Elia Peattie, an Uncommon Woman


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Anna Gould, Dollar Princess

The superficial lifestyles of the rich and famous piqued Elia Peattie, so when the 1895 wedding of Anna Gould engaged newspapers across the United States, before, during, and long after the celebrated affair, she used the excesses of the event to extol the simple life. Anna was said to have been short, petulant, and not especially pretty, her fortune was much sought after by eligible bachelors, especially European nobility. At the turn of the century, glamorous women from wealthy American families were called "dollar princesses," for they traded their money for titles. Author Edith Wharton called them "buccaneers" and satirized them in her novels.

The Omaha World-Herald, as well as newspapers around the world, crammed their columns with stories about the sensational wedding, especially its expenses. One headline proclaimed: "It Will Cost Her $160,000 to Wed the Imported French Count." The lead noted: "For the last month Miss Anna Gould has been spending her income every single day. She has $15,000,000 in all, $600,000 a year, $50,000 a month and nearly $2,000 every twenty-four hours. This is the first time in twenty-one years that she has been able to get through with the vast sum of money which her careful old father, Jay Gould, piled up for her."

Reporters wrote in lavish detail of Anna's satin and lace wedding dress as well as her dark green, silk, going-away gown that was trimmed in mink and ermine, but focused most intently on her jewels. Her veil fell from a forty thousand dollar coronet of emeralds and diamonds, a gift from her brother. But this was nothing compared to the gift designed by the count to catch the lace on her bodice: "Two hundred and fifty large diamonds and two immense emeralds, the latter costing $14,000 each. . . .Double chains of diamonds run right and left, fastening high up at the shoulders, caught at one end by three diamond feathers, and at the other by a small copy of the center piece, also holding an emerald." Anna also wore a necklace of diamonds, a gift from her sister, from which hung another gift from the count, a large emerald suspended in a hoop of white diamonds.

Anna's trousseau, for which twelve large trunks were constructed, consisted of "dresses to walk in, to dance in and talk in, and especially dresses in which to do nothing at all." The array consisted of three dozen matinee and tea gowns and house dresses, each one costing hundreds of dollars. Her handmade lingerie, three dozen of each article, all ruffled and embroidered, cost three thousand dollars.

In her "A Word with the Women" column on March 7, 1895, Peattie not only satirized the rich for their conspicuous consumption, but also the journalists who played up such decadence. Although Peattie hoped for a happy marriage for Anna, in her heart she knew Anna was doomed. So did nearly everyone else. New York reporter Will Clemens, after describing the wedding and the history of the Castellane family, wrote prophetically, "Ah, yes, the whole thing may be a sweet little international love story, but somehow it is hard to think so, and the pageant today and all the other features of the affair make it look a simple case of cash for a coronet. And Jay Gould lying in his coffin-what of him? Can't you almost imagine you hear his skeleton hands beating at the glass at the thought of so large a share of his millions going into the keeping of a French ninny who wouldn't be able to tell a bull movement from a bear plunge with a Lick telescope? Jay, despite what was said of him, was always an American."

As it turned out, Anna's marriage was a disaster, but through no fault of her own. Her husband spent money extravagantly, even for the Goulds, buying and furnishing homes with art and antiques, purchasing a sixteen hundred ton yacht that required a crew of over ninety, and giving lavish parties for guests that often numbered in the thousands where he served only the best foods and wines. Anna's family publicly denounced him, and soon, due to his habit of not paying his bills and his flagrant infidelity, she divorced him. She married the Duke of Tallyrand, who had his own money, and the couple lived happily ever after.

Read Peattie's Writings


Clemens, Will M. "And Now She Is a Countess." Omaha World-Herald. 5 March 1895: 7.

"The Dollar Princesses." Time. 21 Dec. 1959. 16 Sept. 2007 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,865177,00.html.

"Lyndhurst." Great Estates of the Hudson Valley. Hudson Valley Network. 2004. 14 Sept. 2007 http://www.hvnet.com/houses/lyndhurst/index.htm.

"Jay Gould." Online Encyclopedia. 2007. 14 Sept. 2007 http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/GOA_GRA/GOULD_JAY_1836_1892_.html. [Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 285 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.]

Micheletti, Ellen. "Money for Titles: The American Dollar Princesses." 9 Sept. 2007 http://www.likesbooks.com/heiress.html.

Moore, Mildred. "Anna Gould's Wedding." Omaha World-Herald. 3 March 1895: 18.


Countess De Castellane, Nee Gould — From a Photograph by Davis & Sanford. Harper's Weekly, March 9, 1895.

Count Boniface De Castellane. Harper's Weekly, March 9, 1895.

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