Jessie and Percy Marry

On September 6, 1924, Jessie wrote in her diary,”I’m so excited I haven’t good sense for I’ve decided to marry Percy real soon, perhaps next month. We have been planning everything for a long time but I love him so much I don’t see any use waiting any longer.” And from that moment the preparations began. On September 10th Percy took Jessie to Goodman’s jewelers and bought her “the most beautiful ring there.” Next up were photos for the papers, the Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Press Scimitar. The engagement announcement appeared in both papers on Sunday, September 21 with the date of the service (October 23, 1924) and the location (Evergreen Presbyterian Church).

Jessie’s engagement announcement in the ‘Commercial Appeal’
Jessie’s engagement announcement in the ‘Press Scimitar’
This is the photo that my grandmother (Jessie) always had in her bedroom and said was her engagement picture. Also taken by Moore’s for the ‘Commercial Appeal’.

As the date of the marriage grew closer there were declarations of love. “[Percy] seems so surprised that he loves me more every day. I tell him that’s the way it should be. I didn’t know I could love anyone like I do him.”  There were many, many parties all crammed into a month. Parties almost every day, and close to the date, twice a day. Also, all the bridesmaids dresses had to be made by a professional seamstress, and at the same time Jessie’s trousseau was being sewn by Jessie and other friends and family at home.

Finally the day of Jessie and Percy’s marriage arrived. Relatives  and gifts began arriving first thing in the morning. Before the wedding Jessie had to go by the photo studios to have her picture taken again in her wedding gown and veil. At 8:30pm the “grand event” took place. Here is Jessie’s description of her gown.

My bridal bouquet was beautiful – a world of brides roses and valley lilies. My dress was white satin with a breadth of rose point lace and pearl garniture. I wore a corant of rose point lace and a veil of tulle trimmed with orange blossoms. My groom looked so wonderful and handsome and we got through the service without fainting. Then home with my husband. All the bridal party and family were there. Then we soon slipped off honeymooning but they all followed us to the station and showered us with rice. The sweetest husband in the world have I. A happy night with him.

Jessie’s wedding announcement in the ‘Commercial Appeal’


Jessie’s January 1923

Nothing stays the same. To Jessie it seemed everyone was passing her by and she was somehow standing still. This first month of 1923 especially, when three of her best friends married, must have been an emotional roller coaster for her.  It wasn’t all bad though.

New Year’s Eve 1922, Jessie had dinner at the Gayoso Hotel with her good friend Jimmie Sloan. Then she returned home for a late date with Dr. Percy Perkins. She had been out with him a few times in the last five years, most notably to the recent debutante ball in November. On New Year’s Day 1923 Jessie also had dates with Percy, first to a round of eggnog parties and then to the New Year’s Cabaret Dinner Dance at the Gayoso.

Then the next day, Tuesday, January 2, 1923:  Never have I had such a shock as I did this morning. A letter from Dorothy Sanford telling me she was in Dallas buying her wedding clothes. Marries Buddie Erwin tomorrow. Decided all of a sudden. Had told no one but her mother and father. The little monkey. Made me feel real sad to know she was leaving me all alone, but I know she’ll be happy. She wired me last week to please come visit her. Wonder if she would have decided to marry had I gone. Dot Haverty’s wedding invitation came this morning too, so I went to town and got a present for both of them.  

Two weeks later Jessie wrote in her diary, Wednesday, January 17, 1923:  Had to bid farewell to one of the best friends I ever had in my life to-day, for he took unto himself a wife. He has given me more pleasure [than] most any one for nine years now. And I hope they’ll always be happy. Went to Miriam Fleming and F.D. Gardner’s wedding at Calvary Church this afternoon. It was lovely.    F.D. had been Jessie’s best friend for so many years, always so supportive and generous. She would miss F.D.

On the left, Miriam and Virginia Fleming (I am not sure which girl is which) with their mother between them. On the right Jessie and 2nd from right is (I think) F.D. Gardner. Taken during a trip to the gulf coast in 1920.

The next day, January 18, 1923, her good friend Dot Haverty  married.  Another good friend deserted me today. Dorothy Haverty married Dr. Lon Grove in Atlanta tonight. They are going to tour the West Indies, stop by Florida on the way back. 

Dot Haverty’s engagement announcement

Meanwhile, Jessie is still trying to figure out Dr. Percy Perkins.  On January 8th she wrote, Percy and I had quite a talk when we got home. I like him, though sometimes I wonder if he is conceited. Still I don’t think he meant to be bragging tonight when he said he never had asked a girl to marry him. I like to be with him and I guess I don’t know just what I think of him yet.

Swayne and Nathalie Marry

Swayne Latham, 1917
Nathalie Davant c.1920

Swayne brought Nathalie over tonight. I’m in love with my sister to be. They are so happy that I am too. (Jessie’s diary, September 24, 1922)  Swayne was marrying Nathalie Davant, and there was much excitement and activity in the Latham house, along with many luncheons, bridge parties, and dinners to celebrate the young couple.

