After her divorce from W. Dickson Pierce, an upper-class advertising photographer, she chose for her second husband the Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness, … The couple had two children, Allen and Terry, but the marriage ended in divorce. Rebekah was a philanthropist who was passionate about ballet, a composer who was married four times and part of a group she christened the "Bitch Pack". The couple was married just seven years before William passed away of a heart attack, leaving the Harkness fortune and Holiday House to Rebekah. First, a brief biography: Born Rebekah Semple West in St. Louis in 1915, Harkness was a divorcée whose second marriage was to Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness. As Swift writes, "Who knows, if I never showed up, what could've been. • New York: Taylor’s home base for a few years and the city she sings about on 1989’s “Welcome to New York.” She continues to keep a residence there. For the purposes of our statistical analysis, let’s say that there were three Bitch Pack members, because with Rebekah, that makes four, and everyone knows the best cliques have four members. In addition to Charlotte's death, Brosnan has had to live another drama: his son Chris ended up getting hooked on heroin and cocaine. Rebekah was also passionate about sculpting and she became a patron of the French sculptor Guitou Knoop. Harknes… That 'town' is Watch Hill, Rhode Island - an affluent coastal village where Swift purchased a cliff side mansion in 2013 that was once owned by Rebekah and her husband William Harkness, a … In 1939, at 24, Harkness married the first of her four husbands, Charles Dickson Walsh Pierce, a Yale graduate who worked for an advertising firm and was described by friends as a Walter Mitty-like character with his head in the clouds. All rights reserved. The truth is Rebekah Harkness was once one of the wealthiest women in America. • St. Louis: The Missouri city Rebekah West Harkness came from. The woman was a 20th-century socialite whom we’ve covered some facts about. But will Folklore live on in folklore? After her husband passed away in 1954, Harkness poured more money into her Watch Hill compound, installing eight kitchens and 21 baths. We’re not sure, based on available info, who was in the Bitch Pack or how many members it had, so we’re going to make some assumptions out of quantitative necessity. When Taylor Swift released her latest album Folklore, fans were left wondering about the subject of her song 'The Last Great American Dynasty' - Rebekah Harkness. • Saturn: A planet that Earth shares a solar system with. The couple had a private ceremony attended by Rebekah's parents, her children Allen and Terry, along with William's daughter with his ex-wife Elizabeth. Read on for a breakdown. On June 10, 1939, Harkness married Dickson W. Pierce, the son of Thomas M. Pierce and a descendant of Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States. Taylor Swift bought Holiday House for US$17 million in 2013. Being a patron of the ballet was Rebekah’s passion. She was also a very colourful woman with a tendency to self-destruct. She'd inherited Bill's enormous fortune and, without Bill or her father (who had died just the year before) to keep an eye on her, friends feared she'd land herself in trouble. Barrie’s classic story. This money was eventually passed on to heirs, and in the case of Standard Oil, much of it went to William Hale Harkness, Rebekah West Harkness’s second husband. In Taylor Swift's song, "The Last Great American Dynasty," she sings that the wedding "was charming, if a little gauche. Then, in 1974 she married a physician, Niels H. Lauersen who was 20 years her junior. Thanks for signing up! • India: A country in South Asia that’s home to more than 1.3 billion people, and also, for the purposes of this song, a place that the young protagonists in “Seven” hope to escape to avoid a seemingly abusive father. When Taylor Swift released her latest album. • Betty: The person who is being addressed in the song “Betty.” James, the narrator, knows he messed up and is asking if she’ll ever grant forgiveness. One of the most surprising characters to crop up on Taylor Swift's latest album is Rebekah Harkness in "the last great american dynasty." Watch the Stan Original film A Sunburnt Christmas now on Stan. • Dalí: Salvador Dalí was a painter known not only for his surrealist, Dada work, but also for his eccentricities, particularly his signature pencil mustache. Things! Rebekah and Bill had one child; a daughter named Edith. Here, we … Send me updates about Slate special offers. Rebekah Harkness asked. Rebekah said, "I hope the beauty of Harkness House will persuade some of these people that ballet need not be dingy