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Bismarck, Mona, Countess

American, 1899 - 1983


Mona Bismarck, a leading lady of fashionable society for over 50 years, was born Mona Travis Strader in 1899, the daughter of Robert B. Strader, a horse-breeder and trainer and his wife Birdie Schockensy Strader of Louisville, Kentucky. At the age of eighteen Mona married Henry J. Schlesinger, 37, a wealthy steel producer and Milwaukee clubman. Her only child, Robert H. Schlesinger, was born in 1918. After her divorce from Henry Schlesinger, Mona married James Irving Bush, Vice President of the Equitable Trust Company of New York in October 1921, a union which was terminated on July 25, 1925 in Paris. On July 2, 1926, Mona married Harrison Williams (1783-1953), financier, at his home in New York City, a marriage which made her one of the richest women in the United States. They spent their honeymoon travelling around the world on H. Williams' yacht "The Warrior" travelling around the world. The couple acquired a villa on the Isle of Capri, described as one of the most beautiful seaside houses in the world. They owned four other homes,

including an estate in Louisiana, a 30-room mansion in New York, and a townhouse in Paris. After Harrison Williams' death in November 1953, Mona married her long time friend, Count Albert Edward Bismarck, grandson of Prince Otto von Bismarck, on January 7, 1955. They resided during the winter months in Paris, and the rest of the year on the Isle of Capri. On October 17, 1970, Count Bismarck died after a long illness. Count Enrico de Martini, physician of the deceased, became her fifth husband in 1970. After his death nine years later, Mona resumed the use of her title Countess Bismarck. Cecil Beaton photographed Mona Bismarck and depicted her as one of the most elegant and distinguished women of this century. She was also painted by Salvador Dali. A benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution, among her gifts was a rare sapphire donated in 1967. Mona Bismarck died in July 1983 in Paris. The bulk of her estate was placed in trust for charities and to maintain the villa on Capri, which she directed to be turned into a scholarly retreat, and to be used in part as a museum.

"James I. Bush weds Mrs. Mona T. Strader." The New York Times (27 October 1921):19:2.
"Harrison Williams marries Mrs. Bush." The New York Times (3 July 1926):5:1
"Yacht off on World Tour." The New York Times (28 November 1926):26:8
"H. Williams dead: Utilities Leader." The New York Times (11 November 1953):31:1
"Mrs. Harrison Williams is wed to Count Albert E. Bismarck." The New York Times (8 January 1955):11:3
"Masterpiece Villa." The New York Times (18 November 1984):49:1
"Le tresor de la dame aux bijoux." Paris-Match (9 May 1986):96-99
Mosley, Lady. "Succession de la Comtesse Mona Bismarck." Sotheby's, Monaco. 30 November 1986 - 2 December 1986.
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