"Bessie" was the daughter of Lucy Wharton (1841–1912) and Joseph William Drexel. Joseph was the son of Francis Martin Drexel, the immigrant ancestor of the Drexel banking family in the United States.
On June 29, 1889, Elizabeth married John Vinton Dahlgren I (1869–1899), the son of Admiral John Adolph Dahlgren (1809–1870). They had two sons, Joseph Drexel Dahlgren (1890-1891) and John Vinton Dahlgren Jr. (1892–1964). During this marriage, she made generous donations to Roman Catholic charities and to Georgetown University. The latter asked for her portrait, which was painted in 1899 by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862–1947).
Dahlgren died Aug. 11, 1899, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he had gone in hopes of recovering from an illness.
Elizabeth married Henry Symes Lehr (1869–1929), aka Harry Lehr in June 1901. The marriage was never consummated.
In 1915 the Lehrs were in Paris, and Elizabeth worked for the Red Cross. They remained in Paris after World War I, where they bought in 1923 the Hôtel de Canvoie at 52, rue des Saints-Pères in the 7th arrondissement. Harry Lehr died on January 3, 1929 of a brain malady in Baltimore.
Elizabeth Wharton Drexel by Giovanni Boldini
Harry Lehr was an American socialite during the Gilded Age. He was married to heiress Elizabeth "Bessie" Wharton Drexel. He refused to sleep with her on their wedding night. She stayed in a, unconsummated marriage for 28 years, not wishing to upset her Catholic mother, née Lucy Wharton. Elizabeth is best remembered now for a famous Giovanni Boldini's painting, and her mother Lucy for the Lucy Drexel Dahlgren House in NY designed by Ogden Codman, Jr. Lehr appears as a supporting character in Gore Vidal's novel Empire.
On May 25, 1936 she married John Beresford, 5th Baron Decies. His first wife had been Helen Vivien Gould. He died on January 31, 1944.
She died in 1944 at the Hotel Shelton. She was buried in the Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown University, which she and her first husband had built as a memorial to their son, Joseph Drexel Dahlgren, who died in infancy.
Henry Symes "Harry" Lehr (March 28, 1869 – January 3, 1929) was an American socialite during the Gilded Age. He was married to heiress Elizabeth "Bessie" Wharton Drexel. He refused to sleep with her on their wedding night. She stayed in a loveless, unconsummated marriage for 28 years, not wishing to upset her conservative, staunchly Catholic mother, née Lucy Wharton.
Henry Symes Lehr was born on March 28, 1869. His father, Robert Oliver Lehr, was a tobacco and snuff importer who became the German consul in Baltimore. He was the fourth child in a family of seven. He had a sister Alice Lehr Morton; and a brother Louis Lehr, who was a physician.
He attempted to establish himself as successor to Ward McAllister, arbiter elegantiorum of New York's Four Hundred, the collection of Knickerbocker and industrial families he created as a bulwark against the new wealth of the Gilded Age. He was known for staging elaborate parties alongside Marion "Mamie" Fish, such as the so-called "dog's dinner", in which 100 pets of wealthy friends dined at foot-high tables while dressed in formal attire At a later party, he impersonated the Czar of Russia, and was henceforth dubbed "King Lehr".
Lehr was never accepted as an equal by high society. Grace Graham Wilson, wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt III, who assumed the throne of Mrs. Astor after her death, had little regard for Lehr's antics. When his patron Mrs. Astor died, Lehr allied himself with Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish of New York and Newport. Together, they bucked the formality and rigidity that characterized social life in Gilded Age New York. The result was practical jokes and entertainments that brought disgrace onto "The Four Hundred" and caused their rebuke in the nation's pulpits and periodicals.
He was diagnosed in 1923, and had a brain tumor removed in 1927. He died on January 3, 1929 of a brain malady at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Lehr appears as a supporting character in Gore Vidal's novel Empire.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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