Cissy Patterson

Eleanor Josephine Medill "Cissy" Patterson, Countess Gizycki (November 7, 1881 – July 24, 1948) was an American journalist and newspaper editor, publisher and owner. Patterson was one of the first women to head a major daily newspaper, the Washington Times-Herald in Washington, D.C.

Eleanor Cissy Patterson cph.3b29571
Eleanor "Cissy" Patterson

Early life

Elinor Josephine Patterson was born in Chicago, Illinois, on November 7, 1881,[1][2][3][4][a] to the daughter of Robert and Elinor "Nellie" (née Medill) Patterson. She would change the spelling of her first name to "Eleanor" as an adult,[3][5] but would always be known as "Cissy," the name her brother gave her in childhood. Her grandfather, Joseph Medill, was Mayor of Chicago and owned the Chicago Tribune, which later passed into the hands of her first cousin Colonel Robert R. McCormick, Joseph Medill's grandson. Her older brother, Joseph Medill Patterson, was the founder of the New York Daily News.

Education and marriage

She was educated at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut. When her uncle Robert S. McCormick was named ambassador to Austria-Hungary, she accompanied him and his wife, Cissy's maternal aunt Kate, to Vienna. There she met Count Josef Gizycki and fell in love with him, a romance not interrupted even by her return to America, where she lived in Washington, D.C.. In Washington, she was a leading light in society, where the press labeled Alice Roosevelt (daughter of Theodore), Marguerite Cassini (daughter of the Russian ambassador), and Cissy the "Three Graces." Count Gizycki came to America and they were married in Washington on April 14, 1904 despite her family's objections.

A daughter was born to them September 3, 1905, and was named Felicia Leonora (1905–1999). Cissy went with the Count to his home, a huge feudal manor in Russian Poland. Their family life did not go well. They separated and then rejoined several times, but eventually Cissy set herself on leaving. She took their child, hiding her in a house near London, but the Count pursued her and kidnapped the little Countess, hiding her in an Austrian convent. Cissy filed for divorce, which took thirteen years to obtain.

Business dealings and social life

After her experience abroad, she moved to Lake Forest, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, but she returned to Washington in 1913. In 1920, her brother Joseph finally succumbed to his sister's entreaties and allowed her to write for his New York Daily News, founded the previous year. She also worked for William Randolph Hearst. She published two novels, romans à clef, Glass Houses (1926) and Fall Flight (1928), part of her feud with former friend Alice Roosevelt Longworth. In 1925, Eleanor married Elmer Schlesinger, a New York lawyer. He died four years later and in 1930, Mrs. Schlesinger legally changed her name to Mrs. Eleanor Medill Patterson.

Patterson tried to buy Hearst's two Washington papers, the morning Washington Herald and the evening Washington Times. However, Hearst hated to sell anything, even when he needed the money. Although he had never made money from his Washington papers, he refused to give up the prestige of owning papers in the capital. However, at the urging of his editor Arthur Brisbane, Hearst agreed to make Patterson the papers' editor. She began work on August 1, 1930. Patterson was a hands-on editor who insisted on the best of everything—writing, layout, typography, images, and comics. She encouraged society reporting and the women's page and hired many women as reporters including Adela Rogers St. Johns and Martha Blair. In 1936, she was invited to join the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Patterson shifted the papers' editorial stance sharply to the right.

In April 1931, Patterson purchased Mount Airy, a mansion built by Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore, in the 1600s.[6][7] Located on extensive grounds near Rosaryville, Maryland, since about 1910 the mansion's owners had operated it as Dower House, an exclusive restaurant, but it suffered a severe fire in February 1931.[8] Patterson not only meticulously restored the mansion, but improved the stables, added a guest house, and built a greenhouse for growing orchids.[6]

In 1937, Hearst's finances had gotten worse and he agreed to lease the Herald and the Times to Patterson with an option to buy. Eugene Meyer, the man who had outbid Hearst and Patterson for The Washington Post in 1933, tried to buy the Herald out from under Patterson, but failed. Instead, she bought both papers from Hearst on January 28, 1939, and merged them as the Times-Herald.

Along with her brother at the New York Daily News and her cousin at the Chicago Tribune, Patterson was an unyielding conservative. She was an ardent isolationist and opponent of the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1942, after the Battle of Midway, the Times-Herald ran a Tribune story that revealed American intelligence was reading the Japanese naval code. Roosevelt, furious, had the Tribune and the Times-Herald indicted for espionage but backed down because of the publicity, charges he was persecuting his enemies, and the likelihood of an acquittal (since the Navy's own censors had twice cleared the story before it was published).

During World War II, she and her brother were accused of being Nazi sympathizers. Representative Elmer Holland of Pennsylvania said on the floor of the United States House of Representatives that the Pattersons "would welcome the victory of Hitler."

