“Clowns in the dusty arena of everyday life”

by Jacquelyn Thayer

“There will be no ceremony today.”

Word of the cancellation of the January 2 wedding of Chicago society scions Mary Landon Baker—daughter of Boston transplant and influential stockbroker Alfred Landon Baker1—and Allister McCormick—of the city’s legendary Harvesting Machine McCormicks, son of inventor Leander Hamilton McCormick—was delivered to a full house at the grand Fourth Presbyterian Church at Michigan and Delaware. The story had legs enough to hit wide outside the Chicago press circle, no small matter in 1922. The New York Times weighed in with a quote from Mr. Baker, offering assurance that delay was simply down to Mary’s illness, while McCormick pater stressed Allister’s own good health—and lack of contact with Mary, who was, in his words, “too ill to see him.”

Mary Landon Baker and Allister McCormick as attendants at a summer 1921 wedding. Photo from the Chicago Daily Tribune.
Mary Landon Baker and Allister McCormick as attendants at a summer 1921 wedding. Photo from the Chicago Daily Tribune.

But as with any story of such vast significance, conflicting or incomplete reports readily arose. Rival paper the New York Evening Telegram declared the day of the failed nuptials that Allister, too, had been taken by a vague illness. More sensationally, the Telegram was the first to serve up a small but quite relevant bit of backstory missing from other early reports: “The announcement of Miss Baker’s engagement to Allister McCormick, who served as an aviator during the war, was no surprise to her friends who knew the close friendship between the two families. But Miss Baker’s persistent postponing of the wedding made it necessary last May for members of both families to deny rumors of a broken engagement.”2
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