposed to be taken by the strong arm of Government against the will of the individual;

That it bears cheerful testimony to the care with which Monticello is preserved by Mr. Levy and to the zeal which he evinces in the protection of this sacred shrine.  It desires to express its belief that no other individual could show more solicitude for the place or more lavishly expend time and money in its preservation.  It gladly bears witness to the hospitality which characterizes Mr. Levy and especially the readiness with which he has always met every wish of the Chapter in regard to the place and to say that the way in which the place is opened to the public is worthy of commendation and could not be made more free consistent with the proper care of the property.

RESOLVED FURTHER:  That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to Mr. Levy and published in the leading newspapers of the State and vicinity.

Mrs. Wm. R. Duke,

Regent of the Albemarle Chapter.

The paper bears a watermark of “W. S. & B. REGENT LINEN.”  “W. S. & B.” is Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict, a New York-based manufacturer of typewriters and typewriting supplies active ca. 1880-1920 (thank you, Google Books!).  So I think we can be reasonably certain that this piece of paper does in fact date from 1912.  (I was worried at first that it was a later copy.  That is not as exciting.)

In the story of Littleton vs. Levy, I think it's more common to hear more about Littleton and all the people and organizations who threw their weight behind her and made poor J.M. Levy's life extraordinarily unpleasant.  It's nice to know that there were also people and groups who were "not in sympathy" with Maud Littleton, and weren't afraid to say so.

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says

What an intriguing story, Anna! I think you've got something there that's definitely worth following up on - women have often led in matters of preservation, commemoration, and memorialization (there are a few books written that touch on this, Drew Gilpin Faust's "This Republic of Suffering," just to name one), but we don't usually hear about what shape the origins of those efforts took and whether or not there were conflicts in objectives. I will look forward to hearing (or reading) anything more you have to say about this, Anna.

says

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