Skip to main content

Item of the Week: The John Howard Payne Party, 1935

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 11:10

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

Ruth Sterling Benjamin (1882-1957) appears far right in this photograph from The East Hampton Star’s archive. The five local girls with her are, from left, Betty Mall, Dorothy Johnson, later Dorothy Bailey (1921-2015), Netty Sherrill, later known as Sherrill Foster (1921-2007), Mary Louise Barnes, later Mary Mayo (b. 1925), and Elizabeth Foster, later Elizabeth Schieck (1921-1999).

The image is from a 1935 birthday celebration for John Howard Payne, a tradition that Ruth Benjamin started in 1931 at the Home, Sweet Home Museum. While those pictured are all wearing historical costumes, most weren’t accurate to Payne’s lifetime, although they certainly capture the pageantry and fun of historical re-enactment.

The young women in this photograph were between 10 and 15 years old at the time. References in The Star suggest several were close friends who remained in touch as adults. Netty Sherrill returned to East Hampton for Dorothy Johnson’s wedding, and they both attended college. Netty later became an enthusiastic local historian. The young woman labeled as Betty Mall, however, remains a mystery.

Ruth Benjamin served as the first director of the Home, Sweet Home Museum, starting immediately after East Hampton Village bought the building in 1927. She devoted her life to the museum, working as the main tour guide, curator, promoter, fund-raiser, and event planner there for 27 years. Ruth and her husband, Walter, moved to Amagansett during World War I, when he was stationed in Montauk.

In 1935, John Howard Payne’s birthday celebration occurred on June 15th, the Saturday following his actual birthday, after rain postponed the originally planned fete. The festivities took place on the lawn behind Home, Sweet Home, with performances by a chorus of schoolchildren and the high school band.

Major John Vernou Bouvier Jr. (1866-1948), paternal grandfather of future First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and a summer resident with a reputation as a talented orator, delivered an address focused on John Howard Payne’s life and the history of Home, Sweet Home. It was considered the highlight of the event.

Andrea Meyer, a librarian and archivist, is head of collection for the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.



Juneteenth: ‘This Is American History’

Following the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, commemorating the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, education efforts have grown throughout the community. “At the end of the day, this is something that should be taught because this is American history,” said Georgette Grier-Key, executive director of the Eastville Community Historical Society in Sag Harbor.

Jun 20, 2024

Georgica Pond Group Taps Assemblyman Thiele as Next Director

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced in February that he would not be seeking re-election in November after nearly 30 years in state government. For those wondering what his next act would be, the suspense is over: Mr. Thiele has been named executive director of the Friends of the Georgica Pond Foundation.

Jun 20, 2024

Jerry’s Team Is Re-Elected

There were no surprises in the East Hampton Village election on Tuesday. Mayor Jerry Larsen, Chris Minardi, the deputy mayor, and Sandra Melendez, another village trustee, all ran unopposed and were re-elected to four-year terms.

Jun 20, 2024

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.