In the collection of the Ephraim Historical Foundation is a nondescript envelope that is battered, taped, and has yellowed with age. Addressed to Miss Lizzie Anderson, Ephraim, Wisconsin, the envelope has no street address and is stamped Baltimore, M.D. Oct 19, 2 AM 1916.
Inside the envelope is an unadorned invitation to the wedding of Wallis Warfield and E. Winfield Spencer, Jr., planned for 6:30 pm on November 8. Though Wallis Warfield was not a household name at the time of her 1916 wedding, she would later be internationally known as Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.
Wallis Warfield and Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr. met in Pensacola, Florida in April 1916. Spencer, known as Win, was a U.S. Navy aviator from Chicago, Illinois. The couple spent the summer at the Spencer summer home in Ephraim and, according to a c. 1937 newspaper article, they fell in love down on Ephraim’s dock. Within 7 months, they met, were engaged, and married in an elaborate Baltimore wedding. Invitations were sent far and wide, including this invitation sent to Lizzie Anderson, the longtime proprietor of Ephraim’s Anderson Store.
The newlyweds spent the summer of 1917 in Ephraim, but the Spencer marriage was not a happy one and the couple divorced in 1927. Shortly thereafter, Wallis married executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson and the Simpsons settled in England. In 1931, Wallis Simpson was introduced to Edward, Prince of Wales at a party and by 1934, the pair began an affair that would rock the English monarchy and make international headlines.
When King George V died in 1936, Edward ascended the throne. He abdicated less than a year later to marry Wallis Simpson, who had divorced her second husband several months prior. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor remained married until Edward’s death in 1972.
This handwritten envelope and the enclosed wedding invitation, now in the collection of the Ephraim Historical Foundation, tell the story of one woman’s role in one of the most scandalous stories of the 20th century.
-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin