Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Amelia Earhart Was Married Here


When I discovered that Amelia Earhart married George Putnam in Noank (near my home in Mystic, CT) in February of 1931, I couldn't wait to learn more--such as why she was such a reluctant bride and how, in the days before global warning made headlines, could she have gotten married outside as portrayed in the 2009 Amelia movie starring Hilary Swank?

Excerpt from my new book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail:
Learning I was including Amelia Earhart's wedding in a book about the area, Mary Anderson, Curator of the Noank Historical Society, said, “You tell everybody that the wedding scene portrayed in the movie [Amelia] is inaccurate. My husband’s grandfather, the Groton probate judge, performed the ceremony, and my father-in-law, Robert Anderson, a young Noank lawyer at the time, attended as a witness. Before and after the ceremony, Amelia spoke to him about a new kind of aircraft she was promoting. When the judge congratulated her after the ceremony, calling her Mrs. Putnam, she replied, ‘Please sir, I prefer Miss Earhart.’”

Amelia Earhart met George Putnam, an arctic explorer, publicist and heir to the GP Putnam publishing company, in 1928 while employed as a social worker in Boston. Putnam had become famous as the publisher of Charles Lindbergh’s book about his solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. Now George Putnam was helping sponsors look for a woman to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic in the trimotor Fokker, Friendship, previously owned by pioneering aviator and polar explorer, Richard E. Byrd. Amelia was interviewed by the flight sponsors in New York City at the offices of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Publishing Company. Upon concluding the interview in George Putnam’s office, George accompanied Amelia to the train station. Shortly after returning to Boston, she received the offer to make the historic flight.

Putnam, who was reportedly smitten by Amelia, brought Earhart to Noank to visit with his mother, Frances Putnam, and on November 8, 1930, he convinced Amelia to visit Groton Town Hall to apply for a marriage license.

Wanting to follow Amelia’s trail, I visited Groton Town Hall to see if I could learn anything from looking at the license. Just before I entered the building, a friendly, owner-less golden retriever greeted me. Calling the phone number etched in his tag, I assured the owner I would hold onto him until she could drive over to collect him.

As I sat on a bench with the dog at the entrance of the 1908 brick building, I pondered what Earhart was thinking before she stepped through that doorway more than 80 years earlier. My first trip to Groton Town Hall occurred two years ago when we first moved to Mystic. It wasn’t for any life-altering reason—I was just required by law to register my hound Bailey for a Connecticut dog license.

Amelia, on the other hand, was apparently extremely apprehensive when she entered Groton Town Hall. She wasn’t sold on the idea of marriage in general (her parents had divorced six years earlier in 1924) and had rejected other marriage proposals, including Sam Chapman’s, whose proposal included the insistence that his wife not work outside the home.

Once freed from my dog sitting responsibilities, I visited the Registrar of Vital Statistics office, the same office where I applied for Bailey’s dog license. When I told the clerk I was looking for Earhart’s marriage license and gave her the wedding date, she found it immediately. “We’ve had many requests for that,” she said...

To learn more about Amelia Earhart, the fib I discovered on her marriage license, and certain events leading up to and following her wedding in Noank, see my book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail, available online as an e-book or soft cover through Amazon and in Mystic area shops.

About Mystic Seafarer's Trail:
While searching for the Seven Wonders of Mystic with her beagle/basset hound, author Lisa Saunders uncovers the secrets behind the Titanic's shoes, Captain Sisson's hunt for gold, and Amelia Earhart's Noank wedding. But will she ever find an adventure of her own--one that will make her thin and famous? Enough to afford a housekeeper? When walking the Mystic Seafarer's Trail (which Lisa designed for those who don't like to go uphill), she meets a blind sailor who invites her on a long, winter voyage. Can this plump writer defy squalls, scurvy, and her fear of scraping barnacles to survive this epic journey?

Mystic Seafarer's Trail, can be previewed by clicking on the "LOOK INSIDE" feature on Amazon. It is also available in Mystic area shops that incude, A Taste of New England, Bank Square Books, Franklin's General Store, Carson's Variety Store, and Monte Cristo Bookshop (a new shop in New London).

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