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Cherry Blossom Queen: 1939

Cherry Blossom Queen: 1939

March 31, 1939. Washington, D.C. "Senate Majority Leader crowns Cherry Blossom Queen. Climaxing the annual Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival in Potomac Park today, Senate Majority Leader Alben W. Barkley placed the crown on the head of Peggy Townsend, Cherry Blossom Queen. Thousands of visitors view the beautiful blossoms every year." Harris & Ewing photo. View full size.


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Gould Shaw?

The obituary for Peggy Townshend Shaw is a bit of a puzzle. It states that her father-in-law was "first married to Virginia-born Lady Astor, former British Parliament member." This would be Robert Gould Shaw II, (named after his grandfather and also his cousin, the Robert Gould Shaw who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment - the one featured in the movie "Glory"). He had two sons Robert Gould Shaw III - known as Bobby (born 1898) - and Louis Agassiz Shaw II (born 1906).

My guess is while Peggy might have married into the Shaw family it was not one of Robert II's children, for which she should probably thank her lucky stars. Robert III was homosexual (at a time in England, where he lived with his mother, when homosexuality was punishable with prison time) and an alcoholic who suffered from bouts of depression and committed suicide in 1970. Louis Shaw also suffered from alcoholism and depression. In 1964 he strangled his maid and was committed to the McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Belmont Massachusetts until slightly before his death in 1987.

The bucket list.....

The "bucket" quote actually came from an earlier VP, John Nance Garner, who served in FDR's first administrations.

Margaret Townsend

Also seen at Signs of Spring: 1939.

The Baltimore Sun, December 11, 1938.

Deb Bound for Night Club Tells
How to Go “New Yorky”

Peggy Townsend, who will join the ranks of social register night-club singers shortly, thinks it's all right for Washington debutantes like herself to “go New Yorky”—if they don't go too far.

There's a movement among Capital debs, she said, to “try to have a little more cafe society,” like New York's. And it's fine, pretty Peggy added, if Capital debutantes “don't get the idea that toughness makes for glamour.”

“We want to keep the things that make Washington individual—the old families, the old houses, the conservative people,” she insisted.

Peggy, tall and slim and “18 and a half,” will sing twice a night in a cocktail lounge, beginning Monday, partly because of the “New Yorky” trend, and partly because she “always like the idea of women getting out and doing things.”

Earlier the same day, she will mingle with the capital's society at the first of the famous morning musicales, sponsored each season by her aunt, Mrs. Lawrence Townsend.

When Peggy was 6 years old, she sat on the lap of Mrs. Calvin Coolidge at one of the musicales. She's been brought up on classical music, and two months ago began to study singing—the conventional kind. But laryngitis chased her voice down to low registers, and scouts for a new cocktail lounge liked her throat singing. “Now I think they'd like for me to stand out by the Potomac river every night to catch cold,” Peggy laughed.

Peggy is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Effingham Townsend. Her mother, the former Margaret Graham, of Danville, Va., made her debut in the South. The Townsends have been socially prominent in Philadelphia for generations.

Washington Post, June 17, 1939.

A Beauty Nap

Pretty Peggy Townsend, 18, debutante cherry blossom queen who now sings at a night club, failed to appear in Traffic Court yesterday to answer a speeding charge because she overslept. The case was continued until Monday.

Motorcycle Policeman Clark Coleman stopped Miss Townsend on Connecticut avenue northwest last Monday. He charged her with driving 40 miles in a 25-mile zone. When she identified herself at the Eighth Precinct, and confessed that she did did not have the necessary collateral, she was released to meet the policeman in court.

When she failed to answer, Judge Hobart Newman ordered that a warrant be issued. A few minutes later, Miss Townsend telephoned the court and stated that she was on her way down. By that time the court had adjourned and her case was reset for Monday.

Washington Post, March 17, 1951.

Peggy Townsend Shaw Dies;
Cherry Blossom Queen in 1939.

Mrs. Margaret Townsend Shaw, 29, member of a fifth-generation socially prominent Washington family died Thursday at her home in Coconut Grove, Fla. She had been ill of a virus throat infection for only a few days.

Socialite Peggy Townsend was the daughter of Mrs. Margaret Graham Townsend, of the Cordova Apartments, Florida ave. and 20th st. nw., and the late Effingham Lawrence Townsend, stock broker here who died in 1942.

Educated at Holton Arms School, she was graduated from Junior College. She made her Washington debut in 1938, when she was presented by her god-mother and great aunt, Mrs. Lawrence Townsend, patroness of music in Washington for many years. Her uncle, Lawrence Townsend, was formerly Ambassador to Belgium, Spain and Austria.

In 1939, Peggy was chosen Cherry Blossom Queen and was the object of the song written by Irving Berlin, “The Cherry Blossoms in Potomac Park.” After being brought up on classical music from an early age, the young debutante appeared as a professional singer in Washington night clubs.

In 1948, she married Gould Shaw, son of a prominent Boston family. His father was first married to Virginia-born Lady Astor, former British Parliament member. The Shaws have lived in Florida almost three years.

Besides her husband and mother, Mrs. Shaw is survived by two sons, Alexander, 2 and Townsend Vogel, 9, the latter by previous marriage in the 1940 to Martin Vogel, of Warrenton, Va. The boy lives on his father's Warrenton estate.

Peggy was a lovely woman-

Does anyone know what became of this 1939 Cherry Blossom Queen? She was as beautiful as many of the movie stars people were going to see in pictures that year.

(Thanks to stanton_square for subsequently the posting the obituary and biographical information.)

Alben Barkley

It was Alben Barkley who was quoted that being the Vice President "wasn't worth a pitcher of warm spit." I read that he complained that what he had really said was that it "wasn't worth a pitcher of warm piss, but those pantywaist writers didn't have the nerve to write it like I said it."

Sen. Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky

had a select group of senators and others with a standing invitation in his office at the close of each Senate business day for a drink or two of good Kentucky Bourbon. Vice President Harry Truman, a regular, happened to be there on the afternoon of April 12, 1945, when he received an urgent call to come to the White House immediately. He learned when he got there that President Franklin Roosevelt had died in Warm Springs, Georgia, and that he was to be sworn in as the 34th President of the United States.

Early in 1944, Barkley and Roosevelt had a bit of a falling out over Roosevelt's veto of a tax bill Barkley had worked hard for, and Roosevelt had turned thumbs down when Barkley was suggested as his Vice Presidential candidate in the 1944 election. Truman didn't forget his old friend, though. Barkley served as Vice President during Truman's second — and only full — term.

Best exit lines

Senator Barkley gave a speech at Washington and Lee in 1956. On concluding, he was offered a seat in the front row of speakers and declined saying, "I am glad to sit in the back row for I'd rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than sit in the seats of the mighty." With the applause of the crowd in his ears, he collapsed and died of a heart attack.

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