University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Teresa Vielé Scrapbooks

1870 - 1871

Manuscript Collection Number: 288
Accessioned: Gift of the Moyerman family, 1972
Extent: Two volumes.
Content: Two scrapbooks containing letters, newspaper clippings, legal documents, invitations,
announcements, calling cards, fern specimens and other items.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: September 1993 by Kelly Baum.

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Table of Contents


Biographical Note

Teresa Griffin Vielé‚ lived in New York City in the 1870s. She was married to General Egbert L. Vielé‚ with whom she had five children: Kathlyn, Herman, Teresa, Egbert and Emily. Around the year 1870, Teresa and Egbert Vielé‚ sued each other for divorce on almost identical grounds: adultery, insanity, and cruelty. Mrs. Vielé‚ was accused of having an affair with General W.W. Averill, and Mr. Viel‚ with Miss Julia Dana. The suits also involved a custody battle for their five children. Because of the Vielés' high social standing and the relative rarity of divorce the 19th century, the case was widely publicized in the New York papers.

In June 1871, Teresa Vielé‚ won custody of her two youngest children only to have that court order postponed until October. On October 2, 1871, the divorce trial resumed but soon afterwards the Vielés withdrew their mutual charges and the children were divided among them.

Mrs. Vielé seems to have been very involved socially, as were many 19th century, upper-middle class women. She was a member of the American Ladies Aid Association for Cuban Women and Children which raised money and supplies for victims of the Cuban revolution. As a participant in the Southern Relief Association, Teresa Vielé was a member of the Committee on Public Places of Amusement. She also apparently had political interest in Mr. George Francis Train, a candidate in the 1872 presidential election. George Train was a member of the Train Ligue which campaigned on the promise of an equal distribution of political power for all women, men, and ethnicities and supported women's suffrage.

Perhaps documentation of her divorce drama appealed to Mrs. Vielé's literary instincts. Hers was a creative family. She had authored Following the drum: a glimpse of frontier life (1858), based on her experiences as a military spouse during her husband's tour in the American Southwest and fighting in the Mexican War. The General (1825-1902) published Hand-book for active service; containing practical instructions in campaign duties (1861). Their youngest son, Egbert Jr., accompanied his mother to France after the divorce and later changed his name to Francis Vielé-Griffin (1864-1937), gaining renown as a French symbolist poet. Older son Herman Knickerbocker Vielé (1856-1908) achieved fame as a novelist, playwright, and artist in New York, and was best known for Last of the Knickerbockers a Comedy Romance (1901). Teresa Vielé died in Paris in 1906 and was buried in Père-Lachaise Cemetery.

Sources:

Viele, Teresa Griffin. Following the drum : a glimpse of frontier life. Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

Biographical information also derived from material in the collection.


Scope and Content Note

The Teresa Vielé collection consists of two volumes of scrapbooks, each approximately 130 pages in length, and spans the dates June 1870 to October 1871. As these dates correspond to those of her divorce suit against General Vielé, much in the collection centers on this event. Such material includes letters, newspaper clippings, and telegrams from attorneys and detectives. The scrapbooks also contain calling cards from prominent members of New York society; invitations to balls, charities, or weddings; programs for concerts and church services; and announcements for lectures or events. Material relating to Vielé's personal business consists of notes and receipts from banks, insurance companies, antique furniture dealers, hotels, and renters. Other items found in the collection are a newspaper clipping of a poem, "To My Child," published by Teresa Vielé in The Home Journal, a transcription of a piece called "The Rights of Woman," and a page on which Vielé glued fern specimens from the Pacific Coast.

The Vielé scrapbooks provide insight into the social conventions of 19th century upper-middle class women, such as writing letters and calling on friends or involving oneself in charities. The material also documents public reaction to divorce and issues of child custody, notably in a case where the woman sought separation as well as the husband.


Contents List

Box -- Volume -- Contents

  1    Volume I.  General dates July 1870-October 1870.

Volume II. General dates May 1871-October 1871.

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