On July 3, 1913, the Philadelphia Inquirer breathlessly reported: “Winthrop Smith Weds His Typist: Financier, 67, Makes Miss McMenamin His Second Wife. Information Concerning the Marriage is Refused by Sister of the Bride.” The New York Times also covered the story.
Why was it scandalous and what did it have to do with St. Francis de Sales Church?
Smith was a well-connected Philadelphia financier and member of the Union League, who, since his wife’s death in 1911, had been living locally at the Covington Apartments. Miss Margaret McMenamin, of 4303 Baltimore Avenue, was reportedly 33 years old. Their marriage was described as “culminating a friendship which originated in his office” – the banking firm of Winthrop Smith & Co. — from which he had retired in 1912, and where he was fondly remembered for once asking famous magician Harry Kellar, a bank customer, to entertain the staff.
They were married quietly, on a weekday, at St. Francis de Sales. The Latin in the parish registry (coram me inierunt in matr.) translates “in my presence have entered into matrimony” – an unusual passive phrasing probably signifying a marriage in which one partner was not Catholic — and no witnesses are listed, which is also odd. Reverend Maurice Cowl, a former Episcopalian priest, recently converted to Catholicism and assisting at de Sales, officiated. The Inquirer reported that after the ceremony, the couple left directly for New York, and a ship to Europe. The bride’s sister tersely commented that “they are married and that settles it.” His relatives remained silent.
When the couple returned from Europe, they settled at Smith’s estate in Glenside and St. Francis de Sales passes out of the story. Their daughter, Margaret, born around 1916, was introduced to society as a debutante in 1935. In 1942, she married Lt. Cmmdr. Charles T. Monk USNR (whose family lived, for a time, at 4402 Locust Street); he became an insurance executive after the war.
Winthrop Smith died at age 92 and is buried in their family plot at The Woodlands (40th and Woodland). A tall, proud obelisk, near the old stable, memorializes his father, another Winthrop Smith, publisher of the celebrated McGuffey Readers, on the front. Our Winthrop Smith is listed on the back, with his first wife, Florence Chapman Smith. The large square plot is full of Smiths. Lieutenant Cmmdr Monk is also buried there. But where are the two Margarets?
A mossy gravestone labeled “Winthrop Smith” in the family plot has no dates, and a space for a second name is left uncarved. Was that our Winthrop, forever waiting for his second wife? A fire at the Glenside home in 1946 is the final mention of Margaret Smith in the newspapers. The estate of her childless daughter, Margaret Monk, was auctioned in 1984. Today, the name Winthrop Smith continues only in a separate Connecticut branch of the family, associated with the firm of Merrill Lynch.