The Bradley Martins: Their Start
and Career in New York Society
Bradley Martin was born in Albany, N.Y., about
fifty-three years ago. His mother was Miss Townsend,
of an old Albany family, which is a branch of the
Long island family of Townsends. His father was a
merchant of some means, and the family occupied a
leading place in Albany society. Mr. Martin, as a
young man, was frequently in New York, and his
connections and acquaintances here enabled him to
attend the leading entertainments of the day.
It was at the wedding of Miss Emily Vanderbilt,
second daughter of William H. Vanderbilt, to Mr.
William Sloane, about thirty years ago, that Mr.
Martin first met his wife. She was then Miss
Cornelia Sherman, a daughter of Isaac Sherman, a
retired merchant who was known to have means, but
was not thought to be even what was then considered
a wealthy man. Miss Sherman was one of Miss
Vanderbilt's bridesmaids, and was an extremely
pretty girl , a blonde with the freshest and rosiest
of complexions, which she has retained until today.
Mr. Martin began his courtship at once, and the
young couple were soon engaged, and were married
about a year afterward. They began life very
modestly, living with Mrs. Martin's parents at the
latter's residence in West Twentieth Street in
Winter, and spending their Summers at Saratoga or
Sharon Springs, then the fashionable watering
places, and occasionally taking a trip abroad.
Three children were born to them, Sherman, who died
on Dec. 22, 1894, in this city, under peculiarly sad
and sensational circumstances; a daughter, Cornella,
now the Countess of Craven, and whose marriage to
the young Earl of Craven, in Grace Church, April 18,
1893, and the fashionable interest and excitement
it created are well remembered, and Bradley Martin,
Jr., who is now with his parents in this city.
Coming Into a Fortune
Before Mr. Sherman's death, Jan. 21, 1881, Mr. and
Mrs. Bradley Martin were not especially prominent in
New York society. Mr. Martin was a member of the
Union Club, and with his wife, was seen at some of
the entertainments of the recurring Winter seasons,
but they entertained little and were considered as
essentially domestic in their tastes.
On the morning of Jan. 22, 1881, notice of the death
of Isaac Sherman, on the preceding day, appeared in
the newspapers, and some old members of the Union
Club wagged their heads knowingly and remarked that
there might be a surprise to New York when Mr.
Sherman's will was probated. The surprise soon came,
and then it was learned that Mr. Sherman, who was
not generally supposed to be worth over $200,000,
had left $5,000,000 or $6,000,000, and save for an
annual life income to his widow, left all to his
only child and daughter, Mrs. Bradley Martin.
Mrs. Martin's Father
Mr. Sherman's funeral, which took place on January
25, 1881, at all Souls' Unitarian Church, at Fourth
Avenue and Twentieth Street, was attended by many
prominent men. The pall bearers were Ex-Gov. E.D.
Morgan, John Hamilton, William Appleton, Henry
Hurlburt, B.H. Bristow, Henry G. Marquand, Parke
Godwin, Judge Henry E. Davies, David Wells, and B.B.
Sherman. The Rev. Dr. Bellows pronounced a eulogy on
Mr. Sherman, in which he stated, to the surprise of
his hearers, that President Lincoln had offered to
make Mr. Sherman Secretary of State at the beginning
of the former's second term, but that Mr. Sherman
had declined the honor.
Dr. Bellows also briefly sketched Mr. Sherman's
career as follows: He was born in Rensselaer County,
near Troy, N.Y., in 1818. His parents were small
farmers, and he received a common school education.
About 1840 he went to Buffalo, where he became
engaged in the business of trading in fancy woods.
After a year in Buffalo he removed to new York City,
where he founded the firm of Sherman & Romaine,
which related in fancy woods and leathers. After a
successful existence of nearly twenty-five years,
the firm dissolved in 1865, and Mr. Sherman retired
with a comfortable fortune and devoted himself to
the study of his favorite subjects, taxation,
international law, and political economy. He had
become a good French scholar, and had acquired a
large and valuable library of French works. Although
Mr. Sherman was a member of the Social Science
Association, the New York Historical Society, and of
the Union, Union League, and Free Trade Clubs of
this city and of the Cobden Club of London, he was
domestic in his tastes, and except for a few hours
devoted to whist at the Union Club every day, he
lived quietly in his comfortable home, in Twentieth
Street, and was rarely seen in society.
Again in Society.
It was nearly two years after Mr. Sherman's death
that Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin again entered
society. They had meanwhile taken a long European
trip, and during their absence, the house at 20 West
Twentieth Street, adjoining that left by Mr. Sherman
to his widow, 22 West Twentieth Street, which had
been purchased by Mrs. Martin, was renovated and its
interior virtually rebuilt. The two houses were also
thrown into one by the removal of the partition
wall, and so they remain today.
In the Winter and Spring of 1883, Mrs. Martin's name
began to appear among the patronesses of fashionable
entertainments, and both Mr. Martin and herself
gradually began to be seen more and more in society.
