Moody, Harriet Converse Tilden 1857-1932

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Owner of Home Delicacies Association and patron of writers.

From the description of Papers, 1899-1930. (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52248314

Harriet Moody (1857-1932) a teacher and businesswoman was the wife of poet and playwright William Vaughn Moody (1869-1910). She taught high school English in Chicago, Illinois, before starting a catering business in the mid-1890s, the Home Delicacies Association, whose customers included Marshall Field's and all of the Pullman service on Chicago railroads. She was acquainted with many literary figures of the early 20th century. Edith S. Kellogg was apparently a long time friend of Moody.

From the description of Papers, 1906-1932. (University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center). WorldCat record id: 28209599

Harriet Moody (1857-1932) was born Harriet Converse Tilden in Parkman, Ohio, March 18, 1857. When she was eleven years old, her parents moved to Chicago where her father, a shrewd businessman, quickly became wealthy. Harriet Tilden attended the Howland School in Union Springs, New York, and later gained her parents' reluctant consent to attend Cornell University. During part of her stay at Cornell, she lived at the home of her mentor, Professor Hiram Corson, an eccentric gentleman who taught English Literature and studied the writings of Mme. Helena Blavatsky, founder of the theosophical movement. Completing the four-year course in two and a half years, she was graduated in 1876; despite her work in English Literature, she decided to go to medical school. She enrolled, again over strong parental objections, in autumn of 1876 at the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia, completing the first year of study. Her parents' desire that she "make her debut," coupled with their assurance that they would not object if she returned to medical school after a year's absence, led her to withdraw from her studies and enter Chicago society. She did not resume her medical training; over the violent objections of her father, she married Edwin Brainard, a wealthy Chicago lawyer and the son of a family friend, Dr. Daniel Brainard, founder of Rush Medical College. The marriage was unhappy and the Brainards were subsequently divorced.

A year after her divorce her father died leaving behind few financial resources. Without an income-she had returned her marriage settlement on the day of her divorce-Harriet Brainard found herself the sole support of herself and her mother, an invalid accustomed to luxury. Thus, in 1889, armed with her credentials from Cornell, she applied for a teaching certificate in the Chicago school system. She began to teach English Literature at West Division High School, later transferring to Hyde Park High School. She encouraged her students to write, and some of their essays and stories were printed in Harriet's home on her own "Windtryst Press." Yet the income from teaching was not sufficient, Harriet Brainard felt, to support her mother properly. When a friend suggested that Harry Gordon Selfridge, then of Marshall Field's, was looking for new gourmet food items, Harriet sent him some items she prepared in her mother's kitchen. The enthusiastic response, resulting in numerous orders, signaled the start of her "Home Delicacies Association" which prospered from ca 1890 until 1929. The operation, begun in her mother's home, after a short stay on Indiana Avenue, moved to the top floor of the house she brought in 1894 at 2970 Groveland (later Ellis) Avenue where it remained until 1913, when the success of the business demanded larger quarters and staff. For many years Harriet Brainard engaged in two full-time occupations and maintained two separate households-her mother living in the parental home until her death in 1908.

A succession of younger relatives, former students [such as Alice Corbin, later co-editor of Poetry magazine] and friends [such as Martha Foote Crow, assistant professor of English Literature at the University of Chicago] lived, for more or less extended periods of time, at the Groveland house. In addition, Harriet Brainard counted among her friends many faculty members at the University. In 1899, at Mrs. Crow's suggestion, Harriet Brainard invited William Vaughn Moody, assistant professor in English and Rhetoric to dinner. After 1901 a casual acquaintance developed into a deep friendship; however, early in 1903, Moody left Chicago-which he had always disliked intensely-in order to find a congenial environment in which he could work. Since Harriet's personal and business obligations committed her to stay in Chicago, they conducted an extensive correspondence. Unfortunately she destroyed her letters to Moody, but his letters to her ca. 1901-1909 have been published in Letters of Harriet, edited by Percy MacKaye [n.b. the original manuscripts of these letters are in the Huntington Library]. In 1906 Moody proposed marriage but, because of her mother's opposition, Harriet did not accept until after Mrs. Tilden's death in 1908. They were married in 1909. On October 17, 1910, William Vaughn Moody died of a brain tumor at the age of 41.

