March 14, 1998

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Not to be too morbid, but death, as ever, was at the center of many stories in 1922. One, dating back a few millennia, was confirmed in November as archaeologists discovered the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamen in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.

Some deaths would remain shrouded in mystery, even into to our own time. In Hollywood, film director William Desmond Taylor was found murdered. And closer to home, in Linden, in western New York, 72-year-old Frances Kimball was battered to death in her home. Two years later, in 1924, three other people were murdered in the same small village. None of the four crimes was ever solved.

Giovanni Martini had cheated death once, by not being in the wrong place at the right time. But Martini, George Armstrong Custer's orderly at the Little Bighorn forty-six years previously, died in Brooklyn this year.

There were other, relatively serene deaths. The literary world lost several leading figures. In Paris the semi-invalid Marcel Proust passed away at the age of 51. William Henry Hudson, born in Argentina, also died this year. Most of the public would remember him not as the naturalist he was by profession, but by his one novel and its central character, Rima, the Bird Girl, of Green Mansions .

One of the most mourned of those dying in 1922 was Mrs. Alexander P. Moore. She was winding down from a long and varied career when she died on June 6th. Her husband, her fourth actually, a Pittsburgh newspaper publisher and Republican stalwart, had just helped put Warren G. Harding in the White House. Mrs. M. had worked tirelessly on the campaign as well, and Harding did not forget. Woodrow Wilson's Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer had recently arrested 6,000 U. S. citizens on the grounds of Bolshevik sympathies and deported close to a thousand, including Emma Goldman and Wobbly labor leader "Big Bill" Haywood. Anti immigrant feelings were also running high in these post-war years. Harding decided to send Mrs. Moore to Europe to try and discover what compelled thousands to flee their homeland and sail to American shores. She labored mightily and came up with the unfortunate and simplistic conclusion that "Alien infiltration wrecked Rome." Immigration should be curbed. Continuing to lecture even though weakened by a fall suffered on board ship while returning home, she soon wore herself out and was dead a few weeks later. It was in this rather bizarre scenario that the world lost one of its most colorful characters, a woman who had sent male hearts racing in a series of operettas, made audiences laugh in Weber and Fields vaudeville skits, and turned Come Down My Evening Star into the favorite song of thousands. To all of those thousands of fans Mrs. Moore, born Helen Louise Leonard sixty years earlier, was far better known as Lillian Russell.

OUTRO
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.

 

© 1998 avid Minor / Eagles Byte

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