Mary Ann (Mamie) Fish

Mamie FishMamie Fish was Newport's most eccentric socialite.

Fish eschewed traditional Newport social rituals in favor of her own social rules. She did not call on other society matrons, drive along Bellevue Avenue, or attend operas. She trimmed Newport's 3- to 4-hour banquets to 1 hour. She maintained a smaller staff of servants. She was outspoken and brash, which delighted others who dared not behave in such a manner, lest they lose their place in society.

Fish selected Harry Lehr to serve as her social advisor. Lehr and Fish played pranks at parties and concocted unusual events for Newport society, including a dog's dinner and a ball where the guest of honor was a monkey. Such behavior suggests Fish's apathy and distaste of Newport's social set.

Unlike other socialites, Fish maintained a happy marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Stuyvesant Fish, president of the Illinois Central Railroad. The Fishes owned Crossways, a colonial mansion near Bailey's Beach in Newport, Rhode Island.

With Mamie Fish's persistence, and Harry Lehr's assistance, conspicuous consumption reached new heights in Newport.

Kay Davis, University of Virginia, ©2001-2003