When Mrs. Cora Urquhart Potter about this time began
to appear in those fashionable amateur theatricals
which afterward led to her going on the stage, Mrs.
Martin was one of her warmest friends and advisers,
and always acted as a patroness of her
A series of handsome dinners was given in the Winter
season of 1884-1885 by Mr. and Mrs. Martin, at their
Twentieth Street residence, and at these a lavish
display of wealth and superb appointments and floral
decorations occasioned wide comment. During this
season, also, Mrs. Martin formed one of the
reception committees with Mrs. Astor and Mrs.
Baylies, at the Assemblies, then the new and
fashionable balls of New York's society. This
established Mrs. Martin's Position in New York
Society, even among a doubting element, and it has
never since been questioned.
About this time in 1884, Mr. Martin secured a lease
of the famous game preserve in Scotland, known as
Bal Macaan, which since that time has been virtually
the home of the family, except for some few months,
generally during the Winters, they spent in New
Their First Famous Ball.
It was in the Winter of 1885 that they gave their
famous ball in their Twentieth Street residence.
This superb affair, with its unique feature of a
temporary supper room built over the rear yards of
the houses, and with its remarkably handsome
appointments and rich and artistic favors, placed
Mr. and Mrs. Martin in the front rank of New York
Society leaders and entertainers.
The Cotillion dinner given by Mr. and Mrs. Martin on
Feb. 8, 1890, was their last notable entertainment
in New York. They remained abroad during the Winters
of 1891 and 1892, and only returned for two months
in 1893, to prepare for and celebrate their
daughter's marriage to the Earl of Craven, in April
of that year. They sailed again for Scotland in May,
Once more returning, in November, 1894, their
proposed entertaining that Winter was stopped by the
death of their eldest son, Sherman Martin. Soon
after his funeral Mr. and Mrs. Martin returned to
Bal Macaan, where they passed their period of
mourning. They once more came to New York in
December last, and after spending the Christmas
holidays with Mr. Martin's relatives in Albany, took
up their residence in their Twentieth Street house
and began to prepare for the coming ball on
Wednesday, which has so greatly excited New York
Mrs. Martin's Ambitions
Mrs. Martin is credited with two separate ambitions,
which, it is aid, induced her to give the coming
ball. These are, first, a desire to round off her
society career in New York with the most superb
entertainment the city has ever seen, and, second, a
wish to have her ball surpass the famous Vanderbilt
one of 1883.
Bal Macaan, the Scotch estate of Mr. Bradley Martin,
is one of the largest in the picturesque parish of
Urguhart, Inverness-shire. It has been famous for
its beautiful scenery and good hunting and fishing
for centuries. The Prince of Wales has frequently
gone there for a few days' shooting. The mansion of
Bal Macaan is only about a mile from the hotel at
Drumnadrochit, so that strangers visiting this most
attractive Highland home of the wealthy Americans
and ample accommodations, both as regards means of
travel and food and lodging. It is fifteen miles
from the town of Invernness.
The whole Invernness region is beautiful. No part of
the Highlands is richer in history or picturesque
castles. Urquhart Castle has been noted for five
centuries as a home or resort of the nobility.
William, Earl of Sutherland, became the owner in the
fourteenth century. In the sixteenth century it
became an appanage of the family of Grant of Grant.
The eighth Earl of Seafield bequeathed the estate to
his mother, the Countess Dowager of Seafield. Of
almost equal fame and importance, and perhaps fully
equal in beauty, is Bal Macaan, which Mr. Martin
leased a dozen or more years ago. Here Mr. and Mrs.
Martin constantly entertain house parties, both
English and Americans, and here Mr. Martin and his
guests enjoy the best of deer hunting, grouse and
pheasant shooting, and salmon fishing during the
open game season.
THE BALL OF 1885
On the night of Jan. 26, 1885, which was the coldest
of an exceptionally bitter Winter, Mrs. Bradley
Martin gave, at her double residence, 20 and 22 West
Twentieth Street, what was considered as having
been, up to that time, with the exception of the
Vanderbilt "fancy dress ball of 1883, " the most
unique and beautiful entertainment ever enjoyed by
the members of New York society. About 400 guests
were invited, and the event created comparatively as
much anticipatory interest and excitement as the
coming ball has aroused this season.
No better evidence of the marked changes which even
the comparatively short period of twelve years can
effect in the society and journalistic worlds, can
be afforded than a study of the story of this ball
as related in two of the morning newspapers of Jan.
27, 1885. Strange as it may seem in this era of the
full publication of society doings and events, only
two of the New York morning newspapers of that date
even alluded to this ball, and these two gave only a
brief account of it. A perusal of the list of guests
is almost startling, as it shows that of the 400
people who attended Mrs. Martin's ball of twelve
Winters ago, scarcely one-half are likely to attend
her coming ball of Feb. 10 of this year. The divorce
court, the vicissitudes of fortune, and particularly
death, have removed from participation in society
life what seems a remarkable number of persons in so
short a time.