and that by their patronage they are contributing to the splendid and glamorous.". (Are these true stories of the common people? , Craig Unger, an example of Rebekah's early misbehaving was when she put mineral oil in the punch at her sister's debutante ball. At Fermata, Rebekah wrote in her diary that she wanted to ''do everything bad". There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen. • LA: A city that Taylor Swift (or the narrator) traveled to with a love interest early on in their relationship, as recounted in the song “Invisible String.” Also a notable city for a lot of other reasons, obviously. Before their divorce in 1946, they had two children: Allen Pierce & Anne Terry Pierce. Meet the previous resident of Swift's stately mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ third daughter, The Cartoonist Behind the Only Meme Worthy of Our Current Train Wreck, historically important 4th of July parties. Peter is our cultural shorthand for immaturity and the struggle of leaving adolescence. There's only so far new money goes.". Read next. It’s unclear if she’s the other woman in a love triangle with Betty and James or just a generally loose-lipped person. • Centennial Park: There are several parks with this name, but “Invisible String” is probably referring to the one in Nashville, where Taylor Swift lived for years and still keeps a home. The two purchased a mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which they nicknamed Holiday House. Due to her family's wealth, she was raised by a series of nannies, and attended a finishing school after High School. Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images. Her 1955 tone poem, Safari Suite, was performed at Carnegie Hall, and in 1957 she released an album titled Music With a Heartbeat. At this stage, Rebekah was well known as a philanthropist, sponsoring a new medical research building at the New York Hospital, as well as giving financial support to several medical research projects. You’ve run out of free articles. Rebekah started spending her fortune very quickly, wasting no time in purchasing a penthouse in Madison Avenue's prestigious Westbury Hotel and a chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad (purchases her late husband apparently would not have approved of). When Bill died after a heart attack in 1954, Rebekah's life was turned upside down. The mansion was once owned by Rebekah Harkness, a high profile socialite who famously married into the Standard Oil fortune. It's easy to imagine Rebekah would have been thrilled to paid tribute to in this way by a woman equally as fabulous as she. "As soon as I walked down the aisle. After her husband died, Harkness renovated the house she owned in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Bill was 15 years older than Rebekah and the marriage was said to be a happy one. And sing about it, apparently! Rebekah Harkness Rebekah Harkness (1915-1982) Rebekah Harkness, born Rebekah Semple West, was one of the foremost American patrons of dance. Her second husband died nine years later, leaving her a $27 million fortune (worth more than $250 million today), which … She said she married her first, photographer Dickson Pierce, because she “had nothing else to do.” No surprise, that union ended in divorce. Rebekka Harkness in New York, 1965. All contents © 2020 The Slate Group LLC. But despite their immense wealth, home life was anything but rosy. Although a friend of the couple had said, "Bill looked on Betty as a naughty child and set about to reform her". At one party Rebekah filled the swimming pool with Dom Perignon, and it was also said she was once allegedly kicked off a cruise ship for swimming naked. In the spirit of treating this album as an important historical artifact, here is an analysis of the subjects Taylor Swift sings about on it. Places! 'Is there a chic way to go?'" Rebekah attended a South Carolina finishing school that was famous for having the offspring of rich families such as the Roosevelts, Biddles and Auchinclosses. , fans were left wondering about the subject of her song 'The Last Great American Dynasty' - Rebekah Harkness. Her parents Allen and Rebekah were incredibly wealthy, her father was a stockbroker and the co-founder of the G. H. Walker Company. Please try again. She also founded Harkness Ballet and built a ballet studio, trying to create her own version of the luxurious European ballet schools, with a marble staircase and a crystal chandeliers. • August: Many people’s least favorite month, making it a thematically appropriate time in which to set songs about failed love affairs, such as the Folklore song of the same name, “August.”