In past times a bride to be would buy (or make) all sorts of new clothes for her new life as a married woman and this was her trousseau. Jessie had an amusing diary entry regarding trousseaus. – I didn’t realize before that a groom has a trousseau as well as a bride. But everyday more packages come that Swayne has ordered and we can hardly wait to open them – suits, shoes, hats, silk dressing gowns, and oh! the baby blue and lavender silk pajamas. It’s all very interesting. (September 16, 1922)

On September 29 Jessie went over to the Davant’s and saw Nathalie’s bridal veil and train.  I couldn’t find a photo of Nathalie in her wedding dress and veil, but perhaps they were similar to some of the wedding costumes below that were from that time period.

Princess Mary’s royal wedding, 1922.





Queensland bride, 1922









The next three weeks were a whirl of parties and activities related to the upcoming wedding. There was at least one party every day, and sometimes there were two. The party that seemed the most fun to me was given by Grace and Bob Snowden on October 15th at their house and property which sat right on Horseshoe Lake. The guests (the bridal party) arrived about 1 pm. There was swimming, canoeing, or just relaxing. Dinner was served about three. So much good to eat and such a crazy bunch. We were all laughing continuously. JL

Finally it was the day, October 18, 1922. Jessie wrote in her diary, Swayne’s wedding day! How I hate to have him leave us, but how happy I am to have Nathalie for my sister and his wife…The wedding came off beautifully tonight. The boys didn’t disgrace Swayne and everything and everybody looked so pretty…Had reception and supper at Davant’s after the wedding. Cut a wedding cake… The mob of us were down at the train to bid the bride and groom a fond farewell...and they were off for Chicago soon after ten.

The Circus, Weddings and Fairy Stones

This posting is another bit of odds and ends, or what I like to call cultural tidbits from Jessie’s life in late 1913 and early 1914. For example, on Monday, September 8, 1913, Jessie and her date Miller watched the Hagenbeck Circus parade in downtown Memphis. An interesting fact about Carl Hagenbeck, the owner and creator of this circus, is that he “was an animal trainer who pioneered use of rewards-based animal training as opposed to fear-based training.” (Wikipedia)

Staurolite crystals (Fairy Stones)

On November 29, 1913, Jessie was once again out with Miller. They had gone to see The Trail of the Lonesome Pine at the Lyceum. Jessie wrote, “Miller bought me a little fairy stone after the show – now can’t nobody talk bad about me.” I had never heard of fairy stones before and this piqued my interest. It turns out there are two kinds of fairy stones. One kind is found only in Georgia and Virginia (where there is a Fairy Stone State Park) and a few other places in the world, and I believe this is probably the kind Jessie got. This stone, which is brownish and is a staurolite crystal, naturally forms a cross, and so of course has many stories, myths and legends connected to it. Check out this blog for more information about the staurolite crystal fairy stones.

Fairy Stones from Quebec

The other kind of fairy stone, and the one that intrigues me the most, is the Canadian fairy stone. These rocks are found in northern Quebec and were created as glaciers advanced and then retreated, leaving them on lake and river banks. Known as clay stone glacial concretions, their smooth, rounded, disk-like shapes make them look like little sculptures. The Algonquins found these stones/pebbles on the lake and river banks and kept them as good luck charms. Others they used in their homes to ward off evil spirits and to insure good health and prosperity.  Check out this link for more information about these very interesting pebbles.

Mercantile Bank of Memphis 1890s Trade Card

On February 9, 1914, The old Mercantile Bank of Memphis closed its doors after the president of the bank embezzled enough funds to break the bank. As Jessie said, “So many people lost their money.”

Many things were different back in the 1910s. One of those things was schooling. Jessie turned 19 in December 1913, and she was a senior in high school. According to her diary, she could have skipped her senior year and gone on to college (she was recruited by at least one college), but she chose to stay on for her final year. Reading her diary, it’s hard to believe she is in school. She doesn’t mention it that much (except to complain about going to school), but she does mention going out almost every night of the week.  She goes to dances, shows, parties, dinners, etc. etc., and as Jessie points out, “Going out every night sure makes you tired at school the next day.” (Feb. 27, 1914)

Jessie Latham, Florence Hamner and Sue John Norvelle, August 1913, Covington, Tenn.

Two of Jessie’s best friends, Sara and Sue John, got married in the first few months of 1914, and there were many parties in celebration of those two engagements. On February 28, 1914, Jessie, who was a bridesmaid in Sue John’s wedding, gave a luncheon for her. She had gone to town the previous day and bought favors to give with each course, and most of the favors had a symbolic meaning. Jessie got a little spoon in one of the favors. “That’s the sign I’m the spoonest girl. How perfectly absurd!” The Oxford Dictionary says that a dated and informal meaning of spoon or spooner is “a person kissing and cuddling another person amorously.” Jessie did date quite a few boys! She got another sign from the universe at Sue John’s wedding to Boyd in Covington, Tennessee (March 24, 1914).  An old Victorian custom that had mostly died out with the beginning of the 20th century, but evidently was still popular in more rural areas like Covington, had to do with the wedding cake. Typically there were three cakes at the wedding. One was for the guests, the groom had a cake, and the bride had a cake. In the bride’s cake there were little favors baked into the cake, and it was cut and divided between the bridal party. Jessie wrote, “The most dreadful thing happened. I cut the thimble in the wedding cake. ‘Twas awful.” Getting the thimble meant you were destined to never marry. (Spoiler alert! Jessie did eventually get married, but like most of the women in our family, she married rather late.)