Once again, Dr. Terence MacCarthy has mined the holdings of TALIM's research library – especially our much-appreciated collection of the historic Tangier Gazette – to produce another of his social histories of notable Tangier edifices. The 1930s vintage travel poster on the cover of Lord Bute's Palace: A History of the Hotel El Minzah nicely captures the historical allure that continues to attract clients to this hotel and to this city.
The building began as the city home of the wealthy American expatriate Ion Perdicaris, he of "Wind and the Lion" kidnapping fame. MacCarthy provides numerous gossip-column tidbits from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One example:
January 28th, 1899: The week has been a gay one, and the ball given by Mr. and Mrs. Perdicaris was the event therein. Over two hundred persons responded to the El Minzah’s invitations among them the officers of the German warships “Stosch” and
“Charlotte”, and even Gibraltar sent its contingent. The magnificent ballroom with the array of beauty and colour presented by the ladies, and their costumes, dazzled the eye with kaleidoscopic effect. The animation was intense, and dancing was brought to an end by lingering couples at an early hour of the morning. A band from the German men-of-war and the small orchestra led by Mr. Gomez showered enchanting strains to sympathetic dancers, both equally inspiring and inspired. None of those who had the good fortune to share El Minzah’s hospitality will readily forget the brilliant gathering of last Tuesday evening.”
Terence MacCarthy goes on to chronicle the comings and goings of statesmen (Winston Churchill), movie stars (Rita Hayworth, Rex Harrison, Douglas Fairbanks), and the very wealthy (Barbara Hutton, who wound up buying a home in Tangier). There are the trademark MacCarthy tidbits on eccentric Tanjawis, like the Caïd MacLean. A Scottish soldier of fortune, he served the Sultan, and also suffered the fate of Perdicaris at the hands of the same kidnapper. There's the story of the $40,000 bulldog with gold-capped teeth… Who says the Victorian era was straightlaced?