In 1913, Harriet Monroe, who had founded Poetry magazine the previous year, asked Harriet Moody if she would entertain Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian poet largely unknown in the United States, as previous arrangements for his visit had fallen through at the last minute. This visit signaled not only the beginning of a lifetime friendship between Tagore and his hostess, but the first of many personal encounters between Mrs. William Vaughn Moody and members of the "new movement" whose work would appear in the pages of Poetry. Harriet Moody's reputation as an art lover and gracious hostess had-been well established when she married William Vaughn Moody; yet from the time that Tagore came to stay with her in 1913 until her financial resources were greatly diminished in 1929, Harriet Moody opened her home to aspiring poets and their families in an unprecedented way. In 1920 she established a Sunday night forum, "La Petits Jeux Floraux," at which young poets gave readings of their work-a fee of $1.00 was charged, all proceeds going to the speaker. Yet, in the main, she was less a "patron" to writers (nor did she fancy herself a writer), than a friend and confidant.

Her interest in the work of the young writers of the post-war period was naturally combined with a devotion to the work of her husband-ironically one of the leaders of the generation of poets soon to be considered outdated in the eyes of those nurtured on Poetry magazine. She took an active interest in performances of The Faith Healer and The Great Divide-including a French version of the latter, which opened in 1913; she was also asked to serve as a consultant to several motion pictures made from these works.

Although she found time to maintain a house in Chicago, an apartment in New York City, and a farm in New England; to serve as a trustee of Cornell University from 1912-1922 [the only woman during that time]; and to travel extensively in Europe (admittedly as much for business reasons as for pleasure); most of Harriet Moody's energies were devoted to her Home Delicacies Association. The business supplied gourmet foods to Marshall Field and Company and, at the suggestion of H. G. Selfridge, operated a London branch for 14 years. Restaurants, clubs, hotels, and the dining cars of major railroads running out of Chicago were H.D.A. customers; there was also a large catering division. The Home Delicacies Association operated several restaurants in addition, the most successful of which was "Le Petit Gourmet"-the setting of "La Petits Jeux Floraux."

After the collapse of her business in 1929, Harriet Moody attempted to provide a stable income by reviving an earlier idea for compiling a cookbook; James Stephens suggested that a number of literary essays on food written by her friends, coupled with Harriet's recipes would make the book a success. In addition Hendrick Van Loon responded enthusiastically to the suggestion that he illustrate the volume. The book, Mrs. William Vaughn Moody's Cookbook, appeared in 1931 sans essays and illustrations for reasons of economy. It was successful but not on the requisite scale.

During the last years of her life, Harriet Moody planned another cookbook, wrote a food column, and organized cooking classes for the deaf under the sponsorship of the Illinois Department of Vocational Education. She died suddenly of bronchial asthma of February 22, 1932 at the age of 74.

From the guide to the Moody, Harriet Brainard. Papers, 1899-1932, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Moody, Harriet Converse Tilden, 1857-1932. Papers, 1899-1930. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company contracts, 1831-1979 (inclusive) 1880-1940 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Chaplin, Ralph, 1887-1961. Papers, 1909-1948. University of Michigan
referencedIn Edwin Arlington Robinson collection, 1896-1984. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Moody, Harriet Converse Tilden, 1857-1932. Papers, 1906-1932. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center
creatorOf Chaplin, Ralph, 1887-1961. Ralph Chaplin papers, 1909-1948. University of Michigan
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence and records, 1832-1944. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Moody, Harriet Brainard. Papers, 1899-1932 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Padraic Colum collection of papers, 1901-1963 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Anderson, Wallace Ludwig, 1917- person
associatedWith Chaplin, Ralph, 1887-1961. person
associatedWith Colum, Padraic, 1880-1972 person
associatedWith Colum, Padraic, 1881-1972. person
associatedWith Colum, Padriac, 1881-1972. person
associatedWith Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish, 1877-1947. person
associatedWith De la Mare, Walter, 1873-1956. person
associatedWith Frost, Robert, 1874-1963. person
associatedWith Henderson, Alice Corbin, 1881-1949. person
associatedWith Home Delicacies Association. person
associatedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Hyde Park High School. corporateBody
associatedWith Kellogg, Edith S. person
associatedWith Lindsay, Vachel, 1879-1931. person
associatedWith Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925. person
associatedWith MacKaye, Percy, 1875-1956. person
associatedWith Masefield, John, 1878-1967. person
associatedWith Monroe, Harriet, 1860-1936. person
associatedWith Moody, William Vaughn, 1869-1910. person
associatedWith Robinson, Edwin Arlington, 1869-1935. person
associatedWith Rolvaag, O. E. (Ole Edvart), 1876-1931 person
associatedWith Rølvaag, O. E. (Ole Edvart), 1876-1931. person
associatedWith Stevens, Thomas Wood, 1880-1942. person
associatedWith Tagore, Rabindranath, 1861-1941. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Caterers and catering
Women in business


Birth 1857

Death 1932



Ark ID: w6wh34q8

SNAC ID: 6701782