Harry Cannon, who was one of the leaders of the
cotillion at the Martin ball of 1885, is dead. Ward
McAllister, Mrs. Paran Stevens, her son, Harry
Stevens; George Henry Warren, Mrs. George L. Rives
the first, Miss Marie, afterward Mrs. Frank
Pendleton, and others of the guests of 1885 almost
as prominent, have passed away. It will also be
recalled that during the ball one of the invited
guests, and one of the belles of the day, Miss Ruth
Baylies, who had been taken ill only a few days
previous, died, and the ball was almost forgotten in
the general sorrow when the news of her death became
known the next day.
The Huge Temporary Supper Room
The feature of the Martin ball of 1885 was the huge
temporary supper room, built of wood, which was
erected over the rear yards of the Martin residence.
This was 68 feet long by 25 feet wide, and after it
had been erected the insurance companies compelled
Mrs. Martin to pay a heavy premium for its use for
one night, on account of the risk to the adjoining
property. This building, or room, was arranged so
that access to it was gained by a flight of broad
steps leading down from the billiard room, which
occupies the entire width of the Martin houses in
the rear, and whose three windows were transformed
into temporary doorways for the occasion. It was
heated by steam and lighted by three enormous
chandeliers and many side lights. The ceiling was
decorated by Marcotte to resemble the starry sky.
The walls were hung with turkey red, and antique
armor was used to decorate them. A massive old
sideboard was placed against one side of the room,
and a long supper table was arranged in the centre.
The effect of this room, as the guests walked out
from the billiard room and stood on the top of the
stairway, was striking and beautiful. Unfortunately
the bitter cold of the night, on which the
thermometer fell to zero, made the room of little
use, as the steam pipes could not keep the temporary
The guests when they entered were received by Mrs.
Martin, who stood in the reception room at the right
of the main hall, and from there they passed on
through the library and dining-room into the
billiard room in the rear. After viewing the supper
room, they returned through a small room on the left
of the main hall, where two bands were stationed,
which played continuously through the evening.
Beyond this small room, in the front of the house,
was a room arranged as a large hallway, and
decorated with deers' heads and other trophies of
the chase from Bal Macaan, Mr. Martin's leased
estate in Scotland.
Leaders of the Cotillions
After supper, which was served about midnight, two
cotillions were danced. Lispenard Stewart led one,
in the dining-room, and Harry Cannon another, in the
large entrance hall. The favors were exceptionally
beautiful. Those for the women were mother-of-pearl
fans and silver and gold ornaments, and for the men
scarf-pins with pearl heads and broad satin sashes
covered with gilt and silver imitations of foreign
orders. In the flower figure, clusters of pink roses
tied with satin ribbons were given to the women, and
boutonnieres of lilies of the valley were given tot
he men. The women's bouquets had each a small
stuffed sparrow suspended above it by a vibrating
wire. Mrs. Martin wore a superb dress of white
satin, made, as was then the fashion, with a long
train, and she carried seven or eight large
The men, matrons, and maidens, who are middle-aged
or are approaching middle age, in New York society,
well remember this beautiful and unique ball, now
only a tradition to the younger generation.
COTILLION AT DELMONICO'S
Mrs. Martin's Brilliant Party in February, 1890,
When There Was a Dinner and Dancing.
On the night of Feb 8, 1890, Mrs. Bradley Martin
entertained about 300 of her friends at dinner at
Delmonico's, the dinner being followed by a
cotillion. The decorations of the reception, dining,
and ball rooms were on a somewhat novel plan and
exceedingly rich in character. Gloire de Paris roses
were used chiefly in the adornment of the tables, of
which there were six, each set for 46 persons. The
walls of the main dining hall were hung with blue
silk brocade and adorned with small gilt mirrors,
from which hung baskets of lilies of the valley. A
notable feature of the decoration was a Roman
chandelier of orchids that swung in place of the
usual circle of lights.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin received their guests in the
small red room, in which many graceful palms and
ferns were grouped. Coffee was served in both the
red room and the blue room to both ladies and
gentlemen after dinner. In the blue room, as well as
in the main corridor, banks of palms and roses were
placed, also a number of choice tapestries,
pictures, and bits of bric-a-brac from the Martin
Lander's Orchestra and the Hungarian Band played
throughout the dinner and during the cotillion which
George H. Bend led, dancing with Mrs. Martin. There
were two figure favors, the men receiving jeweled
diggers and fac similes of the Orders of the Golden
Fleece, and the ladies were presented with small
satin bonnets and oxidized silver chatelaines. The
guests included all persons prominent in New York's
exclusive society, and one of the most charming
features of the occasion was the presence of an
unusually large number of debutantes, for whom a
special table was reserved and appropriately adorned