. What Rebekah Harkness, who, at 56 still has the lean, quick‐moving body of a dancer, has used her studio for is class of one: herself. Clearly, Rebekah's parents wanted to make sure the nanny was tough enough for the job. (Getty), Rebekah Harkness and her Harkness Ballet at her estate in Watch Hill, R.I., 1964. As it turns out, number three on the album, The Last Great American Dynasty, is based on the story of Rebekah Harkness and her husband William Harkness… Swift’s song, "The Last Great American Dynasty" is actually a tale about Harkness. Seems like a good bet that her story resonated with Swift: She was one of the richest women in the world as well as a target for media criticism and public disdain. Swift herself, who was named after James Taylor. • Standard Oil: A now-defunct oil company that was dismantled for its monopolistic activities but not before robber barons used it to become filthy rich. Rebekah had full custody of the children and remained living in Manhattan, working in advertising and studying music composition. Rebekah's father was said to be a tyrant, while her mother was more interested in focusing on her social life. Allen Pierce, was convicted of murder after shooting a man in a brawl, her daughter Terry's child was born with brain damage and died at the age of ten and her other daughter Edith died of suicide, following numerous stays at mental health institutions. • Rebekah West Harkness: A 20th-century socialite (she died in 1982) who used to own Taylor Swift’s Rhode Island mansion. • Rhode Island: The smallest state, and the one that contains the mansion owned formerly by Rebekah Harkness and currently by Taylor Swift, the site of historically important 4th of July parties. It seems more likely to be those lakes than the U.S.’s Great Lakes or another group of lakes because Taylor Swift is dating an Englishman, actor Joe Alwyn, and as you might have heard, she has spent time with him in England. "Gradually, Holiday House, as the Watch Hill estate was called, began to acquire the character of Rebekah's private salon. By the rules of My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, there are three planets between it and us. (Getty). The Holiday House was once owned by Rebekah Harkness. In 1939, at the age of 24, Rebekah married her first husband Charles Dickson Pierce. If Rebekah Harkness was playing card games with him, it means she kept some pretty wild company. According to author of Blue Blood, Craig Unger, an example of Rebekah's early misbehaving was when she put mineral oil in the punch at her sister's debutante ball. Fans offering queer readings of the song suggest that James could be a woman, like one of Lively and Reynolds’ daughters, or like Ms. Rebekah died in June 1982 after a battle with cancer, her ashes placed in an urn designed by Salvador Dalí. • Pennsylvania: A large state with many cities and towns in it that is most notable for being the U.S. state where Swift grew up—specifically at a Christmas tree farm in its southeastern region. We encountered an issue signing you up. Born in 1915 in St Louis, Missouri, Harkness was the second daughter of prominent stockbroker Allen Tarwater and his wife, also named Rebekah. That married only lasted four years. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else. Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. Rebekah Harkness and her Harkness Ballet in 1966. Harkness became wealthy after her marriage to her second husband, William Hale Harkness. She also made time to indulge her love of ballet, hosting 20 dancers for a series of workshops. In 1947, Rebekah married husband number two, Standard Oil heir William "Bill" Harkness, whom she met at Watch Hill, her parents' summer holiday mansion in Rhode Island. The subject of “Folklore” song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Harkness — née Rebekah Semple West — was born in 1915 to “a rich, emotionally frigid … You can cancel anytime. • Holiday House: The historic name for Swift’s mansion in Rhode Island, which dates back to Rebekah West Harkness’ years there. In 1973, at 36 and with his grad-student days not far behind him, Lauersen married 58-year-old Rebekah Harkness, widow to William Hale Harkness, of the Harkness philanthropic dynasty. Bill's daughter Elizabeth later married actor Robert Montgomery, the mother of actress Elizabeth Montgomery who found fame as Samantha in the classic TV series Bewitched. The subject of “Folklore” song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Harkness — née Rebekah Semple West — was born in 1915 to “a rich, emotionally frigid St. Louis family,” according to the New York Times, and in 1947 married William Hale Harkness, her second husband and heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Auto news: Old Datsun sells for $1.1 million, breaks auction records