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And How Her Distressing
Experience Brings Before
the Courts a Question Never Before
Raised, Namely, If a Respectable
Guest Is Impulsively Kissed
and Fondled by. a Bibulous Stranger
Must the Hotel Pay for Neglecting
Mrs. Arthur E. Gifford, the
New York Woman Who
Claimed $10,000 Damages
from the Hotel BHtmorefor
Permittmsr Her to Be Kissed
in One of Its Elevator.
Photo oy Kazanfian Studio.
rRS. ARTHUR E. GIFFORD. wife of
a New York man with a Fifth ave
nue business, has brought a law
suit entirely unprecedented In legal form
and of profound social and personal Inter
est She claims $10,000 damages from the
1 great Hot?l Blltmore for permitting an
unknown man to kiss her in one of its
elevators. The Blltmore Is, as most per
sons know, one of the newest, largest and
gayest of New York's fashionable hotels.
Persons of highly diversified character
and temperament throng such places. To
decide how far the owners are responsible
for the moral conduct of their guests pre
sents a very delicate and Interesting prob
lem. There is undoubtedly a certain obli
gation to maintain order and protect
guests, but this cannot cover every im
modest act or gesfure. "
It may be argued that the hotel cannot
be held responsible If an impulsive man
Implants one sudden, unexpected kiss upon
a fair visitor, but should It permit him to
bestow two or more? Should It not main
tain a vigilant lookout for men who show
a tendency toward, promiscuous and un
welcome osculation and other indecorous
The fashionable hotel provides a tempt
ing variety of places of recreation and
expenditure within its walls. There are
roof gardens, palm -gardens, "chicken runs,"
"dovecotes." skating rinks, tea parlors,
dancing halls and "happy corners" in these
modern palaces of luxury. A certain pro
prietary chaperonage must be considered
desirable for such gathering places.
Mrs. Gilford recently told the story of
the unwelcome kiss to a visitor. In ap
pearance she is attractive and re
fined. She has been prostrated for a long
time with an Illness which developed dur
ing the Winter, and which she thinks may
bo partly due to her distressing experience.
"I took a room at the hotel with my
friend. Mrs, Carvan, of Boston, last Fall,"
said Mrs. Gifford. "Our apartment In town
was not ready for us Just then and my
husband had been away. He had an ac
count at the hotel. I took my frldhd
there because I thought it the most enjoyi
able place for a short stay. She had been
spending the Summer in Lenox and came
to New York to see the Fall fashions and
have a little holiday.
"On Labor Day, September 3, 1 had given
up my room. About 2 o'clock In the after
noon we went up to the nineteenth floor
Intending to have lunch at th Cascades
As we walked out on the floor we noticed
a young girl running away and showing
signs of confusion. We also saw two well
dressed but very much intoxicated men, the
ones who afterward Insulted us so out
rageously. The hotel boys and male em
ployes were laughing merrily at these men
and making ludicrous gestures. In the
light of our later experiences, I feel sure
that the two men had been annoying one
of the hotel girls.
"We were informed by a waiter that the
Cascades dining room was closed and we
decided to go downstairs for lunch. We
stopped, nowever, for about ten minutes
on the roof feeding the pigeons. This is
one of the Innocent pastimes provided for
the hotel guests.
"Then we returned toward the elevator.
As we passed the group one of the drunken
men called out:
A Diagrammatic Picture Showing
Exactly, What Happened to Mrs.
Arthur Gifford, According to
Her Own Statement, on Her
Way from the Nineteenth to
the Ground Floor of the
Hotel Blltmore How She
Was Hugged and Kissed by
One Well Dressed Stranger
C o mp anion
Boy Looked on
to Protect Its Guests?
"H8'o come two babies! What's the
matter with these?'
"I aio obliged to specify some of the
course and vulgar language used to show
how persistently I was insulted In the pres
ence ol lotel employes I cannot bring
myself U repeat everything that was said.
"We hurried on to the elevator. Those
two dreadful men came after us no one
attempting to stop them. After the, door
was closed a young girl, employed as a
telephone operator on the floor, I believe,
signalled that she wanted to get into the
car. The elevator man let her in and she
said she wanted to go up. The two drunk
en men said she must come down with
them and the car started down. At first
they fooled with the young girl and tried
to kiss her, I think.
' "Then they turned their attention to us.
One of them put his arm around my
friend's shirtwaist, but she thrust him
aside with a tremendous effort. He then
grasped me round the waist and held me
tightly, completely at his mercy. He
forced me into a corner of the elevator and
in this crowded space I was quite helpless
against this powerful man. It shocks me
to repeat everything that happened, but
now that I have made the case public I
feel it Is my duty to prove how dreadful
my treatment was.
"This man thrust his hand Into my cor
sage and then kissed me forcibly on the
left cheek. I was at first able to turn my
face sufficiently to prevent him from kiss
ing me full on the mouth.
