Monday, August 22, 2016

EUGEN | Guglielmo Marconi, Friend and Relative

Dr. Marc Raboy's new book on Guglielmo Marconi published by the Oxford University Press has just appeared. It was reviewed yesterday by Greg Milner (author of Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture and Our Minds).

Prof. Raboy holds the Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, in the Media and Communications Department of Art History and Communications at McGill University in Montreal.

Raboy credits me with providing some details in his book about Marconi's mother's family that I sent to him in an email on July 26, 2012. I am posting here information I sent, in the hope that it will be useful to other researchers on the Milhollands, the Boissevains or the Marconis.

My link to Raboy was Linda Lumsden, who wrote a fine biography of Inez Milholland–book that made it unnecessary for me to rush out my own book into the void I saw about her life story.  Instead, I worked on a play about her that was first produced in New York City Hall, then migrated to Rochester, and was then produced as a staged reading in Inez Milholland's birthplace, Lewis, N.Y.  (Linda was kind enough to attend this event.) This year is the centennial of Inez Milholland's death and I am rewriting my play for a group in the Washington, D.C. area that is interested in producing it.

In my email to Prof. Raboy, I cited several connections between Eugen Boissevain and Guglielmo Marconi. Here is a slightly edited version of what I told him in 2012: 

1. Both were engaged to Inez, Guglielmo for a few months and Eugen for the rest  of her short life. Guglielmo expected Inez and Eugen to hit it off. (He had a hunch she would go for a hunk.) My mother Hilda van Stockum was Eugen's niece and told me used to tell me things that Eugen passed on to her. Apparently Guglielmo told Eugen that he was passing his old flame onto him because she needed someone like Eugen–someone more masculine (or "stronger" may have been the way he put it) than he, Guglielmo, was. Eugene's bother Robert had been in New York already for some time and already knew Inez through his second wife (who had been personal secretary to Alma Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, a big funder of the woman suffrage movement), so Eugen was well-informed about the woman he was to meet for the first time at the Holland House in June 1913.

2. Both liked going to Irish pubs. They engaged in an Irish-pub crawl in New York and from the context it was not the first such evening out that they spent together.

3. Eugen worked for Guglielmo's company, Marconi Wireless, for a while in London–probably working with investors, which I think of as Guglielmo's obsession, although I may be projecting onto the Marconi company the worries of Inez's father about the Batcheller company. The Bankers' Panic of 1907-08 was similar to that of 2008-09 so they would still be facing risk-averse investors.

4. Both were intellectually curious. But Guglielmo was more a nerdy scientist and Eugen was more a wide-ranging free-thinker, which is the biggest thing that John E. Milholland held against him.

5. Both had Irish mothers who were first cousins from the Jameson family in Ireland, still famed for their whiskey. The Jamesons were distinguished in Ireland because of the brand was well-known and well-loved and  because they were enriched by sales of their product. They were also Protestant Irish. In New York City Protestant circles the Jameson product might have been less highly regarded because a Protestant Irishman like John E. Milholland might well have been a Prohibitionist. (It was Prohibition that united Catholics and Jews against the Protestants.)  My nephew Chris Oakley in London wrote up an explanation of the relationship between the two Jameson mothers. The Jameson family came together during the summers at Glen Lodge on the edge of Lake Sligo in Northwest Ireland. My mother has visited there many summers. Sligo (which means "abundant in sea shells") is the largest urban area in northwest Ireland. Sligo is three-quarters Catholic, but the sympathies of the Jamesons during the 1910s and 1920s would have gravitated to the British. (It is a county in the Province of Connacht, one of the four provinces of the Éire Republic. The nine Ulster counties, six of which constituted the Northern Ireland Province of the United Kingdom, are immediately to the east.)

See also related posts: Let's Get that Mountain Renamed . Recognizing Stanton and Anthony . Aug. 6–Milholland's 130th Birthday . How Did Eugen Meet Inez?

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