Family difficulties

She feuded with her daughter, who publicly "divorced" her in 1945, and with her former son-in-law, Drew Pearson, by whom she had a granddaughter, Ellen Cameron Pearson Arnold (1926–2010). An alcoholic for most of her adult life, she died of a heart attack at age 63 at Mount Airy.[9] She left the paper to seven of her editors who within the year sold the paper to her cousin Colonel McCormick. He held onto the paper for five years, and although for several years he seemed close to returning it to profitability, it eventually proved too great a financial drain. After quietly sounding out several other publishers, McCormick opted to sell the paper to the rival Post, which promptly closed it.

As Countess Gizycki, Patterson was a frequent visitor to her ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the 1920s where Donald Hough records an unexpected aspect of her personality: the ability to speak effectively to horses in language worthy of a native cowboy. The Flat Creek Ranch is now on the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. ^ Patterson would later claim she was born in 1884 to hide her true age.[1][3] She would also later add "Medill" to her name.[2]
  1. ^ a b Smith 2011, p. 42.
  2. ^ a b MacHenry 1983, p. 318.
  3. ^ a b c Martin 1979, p. 17.
  4. ^ Hoge 1966, p. 8.
  5. ^ Smith 2011, pp. 42-43.
  6. ^ a b Smith 2011, p. 288.
  7. ^ "Lord Baltimore Home, Built in 1642, Is Sold". The Washington Post. April 22, 1931. p. 20.
  8. ^ "Dower House, Built in 1660 Razed By Fire". The Washington Post. February 2, 1931. p. 1.
  9. ^ Healy 1966, p. 384.


Further reading

Alvan Barach

Alvan Leroy Barach (1895–1977) was an American physician who made important contributions to pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy. He converted the oxygen tent into a closed system and he was among the early proponents of exercise and supplemental oxygen administration for patients with lung problems.

Charles Delevingne

Charles Hamar Delevingne (born 25 June 1949) is an English property developer and the father of models Cara and Poppy Delevingne. He is the grandson of the lawyer and politician Hamar Greenwood, 1st Viscount Greenwood.

Donald Hough

Donald Hough was an American humorist and author of several books and film scripts. He was born in St. Paul Minnesota June 29, 1895 and died around 1965. He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Sherwood Hough. His wife's name was Berry; they had one son named Sherwood.

According to the dust jacket notes on a first-edition copy of Snow Above Town (W.W. Norton, 1943), Hough's career included:

Working as a reporter for various St. Paul newspapers "for about five years"

Writing for several outdoor magazines

At various times between 1924 and 1936, serving as publicity director for the Izaak Walton League

Proprietorship of an advertising agency in Chicago, Illinois

"Devising the application" of the first soundproofing for airplanes and assisting in its application to the first China Clipper

Invention of a type of outdoor clothing considered for purchase by the Russian army

Service as a forest ranger

During World War II, serving as a captain in the U.S. Army Air ForceThose dust jacket notes quote Hough as saying he began writing for Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post in the 1930s "to get my crack at the movies." It was in the course of moving his family to Hollywood, via Mexico City, that Hough passed through Jackson Hole, Wyoming, found himself without sufficient funds to carry through on his planned move, and settled briefly. While in Jackson Hole he pursued his writing for Colliers, inventing the characters of Hade and Steve, based on individuals he had met in the area. Hal Roach made some of those stories into the films listed below.

Among the people he encountered, at least by reputation, in Jackson Hole was publishing heiress and philanthropist Cissy Patterson. Various anecdotes about her are recounted in the Cocktail Hour in Jackson Hole.

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is a traffic circle, park, neighborhood, and historic district in Northwest Washington, D.C. The traffic circle is located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue NW, Connecticut Avenue NW, New Hampshire Avenue NW, P Street NW, and 19th Street NW. The Dupont Circle neighborhood is bounded approximately by 16th Street NW to the east, 22nd Street NW to the west, M Street NW to the south, and Florida Avenue NW to the north. The local government Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2B) and the Dupont Circle Historic District have slightly different boundaries. The circle is named for Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont.

Etti Plesch

Etti Plesch (3 February 1914 – 28 April 2003), was an Austro-Hungarian countess, huntress, racehorse owner and socialite. Plesch lost two of her six husbands to the same woman, Louise de Vilmorin, a French literary figure, and owned two winners of The Derby, in Psidium in 1961 and Henbit in 1980.