"All this time the elevator
boy was grinning cheerful
ly, as if he enjoyed our suf
ferings. My friend was call
ing to him to stop the ele
vator, but he paid no atten
tion. "'We don't want to ride
with these dreadful creat
ures! Let us off!' she
"The young girl left at a
floor Just before the ground.
but even then the elevator
man closed the door before
we could escape
"When the car reached the main floor we
rushed out. Our tormentors were then In
sulting us in a different fashion. As we
went out they yelled at us:
"'You are two muts of chambermaids!
Good-by, you chambermaid muts!'
"I was crying when I stepped out of the
elevator. I spoke to a clerk at a desk and
told him I had been dreadfully insulted and
Ill-treated. I wanted the two men held and
arrested The clerk laughed and behaved
most frlvously. He said I might look for
the hotel detective.
"I went over to the tearoom, but could
not find the detective there. At this point
my insulter, who must have wandered all
the way round the floor, met me. All this
time none of the hotel employes made any
effort to hold him. Finally I found one of
the assistant managers a very smooth
spoken but evasive gentleman He tried
to explain that nothing worth mentioning
had happened to me He said the hotel
detective might be on the twenty-second
floor, and finally he brought him down
Meanwhile our lnsulters had ample time
to get away.
"I was nearly prostrated with fright and
distress and have never been quite the
same woman since."
Mrs. Gifford speaks sarcastically of the
hotel attitude toward lnsulters of women.
According to her it might be expressed
"Little things like this will happen and
wo. can't prevent them. Sometimes there
will be a bit of a fight and we can't get
there before It's over. Sometimes a man
will feel flirtatious and we can't always be
on the spot Just at the right moment."
In fact, she says, they suggested that
promiscuous kissing was a rather pleasant
feature of life.
After her shocking experience she took
a little lunch In the dining room, communi
cated by telephone with her husband and
in his company made further efforts to in
duce the hotel to find her tormentors.
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The Fantastic Cascades Dining Room on the
Roof of the Biltmore with Its Fountain
and Chinese Lanterns. It Was on Her
Way Back After Finding This Resort Closed
That Mrs. Gifford Had Her Remarkable
Experience with the Impulsive Strangers.
This Picture Shows "Billy Biltmore,"
the Horse Who Praws the Ice
Scraping Machine for the Skating
Rink at the Biltmore. He Is a Very
Luxurious Animal with a Fine
Room of His Own at the Hotel
"I have reason to believe " she says,
"that the hotel people know perfectly well
who the men were. What I wisned was
to punish the one who insulted me. but If
the hotel will not find him I must hold the
She added that the two men were well
dressed and about forty years of age. The
one who assaulted her was short and thick
pet and wore a check suit The other was
taller and wore a blue suit. She expresses
her conviction that they were wealthy men
about town, loungers of convivial tastes
and habitues of the hotel.
Mrs. Gifford explained that she put her
wrongs in the hands of a Brooklyn lawyer
at once, but other affairs compelled him
to give up the case She finally re
tained her present lawyer, and that Is
why the case is only now coming before
When the manager of the Hotel Bilt-
'more was asked for his opinion of Mrs
Gifford's suit, he smiled with amiable
cynicism and said
"We have Inquired carefully and we can
not find that the facts are as stated by Mrs.
Gifford. Our elevator boy did not notice
any such conduct as she describes In
fact, he thought she and the men were
members of the same party. Our tele
phone operator, a very estimable young
woman, did not notice any such behavior
as she mentions, and I think she could
hardly have helped noticing it
"Even If the facts were as alleged by
Mrs. Girord. we are advised that she could
not make us responsible for them. There
are certain laws and rules requiring a hotel
Copyright. 1918, by the'SUr Company. Great Britain Wshts Reserved.
to maintain order and
decorum. Obviously a
hotel cannot be held re
sponsible for every sud
den and unexpected act
of disorder committed
by any person within
Its walls. Such a law
would make hotel keep
ing an impossibility.
"We should not per
mit a prolonged kissing'
frolic, but if a man of
suddenly went crazy
and kissed the first un
known woman within
reach she could hardly
"It is absurd to say
that a woman could
complain about annoy
ance, and not receive
prompt attention here.
We are anxious in
our own interests to
stop any indecorous
behavior at the first
complaint There Is
always a force of discreet bnt stalwart
house detectives ready to spring to the
assistance of any person in distress. It is
their first duty to be on hand when needed
in all public rooms."
Mrs. Gifford's suit for damages was set
down for hearing before Judge Lehmann
In the New York Supreme Court. Harford
T Marshall, a prominent lawyer, appeared
for Mrs. Gifford. John McKim Mlnton,
formerly Assistant District Attorney, rep
resented the hotel. The defendant's law
yer asked the Judge to dismiss the com
plaint on the ground that it did not show a
proper cause of action.
Even If the original complaint does not
stand, it Is stated that there are several
ways of changing It and bringing the case
We may, therefore, hear the whole sub
ject of a hotel's responsibility for the
moral conduct of its guests explained and
Illustrated In a highly Instructive manner.