in Japan - caradvice.com.au. • The Lakes: Probably referring to the Lake District in England, a historic national park that’s home to many lakes, although we’ll know better once we’ve heard Folklore’s bonus track of the same name. The couple had a private ceremony attended by Rebekah's parents, her children Allen and Terry, along with William's daughter with his ex-wife Elizabeth. According to Unger, Rebekah's wild side didn't diminish with age. That ‘town’ is Watch Hill, Rhode Island – an affluent coastal village where Swift purchased a cliff side mansion in 2013 that was once owned by Rebekah and her husband William Harkness, a Standard Oil heir who was one of the wealthiest men in America. In her day, Harkness was as much of a media darling as Swift is now, and often the target of unfavorable headlines and press coverage. • Inez: Someone who passed gossip concerning James onto Betty. Taylor Swift’s new album, Folklore, was released today, and we’re obsessing over one song in particular that tells the story of the former owners of her … Following the death of her second husband, William Hale Harkness, Rebekah inherited his fortune. • Wendy: The other main character in Peter Pan, the one who ultimately did the responsible thing and left childhood behind. • Peter: As in Pan, the title character in J.M. She even hosted a ballet workshop there for 20 dancers from the Robert Joffrey Company (now known as the Joffrey Ballet) in 1965. Pastoral tales of the American countryside?). Harkness completely renovated Holiday House, their Rhode Island mansion. She was a widow at 39, and friends were deeply concerned for her. I had a marvellous time ruining everything. This money was eventually passed on to heirs, and in the case of Standard Oil, much of it went to William Hale Harkness, Rebekah West Harkness’s second husband. Planets? Photo illustration by Slate. Harkness also allowed her passions for dance and music to follow her into adulthood, using much of her inheritance to become a patron of the ballet, as well as to compose music. I don’t know, it could; maybe someone will think to save it because it literally says “folklore” on it? But following artistic disagreements, Rebekah's company disbanded in 1970, after she spent an estimated US $86 million. Ballet was always a passion of Rebekah's and, in the early 1960s, she created the Rebekah Harkness Foundation, sponsoring the Robert Joffrey Ballet. (Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images), Bill's daughter Elizabeth later married actor Robert Montgomery, the mother of actress Elizabeth Montgomery who found fame as Samantha in the classic TV series, Rebekah Harkness, composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist, photographed in her office in 1964. So how did she become Swift's muse? She had a newfound freedom to do whatever she wanted with the piles of money in her bank account. She also made some rather eccentric decisions when she renovated Holiday House; installing an incredible eight kitchens and 21 baths. You can manage your newsletter subscriptions at any time. The character named Bill is in reference to Rebekah Harkness’s second husband, William Hale Harkness, who was in fact the heir to Standard Oil. And you'll never see this message again. Rebekah married William Hale Harkness, the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. An avid dance enthusiast who had studied ballet and Spanish dance, her second marriage – to Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness – made her one of the wealthiest women in America. People! • Levi’s: A brand of jeans worn by someone who is an object of the affection of the narrator of the song “Cardigan.”. She and her second husband, Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness, reportedly had a happy marriage, although “little evidence is given in support of … HOW SHE BECAME RICH. The Return of Concorde: Is this the most glamorous Christmas present for 2020? • Bill: His full name is William Hale Harkness, and he was Rebekah West Harkness’ second husband (of four). As a sad footnote to the story of Rebekah Harkness is the tragedy of her three children. She was briefly married to a photographer before marrying philanthropist William Hale Harkness, half-brother of Henry Flagler, in 1945. The two women have something in common – Swift now lives in what was once Rebekah's home, "Holiday House" in Rhode Island. At the time, she claimed to have married him because she had "nothing else to do". Rebekah Harkness didn’t tuck herself away either. Once again, its great distance from us is meant to represent the copious amounts of love Swift has for the subject of “Seven.”