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Interviewee: Jane Fisher
Interviewer: Polly Redford
April 4, 1967
R: Today is Tuesday, April 4, 1967. This will be an interview
with Mrs. Jane Fisher, the first wife of Carl Fisher, at her
home on Chase Avenue in Miami Beach.
Now, you were telling me about the building of the bridge
and the building of Miami and how Carl Fisher thought big.
Would you like to tell me how Mr. Fisher first met Mr.
Collins? I have been told two versions of the story. The
one that seems to me [to be more accurate] was that Mr.
Fisher and, of course, yourself were living over on the bay.
F: We were living at Brickell Avenue and 13th Street. The
house still stands, by the way.
R: Next to the HEILEMAN's place.
F: Yes. The HEILEMANS lived next door to us in a little house
on the left-hand side. That is how we became acquainted
with the HEILEMANS.
R: Then Collins had run out of money and was, according to one
person, sort of running after Mr. Fisher to try to .
F: Oh, no, he did not run after Mr. Fisher at all. In fact,
they had not met. I think it is rather an interesting thing
for you to know about. One day we took the dinghy off the
boat to go and do a little exploring over on the beach. It
was nothing but mangroves, and we could see the island from
our place. So we decided that we would take the boat and go
over. We took John Levi, who was our engineer and had
worked on building the boats. He was with the SEABURY and
Gas Engine Company of New York.
R: He is the one who came down the Mississippi River.
F: He came down the Mississippi River, and he came to work for
Mr. Fisher. He was our engineer and became our great
friend. Many times he was mayor of Miami Beach after that.
We started out one morning and went north on Biscayne Bay in
the little boat. We finally got into Indian Creek, and we
did not know just exactly where we would land. Finally,
when we got close to where 23rd Street is now, there was a
little sort of a clearing, a little place on the left-hand
side, and there stood a little man. He was a very short
man, and he had a white beard--it looked like a goatee--and
the whitest shirt and the bluest suit that I have ever seen.
It all so impressed me. He wore a polka-dot blue-and-white
tie. It impressed me so to see a man so immaculately
dressed standing amidst all of this sort of wild territory.
R: Well, it must have been amazing.
F: So my husband maneuvered the boat over towards him, and he
called out to him: "Where do I go to get back into Biscayne
Bay? I think we are lost." This man very meticulously
walked down as close to the edge of the water as he could
get, and he said: "Yes, thee is lost, and if thee continues
thy way thee will land in the Atlantic Ocean. So thee
better turn around and retrace thy steps, and thee will find
thyself back in Biscayne Bay." Well, my husband thanked him
and did not ask his name; neither did the little man ask Mr.
Fisher his name. We did as he suggested, and we found
ourselves back in Biscayne Bay and back to our home. We did
not even talk about our encounter with this gentleman.
It was a week or so later that Carl took a walk in town. He
liked to walk around and explore things. You see, we had
come here for Mr. Fisher to retire. He had sold Prest-O-
Lite for $9 or $10 million--I have forgotten how much.
Maybe it was $11 [million].
R: Do you remember approximately the year in which he sold
Prest-O-Lite? That is one of my questions that I have
written down for you.
F: Oh, I think that it was in 1910.
R: Then it would have been shortly after your marriage that he
F: Yes, it was shortly after our marriage. I think that at our
marriage in 1909 he was negotiating the sale. That has all
been so long ago, and I was very young, you must remember,
and I did not pay much attention to that. It really did not
interest me. It should have. Now it would.
R: But I think you probably would have remembered when he sold
it. It is of no tremendous importance except that it was
after your marriage.
R: Certainly before he came here.
F: Oh, yes. He sold Prest-O-Lite and came here to retire. So
he was sort of moseying around, and he went down and looked
at this structure just standing out there like a skeleton in
the bay. He turned and walked away, and he walked over to
see Frank Shutts. Frank Shutts then was the editor and
owner of what is now the Miami Herald. Frank Shutts was an
Indiana lawyer, and he had done some work for my husband.
They were very old friends. Frank was from Indiana, and, of
course, Carl being a Hoosier, they naturally took to each
other, and we were all friends.
R: He must have known Frank and everyone in Indiana.
F: Well, if he did not know them, they knew him. During the
course of the conversation with Mr. Shutts, my husband said
to him, "Frank, what is this unfinished thing that is
standing out in the bay?" Frank said: "Well, Carl, that is
a bridge that an old man, seventy-five years old, who has
more courage than money, is trying to build from Biscayne
Bay over to the beach. You know, Carl, you have plenty of
money, and you are too young a man to retire. [You are]
thirty-six years old, and you are entirely too young to
retire. Why not lend that man some money, enough to let him
finish his bridge? It will give you something to do and
give you an interest down here."
Well, Carl did not say very much. He left the office, and
he strolled down again to the bridge. High up on one of the
girders he saw a little man sitting there swinging his legs.
Carl climbed up onto the girder, and he said: "Good morning,
sir. I am Carl Fisher from Indianapolis, Indiana." The
little old man said, "I am John S. Collins from Moorestown,
New Jersey." They shook hands. Carl sat down on the girder
with him, and that was the beginning of Miami Beach.
R: Oh, that is a wonderful story. Tell me one thing. Did the
bridge begin from the beach, then, and go towards Miami, or
did it go from Miami towards the beach?
F: That I am not positive of. I think--now, this is only
thinking; I cannot verify this--it started from the Miami
end to go towards the beach. You see, in those days there
was nothing but the beach. It was not named.
R: That is right. It had no name.
F: It had no name, and the only way to get to the beach was by
a little ferry, by a boat. There was a little ferry called
the "Sally" that for five cents you could take over to the
beach. You could take your bathing suits, and there was a
wooden structure over there that you could go in and hide
yourself long enough to change into your bathing suit. If
the mosquitoes and sand flies did not eat you up, if the
wind was in the right direction, you could go swimming. You
would run and get under the water before the sand flies and
mosquitoes would eat you up.
R: At the Keys it was the same way. Well, what next, so to
speak--again, perhaps you do not remember--after that
meeting on the girder?
F: Well, Mr. Fisher became very much interested. Of course, I
do not know whether the loan was negotiated right then.
Probably not. Probably they had many meetings and many
conversations, because to lend the man that amount of money,
you just do not do it in fifteen minutes. But with the loan
came the bonus of the land that Mr. Collins gave to my
husband, which afterwards became Miami Beach through the
R: Yes, the central portion of it.
F: Yes, that was the central part. You see, the Lummuses were
already filling in the southern part of the beach.
R: Had they begun filling before Mr. Fisher lent them the
F: Oh, yes, they had begun, but they had very little money to
work with. But they had been working for quite some time in
a very desultory way, not accomplishing too much.
R: They did not have enough capital, either.
R: I have here some of the things. We will talk generally
speaking, but as I read your book [Fabulous Hoosier, a
biography of Carl Fisher] and as I read things that other
people had said, there was one thing I was very, very
interested in. [It was] the thing about the Lincoln
Highway. But I felt that I would like to know a little bit
more about the Dixie Highway. I gathered from your book
that he began to plan the Dixie Highway approximately [in]
F: Yes, it was around 1915, as nearly as I remember. I think
he began planning it, though, while he was really on this
trailblazing tour of the Lincoln Highway. I mean, he was
talking to the different men whom he had interested in
building the Lincoln Highway, because he felt that if there
was a road from coast to coast, that there should be one
from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Now, I think
that it was begun before 1915. I think it was around 1913
or 1914 that the trail for the Dixie Highway was blazed.
R: Now, that is one thing that I was not able to trace in my
sources. For instance, the book on the Lincoln Highway, of
course, gives Mr. Fisher a great deal of credit and explains
how he thought of the whole idea and the leadership he took
in the Hoosier tour. Then at one point it says, "And Mr.
Fisher also fathered the Dixie Highway." Of course, this
was about the Lincoln. It did not expand too much.
F: There was never a book written about the Dixie Highway that
I know about.
R: I looked up the Dixie Highway in an encyclopedia, and it
gave the route and everything, but it never said when it was
begun nor when [it was] finished.
F: Well, I think that it was begun around 1913 and 1914 and was
probably finished in 1915.
R: [That was probably] when it was all connected, because of
course the Lincoln Highway was not really finished. It was
begun in 1913 or so and was not really finished until .
F: Yes. A project of that magnitude at that time took many,
many years to finish. It was not a thing that could be done
like we could build a road nowadays because of the wonderful
equipment and machinery that is available nowadays.
R: Well, I was trying to fit [these dates together]. Carl
Fisher did so much and so many things at once that although
my main interest, of course, is Miami Beach, I want to give
the impression of this great dynamo of energy, that while he
was working on the beach he was also doing the Lincoln
F: He was [also] building the Indianapolis Speedway, which is a
fantastic idea. When you realize that this [was a] well
over $1 million plant at that time--of course, a great deal
more money has been poured into it since--it was a
stupendous projection. It was really an enormous thing, and
it was used only one day a year for racing. One day. But
the other times it was used as a testing and proving ground
for the automobile.
R: Yes. Well, certainly Mr. Fisher was one of the greats of
the automobile industry, and I think--don't you?--that it
was [his contacts with the auto industry that brought people
south to settle and retire--and build--Miami Beach]. Did
many of the original people who came here to buy their homes
here, like [Frank] Seiberling and [Harvey] Firestone, come
because of his connection with the auto industry?
F: Oh, yes. A great many of the automobile tycoons came
because of him. And of course a great many people from
Indiana followed him here. They followed him in most
anything he did because of his great success. It always
seemed to me that everything Carl touched turned to gold.
He had the Midas touch.
R: Yes, indeed.
F: He always said that luck played a great part in his success.
R: Well, I think it did, but more .
F: But of course he was a terrific dynamo. He loved to work,
and he worked almost night and day.
R: He would have had to. I have here just a rather loose
chronology of the things that he was doing. He was building
Speedway City and .
F: He built the first "sunshine" factory in the world.
R: That was the Prest-O-Lite plant near Speedway [Indiana].
F: Yes. That was called the "sunshine" factory.
R: For the purposes of my book, my story will have to begin
with you and Mr. Fisher coming here upon his retirement.
But I also want to give a flashback into the type of man and
all of his achievements in the various things. As I went
down, I got a rather rough chronology of the things that
Fisher was doing, and it appears to me--now, please correct
me if I am wrong--that his life, which had been always
active, beginning about the time of your marriage simply
increased in tempo.
F: Well, long before we were married he was extremely active.
R: Of course he was. After you and he married, it seems within
the next five or ten years were some of his greatest
projects. In other words, it was as if his energy, which
always was tremendous, had exploded. For instance, after
the building of Speedway City, [there was] the coming to
Miami and investing here, and then the Hoosier tour, and
then coming back here and building a house here on Lincoln
Road, planning the Dixie Highway, building the beach,
working on the Lincoln Highway, and then on and on, later on
to Montauk [Long Island, New York] and all these things--the
speedway and the whole thing. It was a tremendous flowering
of energy. Can you remember--again, it does not have to be
to the month--when exactly his idea of Montauk began?
Somewhere I have the date of the actual incorporation.
F: That I do not remember very well because I never was in
sympathy with Montauk.
R: Oh, you were not?
R: Why, may I ask?
F: For one reason, the season was so short there. Another [is]
I did not like the place. The wind blew all the time, and I
have always hated wind. It makes me very nervous. I guess
I inherit that from my mother; my mother was the same way.
I never have liked to be out when the wind blows.
R: It is disturbing to some people.
F: Yes, it disturbs me very much. It is about the only thing
weatherwise that does. I do not mind rain or most anything
else, but wind disturbs me. It was foggy there and cold,
very late. Of course, Carl's idea in Montauk was to have a
winter place here and a summer place in Long Island. His
idea was to build a port for European vessels to land, as
they do, you see, in Le Havre and Cherbourg and then go into
Paris. He wanted the same thing, to have this great port
and land in Montauk and then go by the Long Island Railroad
into New York City.
R: Like the boat train to Paris and London.
F: Yes, exactly like the Paris boat train. But that never
worked out. I could not see Montauk. I never lived there,
and I never wanted to live there.
R: I was just wondering if you did remember about what time he
F: No, I do not remember, because I just did not like it and I
did not want to think about it. I put it out of my mind.
R: That is a good, honest answer. Did you spend the war
F: Yes, we did, and they were very interesting years, too.
R: Perhaps you would like to tell me something about them.
F: Oh, I remember the boys singing and marching down Lincoln
Road, before it was Lincoln Mall. They would go around that
corner where Mr. Fisher's office was on Washington and
Lincoln, there where the American Savings and Loan
Association is and Cobb's fruit store. They would go
around. I can see; I have a vivid picture in my mind. I
can see them right now as they swung along singing different
songs. It was really very inspiring. Of course, they were
around, and we all worked at the pier. [When] I say "we," I
mean all the ladies at that time. Of course, I worked, too.
It was very exciting and very soul stirring. I remember it
very, very well.
Of course, one of the main attractions was [that] Clark
Gable was here, and whenever Clark Gable appeared, why, that
was really something. Of course, they would drill out on
the golf course, and we would all go there, and on the polo
fields. We would all go and watch them. That was really
one of the things to do in those days.
R: Yes, during World War II. How about World War I?
F: Now are you are taking me back.
R: Well, you said that Carl Fisher was a dollar-a-year man.
F: Yes, he was. I will tell you an interesting thing that he
did in World War I. He had all the roofs of the big barns
and made an airplane route--how can I explain it?--with big
numbers on the barns, and [used] anything that he could get
that would show the way to go, [that would] point the route
for the airplanes to go from place to place.
R: That is interesting.
F: From Dayton to Indianapolis.
R: There was a big field at Dayton.
F: Oh, yes, there was a big field at Dayton, and then there was
a field in Indianapolis. So that was one of the things that
he did. Oh, he did so many things during the war, so many,
many things that I [cannot remember them]. If you could
pinpoint anything, it would bring it back to my memory.
R: Well, it was just a question about if you came down here
during the winters. Of course, you came down here certainly
in the winter of 1914 and 1915.
F: Oh, honey, we landed here in February of 1910.
R: Yes, but you also came down here every year.
F: Oh, yes, every year.
R: You did not miss a year between 1910 and 1920?
F: I missed one year coming down here. That was the year that
I finished Fabulous Hoosier. I owned the estate up
on top of a mountain in the Catskills, and it was quite an
R: It must have been.
F: I had everything on runners. We had a great time. I was
snowbound and could not get down the mountain for days at a
R: In other words, you personally missed only one season from
1910 to 1920?
F: I missed only one winter since I came in 1910. I have
always owned a piece of real estate. I have always owned a
home in Miami Beach.
R: Well, good for you. Incidentally, this has nothing to do
with [the subject at hand], but I was curious. I took one
of these boat tours up the Beach.
F: Did you read the foreword?
R: Yes. I thought of you. I thought of you twice, because as
we passed near the St. Francis Hospital someone said, "This
motel is owned by Jane Fisher."
F: No. [laughter] That is wrong.
R: Well, I thought it probably was.
F: It was not a motel now. This is probably what he alluded
to. You were not near the St. Francis; you were on beyond
the St. Francis Hospital, and maybe it was when you were
right in front of the Queen Elizabeth Apartment Hotel.
R: That was it.
F: I owned that at one time. I do not own it now.
R: Well, it is billed as belonging to you now.
F: Well, that is just fine. It gives me status. [laughter]
R: It was one of those things. Those tours are fun, and I
think you are quite right. You were very right to start out
your book with that. As a matter of fact, in one sense I am
going to start out [that way], except I am going to start
with a blimp.
F: Wonderful. I have never been up in a blimp.
R: You have never been in a blimp?
R: Oh, it is wonderful. You would love it. Do you remember
when it was that the Goodyear blimp came to Miami, and did
Carl Fisher have anything to do with that?
F: I do not think he had anything to do with it. I do not
remember his having anything to do with it. Oh, I think it
was some time in the 1920s. The Goodyear people could tell
you that. I do not like to tell you anything wrong and that
I do not remember.
R: Well, it is not a vital [piece of information].
F: The chamber of commerce might be able to help you with that.
R: It is strange the Goodyear people did not know. I had them
call the main office, and they have not given me a
satisfactory answer. Sometimes I have all these little
loose ends, and whenever I find anyone here I ask them.
Sometimes they say yes, and sometimes they say no.
Now, let us go away from these details. In your opinion,
what do you think made Miami Beach successful?
F: Well, I think the war had a great deal to do with it because
it brought boys here.
R: The last [world] war, do you mean? World War II?
F: Yes, World War II. Well, I think World War I had a great
deal to do with it too, for the same reason that I am going
to tell you now. Both wars brought many, many boys here
from every nook and cranny of the United States, and these
boys became enamored of the climate and of this place, of
the ocean and everything that we do have here climatically
in those days more than anything else. I think that,
naturally, they wrote home, and their people came here to
visit them. They wanted to stay and bought property. I
think that is one of the reasons for the great success.
R: That would be the great modern .
F: I think that was the impetus that started Miami Beach.
BREAK IN TAPE.
R: He was engaged to the daughter of a rabbi?
F: Yes. When Carl Fisher first met me, he was engaged to marry
Emma Messing, the daughter of Rabbi Messing of Indianapolis,
R: Oh, for heaven's sake.
F: And his very best friend was Charlie Summers, a furniture
manufacturer. He had the largest furniture store in
Indianapolis. He was one of Carl Fisher's executors on his
will, but he happened to pass on before Carl did.
Then another very close friend of my husband's was Charlie
Rowell. He and his family, his father, I think, were the
first Jewish people in Indianapolis. They were old
residents of Indianapolis, and he and my husband were very,
very close friends. Charlie Summers and Charlie Rowell--
strange their names were the same--were often in our home in
Indianapolis. I know that there has been a rumor that Carl
Fisher was anti-Semitic. I think that these three or four
things that I have told you will discount any of those
rumors. The fact that he did not, in the first place, sell
real estate to those of the Jewish faith was not his doing.
It was the ruling of the city.
Also, Julius Fleischmann came here on the invitation of my
husband. Julius Fleischmann played polo on our polo fields
and was a great friend and a very close friend of Carl
Fisher's. He lived just two doors from us.
R: I believe he stayed for a while at the Flamingo.
F: No, he never stayed at the hotel. He either stayed in this
house that he leased or on his yacht. He never stayed at
R: He did not stay at the Flamingo. I do know that LASKER and
F: And another great friend of Carl's was Bernard Gimble, who
came to Miami Beach at my husband's invitation. They bought
a home on Brickell Avenue.
R: The Gimbles did; they did not live over here.
F: They did not live on the Beach. I think they had small
children whom they wished to put in school in Miami.
R: Well, I know that there were from the beginning a number of
prominent Jewish families here.
F: And LASKER and HERTZ were also friends of Carl's. As far as
Carl having any anti-Semitic feelings, I do not know why
that old rumor still persists.
R: Well, I think the reason that it does persist was that so
many of the early Miami Beach hotels were restricted.
F: Yes, but I think that was done to keep out a certain element
that even the Jews themselves would not wish to have in a
R: Well, it is a problem that must be dealt with, and since it
came up I thought that you of all people would know.
F: We have never had any prejudice whatsoever, neither my
husband nor myself. It is regrettable, and I am very, very
sorry. I think that is one reason why Fabulous Hoosier has
never been made into a moving picture, because of that
R: Oh, really?
F: I think so. It is a natural for a moving picture.
R: Yes, it is.
F: But I am hoping that that rumor has been scotched by now and
that the untruth of it will prevail, because it is so wrong
and so unfair to Mr. Fisher, and so untrue.
R: Yes, I thought it was, but I thought it was something that
must be answered. Now that we are on the subject of
answering something, I apologize for what I am about to read
to you, but it is not mine. This is a book that was
published in 1960 by a man named Harold Mehling, and in this
chapter here called "The Birth of the Beach," [there is a
passage that reads,] "'Honey, I am going to build a city.'
Jane Fisher, an elderly, vigorous woman whose memories are
plentiful because she was once the wife of Carl Fisher, the
man who manufactured Miami Beach ." Then it goes on to
tell your anecdote taken from your book about how you had
the bathing suit and that story about yourself on the beach.
F: He even copied my .
R: Oh, yes, he did.
F: He never asked me.
R: I wondered if you had talked with him.
F: No, I never talked to him.
R: Well, unfortunately there is a portrait taken, but wrongly
taken, from your book of Carl Fisher shortly before he died,
and I want your comments on this. Most people to whom I
read this just simply blow a gasket: "Perhaps the last major
event that Miami Beach witnessed before Pearl Harbor was the
decline and death of the creator Carl Fisher. No levity is
intended, because Fisher's degeneration was genuine
F: That is true.
R: "Here was a man who but for his incurable provincialism and
emotional frustrations might have stumbled into genuine
glory before he died."
R: That is pretty bad. The worst is yet to come. "Those who
knew, worked, and lived with him become maudlin to this day
as they recall the stupendous chaos of his energy. Not that
they could have helped and did not. No one could have saved
Fisher from himself. Uneducated, crude, naturally gifted,
he found himself emasculated without money, real money with
which to perform gigantic feats. With a bottle in one hand,
a divorce in the other, and sentimentality poured over all,
he drank himself into cirrhosis. In his last days he was a
pathetic figure wearing suits that were at least double
breasted. One set of buttons contained him at the beginning
of a period, another set widened as the fluid swelled his
wasting body, and a third set was needed to envelop his
girth before his bloated frame entered a hospital for
"Fisher died in 1939. The cause of his death was his
inability to find much value in life outside of stone-cold
gigantism. Miami Beach should not forget Carl Fisher, but,
of course, it almost has."
Now, as I say, I apologize for this, but I think this is
something I want you to answer.
F: Well, I want to tell that it is true in a sense. He was not
crude, nor was he uneducated. He was a very sensitive man.
True, he did not have much schooling because Carl Fisher was
practically blind. He had acute astigmatism which was not
discovered, unfortunately, until he was about twenty-one or
twenty-two years of age, when a doctor in Indianapolis
discovered [it] and gave him glasses to correct his
astigmatism. He could not see anything that was raised,
like a curbstone or a small step. He would walk as though
it was not there and would fall, so his nickname [due to
injuries sustained from such falls,].was "Crip."
But even with that handicap, he performed many feats that
other boys of his age could not possible do. He could run
backwards faster than any other boy could run forward. When
he was in his teens he had race horses and the fastest
sleighs. We had sleigh races on Capital Avenue in
Indianapolis, and he conceived the idea of building a very
light sleigh with bicycle tubing. He had the idea, and the
correct idea, that the lighter the sleigh was, the faster
the horse could run because he would not have so much weight
to pull. Carl was right in his theory, because he won
practically every race he was in.
R: He loved speed.
F: He loved speed. Speed, I would say, was his middle name.
He moved fast, he talked fast, he thought fast; he could not
do anything slow. He was always in a hurry.
R: Was he nervous? Did he pace around?
F: No, he was not a nervous man. He was a very well-contained
man, I would say. He was relaxed. But when he moved, he
moved quickly. When he did anything, he did it quickly.
When he decided that he was going to build a building, his
architect could not work fast enough. By the way, his
architect was August Geiger, who unfortunately is quite ill
now in the heart hospital. He could tell you a great many
R: I am sure he could, but I could not disturb him at the heart
F: He might like to talk to you.
R: I will write that down.
F: His name is August Geiger.
R: Like the Geiger counter.
F: He is quite ill.
R: I can make some inquiries. To get back to this portrait,
you say that there were elements of truth in this portrait
F: You see, Montauk Point was the cause of Mr. Fisher's losing
his money, his fortune, because in 1926, as you remember,
was the hurricane, the hurricane.
F: We had a realtor working for us at the time, and he wired
Carl, "Miami a total loss."
R: Who was that?
F: I do not remember the name of that man. We had so many
working for us at the time, and that was out of my care.
R: I see.
F: I did not pay much attention to the people who worked for us
in that [area].
R: Of course, you were in Paris at that point.
F: I was in Paris at that time, anyway. So Carl shut down all
the work at Montauk Point. Of course, all the people who
had invested, who had been guaranteed their investment,
poured in like flies swarming around a piece of cake.
R: Well, many of those people had been his friends.
F: Yes, they were all his friends, and he had guaranteed them.
Not that they wanted to do anything to break Carl or
anything, but they had been guaranteed by Carl, so Carl gave
them back their money. First the golf course was mortgaged,
and then his home, to pay off all of this money. It just
took it practically all. He lost the golf course, he lost
the polo fields. [He did] everything that he could do to
raise money, and they were lost. They were taken. That is
one reason--this little bit that I am going to tell you
now--is off the record, please.
F: All right. Off the record it goes.
[BREAK IN TAPE]
R: All of Carl Fisher's assets were held by the Carl G. Fisher
Company, which was a holding company for Montauk and for the
three companies down here. There was Miami Beach
Improvement, Bayshore Company, and I have forgotten the name
of the third company. They were all held by the Carl G.
Fisher Corporation, which was a holding company, so Mr.
Fisher had put all of his eggs in one basket, so to speak.
R: Well, then when the Montauk thing collapsed, the Carl G.
Fisher Corporation had to make good, and the only assets it
had were its Miami Beach things, so it had to sell them off
one by one. But the other investors down here had a portion
not of Carl G. Fisher Corporation but of the other
[companies, such as] Miami Beach Improvement. Of course,
they merely held on to what they had, and their part was not
involved in the collapse.
F: Of course, the business part of it I know very little
about--only what I have been told, only what I have
gathered. You must also realize that it was in 1926 that I
R: Yes, I know. That was mentioned in the book. I do not want
particularly to dwell on that.
F: Well, I wish you would not. I mean, after all, Carl and I
stayed the closest of friends. He never countenanced my
remarriage, nor I never countenanced his remarriage. We
just never talked about it. He came to visit me, and I
would go to see him when he was sick. We were just the very
best of friends.
R: Well, I think he must have been This is just my
opinion, and you do not have to comment on it if you do not
want to, but [through] reading and talking to people who
knew him, I think it must have been an amazing experience to
live with such a man. I know I could not have.
F: Well, he was a very difficult man to live with. He had such
charm and such personality that you could not help but love
R: People who knew him loved him.
F: And men worshipped him. His friends would go to the last
depths for him. I have never seen a man who could command
the respect and absolute love and affection of men as Carl
R: That is true. I have been astounded by that [when I have
been] talking [with those who knew him].
F: It is the most amazing thing. And women [loved him], too.
I mean, of course, he was a very rich man, and women swarmed
around him. That was one reason it was very difficult for a
wife to take. Of course, I had bad advice. I never should
have divorced him. I should have gone on, but I did not.
So that is past history.
R: He must have been difficult to live with.
F: He was difficult. When he started drinking, then it was
difficult. I never was a drinking person, and I disapproved
of it very much. The secretary whom he afterwards married
was a great drinker and kept him supplied very well in the
office. In fact, before she came to work for him, he never
had any liquor in the office. But afterwards there was
plenty to have all the time, and any time it was available.
R: That was no good. Of course, at the time this was also part
F: That was part of the era. It was Prohibition, and Carl was
the type of man who never drank before Prohibition. He was
the type of man that no one, not even his government, could
tell him what he could not do and what he could not eat or
drink. That galled him to the very quick. After that he
built a wine cellar in our house in the North and in our
house in the South, and he had all kinds of wines. In fact,
he bought out the entire stock of the University Club of
Indianapolis. We had a stock.
R: Well, someone else who knew and remembered him from quite a
long way back said that prior to Prohibition .
F: Who was that?
R: I believe it was old Captain Hughes.
F: Oh, yes. He was the captain of our yacht. When we sold our
yacht to Charles Deering, he would not buy the yacht unless
Captain Hughes could go with the yacht, so we had to let
Captain Hughes go with the yacht. [The] captain did know
Carl very well and loved him very much.
R: And he knew him.
F: Has he died?
R: Well, if he has, he has died since I talked with him last
November. He may have died. I do not know.
F: He was not very well. Do you know that I am the only person
alive who was associated with Carl Fisher when he started
the Beach? I guess that I am alive because I started so
young, and all the rest of us were much older.
R: Yes. If Hughes has died, you certainly are the only one.
Oh, no. Hughes did not come until later.
F: Oh, he came much later than I did.
R: He knew [George] Bumbaugh.
F: Well, Captain Bumbaugh was the man who built the balloons,
R: That is right.
F: You know, Bumbaugh was the man who took a piano up as a
basket on a balloon and had somebody playing on it while
floating all over Indianapolis, and I think that that is
what gave Carl the idea of taking an automobile up there.
That is when I first saw him, and I still say that I am the
only woman in the world who first saw her future husband
seated in an automobile attached to a balloon floating over
her head in the city she lived in. [laughter]
R: I am sure. [laughter] Oh, my. He was a marvelous,
F: Well, he was the father of showman publicity.
F: Well, you have read my book. You know what he did. He had
a wire stretched across the main street in Indianapolis and
rode a bicycle across it. Why he did not break his neck I
do not know.
R: Incidentally, in your book you have some pictures of some of
those old days.
F: Yes. I have lots of pictures that would not reproduce that
I wanted so much to .
R: I would love to see them sometime.
F: Well, someday come over, and I will get them all out and we
will go over them. I will show them to you. I have loads
of them. You know, I have been so anxious to have a moving
picture made of my book while I am still able to talk about
it. I could be of such inestimable help to a producer or
R: I know.
F: I would want so much to help with it. I could be a
technical advisor like no other.
R: There are always little details, like you are talking about
John Collins there and the way he talked and his little bow
tie and his suit. That is the reason that I am anxious to
talk with you on tape, because long after you and I are
gone, why, there will be people who will want to come back,
and they will want [to know who Carl Fisher was and how
Miami Beach was built]. This is just the thing that gives
life to an era. Even in the best, there is not room enough
in a book to put in every detail, all the little touches.
F: Well, it comes back to my mind, little things about Mr.
Fisher. He hated to break in anything new--a suit or a pair
of shoes or anything. By the way, he had little Mary Jane
slippers with ventilated holes put in them, and they had a
little button on the side. That is what he wore most of the
R: I do not even know what a Mary Jane slipper is.
F: A Mary Jane slipper is a slipper that has a little strap
that goes across and buttons or buckles on the side. There
have just a little round toe and a spring heel. He wore
those for years. He had a colored man working for him by
the name of Galloway, and Galloway was his exact size--
shoes, gloves, suits, hat, everything, and Galloway broke in
everything. He wore everything that Carl wore. [If] he had
a new suit, Galloway would wear it three or four times
before Mr. Fisher would.
R: That is fascinating. I can understand the shoes, but why
F: He did not like to wear anything new. It did not feel good
on him. He had a studied carelessness in his dress that was
very fascinating. He could put on an old tweed coat and a
flannel shirt open at the neck and his Mary Jane slippers
and a pair of white trousers and be outstanding in any group
of men. He would look as the best-dressed man there. Why,
I do not know. It was his way of wearing his clothes, the
way he moved in his clothes, and the way he wore his hat. I
brought 144 hats--that is a gross, is it not--home from
Italy, little soft-felt hats that he wore for years. I
bought them in all sizes because everybody liked his little
felt hats, so he would give everybody a hat. He loved to
give things away.
I went around the world, and I met an Indian prince who sold
star sapphires and star rubies. I invited him to come here,
as I did everybody [from whom] I thought Miami Beach would
benefit. Prince SALI came here; he invested in real estate.
He built a couple of house on Alton Road; they still stand.
He brought his star sapphires and his star rubies, and Carl
bought a whole lot of them and just put them in his pocket.
Anybody who came along he would give them a star sapphire or
a star ruby.
R: Would you like to hear a funny story?
F: I would love to hear a funny story.
R: Ed Roth, who was president of the Miami First National Bank,
loaned Carl a great deal of money. Oftentimes he had $1
million on loan from the bank, though Carl was worth $50
million at one time. After one of Prince SALI's trips down
here, Carl bought a 34-carat star sapphire and gave it to
me. It was a beautiful thing. It was deep-dark blue and
had a perfect star that was just beautiful. We had a
Japanese jeweler in Indianapolis, and when you opened the
door a little bell would ring, ting-a-ling-a-ling. He would
come and say, "'Scuse please. 'Scuse please." Then he
would go back and would slip a diamond on a band over his
front tooth. Then he would show his diamond. His name was
YAMATOYA--something like that. I cannot just exactly
remember the name. I took this star sapphire to him, and he
designed a ring. Oh, it gave promise of being very
beautiful. Before it was finished I went to Europe, so I
did not have the ring.
When I came back Carl met me on the dock in New York, and
almost the first thing he said after he said "Hello and [I
am] glad to have you back," was, "Jane, what did you ever do
with that star sapphire that I gave you?" I said: "YAMATOYA
is making a ring for me. It was not finished before I left.
Why?" Well, he said, "I want you to wire Galloway to go and
get it and have it at home for us when we get back." I
said, "Why?" He said: "I want to give it to Mary Roth. You
know Ed has been very good to me. He has loaned me a lot of
money, and I want to show my appreciation. I want to give
it to Mary Roth." So I gulped and I said, "All right." So
I sent the wire. When we got home he sent my ring to Mary
Roth. She had it until the day she died, I guess.
R: That would have just made me mad.
F: Well, you did not get mad at Carl Fisher.
R: Why not?
F: Because you just did not. You did what he said to do.
Everybody did. You never crossed him. I do not think in
all the years that I lived with him I ever crossed him.
R: Did anybody ever cross him?
F: No, nobody ever crossed him that I know of. You did not
cross Carl Fisher. But after that He saw that I had
tears in my eyes, and I said nothing.
I had always admired a tie clip that he had. Now, this is a
funny one, too. He had a sapphire. He loved stones. He
loved jewelry. Yet he would never let me have any, because
he said that somebody would kill me to take it away from me.
So he said that I did not need jewelry. He always thought,
I guess, that I was rather pretty, and he said I did not
need jewelry to enhance my good looks.
R: Well, there is not doubt that you were a beautiful woman.
You are still remarkably [attractive]. You have lovely
F: Oh, thank you. I guess my eyes and my teeth are my best
features. I went to a hospital, unfortunately, and a nurse
said, "You may put your teeth in this," and I said, "Well,
you take them out for me." She tried. Of course, I never
lost a tooth.
R: I can see that. The thing that is amazing about you--I do
not know whether most people would notice it--is, having
listened to you on the telephone, [I noticed] you have a
lovely speaking voice. Of course, I have some idea, [your]
having been married to Carl Fisher at the age you were, of
your general age, but I would not have thought on the
telephone that [you are an elderly lady]. You have such a
F: I have two ages.
R: You have two ages? [laughter]
F: I will tell you about that when I finish [telling] about the
R: Let me turn my [tape over]. I do not want to miss the story
of the [tie clip].