Celebrities in 1912

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Today we are inundated with celebrities and celebrity news. We have programs dedicated solely to our celebrities, along with their frequent appearances on talk shows and tweets. I’ve gathered a list of some of the “celebrities” that may have been making headlines in 1912.

John Jacob Astor—the 47 year old made headlines the year before {1911} when he married 18 year old, Madeline Talmage Force. His new wife was a year younger than his son, Vincent. The couple took an extended honeymoon abroad, hoping talk would die down, as they travelled throughout Europe and Egypt. They were joined on their trips by Margaret Brown. While abroad Madeline discovered she was pregnant and they decided to return home for the child’s birth. The couple traveled aboard the Titanic, boarding in Cherbourg, France; and he was hailed as the richest man aboard ship. Their pet Airedale, Kitty, was a constant travel companion of the couple. Madeline {and Margaret Brown} survived the sinking of the Titanic. When J.J. Astor’s body was found it was so badly mutilated that it is believed a funnel fell on him, but other reports refute this report saying he had no bruises on him. He was identified by the initials sewn on the label of his jacket. Madeline gave birth to their son, John Jacob Astor VI, on August 14, 1912.

Mary Pickford was an actress. She was a co-founder of the United Artist Studio and one of the founders {of 36} of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. She was known as “America’s Sweetheart”. She is one of the most important founders and producers of the silent era. Her contract demands were central in shaping the industry that became Hollywood. In 1912 she returned to Broadway after three years in front of the movie camera {she filmed 51 movies in 1909 alone}, but quickly discovered how much she missed being in front of the camera. It was then that she dedicated her life to the movies.

George Melies was a French filmmaker, producer, and illusionist of the early Twentieth Century. He often experimented with special effects and accidentally discovered the stop trick. He was one of the first filmmakers to use many modern day film tricks and was ahead of his time. Some of his films used hand painted color. Between 1896 and 1913 he produced five hundred and thirty one films. These films lasted anywhere from one to forty minutes. One of his better known films is “Trip to the Moon.”In 1912 he made one of his most ambitious films, “Conquest of the Pole.” That same year he also released “Cinderella or The Glass Slipper”, “The Ghost of Sulpher Mountain,” “The Prisoner’s Story,” and “The Snow Knight.” Melies also served through 1912 as the first president of a trade union he helped establish to protect himself from foreign markets. He died of cancer in 1938. The movie Hugo is about his career.

Thomas Edison is well known as the inventor of electricity. He was an American inventor and businessman. Other devices he invented include the phonograph, motion picture camera, recorded music, mass production and a battery for an electric car in his 1,093 patents. In 1912 he was running the Motion Pictures Patent Company {also known as the Edison Trust}, which he started in 1908.

Henry Ford was making a name for himself after the Model T was introduced in 1908. In 1911 he opened assembly plants in England and Canada. In 1912 he helped launch the first Italian automotive assembly plant. The founder of the Ford Motor Company introduced the assembly line in 1913. He soon opened other plants around the world. From 1901 to 1913 he was very involved in auto racing.

Alexander Graham Bell was an inventor, scientist, teacher to the deaf, engineer and professor. The Scotsman is best known for inventing the telephone. From 1907-1912 he experimented with boxed kites. He had a number of interest and made many discoveries to change the way of living over the next 100 years.

William Booth founded the Salvation Army. The was the first general of this company and died in August 1912.

George V was the King of England. He was the grandson of Queen Victoria and his coronation was the year earlier in 1911. He was the first cousin to Tsar Nicholas of Russia and the two men bore a striking resemblance to one another. George V was the father of Edward VIII {who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson} and George VI {father of Queen Elizabeth II}.

The Vanderbilt Family was a famous, well known family of the shipping and railroad empire. This family built the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. One member of this family, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, was scheduled to be on the Titanic but cancelled before she sailed on her Maiden Voyage. His son Alfred G. Vanderbilt II was born in 1912. Ironically he was on the RMS Lusitania three years later when she was torpedoed. He helped many passengers into lifeboats and offered one mother his own life vest knowing there were neither vests nor lifeboats left. He was among the passengers that perished in the disaster.

J. P. Morgan was a banker, financier and art collector. By the first decade of the 20th Century he dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation. He financed forty-two major corporations such as General Electric, International Mercantile Marine Company {which owned White Star Line} and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. He was supposed to be on the Titanic but cancelled at the last minute. In December 1912 he testified before the subcommittee of the House Banking and Currency committee. A considerable amount of his collections were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and his son formed the Pierpont Morgan Library in his honor. He died in March 1913.

Oscar Hammerstein I was a composer, businessman and theatre personality on Broadway during the first two decades of the 20th Century. Today he is probably better known as the grandfather of Oscar Hammerstein II {of Rogers and Hammerstein fame}. Oscar I was born in Prussia and learned to play the flute, piano and violin by a young age. He clashed with his father over his love of music and sold his violin to run away. He originally went to Liverpool, England before arriving in New York City three months later in 1864. He became a cigar maker and owned over eighty patents making his wealth in this profession. The money from his inventions and cigar making allowed him to pursue his musical interest. He built his first theatre, Harlem Opera House, in 1889. He opened at least nine opera houses, wrote his own operetta’s and renamed Longacre Square, where his Olympic Theatre was located, Times Square helping to establish the theatre district that is there to this day. His tenth opera house, London Opera House, was opened in London, England. He later returned to New York to build his eleventh and last opera house. His grand productions often left him broke. In April 1910 he stopped producing his productions of grand opera and turned his focus to dramatic productions. He died in August 1919.