by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections
November 8, 2022
For much of the fall of 1869, the Cranes were “busy as bees” preparing for perhaps the grandest social affair they would ever host. Thanks in large part to family letters from the time, we know far more about the momentous event than any other in their lives. Potential guests reached into the hundreds, silk dresses were sewn by a favorite dressmaker, a special train to the City was scheduled, and a menu complete with meringues and quail was ordered from a NYC establishment. Seemingly no expense was to be spared for the wedding of the Crane’s eldest daughter, Mary.
Her parents’ pride and joy, Mary was to wed the boy next door, John Hone IV, at Morristown’s Church of the Redeemer on November 11, 1869. Although then a small wooden church with a congregation of 84, Mr. Crane nonetheless drafted a list of guests for the bride’s side that by his own reckoning reached 295. Populated by Morristown high society, Newark and New York relatives, business associates, and every pastor the church ever had, it seemed hardly an acquaintance was omitted. Mary was to have three bridesmaids: her sister Julia, John’s sister Jennie, and her childhood classmate Eliza Baker. After the ceremony, many of the guests were to return to Acorn Hall for supper and a “German cotillion,” a combination of dances and games that became popular in New York society during the 1850s. To close the evening, the couple was to depart from Morristown for the City on a special train.
Lavish gifts poured in as the day grew near, many from John’s wealthy relatives. His aunt, Caroline Perry Belmont, wife of financier August Belmont, sent a diamond and pearl locket; his grandmother, Jane Slidell Perry, widow of Commodore Matthew Perry, sent earrings to match. The groom himself gave his bride a pair of “magnificent” solitaire diamond earrings. However, the elaborate arrangements came crashing down when less than two weeks before the wedding was to take place. John’s grandmother, Maria Kane Hone DePeyster, died. Etiquette for mourning required a significant curtailing of the merriment planned. No thought of dancing was to be entertained. At first, the wedding was to be significantly delayed as “Father and mother are not willing that I should be married in a gloomy manner.” However, after discussions among the family, the wedding went ahead a week later, subdued and without dancing, but as a joyous occasion nevertheless.