Monday, June 17, 2024

The Gilded Age Heiress Who Helped The Marijuana Movement

Shows like Downtown Abbey, Palm Royale, and more have showed the  big, big rich lives – and a few even touched the marijuana counterculture movement.

It seems we can’t get enough about the lives of the very rich. Shows including Downtown Abbey, Succession, the Gilded Age, and Palm Royale are all over and people are loving it. Ryan Murphy has done well and is just off his latest series Truman Vs.The Swans.  All of this highlights the extremely well to do and how they live life.  But did you know about the gilded age Heiress who helped the marijuana movement?

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The Mellon family is in the rare category of being big then and still today. On the East Coast they continue to still have pull and cache like the “new money” Gates, Zuckerberg and Bezos.   An old family from Pittsburgh, they made the start of it all in banking, the Mellon in today’s BNY Mellon. The family includes Andrew Mellon, one of the longest serving Treasury Secretaries, along with famous members in the judicial, banking, financial, business, and political professions.  Bunny Mellon was one of the great philanthropists and art collectors.  A dear friend of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, she designed a number of significant gardens, including the White House Rose Garden

But it was Peggy Mellon Hitchcock, another Mellon heiress who helped the counterculture. Her mother was a Mellon and her father, Thomas Hitchcock Jr., was a leading polo player and a partner at Lehman Brothers.  Peggy was a spitfire and was as comfortable in the family’s many homes as in a smokey jazz club with artists. Spirited and fun she was always open to what’s new and what’s next.  She had an unlikely relationship with Timothy O’Leary. She persuaded her brothers to let O’Leary have use of their joint family estate Daheim (also known as Millbrook or the Hitchcock estate).

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For 5 years, O’Leary, thanks to Peggy lived like a king and had guests including Allen Ginsberg, Charles Mingus, and R. D. Laing to the old monied manse. What went on is the stuff of legends with a blend of art, marijuana, money, new ideas, psychedelics, music and love. The The New York Times’ Luc Sante, described it as “a period filled with endless parties, epiphanies and breakdowns, emotional dramas of all sizes, and numerous raids and arrests.” Nina Grabol shared it was “a cross between a country club, a madhouse, a research institute, a monastery, and a Fellini movie set.”

Peggy was responsible for helping the counterculture rest, regroup, and move forward.  Who knew this would be the early path to rescheduling?

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