Saturday, August 1, 1998

Marguerite V. Burton

From Adoptee to Countess

Marguerite Vivienne Burton was born about 1880, the daughter of two traveling performers. Wishing for her to have a stable home, her parents offered her for adoption, and she was taken in by the Thomansons, in-laws of the McNeals, owners of the U.S. Pipe Foundry. She spent her childhood in the family mansion, and told her schoolmates at St. Mary's Hall that she would someday be a countess.

In 1898, Marguerite met James H. Birch Jr., son of carriage mogul James Birch, on the train to Philadelphia. They married in 1904, but Burlington was too "small-town" for her, especially after she won a beauty contest run by a New York newspaper. After traveling in Europe, she married Baron Walter von Roedick, a German officer, in 1912, then became involved with a German diplomat's son, Count Christain Gunther von Bernstroff, and married him in 1917, causing quite an outrage back in the States - to say nothing of the Baron, who promptly challenged the Count to a duel.

After the war, Marguerite returned to Burlington, uncertain of the welcome she would receive. Her old friends greeted her warmly, and she became a part of American society once again, regaining assets that had been frozen by the government during the war. She moved to New York and went on to have three more husbands - coal magnate Arthur Wooly-Hart, Jams Askton, and New York Bell Vice-President Oscar M. Taylor - before she died at her Park Avenue home in 1981. Burton's half-dozen husbands doubled the mark set by Lydia Sherman, but as far as we know, Burton didn't poison any of hers.

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