Family Affair

Family Affair is an American sitcom that aired on CBS from September 12, 1966, to March 4, 1971. The series explored the trials of well-to-do engineer and bachelor Bill Davis (Brian Keith) as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment. Davis's traditional English gentleman's gentleman, Mr. Giles French (Sebastian Cabot), also had adjustments to make as he became saddled with the responsibility of caring for 15-year-old Cissy (Kathy Garver) and the five-year-old twins, Jody (Johnny Whitaker) and Buffy (Anissa Jones).Family Affair ran for 138 episodes in five seasons. The show was created and produced by Edmund Hartmann and Don Fedderson, also known for My Three Sons and The Millionaire.

Flat Creek Ranch

Flat Creek Ranch, formerly a working ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a guest ranch. The original ranch was established by Cal Carrington between 1901 and 1918 at the base of Sheep Mountain, also known as the ″Sleeping Indian″. In 1923 a new owner, socialite and journalist Cissy Patterson, built the present structures. The transition from working ranch to vacation retreat foreshadowed a movement of the Jackson Hole economy away from traditional ranching to tourism, which is documented by the Flat Creek Ranch.Carrington had worked at the Bar B C Dude Ranch from 1912 on, and established Flat Creek as a dude ranch. Cissy Patterson appeared in Jackson Hole 1916 as "Countess Gizycka", on the rebound from a failed marriage to a Polish count. Carrington and Patterson toured Europe together in 1922. Through Patterson's influence with US Senator Francis E. Warren, Carrington obtained a homestead patent on the ranch and then sold it to Patterson for $5000. In 1923 she built seven cabins, a barn and a lodge on the property.Currently, the property is owned by journalists Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel. Albright, the former husband of Madeleine Albright, is the son of Cissy Patterson's niece Josephine Patterson Albright (daughter of Joseph Medill Patterson), who inherited the property at Patterson's death in 1948.

Heloise Hersey

Heloise Edwina Hersey (1855-1933) was an American scholar of Anglo-Saxon language and literature. A graduate of Vassar College and the first female professor of Anglo-Saxon studies in the United States, she was appointed at Smith College in 1878.

Joseph Medill Patterson

Joseph Medill Patterson (January 6, 1879 – May 26, 1946) was an American journalist, publisher and founder of the Daily News in New York.

Jules Henri de Sibour

Jules Gabriel Henri de Sibour (December 23, 1872 – November 4, 1938) was a French architect who worked in Washington, DC.

Libertyville, Illinois

Libertyville is a village in Lake County, Illinois, United States and an affluent suburb of Chicago. It is located 5 miles (8 km) west of Lake Michigan on the Des Plaines River. The 2014 census population was 20,512. (There is also a township of the same name, which includes the village and some surrounding areas.) Located in northeastern Illinois, southwest of Waukegan and west of Lake Forest, its immediate neighbors are Mundelein to the west, Green Oaks, Mettawa, and Rondout to the east, Gurnee to the north, Grayslake to the northwest, and Vernon Hills to the south.

Patterson Mansion

The Patterson Mansion (also known as the Patterson House or the Washington Club) is a historic Neoclassical-style mansion located at 15 Dupont Circle NW in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It was built by Robert Wilson Patterson, editor of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, and used by him and his family for entertaining when he was in the city. Completed in 1903, it was deeded to the American Red Cross in 1948. The Red Cross sold it to the Washington Club in 1951. The structure was renovated and a small, two-story addition added in 1955. As of December 2013, the property was up for sale after plans to convert it into a boutique hotel fell through. In June 2014, the Washington Club sold the Mansion for $20 Million to developer SB-Urban. The Washington Club sold the property because "it is disbanding and no longer needs the space, according to John Matteo, an attorney at Jackson & Campbell, who represented the club in the sale."The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 5, 1972. It is a contributing property to both the Dupont Circle Historic District (added to the National Register in 1978) and the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District (added to the National Register in 1974).

Rosaryville State Park

Rosaryville State Park is a Maryland state park in Rosaryville, three miles southeast of the Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility (formerly Andrews Air Force Base) in Prince George's County. The park includes the restored Mount Airy Mansion, which is operated as an event facility, as well as hiking, biking and equestrian trails for day-use.

Stilson Hutchins

Stilson Hutchins (November 14, 1838 – April 23, 1912) was an American newspaper reporter and publisher, best known as founder of The Washington Post.

The Washington Herald

The Washington Herald was an American daily newspaper in Washington, D.C., from October 8, 1906, to January 31, 1939.

Washington Times-Herald

The Washington Times-Herald (1939–1954) was an American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C. It was created by Eleanor "Cissy" Patterson of the Medill–McCormick–Patterson family (long-time owners of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News and founding later Newsday on New York's Long Island) when she bought The Washington Times and The Washington Herald from the syndicate newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951), and merged them. The result was a "24-hour" newspaper, with 10 editions per day, from morning to evening.

Washington Times (1894–1939)

The Washington Times (1894–1939) was an American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1894, it was merged with the Washington Herald to create the Washington Times-Herald in 1939.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.