Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the by Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor

By Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor

In 1925 Leonard Rhinelander, the youngest son of a filthy rich long island society relations, sued to finish his marriage to Alice Jones, a former household servant and the daughter of a "colored" cabman. After being married just one month, Rhinelander pressed for the dissolution of his marriage in view that his spouse had lied to him approximately her racial heritage. the following marital annulment trial turned a major public spectacle, not just in manhattan yet around the nation—despite the truth that the country had by no means outlawed interracial marriage. Elizabeth Smith-Pryor makes broad use of trial transcripts, as well as modern newspaper insurance and archival resources, to discover why Leonard Rhinelander was once allowed his day in courtroom. She strikes fluidly among felony heritage, a daily narrative of the trial itself, and analyses of the trial's position within the tradition of the Twenties North to teach how notions of race, estate, and the legislations were—and are—inextricably intertwined.

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Extra resources for Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness

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He came upon her walking with her twenty-twoyear-old sister, Alice, on Pelham Road. Recognizing Leonard from the day before, Grace suggested that they go to a movie and find another person to make a foursome. Grace and Alice chanced upon another young man, and the four headed in Leonard’s car to a movie theater in nearby Mount Vernon. Since they could not find four seats together, Grace and Leonard paired o√. Alice and the other man sat on the other side of the theater. Once seated in the dark, Leonard placed his hand on Grace’s leg.

18 : curious acts After leaving the hotel, the two headed downtown to the bright lights and marquees of Times Square, where they were likely dazzled by the ‘‘massed e√ect of tremendous jazz interpreted in light’’ embodied by Times Square and Broadway in the twenties. After a Broadway show, Leonard and Alice dined out and then returned to their hotel room around midnight to begin their sexual relationship. Leonard left on Christmas Day to eat dinner with his family and then rejoined Alice. ≥≥ After Alice headed home to her parents in New Rochelle and Leonard returned to The Orchards, tensions arose between the two.

A family tutor found him di≈cult to teach as a child, and he stuttered. In 1921, when Leonard was almost eighteen, instead of enrolling him at Harvard or Columbia, his father packed him o√ to a Connecticut institute for the study and treatment of nervous and mental diseases run by a prominent New York neurologist. The physicians and sta√ at The Orchards treated Leonard for a speech impediment and what its founder, Dr. L. ’’∞≤ Clark’s diagnosis may have reflected the state of mind of a young man who had lost both his mother and older brother at an impressionable age.

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