The Bradley-Martins

Miss Cornelia Sherman, daughter of Isaac Sherman (1817-81). Isaac Sherman accumulated his wealth as an established merchant from upstate New York who was an expert on currency and railroad finance. He is specifically mentioned as one of the representatives for the Pacific Railroad Act [] that expanded the railroads from the Missouri Valley to the Pacific Ocean. He was an advocate for legal tender and was solicited for his opinion by congress on the issue. At his funeral it was revealed that Abraham Lincoln had asked to make Mr. Sherman Secretary of State in the beginning of his second term but that Isaac had declined. In New York City the only dealings with fashionable society was through his membership in the Union Club. After Isaac’s death Cornelia inherited everything and was now wealthy enough to enter New York high society. She formed reception committees with the Mrs. Astor and other high society elites that participated in the fashionable balls of the time.

Bradley Martin was from Albany, New York where his father was an established merchant and his mother was Miss Townsend which was an old Albany family. He later established himself as a banker . Bradley met his future wife at the wedding of Miss Emily Vanderbilt in which she was a bridesmaid. After their marriage they lived on West Twentieth Street in the winter, and summered in the fashionable upstate getaways of Saratoga Springs and Sharon Springs

The Bradley-Martins had three children Sherman, Cornella and Bradley Martin Jr. Sherman Martin, their first child died tragically at a young age. Cornella Bradley-Martin their daughter was introduced to the 4th Earl of Craven , William and wed him in the spring of 1893 at Grace Church, New York City. After the wedding she became the Countess of Craven.

The Bradley-Martins' Name

The Bradley-Martins' name developed as a hyphenated name at the insistence of Cornelia Bradley-Martin. She preferred to use her husband's first and last name when addressed or written about in the society papers. In the New York Times they are traditionally referenced as The Bradley-Martins.

The Bradley-Martins' Parties

The society balls of the Bradley-Martins were well known in the society gossip pages of the New York Times. They frequently rented out high society havens such as the Waldorf-Astoria and Delmonico’s. The ball of 1885 was so massive that the Bradley-Martins built a huge temporary supper room in their backyard just for the ball. The enclosure was so enormous that the insurance companies required that that the Bradley-Martins buy fire insurance for the entire city block. []

Party during the winter of 1897

During the cold winter of 1897 a large masquerade was held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel with the distinct goal of outdoing the 1893 ball hosted by Alva Vanderbilt . This came to be know as the Bradley-Martin Ball of 1897. The guests put much effort into the historical accuracy of their costumes with most representing the old European aristocracy. Mrs. Bradley-Martin dressed as Mary Stuart, while many of her female guests opted to dress as Marie Antoinette Two guests actually dressed like George Washington and one peculiar Bostonian dressed as an Italian falconer complete with a fake falcon on his arm. The party was the highlight of the social season and was attended by the upper tiers of New York society known as the fashionable 400. During the party many amenities were given to party goers such as 400 carriages that were on call as the revelers went home. The decorations for the ball consisted of 6000 mauve orchids and enough flowers to cover the walls of the immense ball room.

The Party's Aftermath

After the decadence of the party came to the attention of the New York City tax authority, action was taken to start charging the Bradley-Martins a higher amount for their property taxes. A court case was brought against both the Bradley-Martins as well as William Waldorf Astor in which the city of New York tried to assert that their property wealth was higher than reported and the city could collect a higher property tax from them. The case ultimately was dismissed since the Bradley-Martins and Astor resided in both English and American houses and did not live in the city of New York longer than the social seasons. The Bradley-Martins moved to England to be close to their daughter, Countess of Craven, where they participated in the more aristocratic high society. They also started to reside at their Scottish house Balmacaan Estate. [] The Bradley-Martins made a voyage back to the United in April 1912 on board the Mauretania [] and entertained many elite New Yorkers at the Plaza hotel, many of whom had attended their elaborate party that had supposedly ostracized them and was part of the reason they moved to England . []

Criticisms of the Party

Some contemporary authors have cited this party as a sign of the decadence of the era and the complete loss of reality of the upper class. It has been noted that the op-ed board of the Chicago Tribune was critical of their over the top decadence. Also the pastors from both Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, where John D. Rockefeller attended and St. George’s Episcopal Church where J.P. Morgan was a parishioner condemned the party for its loss of focus on philanthropy and overt signs of class division. However, in contrast to these scathing criticisms of the party, the New York Times society pages seemed enthralled with the party. They commented on how the floral arrangements were some of the best decorations that a ball or cotillion had put forth in years. Furthermore the general atmosphere of the party was reported as being light-hearted and welcoming and not a case of complete upper-class snobbery.


*The Pacific Railroad Act

*Pro-Quest Historical New York Times October 11, 1936 p. N9 accessed on 2/2/07
*Pro-Quest Historical New York Times Marconi Transatlantic Wire March 24th 1924, accessed on 2/2/07

*Pro-Quest Historical New York Times April 4th 1912 accessed on 2/2/07 ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2003) pg. 13

*ProQuest Historical New York Times July 9th 1911; accessed on 2/2/07 ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2003) pg. C2
*" http://

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