Of course, Little Edie was still party of society, as was Joe Kennedy. She was a debutante. And she was supposedly from a very good family.
And, at this point, no one knew about their financial troubles. But, oh, there were financial troubles. Just look at this letter Little Edie’s father wrote her mother, Big Edie, in 1934, two years prior to Little Edie’s debutante party:
It reads in full:
This is a difficult letter to write, but nevertheless it must be done, so here goes:-
Since our marriage I have endeavored to provide you with every luxury, and in this up to the date hereof I think I may say that I have been successful. I will not enumerate the generous gifts that I have made to you, because, after all, this is water over the dam, and I will confine myself to the immediate present.
Since the great crash in 1929, we have seen many of our friends and acquaintances suffer. Fortunately, this suffering did not come to me until now. My law business has been largely builded on that of an “Exchange Specialist”, and my income was almost entirely derived from this source.
The Stock Exchange legislation on the part of Congress has so reduced the volume of business that Stock Exchange houses are either merging or retiring from business. Few, if any, are earning their expenses. A number of annual retainers that I enjoyed have been canceled, and I have been notified that others will be canceled on the first of the year. I am truly in a desperate situation, so much so that Miss Maguire, one of the girls in this office is being let out on next Saturday. Major Morris goes on the 1st of October. In addition thereto, Mr. Vincent who has been with me for twenty years has got to go, for the simple reason that I cannot afford to keep him. Even Miss Mahoney, the telephone operator, who likewise has been with me for several years must go through necessity. My three office boys I am reducing to one. There may be other changes as well, and in the same manner I am forced to retrench in every possible way, which means that I cannot return the boys to Westminster School, and I am so writing the Headmaster. To keep them there costs me about $4,000.00 per annum. I can borrow on my insurance sufficient funds to keep little Edie at Miss Porter’s School for the next year.
I can well understand your bitterness when you read this letter. You have not been extravagant and you doubtless feel that if I had curtailed expenditures, I would not be in my present unenviable position, but as we say in the law, regardless of what may have been, I am at this time faced by a condition and not a theory.
I am not giving up, although at times there is a great temptation to take the easiest way out. It will not be the first time that I have met with a major catastrophe. When the war broke out in 1914, all of my German business was destroyed and I found myself facing a situation similar to the present, although then I was not as burdensome as I was unmarried.
I do not intend to ask you to do anything that I would not ask my mother and sister to do. I must arrange for them to occupy less expensive quarters, even though it may mean a boarding house. I am glad you have the house in East Hampton, because it is in tip-top repair and may be occupied comfortably the year round. The boys can go to the school in South Hampton. It is possible that when I get the expenses of maintaining my office out to the bone, and I then am able to give eighteen hours a day to my business, free from financial worries that keep me awake at night, I will stage a quick comeback wherefore, your abnegation of remaining in East Hampton may be short-lived.
I do not intend to live in luxury when I am asking you to make a sacrifice. I am going to Washington this afternoon. On my return I will move to more modest and cheaper quarters, such as procuring a room at some bachelor hotel for $80.00 per month.
I do hope that you will appreciate that the contents of this letter should not be broadcasted. You are at liberty, however, to show the same to your mother and father.
I hate like the devil to deprive little Buddy of the pleasure he gets in going horse-back riding. Will you ask the boy to give up his riding until next season. The bill from the riding school came this morning. It is $53.00. In some instances the charge for his rides were $8.00 per day, and in no one day was it less than $3.00. Do not tell the children anything that will alarm them in regard to my financial condition. They are so young that their minds receive an exaggerated and inflamed impression which may have evil effects of a permanent nature. Offer some excuse to the kids about your remaining in East Hampton and attending school in South Hampton. Make a game of it so that they will like the idea. Even with little Edie, you should not confide in her, otherwise she may think we are headed for the poorhouse to-morrow, and it will destroy all happiness of her year at Farmington.
There is nothing more to write just at this moment, because I must leave in the next five minutes to get the airplane to Washington. I do hope that the machine crashes, because it would be a pleasant exit for a very tired man -
Edie’s mother responded to this heartfelt letter where in her husband hoped for his own death by… doing nothing.