One afternoon in
June of 193l, William K. Vanderbilt drove from his North Shore estate into
nearby Northport, Long Island to do some shopping. On entering the local
department store, Vanderbilt went directly to the basement for bargains.
"May I serve
you?" asked a young saleswoman.
said Vanderbilt. "Two dozen of these bracelets, please. I also want three
dozen bead necklaces and four dozen pairs of earrings and assorted finger
rings." The clerk looked at her customer gravely, but carefully noted the
order in her book. Vanderbilt moved to an adjacent counter where alarm clocks
and mirrors were displayed. Again he ordered by dozens. At a third counter were
magnifying glasses. These, too, were added to the list. Then Vanderbilt pointed
to a display of thermos bottles. "I'll take 25," he said.
had been engrossed in his purchases, suddenly began to feel self-conscious.
Most of the basement's clerks and customers were standing in the nearby aisles
and staring at him.
petulantly, "I am buying these things for natives of the South Seas."
Another multimillionaire yacht owner was getting ready for a world cruise.
Three decades ago,
when the American dream was represented by a flotilla of palatial oceangoing
yachts, world cruises became almost a matter of course, and not a few
multimillionaire yacht owners made at least part of their fitting-out purchases
in bargain basements and Mr. Woolworth's stores.
But it remained
for the granddaughter of the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge to set the
aristocratic yachting world on its beam ends by building a vessel that was to
precipitate the most fantastic era, brief though it was, that yachting has ever
Roebling Cadwalader, wife of Richard McCall Cadwalader of the Philadelphia
Cadwaladers and joint heiress to the Roebling family fortune, was in her late
40s—and apparently possessed of nearly as many millions of dollars—when she
instructed the firm of Henry J. Gielow, Inc. to design for her a private motor
yacht that would be the finest ever to sail the seven seas.
On January 21,
1928 the diesel yacht Savrona II was delivered to Mrs. Cadwalader at New York.
(Mrs. Cadwalader's first Savarona was a mere toy of 174 feet.) Only three or
four steam-driven yachts owned by kings and crown governments were larger than
the 294-foot Savarona II; no other yacht propelled by diesel engines even
approached her proportions. The most modern navigation equipment had been
installed, including a gyropilot, a gyrocompass and a gyrostabilizer—prized
gear usually employed only in the newest and largest passenger liners. The
stabilizer alone cost $85,000 and was the first to be installed in an
oceangoing yacht; the 20-ton apparatus not only counteracted every roll of the
vessel but, as the owner was to find out to her delight and the frequent
consternation of her guests, could be reversed, causing the ship to roll about
as though in a genuine storm when actually in a quiet harbor. Two
1,500-horsepower engines drove the ship at 16 knots; a 102,000-gallon oil
capacity permitted a cruising range of 20,000 miles.
The luxury of the
Savarona II's rooms, furnished as they were with a quarter of a million
dollars' worth of period pieces, Oriental rugs and antique tapestries, was
outstanding, offering all the grandeur and comfort found in the finest
mansions. Besides the owner's splendid suite—which comprised a double
stateroom, lounge, sun room, two baths, two dressing rooms and a maid's
room—there were accommodations for 17 guests. The main lounge, forward of the
owner's suite on the main deck, was done in dark walnut and provided with open
fire-places—the first yacht to be so equipped. A music room on the same deck
contained a $25,000 pipe organ, which, by a system of connectors, could be
heard in nearly every part of the vessel. Each linen closet and bedroom
wardrobe was lined with cedar. Bathroom units were of black Italian marble.
Practically all of the bathroom hardware, including door knobs, was
gold-plated. The Cadwalader ensign was a swan, and the yacht's bathroom taps
(gold, of course) were shaped like swan's heads. It was Philadelphia and Palm
Beach society's Mrs. Stotesbury who best explained the practicality of gold
bathroom fixtures: 'They're very economical, you know. You don't have to polish