Mounted on a Pedestal: Bertha Honoré Palmer
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts, Department of Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
The thesis Mounted on a Pedestal, chronicles the life of Bertha Honoré Palmer. The focus of her story are the years after 1910, when she traveled to Sarasota, Florida and heralded the flight to the southernmost state, leading the pack in the purchase and development of land in the Sarasota/ Tampa Bay area. The totality of her years prior to that time serve as a prelude to her accomplishments and the vicissitudes of her life in the sleepy little fishing village she found. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1849, she was provided with a privileged, comfortable childhood and a sheltered academic education at the most prestigious schools for young ladies of the day. She excelled academically and won high praise for her exemplary demeanor. She was beautiful, intelligent, musically gifted, a competent linguist and writer, an astute businesswoman, a paragon of graciousness, and politically savvy. She married business mogul, Potter Palmer, when she was twentyone and he fortyfour. Bertha Palmer was a pacesetter of haute couture; the society pages of the newspapers were filled with detailed descriptions of her gowns, her jewels and her lavish parties. Her iii Chicago homes were architectural masterpieces and she furnished them with treasures from renowned artisans. In 1900, she was appointed by President William McKinley as the only woman on the national commission to represent the United States at the Paris Exposition. Mrs. Palmer’s most prominent position was as president of the Board of Lady Managers at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. She had close personal relations with the elite of American Society and European royalty. Following the death of her husband Potter, in 1902, Mrs. Palmer combined her life of splendor, advocacy, and mobility while pursuing every opportunity to increase the value of her holdings, principally with real estate investments. She had been bequeathed an estate worth eight million dollars. Before her death, she would more than double her net worth. She would invest in thousands of acres of land, build more homes and amass a fortune in possessions.