Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

Richard J. Hickson

Hickson & Company

 

 

Compiled by

Marilyn Slater

(with a little help from Delores Hanney)

 

          Hickson and Company was formed in 1902 by Richard J. Hickson -- born March 25, 1863 in Albany, New York -- with an investment from his sister Caroline Hickson Kennedy. The company located at 657 5th Avenue in New York, in a building that was owned by one of the first millionaire abortionists, Madame Restell

          In 1909 Hickson and Company designs were very much in vogue, but one customer learned to her peril that payment was expected on a $75.00 dress or bad publicity was the price.  The story ran in The New York Times on September 17th reporting that Mrs. C.B. Frost had given Hickson a bad check; he responded by having her arrested upon leaving a dinner party and she had to appear in court to explain.

 

By 1915 Richard and his sisters Caroline (Carrie) and Kathryn (Kate) all worked in the company.  It was a profitable business and Richard’s salary was over $30,000.00.  He designed the dresses and Carrie the hats, but it was Carrie who was the power that made the business a success.  That year Carrie and Kate were on their way to the spring shows in Paris – Kate’s first trip to Europe – when they perished with the sinking of the Lusitania.

 

 

          After the death of his sisters the shop continued, numbering among its customers Julian Etinge, the female impersonator, and First Lady Florence Harding.  The designs done for Samuel Goldwyn's film Dodging a Million, starring Mabel Normand, were documented in an article in the Elyria Evening Telegram on July 11, 1918 titled “Fifth Avenue Modiste Shows Models in Mabel Normand Play.”

1.      -a severe black satin, with a V-neck and sleeves and slashed at – each side to the knee.  The slashed spaces are filled with accordion pleated chiffon.

2.    -a blue wool velour afternoon frock, trimmed with dark blue velvet and showing the ultra-new bustle effect.  It is embroidered in gold thread and further embellished with wide bands of blue fox fur.

3.    -a black jet and sapphire blue evening gown

4.    -a white velvet brocaded in silver

5.    -a black and gold brocade lined gold velvet evening wrap trimmed in seal

6.    -a maroon velvet evening wrap banned with kolinsky

7.    -a purple velvet skating outfit trimmed with bands of ermine and including a jaunty ermine hat

8.    -a satin and crêpe de chine and lace lingerie and pajamas of pink satin

 

 

 

 

 

 

          Dodging A Million” was the first film made under Mabel Normand’s new contract with Goldwyn in 1918. Directed by George Loane Tucker, the film revolves around a fashionable dress shop.  For it, Goldwyn sought to create an authentic atmosphere with genuine fashions.  The film is now lost but from what information is available, it was a very successful movie with both Mabel’s fans and the critics.

 

          President Warren Harding called Florence “The Duchess.”  Her marriage to the future president was her second.  She was very conscious of her appearance and a major party-giver, turning the White House into the center of Washington’s social circle after the quiet of the previous administration.  It was Richard who was responsible for her Inauguration costume, and though there was no ball in 1921, her gown was worn at a party after Harding took office.  It was described as being heavily embroidered, with pearls and rhinestones on white satin.

          Sadly, without Carrie to manage the money, by 1925 Richard’s dress shop had moved to East 57th Street and his designs were being sold in department stores across the country at discount prices.  After an unsuccessful try at publishing a fashion magazine, Richard Hickson sold his shop.