Mildred “Honey” Titcomb was a true socialite, long before the names of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian plastered the pages of TMZ. Though she passed on before I was ever able to meet her in person, I had the opportunity to get to know Honey when we acquired some items from her estate in 2012. A dear friend of ours was the the heir to the heir of the Titcomb estate. She held on to the items for many years. She kept her favorites, but was unsure of what to do with the rest. Seeking to settle the estate, she allowed us to purchase the remaining contents. We gleefully sorted through the remains, finding treasures of every shape and size. The items ranged from centuries old furniture to scrapbooks containing every little detail of Honey’s exciting life. Some of those items have been sold to collectors and designers around the world, while others remain available for sale.
A young Mildred Titcomb with her mother.
Mildred Titcomb was born January 21, 1906, in San Francisco, just three months prior to the Great Earthquake. She was born to Mr. & Mrs. Harvey Titcomb. Mr. Titcomb was the President of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Mexico.
Included in the Titcomb estate were a pair of tiny shoes, seen above on the feet of young Mildred.
Mildred, known by those close to her as “Honey”, was a native of California, where she attended the Manning School of Music. She made her first public appearance as a pianist in recital in San Francisco at the age of eleven.
Her other studies kept apace, and a few years later she was granted admission to Stanford University. Her high-standing scholastic record eliminated the usual entrance examinations. She chose, however, to pass up Stanford and pursue a musical career. She headed East, studying at the Bennett School of Liberal Arts in New York, and subsequently with Sigismond Stojowski. This short biography of Stojowski, from an article found in her scrapbook:
Mildred Titcomb and Sigismond Stojowski following one of her recitals.
During the winter of 1930, Miss Titcomb made her debut in recitals in New York and Chicago, with striking success. In pieces pulled from her personal scrapbook, leading critics in both cities praised her as "an exceptionally gifted young artist who has already gone far in her special art of piano playing," and "tall, blonde and interesting, she possesses those gifts of imagination, poetic insight, emotional response and sense of virtuosity" and "she is bound to become one of our leading pianists." Ernest Schelling, a famous American pianist, composer and conductor, wrote, "I consider that she has an outstanding pianistic talent. Qualities such as sound musicianship, temperament, and splendid technical equipment assure her of making her way."
The following are newspaper excerpts found in Mildred Titcomb’s scrapbook
NEW YORK HERALD-TRIBUNE, December 17, 1929 (First Recital at Town Hall, NY): Miss Titcomb disclosed a pianistic talent well above the average displayed in debut recitals. Its assets were a competent, dexterous, often brilliant technique, distinct vigor, and something less frequently displayed in Town Hall, color and temperament.
NEW YORK EVENING JOURNAL, November 25, 1930 (Second Recital): Mildred Titcomb, a young pianist from California, who made her New York debut last December, returned for her second recital last night at Town Hall. She attracted a good-sized audience which was unmistakably impressed by the striking quality of her performance. Miss Titcomb, as a fact, is a pianist of genuine and varied gifts. In music that would have challenged the resources of any virtuoso she disclosed a firm grasp of its interpretative demands and a powerful and effective technical equipment.
Titcomb played in Town Hall, NY for four consecutive seasons, as well as in Boston and Chicago, always to the accompaniment of excellent press notices.
Following the finale of a series of concerts in New York, Mildred Titcomb married William Rains, a prominent attorney of Los Angeles, on November 11th, 1932. The wedding was held at Hotel Biltmore in New York. Stojowski himself played Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, his own Chant d’ Amour and other music for the ceremony. The pair sailed to Europe for their honeymoon following their reception.
Mildred and William M. Rains.
Following her marriage, she continued to perform with the Pasadena Symphony, the Bronson Student Orchestra at Ebell and with Madelaine Forthmann in a joint concert at the Biltmore Hotel.
While researching the lives of Mildred Titcomb and William Rains, I discovered just how prominent Rains was in law. He worked on various high-profile cases, many involving wealthy tycoons and movie stars. One case from 1932 involved well-known big screen actress, Claire Windsor. Windsor created quite a stir when she became involved in a love affair with a young San Fransisco stockbroker named Alfred Read, Jr. Mr. Read’s wife learned of the affair, and filed a $100,000 suit against Windsor for “Alianation of Affection” (aka stealing her husband). William Rains was attorney to Miss Windsor, who eventually lost the case and was forced to pay $75,000 to the former bride of Alfred Read, Jr.
Rains as seen in the court room with his client, Claire Windsor. This picture was found at http://clairewindsor.weebly.com/
As if this juicy tid-bit from the early days of Hollywood just wasn’t enough, the story continued when Windsor sued her former fling for stealing $11 from her purse. Seriously. You can read more about the Windsor vs. Read case here. If nothing else, check out the pictures (and their captions).
Claire Windsor appears to weep in the courtroom. This picture was found at http://clairewindsor.weebly.com/
Mildred Titcomb and and William Rains’ never had any children, and their marriage eventually came to an end. Rains was married again in 1947 to a real estate and oil heir, Liliore Green Palmer (Rains). Just 45 days following their nuptials, William Rains died of a heart attack while visiting the steam bath of a California country club. After her husband’s death, Liliore was never the same. She became reclusive, hiding away in her Beverly Hills home until she passed away in 1986 at the age of 76. According to this article from the Los Angeles Times, Liliore left her $240 million dollar estate to 6 instatutions, 2 hospitals and 4 schools. One of the schools, Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, boasts one of the largest private law libraries in the western United States, William M. Rains Library. It also awards the highly sought after distinction of “William M. Rains Fellow” to this day.
After years of traveling and performing, Mildred Titcomb eventually settled in California, where she lived full and well until her passing in 2000 at the age of 94. She spent her years enjoying the company of her dogs, horses and dear friends. And she always kept a grand piano in her living room.
Other than music, Mildred "Honey" Titcomb's greatest passions were horses and dogs.
Many of the personal items regarding Mildred Titcomb’s life and fame were driven across the country in care of my dad and myself. We took them to Long Island, New York, where they will be auctioned of by Mr. Philip Weiss of Weiss Auctions. Weiss is a well-known and highly sought after auctioneer, and an expert of collectibles, sports memorabilia and toys. My parents had the pleasure of meeting Mr Weiss during their first trip to Antiques Roadshow. We have had great success with Weiss Auction in the past, and look forward to establishing a lasting relationship with the New York company.
A bust of Miss Mildred Titcomb, as included in the remains of her estate.
Frankly, I am not fond of monkeys. They affect me the way spiders and snakes affect other people. The flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz” and the rogue monkeys in Robin Williams’s “Jumanji” were menacing to me, and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see them.