15 May, 2012

The Chauffeur Speaks

Yesterday I received my copy of  Emile Ammann's "Au Service d'une Milliardiaire Americaine"  from a bookseller in France. I have been after a copy for quite some time, and with the help of one of my correspondents; Andreas, I was able to obtain a copy quickly and with ease.

"In Service of an American Billionaire - Open letter to Mrs. Edith Rockefeller - Memories of her driver."

The book is fascinating thus far. In 1915 Emile Amman left the Swiss army (which was neutral in WWI) and took employment with Edith Rockefeller McCormick as her chauffeur while she was residing in Zurich. The gig would last for about seven years; although she would  dismiss him under curious circumstances not long before her return to the United States.

As the book (published in 1930)  is a personal memoir, Ammann's tale of Edith does not begin until the third section, on page 95. This I have just begun, although I must share with you the open letter to Edith which appears at the beginning of the book. Bear in mind that  this is my own rough translation from the French, but I think you will find it interesting none-the-less:


Mme Edith Rockefeller McCormick
Lake Shore Drive
Chicago (Ohio)

Madame,


     One day, I hope you will read this book. Not that you would be especially dedicated. But you have caused this.
     During more than ten years, I was at your service; I was far from thinking that one day I would publish my memoirs. The life of a poor wretch, an adventurer in love, that even the driver of the richest woman in the world could she capture public attention? I did not care until one day, at the instigation of your lover Krenn, you were numbering my days. 
     Why, Madame, did you want me dead? Why did you order my full removal from Chicago? Why did you bury me alive like a crazy person in the “Psychopathic Hospital” of your town? Why you were calling for my perpetual detention in an asylum for the incurable? Why, Madame? 
     Was it because days and nights because I folded in to your extravagances: sacrificing at home my family, my happiness and my health? Was it because I was dedicated to the point of risking my life for that of your daughters Muriel and Mathilde, during the riot of 1917 in Zurich? 
     Or is it not rather because, in your unconsciousness, I saw you allowed yourself to subdue your lover Krenn? Was it rather because the young fop believed he saw in me an awkward witness of your depravity and vices? A witness that should be removed, even for the price of a package? I came to Chicago to work and not for gossip. 
     Nevertheless, you ordered my detention; I think to keep me muzzled. You had for you Madame, the weight of your millions. I had for me the reason and equity. I forced the door of the tomb that was going to close on me. I came back to life, providing with me the will to publish my memoirs, to say what low means you have for the suppression of a life. Powerful means, no doubt, since, barely out of the walls of the “Psychopathic Hospital” of Chicago, II almost fell under the revolver shots of suspicious individuals a night under the New York Elevated. A stabbing, a few weeks later, on board the steamer "Caroline" of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, also proves to me that your orders must be followed? 
     But your millions can do nothing against me Madame. Behind the gates of the insane asylum in Chicago, I vowed that my memoirs would be published and your infamy will be known. Despite a systematic seven year boycott, my memoirs are published; translated in all modern languages, shipped worldwide. 
     Ruthlessly, Madame, I will tear away the mask, and if, in my book, I keep a certain reserve, is out of concern for the good man Mr. Rockefeller, your father. 
     You had sworn my death, sworn you would mute my life. This book shows you, Madame, that, any billionaire that is, you should never say never. 

“Fait en Alsace, aux feux de la Saint-Jean, 1930”  Emile AMMANN 
 

When Emile Ammann began service with Edith he thought of her as the "Standard Oil Princess." Later, "to be quite honest" he reports in his memoir, "I considered her to be completely crazy." I think this is evident.

(Update 05/06/2013 - this post has been updated further. Click here.) 

1 comment:

Amberrose said...

Wow! What a letter! Now the biggest question is: Was the driver for real? Was he being 100% honest in his writing? Or was he just hoping to make some money in a gossip style "tell all" book. I wonder how much can be followed up and checked. I can't wait to hear more about what he says happened to him and why Edith was out to kill him!