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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Diplomatic Pooch: 1915

Diplomatic Pooch: 1915

Washington, D.C., 1915. "Mrs. Robert Lansing in auto." Eleanor Foster Lansing, wife of Woodrow Wilson's new Secretary of State, with her poodle at the tiller of an electric car. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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No pesky broken bones either!

Electric cars skipped that pesky crank that could break a wrist or arm. Since they were whisper quiet they didn't upset the neighbors or the horses. What a fabulous first breath of independence for a woman of means who couldn't handle riding a bike or horse into town.

Bipartisan Romance

Death Comes at Summer Home
To Former Secretary's Wife

Mrs. Robert Lansing, widow of Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State, died at Henderson Harbor, N.Y., of heart disease.

Mrs. Lansing has been ill more than a year, critically so for the last year. Death came at the summer home, where she had spent her summers for the last 40 years.

Daughter of one Secretary of State and wife of another, Mrs. Lansing, as Miss Eleanor Foster, daughter of the late Secretary of State and Mrs. John W. Foster, came to Washington in 1881 with her parents.

At the time Secretary Foster was an international lawyer of renown and the Foster home soon became a rendezvous of social Washington. In 1883 Mr. Foster became American minister to Spain and Miss Foster went with her parents to that country. They returned to Washington in 1885, and save for several journeys to China, which Mr. Foster represented legally, Mrs. Lansing has lived here almost continuously since that time.

On January 15, 1890, she married Robert Lansing, then a member of the firm of Lansing & Lansing, and like his father-in-law engaged in international law practice. Their romance interested all Washington society, as she came of rock-ribbed Republican stock and he was a New York State Democrat. Their marriage was a brilliant event of the Harrison Administration.

It was often said that as a young girl and young matron of the National Capital, Mrs. Lansing was one of the most beautiful who have presided over a Washington home. Even when she grew older she retained the slender graceful figure of her youth and, though the late years her had grown gray, the "widow's peak," one of her distinguishing signs of beauty, still was evident.

In 1892 Mr. Foster became Secretary of State in Harrison's Cabinet. Mrs. Lansing aided her mother in the social duties incumbent upon her as a cabinet member's wife. When her mother became one of the early presidents general of the National society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mrs. Lansing took over more of her social duties in order to free Mrs. Foster for these patriotic activities.

House Was Treasure Trove

For many years Secretary and Mrs. Lansing lived at 1323 Eighteenth street northwest with former Secretary and Mrs. Foster. The house was a treasure trove of objects of art gathered from the four corners of the earth by the globe-trotting Fosters. After Secretary and Mrs. Foster's death the Lansings continued to live in the historic home during Secretary Lansing's term of office as President Wilson's Secretary of State. Many brilliant social events were held there, as well as historic conferences during World War days.

Mrs. Lansing's favorite mode of dressing was in gowns of black velvet and rare old lace. She was regarded as one of the best-dressed women in Washington and a gracious and cultured hostess.

Washington Post, Aug 20, 1934

No Crank Either

Even more than no clutch and gear shift, no cranking was needed to start them.

[Which we already mentioned below. By 1915 you could get your car with an electric starter if you didn't want to crank it. - Dave]

That hat

is awesome! I wonder if Jay Leno has it too!

Such Fun

I would love to have this car for my infrequent, short trips around town. Naturally, I would dress appropriately but without the dog. What a stir it would make. Are amy of them still out there, perhaps in the hands of classic-car lovers?

[NYT article on Jay Leno's Baker Electric. - Dave]

Two Tillers?

Anyone have a rundown of the function of the two tillers.

[Speed and steering. - Dave]


Note her monogram on the door. Very elegant. Most electric cars of that era were marketed for women, as gasoline had become the motive power of choice. No messy gasoline, oil spray, obnoxious noise or that dangerous starting crank for M'Lady.

[Probably the main selling point for women was no clutch and no gears to shift. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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