. Taylor Swift surprised-released a new album called Folklore on Friday, and like all her albums, it’s bound to be a hit. ... Harkness was a divorcée who married Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness in 1947. She died surrounded by her family: from her husband Alex, her children Isabella and Lucas and her brothers Christopher and Sean," she said. • The Moon: A rock that’s orbiting our planet, and Swift compares its distance from Earth to how much she loves someone in “Seven.” May not technically qualify as rural or pastoral, but it definitely ain’t urban. • The High Line: A park in New York City built on out-of-service railway tracks, but also a backdrop for romantic moments in ballads. In 1947, Rebekah married husband number two, Standard Oil heir William "Bill" Harkness, whom she met at Watch Hill, her parents' summer holiday mansion in Rhode Island. ", Rebekah Harkness reading music on January 28, 1969. Readers like you make our work possible. Myths handed down through the decades? Together, the pair resided in Rhode Island, in a home called "Holiday House" that Swift now owns. As to whether she’s a real person, there’s not a whole lot to go on—and yet that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating that she’s named after everyone from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ third daughter (the other two are named James and Inez, which, see below) to Karlie Elizabeth Kloss to Rebekah Harkness, nickname Betty. . She soon became the owner of a vast amount of properties, and indulged in many luxuries. By joining Slate Plus you support our work and get exclusive content. At the Harkness' Rhode Island mansion, Holiday House, Rebekah hosted wild parties almost every weekend, with famous guests including Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and J.D Salinger. On “The Last Great American Dynasty,” a song about his wife, Rebekah (about whom there is more below), Swift does a good job telling listeners what the other important thing to know about him is: He “was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money.”. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images) (Getty), "There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen. His grandfather was Daniel M. Harkness, a half … © Provided by People Beth Garrabrant Taylor Swift According to the New York Times, Harkness was born in 1915 to "a rich, emotionally frigid St. … It seems fair that the life of Rebekah Harkness is now celebrated through Swift's song and that a new generation can sing along and know her name. • Sunday: Either the seventh or first day of the week, depending on who you ask, and if you’re Taylor Swift, a good day to take in a matinée—while contemplating loves lost. Young Rebekah, who was known as "Betty," was the second of three children, mostly raised by a nanny who was hired because she'd previously worked at an insane asylum. Unger wrote that Rebekah had felt humiliated by the collapse of her "dance empire" and that much of her money had disappeared. The Harknesses were married for a brief period—just seven years. Rebekah West was born in 1915 in St Louis, Missouri. The best of movies, TV, books, music, and more, delivered to your inbox three times a week. Life was exceedingly grand and Rebekah loved being married to Bill as she was thrown right into the spotlight of the upper class. But equally unapologetic as Swift. So who exactly is Rebekah Harkness and why did she inspire Swift's latest track? I knew that I had made a terrible, terrible mistake," Rebekah said. A year later, she married William Hale Harkness, a wealthy investor and a co-founder of Time magazine. Holiday House was owned by Rebekah Harkness, an eccentric patron of the arts and founder of the Harkness Ballet. If you value our work, please disable your ad blocker. Suddenly, Rebekah was a rich widow—one of the wealthiest women in America, in fact. Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. And just how folkloric is this thing, anyway? Rebekah West Harkness (April 17, 1915 – June 17, 1982) also known as Betty Harkness, was an American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. Rebakah married for a third time, to Dr Benjamin Keane; the marriage lasted just three years. Was she a fictional character drawn from the depths of Taylor's imagination, or had she once been a living woman with a tale to tell? But music was her biggest love and in 1955 she gained recognition as a composer when her 20-minute tone poem "Safari Suite" was performed at Carnegie Hall. But Rebekah's story is intricately more complex that the one set out in Swift's lyrics. Swift writes that Harkness was blamed for her husband’s early death, and judged for ending one of America’s richest families. Harkness had three husbands. 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