03 March 2014

Jewel History: The Khedive's Jewels (1891)

Wedding of Lieutenant Thomas Fitch and Miss Maria Sherman [1]
"The Khedive's Jewels"
(originally appeared in the New York Times, 3 March 1891)

Mrs. Fitch, wife of Lieut. T.W. Fitch, née Sherman [2], gave some interesting details today concerning the proposed sale of the famous Khedive jewels, presented to her by the Egyptian ruler [3] upon her marriage fifteen years ago.

Mrs. Fitch denied that her reasons for disposing of the diamonds were in any way influenced by her husband's misfortunes in connection with the Braddock Wire Company, as has been reported. She was controlled entirely by circumstances of no interest to the public. Besides, Mrs. Fitch said, the Lieutenant's withdrawal from the Braddock Wire Company did not leave him financially embarrassed. His action was compelled by the formation of another company in which he is largely interested to build a second wire works at Braddock. This enterprise is now well under way.

Concerning the Khedive diamonds, Mrs. Fitch said negotiations for their disposal were already under way. The death of her father [4] had nullified a promise made directly on the receipt of the jewels, an agreement that the diamonds were never to be transferred from the keeping of the family while Gen. Sherman lived. The diamonds, although given absolutely to Mrs. Fitch, were divided soon after their receipt into four equal shares, being given to Mrs. Fitch; Mrs. Lieut. Thackara [5]; Father Thomas Ewing Sherman [6], the Jesuit priest; and P.T. Sherman [7], member of the law firm of Evarts, Choate & Co. of New York, the four children of Gen. Sherman. Each part footed up in value to nearly $35,000, the whole collection equaling a sum little less than $135,000.

Although appreciating highly the honor in the gift bestowed upon the family through her father's military greatness and the prestige given the owner of the famous jewels, Mrs. Fitch said the whole collection would probably soon pass out of the keeping of the Sherman family. She herself a few weeks ago authorized a relative in New York City to place upon the market, through a jeweler, her share of the diamonds. Mrs. Thackera has made known a similar desire, but no intimation of the intention of the two male members of the family has been given.

1. Detail from an engraving by H.A. Ogden of the 1874 wedding of Lieutenant Thomas W. Fitch and Miss Maria Sherman; image originally published in Leslie's in 1874; source here.
2. Maria "Minnie" Ewing Sherman (1851-1913) was the eldest child of General William Tecumseh Sherman and Ellen Boyle Ewing. Her husband, Thomas W. Fitch, was a naval lieutenant during the American Civil War; later he became involved in the steel trade. You can read his 1915 obituary here.
3. The reigning khedive at the time of Minnie's wedding was Isma'il Pasha (1830-1895). His grandson, Abbas II, continued the family tradition of bestowing lavish diamond wedding gifts on prominent brides when he gave Princess Margaret of Connaught a diamond scroll tiara in 1905.
4. General Sherman died on 14 February 1891, only a few weeks before this article was published.
5. Eleanor "Ellie" Sherman (1859-1915) was the fifth child of General Sherman; she married Alexander Montgomery Thackera, a naval lieutentant, in 1880.
6. Thomas "Tom" Ewing Sherman (1856-1933) was the fourth child of General Sherman. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1889.
7. Philemon Tecumseh "P.T." Sherman (1867-1941) was the youngest child of General Sherman.