Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Cincinnati’s Helena Zimmerman: The “Real” Downton Abbey Heiress?


First published on the duke and doxie of Manchester on Monday, January 4, 2016

Cincinnati’s Helena Zimmerman: The “Real” Downton Abbey Heiress?

From:  Cincinnati Magazine

COMMENT - Wow.  Now we see how early bigamy, infidelity, profligacy and other nasty habits started in the Montagu family.  Thank goodness Alex's sibs and kids are different. 

January 2, 2016

by Greg Hand


You have heard the story: A Cincinnati heiress marries into a noble but cash-strapped British family.
Fans of the PBS Masterpiece Classic television series Downton Abbey will recognize the marriage at the center of the saga. Cincinnati heiress Cora Levinson (Elizabeth McGovern) married Robert Crawley, the 7th Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), to resolve his family's financial problems.
But Downton Abbey fans may not know that a story identical to this unfolded in Cincinnati in 1900. A British lord really did marry a Cincinnati heiress to resolve his family's financial problems. From there, however, reality intervened.
The Duke of Manchester and his Cincinnati heiress (note the money bag next to Cupid) as published by The Cincinnati Enquirer 10 August 1900.
The Duke of Manchester and his Cincinnati heiress (note the money bag next to Cupid) as published by The Cincinnati Enquirer 10 August 1900.
From Cincinnati Enquirer 10 August 1900; image extracted from microfilm by Greg Hand
The heiress in question was Helena Zimmerman, born in 1878 to Cincinnati railroad magnate Eugene Zimmerman and his wife, Marietta Evans. Helena's father, Eugene Zimmerman, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where his father owned a factory. He was orphaned at 13, and came to Ohio to attend Kenyon College. When the Civil War broke out, the factory Eugene inherited from his father was burned down. Now penniless, Eugene enlisted in the Union Navy. He served with distinction, and was promoted often. He left the service as a 20-year-old lieutenant. By investing wisely, Eugene acquired extensive holdings in oil, which he sold to John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company, gaining a substantial block of stock and a seat on the company's board. He then plowed his profits into a number of successful railroads. At the time of his daughter's marriage, he was worth an estimated $10 million. (With inflation, that would be about $280 million today.) The Zimmerman mansion still sits at the southeast corner of Auburn and McMillan.

Helena was Eugene and Marietta's only child. The couple married in 1876. Helena was born in 1878 and was only four years old when her mother died of peritonitis in 1882. Helena was sent to France for her education and lived there for many years, becoming proficient in fencing and horsemanship. By 1900, she was described as "one of the most beautiful young women" in the summer resort at Narragansett, Rhode Island. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer [23 July 1900]:  MORE
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