The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 12, March 19, 2023, Article 20


Archer M. Huntington was a major benefactor of the American Numismatic Society in New York, and served as its President from 1905 to 1910. E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted another background article illustrating Huntington's family and wealth. Interesting - thanks. -Editor

Our story last week was about Arabella Huntington, mother of Archer Milton Huntington. This week we jump forward one generation to Helen Manchester Gates, the first wife of Huntington. Before we get to her, we go back a generation to William Huntington (1782-1860).

William Huntington was born on April 12, 1782, in Harwinton, Connecticut. He was married to Elisabeth Vincent (1791-1871). William was a farmer and ran a shingle mill. William and Elizabeth had nine children including Collis Potter Huntington (1821-1900) and Ellen Marie Huntington Gates (1836-1920). The family was poor, living in a place called Poverty Hollow, and in 1834 county authorities removed Collis from the family and placed him with another farm family. As mentioned last week, Collis was the adoptive father of Archer Milton Huntington.

Helen Gales Criss Hintington Ellen Marie Huntington married Reverend Isaac Edwin Gates. She was a successful and prolific writer. They were parents of Helen Manchester Gates (1868-1950). Helen was born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, on September 3, 1868. She married Thomas Ball Criss (1860-1913) on December 4, 1889. He was the chief accountant for Collis Huntington. They had a daughter Mildred (1890-1972) on October 6, 1890, and were divorced in 1895. Mildred was a third- generation author and wrote books for children.

When Helen married Archer on August 6, 1895, at St. George's Church in London, it was the marriage of cousins. The church register identified the 27-year-old divorced mother as a spinster and daughter of Isaac Criss. Perhaps, like Arabella Huntington, she was attempting to conceal the facts of her first marriage.

Archer and Helen travelled frequently, often with Arabella, and split their time living in London and New York. In 1914, Archer and Helen travelled to Germany on behalf of the National Geographic Society. Discovered with a bunch of maps, they were suspected of being Russian spies and were arrested in Nuremberg. With pressure from the American State Department, they were released after three days.

Our story line now shifts to English actor Harley Granville Barker (1877-1946). He began an acting career on the stage at age 14 and became a favorite of writer George Bernard Shaw. By 1911 he gave up acting and continued as a playwright and director.

Lillah McCarthy (1875-1960) was noted as the loveliest leading lady of the English theater. Granville hired her to be the leading lady for his theater company. It was not long before she became the leading lady of his marriage on April 24, 1906.

Archer invited Granville to be director of the New Theatre in New York. Granville and Lillah met Archer and Helen in New York and they became friends. Lillah was stricken with bronchitis and confined to bed at the Ritz-Carleton Hotel. A concerned Helen visited at her bedside and asked if there was anything she could do. It was reported that she whispered, Poor Granville will be so lonely. Men are so helpless. Like babies, you've noticed? No resourcefulness. Won't you make the days pass pleasantly for him until I am well?

Harley Barker and Helen Gates A kind friend, Helen invited Granville to her house for tea. By the time Lillah's health was restored, her marriage was in serious trouble. Lillah wrote a letter to Archer who confronted Helen with the accusation of an affair. Both couples began lengthy divorce proceedings.

Archer Huntington was rich and Granville Barker was famous. The divorces may have caused whispered conversations among the social elite. They were not broadcast on national television, blogged about on the internet and analyzed endlessly on social media.

After their divorces, Granville married Helen Gates Huntington on August 31, 1918, at King's Weight House Church in London. At the time, he was 41 and she was 49. He began to hyphenate his name as Granville-Barker.

Helen was an author, wrote several plays and assisted Granville-Barker in translating plays from Spanish to Engish. Critics in London blamed Helen for stealing Granville-Barker away from the theater. She preferred to live in Paris away from London gossip.

When they sailed from England in 1920, they both gave their age as 42. In 1940, she gave her age as 61. Like Arabella, she could be vague about her age.

Granville-Barker died of a heart attack in Paris on August 31, 1946. Helen Manchester Gates Criss Huntington Barker died in Paris on February 16, 1950. Her estate was valued in London at £128,120.

Helen and Granville-Barker are buried at Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris. On her tombstone is the name Helen Huntington Gates. This was never her name.

People of my generation may recall when Elizabeth Tylor broke up the marriage of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. A younger generation may recall Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. A hundred years ago it was Helen Manchester Gates who was in the middle of a celebrity scandal and a lonely Archer Milton Huntington left out in the cold.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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