The Gibson

There is a bar room in Washington, DC called the Gibson. I’ve not been since I don’t spend much time in bar rooms, having spent a vast amount of time in those establishments as a youth in New Orleans. It is set up, I am told, as a sort of “speakeasy” to remind one of prohibition.

But the association of Gibson with the era of the 1920s, goes back to 1890 when the artist, Charles Dana Gibson, drew what became the feminine arch type in America for decades: the Gibson girl. Since he was unmarried in 1890, she was a product of his artistic imagination. In 1895 Gibson married Irene Langhorne of Virginia who brought the Gibson girl to life.

There were five Langhorne daughters, each beautiful, witty, deadly, their fascinating story told in Five Sisters: The Langhornes of Virginia by James Fox who also wrote White Mischief: The Murder of Lord Erroll.

The most famous of the sisters was the third sister, Nancy, who married Mr. Astor, who later became Lord Astor of Cliveden. In 1919, his wife, the former Nancy Langhorne, became the first woman elected to the British Parliament. That’s a long way from being a Richmond belle. Their wealthy friends and followers became known as “the Cliveden Set” and their goal was to appease Hitler and avoid war.

Cliveden, Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England. View of the house from its lawn. Date 10 June 2005.

“Appeasement” as the policy of Neville Chamberlain and his Conservative government toward Hitler will ever be identified with “the Cliveden set.” They worked diligently to this end not realizing Hitler was never going to be appeased. Nancy Astor was a foolish woman and the people around her and her husband were likewise immature, childish, and shielded from life’s difficulties by their wealth.

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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