One successful American in Edwardian era London promoted himself ~ In 1906, following a vacation to London, American businessman, the savvy and brash, Harry Gordon Selfridge, returned to England and invested £400,000 in his own department store. Built in what was then the “unfashionable” western end of Oxford Street, the store opened in 1909 to the public, and his 20-year leadership of “Selfridges” led to his becoming one of the most respected and wealthy retail magnates in the United Kingdom. He was known as the “Earl of Oxford Street.” Sadly, his solecisms and downfall were to follow, from lavish spending, gambling debts and affairs with showgirls.
“The social promoter abroad, whether male or female, is not always the happiest of mortals. The recent disaster which befell some Americans who trusted too much to the savoir faire of their sponsor in London has produced disastrous results. English society is still a stickler, and the rumor that a gentleman and his wife, trusting to an American in London, who has had some position, in engineering them through, committed some kind of solecism, being present at a ball at Buckingham Palace without previously having been presented, has been the talk of the clubs this week. However, the matter is much more serious from the point of an American in London, than otherwise. Very few Americans have been honored with invitations to state balls at Buckingham Palace, which are very stupid functions and empty honors at best.
King Edward is very liberal in his ideas, especially toward Americans, but extremely narrow where his own subjects are concerned. He has been known to send to Coventry, men of prominence—and women, too, for that matter—for very slight breaches of etiquette. But he is most lenient in the case of people from this side. There is reason to believe, in the present story as retailed, that there is a slight animus in the American colony in London. However, the incident bears fruit, and Americans who go to London for social recognition there, are becoming more and more wary of the promoter who has not been in favor recently. The social promoter is not unknown in New York, and there has existed in late years, a certain prejudice against him. The male promoter is disappearing, and the man who can secure a comparatively unknown person membership in exclusive clubs is becoming rarer each day. Ten years ago there were many such men, members of the most fashionable New York clubs. Today there are strong local prejudices to fight, and Wall Street is often a factor.” –The Los Angeles Herald, 1904
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia