Graham Phelps Stokes
Born : 18th March, 1872
Died : 9th April, 1960 - New York, USA
Married : 1 ) 18th July, 1905 to Rose Pastor - Divorced 1925
2 ) 1926 to Lettice Sands ( b. 1893 NY - d. 1988 NY
Millionaire & activist
For further information select 'Location Gallery' from the index above, then ' USA ' followed by ' 88 Grove Street....'. from the index on the left-hand side.
TWO DAYS PASSED before Baba began seeing outside visitors. On November 9th, among the first that he met were J. Graham Phelps Stokes of New York City and his wife- Lettice.
Malcolm and Jean had contacted many acquaintances who they thought would be interested in meeting Baba. Spencer Kellogg, Jr., heir to the Kellogg fortune, was one of these. His secretary Ann Clark knew the Stokes family, and it was she who first told them about Meher Baba's trip to America. Mr. Stokes was deeply impressed with meeting Baba and kindly invited him to stay at his house in Greenwich Village whenever Baba was in New York City. Baba indicated that he would accept the offer.
NEW YORK was unlike any other city Baba had been to and it intrigued him. On Sunday, November 15th, Baba was driven to Manhattan concerning travel documents for his return to Europe and India. Afterward, he met with several new people at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Frederick B. Robinson. He then went to stay at the Phelps Stokes' residence at 88 Grove Street for two days. Among those he saw in New York were Milo Shattuck and Julian Lamar again, and Anita and her mother Jacqueline de Caro, a strict Catholic who nonetheless felt something special when she saw Baba in person.
After staying five days in Harmon, Baba departed at eight in the morning on Friday, December 4th. A lady named Eileen Burns drove Baba into Manhattan; Norina and Malcolm also rode with him. Cath Gardner drove Ali, Meredith and others in another car. They arrived at Mr. Stokes' residence in Greenwich Village around noon. Although Baba had previously indicated that he did not wish to see anyone, he changed his mind and met with several new people in New York.
One couple, Mr. and Mrs. Elliot Holt, came to see him. After their interview, Chanji found Mr. Holt gazing out the window up at the sky, exclaiming, "My God, that I should have met such a man! Is he really a human being?"
Another lady who came to Mr. Stokes' house was Mrs. Phoenix Ingraham, whom Baba had stopped to see on his way into Manhattan. She was a friend of Norina Matchabelli's and had recently broken her leg in an accident. She later told Norina that she had remained in ecstasy for three days after Baba's visit and her swollen leg had returned to normal the day following her interview with Baba.
Before leaving New York on December 5th, Baba wished to be driven around Wall Street, New York's financial district. It was a Saturday and the streets were virtually deserted. In the car, Jean Adriel was thinking to herself: "How ephemeral and unreal is this money madness!"
Norina Matchabelli, Jean and Malcolm Schloss, Graham Phelps Stokes, Anita de Caro, Nadine Tolstoy, Elizabeth and her husband, Kenneth Askew Patterson, and a few other lovers were at the pier to receive Baba. Mr. Patterson drove Baba to Greenwich Village to the home of Graham and Lettice Stokes, and the others followed in taxis. Staying with the Master at the Stokes were Adi Jr., Quentin Tod, Meredith and Margaret Starr. The other mandali, Kaka, Ghani, Chanji and Beheram, stayed at the Albert Hotel.
Although Baba stayed in New York City for only three days, hundreds of people wanted to see him. Norina Matchabelli had been in charge of arranging Baba's schedule. More reporters came to interview him, and many accounts about the "Indian Messiah" were published in the local newspapers, which brought the interest of even more people to him. However, Baba did not meet every person, he only gave personal interviews and darshan to a select few.
A reporter Baba did agree to see was Frederick L. Collins, whom Malcolm Schloss had contacted. He was invited to have tea with Baba at the Stokes home one afternoon.
With the several interviews and private meetings, Baba was fully occupied during his
brief stay in New York. On Sunday, May 22nd, Mr. and Mrs. Stokes gave a dinner party in Baba's honor at their house in Greenwich Village, and over three hundred people attended.
Several black people came, and one woman asked Baba to help the people of her race, to which he replied, "I will." At the reception, Baba gave the following message which was read out by Meredith Starr:
The day Baba returned to Nasik, he received an invitation from Phelps Stokes in New York urging him to attend the All Faiths Conference in Chicago. A second invitation from the executive director of the conference arrived some time later. Baba agreed to attend on the condition that, if by that time he had not broken his silence, he would deliver a message to the conference through his alphabet board. The chairman of the conference did not know what exactly Baba intimated, but he accepted this condition. Baba was generally averse to attending any public meetings of this kind. His acceptance was therefore surprising to the mandali. Baba decided to proceed to America and preparations were begun.
Shankar was extremely happy to have Baba's darshan, but Baba cautioned him before they parted, "Do not inform anyone on the ship about me, as I do not wish to meet anybody. See me before disembarking in Brindisi."
That night, cables were received from Norina Matchabelli and Phelps Stokes in New York, and Kitty Davy in London, saying that the majority of delegates attending the All Faiths Conference in Chicago had left and it was about to end. This news made Baba feel relieved, as he was never keen to participate in the conference. It was only to please Mr. Stokes, Rustom and his other lovers that Baba had played this role by agreeing to attend. The chairman of the conference sent a telegram from Chicago that he understood that Baba was cancelling his visit because he was unable to attend. After receiving the cable, Baba decided instead to stay a month in Europe and then return to India.
Immigration authorities were told of Baba's two previous visits to America and they allowed him and his group to pass through customs without unnecessary questioning. After leaving the customs area, Baba was greeted by Norina Matchabelli, Nadine Tolstoy, Elizabeth Patterson and Graham Phelps Stokes. The group proceeded in two taxis to the Shelton Hotel on Lexington Avenue where Norina had arranged for Baba to stay. Rano and Nonny stayed in another hotel.
Two general receptions had been planned, but only one could be held. It was at the Stokes house on December 13th.
Baba gave silent darshan to nearly two hundred people. The upstairs library was used for the group to gather while Baba met each individual privately in a small room off to one side. People were instructed, "No questions," and then ushered in to be with Baba who was seated in a green sofa chair.
........The actress Tallulah Bankhead was also in New York and dropped by the Stokeses' to see Baba during this occassion.
On Sunday, May 22, 1932, a reception was given for Baba at the Stokes’ [ home of Mr. and Mrs. Graham Phelps Stokes at 88–90 Grove Street, New York City ] at which 300 people were present . . . Before they all dispersed Meredith [ Starr ] read out to them a message from Baba. . . .
“. . . America represents the vanguard and the synthesis of the white races and hence forms the best foundation for the spiritual upheaval I will bring about in the near future. America has tremendous energy, but most of this energy is misdirected. I intend to divert it into spiritual and creative channels . . .
“When I speak, there will be many proofs of my spiritual power and of my ability to bestow Illumination.
“People will then realize that Truth, which is the —Source of all Love and Existence, rules supreme in all departments of life. My work and aims are intensely practical. It is not practical to overemphasize the material at the cost of the spiritual. It is not practical to have spiritual ideals without putting them into practice. But to realize the ideal in daily life, to give a beautiful and adequate form to the living spirit, to make brotherhood a fact — not merely a theory as at present — this is being practical in the truest sense of the word.”*
—Source: Kitty Davy, “Baba’s First World Tour, 1932, part II: From Quentin Tod’s Diary,” The The Awakener Magazine, vol. 12, no. 3 (1968), pp. 2, 3
*David Carter’s note: It is very interesting to note that Charles Purdom has edited this message very differently (The God-Man, 1971, pp. 102-103) from how it is recorded here, or he worked from a different version of the same message.
Read more detail on this house at 88 Grove Street West Village
Rose ( first wife ) and James Stokes were divorced in 1925, and James remained in the house and remarried the former Lettice Sands in 1926. Around this time Helen Stokes created additional studio space in the rear, and at some point multiple doors were cut between 88 and 90 Grove. Mr. Weber says that the Stokeses also covered over Blum's chrysanthemum mural.
Helen Stokes died in 1945, and her brother James died in 1960. Lettice Stokes kept both buildings, and remained in 88 Grove until her death in 1988.
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Published: August 2, 1998
Graham Phelps Stokes later drifted away from Baba. He was more interested in meditation and inner experiences than following Babas’ teachings of service to a Perfect Master. (Ka 1931 )
BOOKS WRITTEN BY JAMES GRAHAM PHELPS STOKES
LET IDLE SOCIALISTS HUNGER, SAYS STOKES; Non-Producers, He Explains to Critics, Must Pay the Price of Indolence.
Special to The New York Times. ();
August 04, 1912,
, Section , Page 5, Column , words
STAMFORD, Conn., Aug. 3. -- James Graham Phelps Stokes, the "millionaire Socialist," who said a week ago that he did not intend to distribute his holdings among the poor in any effort to emancipate people, because, he believed alms-giving would not bring about emancipation, to-day answered more of his critics in a statement.
James Graham Phelps Stokes (1872–1960), known to his friends as "Graham," was an American millionaire socialist writer, political activist, and philanthropist. He is best remembered as a founding member and key figure in the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and as the husband of Rose Pastor Stokes, a radical union organizer and activist in the Communist Party of America. Graham Phelps Stokes split with the Socialist Party of America over the question of American participation in World War I, objecting to the party's staunchly antimilitarist stance. He separated from his wife and left radical politics during this period.
James Graham Phelps Stokes was born in New York City on March 18, 1872 to one of the city's most prosperous families. He was one of 9 children. His great-grandfather,
Thomas Stokes, came to New York City from
London at the end of the 18th Century and became a merchant,
founding the establishment Phelps, Dodge & Co., the source of the family's wealth. His father,
Anson Phelps Stokes
(1838–1913), a banker and real estate developer, was patriarch of a large house on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. His
mother, Helen Louisa Phelps, was the descendant of a man who emigrated to Dorchester, Massachusetts from England in about 1630.
Two boys of the Stokes household were given four names, the first of which was decoration. Graham's brother, the architect Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867–1944), was known merely as "Newton," and throughout his life James Graham Phelps Stokes, named after his paternal grandfather, was known to all as "Graham." Another brother, Anson (1874–1958), later a famous philanthropist, was named after his father and did not receive an "extra" name like his siblings.
The Stokes household, despite its venerability, was not without its concerns about broader society. Graham's father was active in
the causes of civil service reform,
and the replacement of protectionism with
free trade. He was also a collector of art and books and a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of
Graham Stokes benefited from a first rate education. He attended the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, receiving his Ph.B. degree there in 1892,
before going on to obtain a M.D. degree from
Columbia University in
1896 — although he never practiced medicine. Following the reception of his doctor's degree, Stokes continued with a year of graduate
study of political science,
also at Columbia.
Stokes served in the New York National Guard from 1899 to 1901. During the Spanish-American War of 1898-1899 he was a private in the U.S. Army cavalry, but he did not deploy
overseas. At this same time, Graham's father was active in the Anti-Imperialist League, described
by one historian as "a group of substantial citizens" opposed to American intervention in The Philippines.
While at university, Stokes became concerned with the plight of the American underclass and poverty. He served on the board of the
University Settlement while at Columbia.
In November 1902 Graham Stokes left his father's comfortable household to take up living himself in a settlement house on the Lower East Side of Manhattan — one of the
poorest areas of New York City.
Historians Arthur Zipser and Pearl Zipser describe well the scene:
"There was a lively intellectual atmosphere on the top floor of the University Settlement house, where the highly educated, mostly rich, young social workers had their residence, dining, and club rooms. It was a world apart from the lower floors of the building, where the regular settlement house functions were carried out among the denizens of the surrounding ghettoized slum. This separation between leaders and led was not the goal they were aiming for, which was the outreach of the privileged to the downtrodden. But the separation was real."
Love flourished among the young, socially-concerned settlement workers. Stokes' sister Caroline Phelps Stokes fell in love with settlement house manager Robert Hunter, later a widely-known socialist journalist and author, and the pair married in 1903. And it was in connection with the settlement house that Graham Stokes met an attractive young news reporter who interviewed him for the Yiddish Daily News, Rose Pastor. The pair fell in love and married on July 18, 1905.
While Stokes did participate in commercial affairs throughout his life, serving variously as an officer of such concerns as the
Phelps Stokes Corporation, the Austin Mining Company, the Nevada Central Railroad, and the State Bank of Nevada, Stokes' primary interests and concerns lay in the realm of public affairs. Stokes was a frequent author of articles on current social problems and letters of opinion to various
journals and newspapers. He also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Tuskegee Institute.
In 1905, Stokes became a candidate for public office for the first time, running as the candidate of the Municipal Ownership League for President of the New York Board of Aldermen. Stokes was the second name on a ticket which featured William Randolph Hearst for Mayor, causing contemporaries to refer to the Municipal Ownership League as "Hearst's League." The decision to run downticket with the multimillionaire publisher was not a popular one with Stokes' radical new wife, who wished for defeat of Hearst and his associates. She later recalled:
"One evening, passing my living-room window, I heard Graham's name flung upward from the street below. I leaned out to see. A very fiery young man was making a speech from a soapbox on the corner. A little knot of men, women, and children had collected about him. He was pointing up at my window — at me. He was saying things about us. I strained to hear... 'Municipal Ownership is no solution,' he cried, 'so long as the propertied classes ow the municipalities. J.G. Phelps Stokes is a rich man — a man of property; he belongs to the capitalist class. The Municipal Ownership League is a rich man's creation. W.R. Hearst belongs in the millionaire class. This is his government. He doesn't want to change the government. The Socialist Party, the workers' party, and what we want is a government of, for, and by the people who work.' 'Hear, hear!' I called down, leaning far out of the window and clapping my hands.
Graham Phelps Stokes seems to have joined the Socialist Party of America in 1906. Even before that, Stokes was enlisted in the Socialist cause by author Upton Sinclair, who sought to establish a new group fostering
the dispassionate study of socialist ideas on college campuses around America, an organization to be called the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS). Stokes
was one of ten signatories of the published call for the new organization which appeared in the spring of 1905, joining Sinclair, author Jack London, attorney Clarence Darrow, sociologist and author Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and
others. The first formal meeting of the organization, held at a restaurant in New York City late in the summer of
1905, elected Stokes second vice president of the ISS, serving with London as president and Sinclair as first vice president.
In May 1907, Jack London resigned the presidency of the ISS and Graham Stokes assumed the position. He continued to play a leading role in the organization for the next decade, sitting on the organization's
executive committee and speaking far and wide on topics on topics of contemporary concern under ISS auspices. In the spring of 1909, for example, Graham and Rose Stokes went on the road for a
full month, speaking at colleges throughout New England, where they distributed ISS literature for free or at nominal charge to interested undergraduates.
Years after the Socialist Party
Death and legacy
Graham Phelps Stokes died in 1960.
Stokes' papers are housed at Columbia University in New York City. The collection includes more than 1600 cataloged letters.