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Fall 2006 Vol. V, No. 1

From the archives

The following is an excerpt of a letter Samuel Jessup wrote on April 19, 1879 describing the wedding of Mary Bliss to Gerald F. Dale. (According to Henry H. Jessup's book, Fifty-Three Years in Syria, vol. II, page 461, Mary Bliss married the Reverend Gerald F. Dale, Jr. on April 16, 1879.) Samuel is writing from Shimlan to Hardin at Tripoli who had not been able to get down to Beirut for the ceremony. Samuel and Annie (Jay) Jessup, his wife, had just returned home after attending the wedding.

The invitations in Beirut were out for 8 o'clock precisely. The guests were mostly on time. The ladies' reception or dressing room was the guest room at the head of the stairs & the gentlemen's room was opposite it, a room formerly used for saddles, but now nicely fitted up for the reception. Thus Ladies & Gentlemen could enter the court together from the hall.

Dr. & Mrs. Bliss stood opposite the entrance in the court to receive the guests. When I entered with Annie, Mrs. Bliss was so surprised that she left her place & came across the court to greet her. [Annie Jessup had been quite ill and there had been some doubt that she would be well enough to attend the wedding.] Chairs & sofas in two rows were arranged on either side of the court for the ladies to occupy during the ceremony. The whole large court was carpeted with beautiful rugs & carpets loaned for the occasion. The decorations surpass description. The court looked like fairyland. Every door & window was lined with palm branches & flags & greens, worked in a triangle around & festooned.

At the front end on either side were great numbers of choice flowers & plants in pots. In the center of the front end was the bridal bower made of pine branches closely woven together & trimmed with cala blossoms. In & under this the bridal party stood while the ceremony was performed. It was high enough for them to stand under & broad enough for the bride & groom. The general effect of it was beautiful.

Over the entrance (the door out of which the newly married pair were to leave the house) was an immense horseshoe in guilt. Over the parlor door (where the party were waiting for the time of the ceremony) was a large guilt shield 7 feet long, covered all but the border with evergreen & worked on the evergreen was the monogram of the bride & groom "MG". The "M" was made of white roses and the "G" of double red geraniums & it was so large & so well done as to be exceeding effective. I cannot give a good shape to the shield nor to the arbor.

On either side of the parlor door was a stand on each of which was a magnificant boquet of choice flowers. The boquets were about 2 feet in diameter. Others smaller were in the windows, & others as large on either side of the piano at one side of the court & a great many other places were filled with choice gems of boquets. The flowers were all beautiful & I spent a good deal of time in examining the different collections of them. There must have been two or three hundred white cala blossoms.

At the time appointed the central passage through the court was cleared & the parlor doors opened, when first came Miss Eddy & Mr. Dickky (of Philadelphia) then Miss Black & Mr. March & then the bride & groom. They passed up the whole length of the court in a very graceful manner. There was not a misstep nor a false motion. Each was properly placed by her gentleman. The bride's dress was white (silk?). The trail was long enough to require all the grace she possessed to bring it around into position when she turned, under the bower to face the people.

The ceremony began by Mr. Edgar consul asking the people if they had any objections, & then asking each party if he or she knew of any lawful objection. Then he asked each if he took the other as husband & wife. Then Dr. Bliss went on with the do you ---- solemnly promise & c. Then the Consul said by virtue of the authority & c. I pronounce

you man & wife, & Dr. Bliss said what God hath joined together & c. (Just before pronouncing man & wife the ring was given & received.) After it Dr. Van Dyck offered prayer.

Then the choir sang a hymn, a wedding hymn, & Dr. Dullies pronounced the wedding benediction. Then followed the congratulations & people circulated around. After a little while tea was served with cake, a little later lemonade, a little after came strawberries & ice cream & cake. The bride was sometime in one place & sometime in another. During the ice cream service, the bride's loaf was brought to the center of the court on a table, & cut by the bride, & Dr. Brigstock passed it to the bridal party & then other people were served in the usual way. The loaf was about 20 inches in diameter (measure it & see the size). A second bride's loaf was not cut as the first was so large that only half of it was used. The French confection made it as also the cake served with the tea. But Ameen made the rest that was served with ice cream & it was very nice (Shaheen helped him although he could scarcely sit up). You know we sent Ameen down to be 10 days with Mrs. Bliss.

After a while Dr. Post called the people to order and said he did not believe in prying into family secrets, but (holding up a sealed tin) he said, "Here is one 23 years old & no one has seen it for that long. It is Mrs. Bliss' wedding cake" & c. & c. He then opened it with a tin opener & took out the loaf of black cake which was sealed up 23 years before & Mrs. Bliss cut it before the company & invited all to partake. Dr. Post said he advised people to be satisfied with the sight, for itappeared to be perfect. However every one wished to taste & so they did, but a very little satisfied. It tasted like "brandy cheese". If it had been put in hot from the over & instantly sealed doubtless it would have kept well for eating. It was remarkably preserved as it was.

I will not undertake to describe the dresses. I will only say that the bride was dressed in white, Miss Black in color or mauve cashmere & Miss Eddy in white. The party broke up at 10 3/4. Mr. & Mrs. Amsler taking the first step in leaving. Americans were all there, but Mrs. Van Dyck & Lizzie were not able to come. Lizzie was greatly disappointed. She has been over taxed during Flossie's sickness (Flossie is able to come out of her room now). Mr. Bird did not come & of course Mrs. Pond could not. Mr. Bird was at B Hamden. Mrs. Calhoun also did not feel like coming. Emily came down the week before. She rode from the Deir to Beirut without dismounting once. She is getting fat, like her mother but of course is not so large. You know that you & your wife & Miss La Grange were not there. Aside from the Americans there was Dr. & Mrs. Brigstock, Mixeres, Blacks, Wortabets, Scott (who came late) Dr. Brigstock's nephew, Amsler & wife & Miss Portalice, 5 Deaconesses, Miss Everest Sonervilles & Mrs. Carleslane. Yakobe Sunoof & wife, Mr. Smith, Mr. Black (cousin of Mr. Black), Ferha & one other Seminary teacher, Mrs. Bucter & Miss Wiley & several officers of the U.S. Corvette Wyoming with their gay uniform, Dr. Dullies & son & Mr. Dickky.

The presents were displayed in Dr. Bliss' study, & made an imposing appearance. Gold & silver & jewels, & glass, & all sorts of wares & materials beautiful ornamental & useful. Of these I must speak another time. I will only say that over one of those high doors into the court hung a splendid Persian rug, about 6 feet broad and twice as long as the door is high which was Mr. Dickky's present. (Mr. D was classmate, schoolmate & playmate of Mr. Dale.) Mr. Dale said he had a room or two full of presents still in Zahleh which he could not send back to Beirut for the display.

All passed off most pleasantly & people went home to dream & sleep or lie awake, & think ofMr. & Mrs. Dale starting at 6 a.m. in private carriage for Zahleh where they were received by the grandees in the highest style of horsemanship. The cavalcade met them at Shtoreh where Mr. Rattary had provided an entertainment. Their house was ready in Zahleh & a throng of people greeted them there & showered them with perfumes & they then took possession of their own house, & now we hear that Mary is "happy & quite at home".

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