11 January 2016

Jewel History: Mrs. Brown's Diamond Tiara (1892)

Mary Ridgely Preston Brown, ca. 1880 [source]

"Mrs. Brown's Diamond Tiara"
(originally appeared in the Washington Post, 11 Jan 1892)

Baltimore -- Governor-elect Frank Brown [1] will be inaugurated at Annapolis next Wednesday. It had been his intention to celebrate his induction into office with great pomp and ceremony, and elaborate arrangements were in progress, when a jeweler knocked the program into smithereens.

It appears that Mrs. Brown [2], the governor's wife, who is very wealthy and a leader in society, had sent all her diamonds -- and she has a magnificent collection -- to a jeweler to have them reset and rearranged. She intended wearing them at the reception following the inauguration.

Mary Ridgely Preston Brown, ca. 1875 [source]

The jeweler conceived the idea of setting them in a band and forming a crown. Mrs. Brown at first objected, but was finally persuaded. When the work was completed, and before it was submitted to her, the jeweler sent for the newspaper reporters, showed them the tiara, which certainly was beautiful, and stated that it was to be worn by Mrs. Brown when her husband was inaugurated.

The next day a full and lavish description of Mrs. Brown's crown appeared in the newspapers. To say the governor-elect was paralyzed would not do justice to his condition. He had posed as a plain farmer, and here he was made to appear as a king. After giving the jeweler a piece of his mind, he proceeded to remake the inauguration program he had mapped out, and now announces that there will be no other ceremony than that which the law directs.

There will be no reception either, until ten days after he takes the oath. Meanwhile, all the organizations that have laid in a supply of hats, canes, etc. for the parade are hopping mad. From country sections of the state come letters asking for particulars about the crown and the queen who will wear it. It is very probable that the crown will be taken apart [3].


1. Frank Brown (1846-1920) was the 42nd Governor of Maryland, serving a single term from 1892 to 1896.

2. Mary Ridgely Preston Brown (1857-1895) was the First Lady of Maryland from 1892 until her death in 1895. The Browns were apparently childhood sweethearts, but she married another man first: Horatio Preston, a wealthy merchant from Massachusetts. After his death, the couple finally married, and her social prowess was important to his political success. She died during her husband's only term in office.

3. Governor Brown was inaugurated on January 13, 1892. No diamond tiaras were mentioned as being present. Sometimes, it seems, glittering jewels can be more blunder than benefit...