The Black Wedding: 1917

black wedding happy couple 2 1917


America simply could not exist unless she established some periodical record to keep her name before the world. In the insane struggle to attain something beyond the ordinary commonplaces of life New York has no equal in the world, and this has once more been proved by a most bizarre setting to an event in the American metropolis.

A black wedding, one of the most remarkable ceremonies ever performed in the confines of the United States, and one which made blasé New York sit up and stare, was celebrated at the Church of St Vincent de Paul. It was completely black, and it made the fashion model, Eleanor Klinger, the bride of Ora Cne, designer. From the limousine in which they threaded their way to the little church in Twenty-third street to the handles on the silver service at their wedding breakfast, everything, to the most minute detail, was black. Even the serving men were black; and everything worn by anyone in the ceremony was black, including black gloves. As the black motor-car whirled up to the kerb the driver, who had a black moustache, twisted the black handle on the door and out popped the bride and bridegroom. They were dressed in black from head to foot. Cne, a handsome, stocky young fellow, wore a black broadcloth suit, cut business style. His collar was black and his string tie and his black shirt blended into his black vest. The bride wore black silk slippers, a black silk dress, sparingly overlaid with black chiffon. Her wedding veil was a strip of black silk overlaid with black tulle. This wedding veil and train are detachable, “so,” as the bridegroom explained, it can be used either for mourning or evening.” The bride’s corsage bouquet was of black pansies. After the ceremony Mr and Mrs Cne sped to their black wedding breakfast at the Cne apartment in Forty-third street. There Cne’s black valet served black coffee, black bread, black butter (dyed), black bass fish, black raisins and blackberries. The breakfast room was black and white, with ebony furniture and black rugs. The silver service, and coffee set to teaspoons, was fitted with dull-finished ebony handles. The porcelain service was black with an edging of white. The honeymoon was spent in Philadelphia and on the Pacific Coast.

Sun, 23 March 1917: p. 4black wedding bride 1917

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Ora Cne (née Seaney) was much in the news even before and after the Black Wedding coverage. He was described as “head of the millinery department at the International Correspondence School,” he wrote for various fashion journals, lectured extensively on fashion (he boasted that he could dress any woman in four minutes with four yards of silk.) and he made a wedding hat for Edith Bolling Galt when she married President Woodrow Wilson.

While Cne reveled in the publicity, he claimed there was a practical reason behind the Black Wedding:

This color has been selected by Cne and his bride-elect not because they regard the coming nuptials in the light of a living death sentence, but because, first, it is different, and second, it is economical.

The bridegroom claims that his appearance in black form head to toe on his bridal morn will inspire courage and persuade wavering would-be benedicts, who are dismayed at the thought of expending large sums of money on costly wedding apparel, that an entire black outfit will stand the wear and tear of time and be distinctive as well.

Wilkes-Barre [PA] Times 8 January 1917: p. 15

The Cne’s Black Wedding was tailor-made for the papers, who naturally were contemptuous of the “man-milliner.”



The Fort Wayne [IN] News 20 January 1917: p. 3

A Scranton, Pennsylvania paper suggested that he forgot the “dusky diamonds” in the adornment of his bride.

‘A “black diamond” necklace or pendant, properly polished by the lapidary from a nugget of anthracite, would have formed a fitting jewel for the somber ceremony, and probably might have stimulated an increased demand for our coal.”

The happy couple went off on a tour of the United States, taking the “Black Diamond” train, to “show themselves” to the rustics. Cne was originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana; the newlyweds visited his mother Rose and a film of the wedding was shown at the New Palace Theatre. “The Mutual camera man caught every happening incident to the wedding and these will be projected the first four days of the coming week.” One would give much if a print of the film still survived somewhere.

Mrs Cne modelled her husband’s creations at his lectures. They had a daughter, Flo Rose, but after four years, Mrs Cne filed for divorce, citing cruelty. Mr Cne responded by announcing that he would be sending out invitations to their divorce proceedings. The designer fought for custody of his child, but one fears that he was motivated more by lucre than love: he brought his daughter into court to demonstrate dressing a child in three minutes and said that he deserved to receive custody as she was an essential part of his business. He died in 1929 and was buried in Fort Wayne.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded, naturally enough, of the old saying, “Married in black, you’ll wish yourself back.” Or, as the Pennsylvania Germans of the United States say:  “Wenn eine braut am hochzeitstage ein schawarzes kleid tragt, bedeutet es unbluck.” —If a girl wears a black wedding dress, she will wear a mourner’s weeds or will have bad luck. Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans, Volume 18,   Edwin Miller Foge, 1915

Mrs Daffodil is also reminded that there were many war-time brides in Europe donning mourning for their lost husbands. Despite his claim of practicality, in the face of the Great War, the man-milliner’s self-promotional stunt seems particularly insensitive.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



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