Thursday, January 3, 2013

Following Up: The Fate of the Pilgrim's Romance

On December 26, 1912, in its account of Christmas Day spent in Hudson, the New York Press reported that Gladys Coursen, the Vassar graduate who joined General Jones's army in Poughkeepsie, had agreed to marry Griffith Bonner, the zealous suitor who had, for her, taken up the cause of woman suffrage and was pursuing her on the pilgrimage to Albany. While there is no evidence that he followed her all the way to the Capitol, it is pretty certain that he got as far as Hudson, and one likes to imagine that he escorted her to the Christmas charity ball to benefit the Hudson Hospital.

As a token of their engagement, Bonner gave Coursen not a diamond engagement ring but his fraternity pin, and he told the New York Press reporter: "Miss Coursen has put me on a three-month probation. She wants to be sure I will devote my entire time to her, as is natural. My social duties, of course, have made it necessary for me to have many young woman friends, but I intend to show her I can be true." One would like to think that Bonner passed the fidelity test and that he and Coursen got married and lived happily ever after, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

In 1912, the Poughkeepsie city directory shows Gladys Coursen, whose profession is given as violinist, living in her father's house at 32 Hammersley. Her father is Alfred Coursen, who, the directory indicates, is the editor of the Evening Star. Griffith Bonner is also listed in the 1912 Poughkeepsie city directory, as a reporter for the Evening Star who boards at 91 Garden. A search of the newspapers at Fulton History and the records at yielded neither an account of the wedding of Gladys Coursen and Griffith Bonner nor a marriage license.

Instead, in 1916, Gladys Coursen appears in the New York City directory living at 54 West 50th Street, which according to the Sanborn map for 1916 was a four-story brick building with basement, and in 1918, Griffith Bonner filed a draft registration card in Lafayette, Indiana, giving his occupation as "reporter, The Morning Journal." 

Maybe they had a really long engagement. 

The photograph of Gladys Coursen shown above appeared in the New York Sun on December 30, 1912.


  1. A search on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America historic newspaper site ( for Griffith Bonner brings up two issues of the Chicago Day Book.

    The issue of 27 Dec 1912 said the rumor of marriage was false, she turned him down.

    The issue of 16 Jun 1916 claims he was to wed Mildred L Eckhardt of NYC. When he was a senior at NYU he wrote a song for her calling her the "Girl of NYU."

    He died 27 Feb 1936 in California according to the 17 Mar 1936 issue of the Poughkeepsie Star-Enterprise.

  2. TOPEKA, Kan., Feb. 29—(AP)—An
    obituary sketch of his own life,
    written eight years ago by Griffith
    Bonner, 50, as his last work as a
    member of the staff of the Topeka
    State Journal, rated front-page
    space In the newspaper today.
    Friends here were advised' last
    night of Bonner's death in Los Angeles
    following a heart attack. Bonner
    was a grandson of the late
    Robert Bonner, millionaire horseman,
    for whom Bonner Springs,
    Kan., was named.
    The autobiography started with
    Bonner's birth in New York, covered
    his education at Princeton and
    New York Universities, recounted
    three marriages and two divorces,
    and listed half a dozen club affiliations.
    In recent years he had been engaged
    in publicity work in Los Angeles.

    Oakland Tribune (29 Feb 1936, page 3).