Thursday, March 1, 2012


Gustav Manz and Martha Bachem, circa 1899 
Family collection

The bride was not yet eighteen, her husband approaching thirty-five. The couple's wedding portrait, taken at J.B. DeYoung's photography studio in fall 1899, is revealing. Gustav Manz, bespectacled and short of stature, is slouched back into an ornate chair, wearing what appears to be a sapphire and diamond signet on his right pinkie; Martha Bachem, dressed in a dark shirtwaist with ruffled collar, has one hand on his forearm while the other holds the chair, as if bracing herself for gusts ahead. 

Like his wife's family—diamond ring manufacturers from Pforzheim—Gustav had arrived at Ellis Island in the early 1890s, after training under master goldsmiths in Baden, Paris, and London, plus a year of vagabonding in South Africa's diamond fields. Setting up his bench in Union Square, the young jeweler divided his business between crafting unique gems for retail clients and modeling mountings for wholesalers such as his future in-laws, Carl and Sophie Bachem, who hired him to manage their factory when Carl's health deteriorated. To seal the deal, Sophie arranged the betrothal of her second youngest daughter to their new junior partner. Reconstituted as Manz & Co, the firm became highly respected for its beautifully modeled and meticulously executed work. But the marriage foundered. 

Artist Colony: Postcard advertising Leonia N.J.—"New York's Ideal Suburb"—where Gustav and Martha moved in the early 1900s 
Bergen County Historical Society

By the early 1900s, the couple had two young daughters and resided in a large craftsman-style house in Leonia, N.J., an artists enclave on the western side of the Hudson River facing upper Manhattan. Manz & Co. had also moved: from Maiden Lane to 31 West 31st Street, joining forces with Walter P. McTeigue, a diamond specialist, under the name McTeigue, Manz & Co, Makers of Fine Diamond and Carved Jewelry

While her husband, mother and the younger of her two brothers focused on the business, Martha was drawn in by the socialist clique that included her children's charming red-haired violin teacher, Arpad Rado—who was mutually charmed by Martha—along with his artist sister Ilona (who taught painting at the Art Students League), and brother-in-law Frederick West (a former associate at McKim, Mead & White). Nonplussed by his young wife's radical awakening, her refusal to give up her paramour or to relinquish custody of her children, Gustav moved out. And though he stayed on cordial terms with his mother-in-law and business partner, by the time the dust of divorce settled he'd made a clean split to establish his own house: Gustav Manz, Maker of Fine Jewelry, 37 East 28th Street. He would eventually remarry (a German-born divorcee with a grown son), while remaining close to his daughters, using his connections to help the elder gain admission to nursing school and enlisting the younger as his sales representative.

Manz created most of the jewelry for F. Walter Lawrence's exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. Rings from Lawrence's studio featured in July 1905 issue of The Keystone match items listed in the official exhibitor's catalog for the expo

For her part, Martha and Arpad married in spring 1911, and had two children. Martha, who'd sold encyclopedias during her separation, supplemented the family income as a local correspondent for The Bergen Record. In early 1922, with backing from the town's progressive set she launched Leonia Life, becoming one of the first women in the country to publish and edit a weekly newspaper. She added other localities, and wrote most of the editorials—on everything from presidential candidates to local pet ordinances, family planning (she was down with Margaret Sanger) and the impact of traffic from a new suspension bridge over the Hudson River on a bucolic town that had for so long attracted artists seeking cheap studio space in old barns, professors from Columbia, theater folk, and assorted freethinkers. She managed the company for a dozen years (until the Great Depression, when she sold it). 

Martha Bachem in driver's seat of her circa 1910 flivver 
Family collection 

Shortly after Martha and Gustav posed at DeYoung's for their nuptials, another couple passed through the studio for a cabinet portrait en route to Argentina. A while later, Tiffany & Co learned that Etta Place and Harry Longabaugh—aka the Sundance Kid—might have cruised its aisles on one of their New York visits, and released a receipt for a timepiece similar to the one pinned to Etta's blouse in DeYoung's portrait. Purchased for $40.01 by James Ryan (an alias of Robert LeRoy Parker—aka Butch Cassidy), the sale was excellent PR for the retailer, suggesting a shopping environment secure enough to dissuade a seasoned bank robber from staging a heist, yet tempting enough to induce him to pull out his wallet.  

Hole in the wall outlaw colony. Photo alleged to be of (right to left) Butch Cassidy, Etta Place, and the Sundance Kid in front of their ranch cabin at Cholila, Argentina, 1901-1905 
Image True West

Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) with Etta Place at J.B. DeYoung photo studio in February 1901, shortly before sailing to South America with Butch Cassidy
Image Random House, Inc.

Much about Etta's life, including her real name, profession, how and when she died—or what became of her pretty watch—remains a mystery. The Pinkerton Detective Agency noted that she sometimes went by "Ethel." Others speculated "Etta Place" was a pseudonym for Ann Bessett, a Utah rancher and cattle rustler thought to have been romantically involved with the Wild Bunch's ringleader. On a few occasions, Etta and Harry left Butch at the gang's South American hideout and returned to the States, even taking in the 1904 World's Fair at St. Louis—where two dozen of Gustav Manz's hand-wrought pieces were displayed at the Palace of Arts. 

Etta and Martha: Outlaw and "bolter" whose trajectories converged briefly at a society photographer's studio. And never let a drop of rain deter them.  

Morning glory watch pin by Gustav Manz, circa 1900 
Family collection

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