Barbara Sims Bainbridge
April 12, 1914 - May 14, 1965
Portrait 1923
With Her Sister
College and the Museum
Portrait circa 1935
Engagement - Tribune
Engagement - Times
Wedding Portrait
Wedding - Tribune
Wedding - Times
With Her Husband
Letter from Detroit
Portrait circa 1945
Bethel, Connecticut
With Her Son
The 1940s
With Connie and Billy
Lucas Point
With Her Parents and Sister
Her Final Years
Portrait circa 1960

Barbara-Elizabeth Sims
Age 9 in 1923
Barbara-Elizabeth Sims was born on April 12, 1914. She was the daughter of Mildred Elizabeth Adams Welch Sims and William E. Sims. Her father was an attorney who completed his career as a partner in the Wall Street law firm, Sage, Gray, Todd and Sims. While she was still a child, her family had an elegant home built for it in Saddle River, New Jersey, but the economic stress of the stock market crash and Great Depression forced them to abandon it and take an apartment in New York City.

She had a very intelligent cat, named Butty, who came to her one day in great distress. She discovered that a sewing needle had become lodged in its throat. Without protest, it allowed her to remove the needle, thereby saving its life. Ever afterward, Butty was devoted to her, acting more like a loving dog than an aloof cat.

She attended Spence then Brearley, two private day schools for girls that have maintained their high reputations until the present day. A story she delighted to tell about her years at Brearley concerned an essay she wrote about her summer experiences which the teacher flunked, because it concerned her kidnapping and thus clearly could not be true. However, she actually had been kidnapped that summer. An employee of the Sims family, Eddie Foo from China, had become enamored of her and in a confused state had held the family at gunpoint for several hours, until her father was able to convince Eddie to let him go for some liquor, but he returned with the police instead. Eddie was taken to Ellis Island, and deported.

Barbara-Elizabeth Sims
with her little sister, Audrey
She graduated from The Brearley in 1933 and attended Bryn Mawr College outside Philadelphia for two years.

After leaving Bryn Mawr, she worked for a time at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, chiefly preparing documentation for the American Indian halls. She had some ambition to become an anthropologist, and she wrote a book-length survey of the world's people, which was never published and is now lost. A turning point was her interview with the museum's famous ethnography, Margaret Mead, who was seeking an assistant to go with her to New Guinea. She was much in awe of Mead, and very nervous in the interview. Suddenly a hairy hand grabbed her ankle! It was Mead's pet chimpanzee, Meshie. For a while it seemed that she might join Mead on her next expedition, or otherwise begin a career as a research anthropologist, but eventually she decided to marry instead.


New York Herald Tribune, February 7, 1937:

Barbara E. Sims Will Be Married to W. W. Bainbridge

Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Sims

Mr. and Mrs. William E. Sims, of 103 East Seventy-fifth Street, and Monroe, N.Y., announce the engagement of their daughter, Miss Barbara Elizabeth Sims, to Mr. William Wheeler Bainbridge, son of Dr. and Mrs. William Seaman Bainbridge, of 34 Gramercy Park, and Bethel, Conn.

Mr. Bainbridge attended Lafayette College and is at the New York University Graduate School of Finance.

New York Times, October 31, 1937:

Barbara Sims Plans Bridal

Miss Barbara Elizabeth Sims, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Sims of 103 East Seventy-fifth Street, will be married to William Wheeler Bainbridge, son of Dr. and Mrs. William Seaman Bainbridge of 34 Gramercy park and Bethel, Conn., next Saturday at the home of her parents. The couple obtained their marriage license at the Municipal Building Friday.
Wedding Portrait
November 6, 1937

New York Herald Tribune, November 7, 1937:

Barbara E. Sims Becomes Bride of William Bainbridge

Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Sims's Daughter Married at Her Home to Physician's Son

Miss Barbara Elizabeth Sims, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Sims, of 103 East Seventy-fifth Street, was married yesterday afternoon, at the home of her parents, to Mr. William Wheeler Bainbridge, son of Dr. William Seaman Bainbridge, of 34 Gramercy Park. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Granville Mercer Williams, S. S. J. E., rector of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. A reception followed.

The bride was given in marriage by her father. Her sister, Miss Audrey Welch Sims, was her only attendant. Mr. John Seaman Bainbridge served as best man for his brother.

The bride is a graduate of the Brearley School and attended Bryn Mawr College. Mr. Bainbridge attended Lafayette College and the New York University Graduate School of Finance. After a trip to Canada, the couple will go to Detroit, where Mr. Bainbridge will join the Equitable Life Assurance Company. After about a year they will return to New York.

New York Times, November 7, 1937:

Barbara E. Sims Has Bridal Here

Married in Her Parents' Home to William W. Bainbridge, Also a New Yorker

Miss Barbara Elizabeth Sims, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Sims, was married to William Wheeler Bainbridge, son of Dr. and Mrs. William Seaman Bainbridge of this city, yesterday afternoon at the home of her parents at 103 East Seventy-fifth Street. The Ceremony was performed by the Rev. Dr. Granville Mercer Williams, rector of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

Given in marriage by her father, the bride had her sister, Miss Audrey Welch Sims, as her only attendant. John Seaman Bainbridge was best man for his brother.

A reception was given after the ceremony. Mr. and Mrs. Bainbridge will go to Quebec on their wedding trip and then to Detroit. They will make a home in the latter city for about a year. During that time the bridegroom will be with the Detroit office of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States.

The bride, a graduate of the Brearley School, attended Bryn Mawr College and has done research work in anthropology under Dr. William K. Gregory at the American Museum of Natural History. Mr. Bainbridge attended Lafayette College and was graduated last Spring from the New York University Graduate School of Finance.

With her husband, W. W. Bainbridge
At his sister's wedding,
September 6, 1939
Letter from Barbara Sims Bainbridge to her mother, late November, 1937.

Barbara Sims Bainbridge
Madison-Lenox Hotel
Detroit, Michigan

Mrs. William E. Sims
103 East 75 St.
New York, N.Y.


Dearest Family:

You have by now received my telegram and probably want to know all about our apartment. But first - to continue the chronological account of our trip. I forgot to tell you that while in Ottawa we took a car out to the experimental farm bureau and wandered around. It was wonderful. They had every kind of farm animal - in abundance - that you can think of including about 24 percherons and innumerable pigs whose ears grew in front of their eyes - so:

They have holes punched in their ears so that they can see. What they did before "Homo sapiens" came along I can't imagine.

We took the sleeper to Toronto, got in early, were dished & so went to bed and slept until 2. We then hired a car and saw the city - it wasn't much - more like an American city than anything else. We then went to the movies and saw Wm. Powell and Myrna Loy in "Double Wedding." After that we had dinner & then went to a hockey game. It was between Chicago & the Toronto "Maple Leaves" and was a honey. The next afternoon we took a train to a place called Welland in Ontario & then took a bus for an hour to Niagara - which - with all our luggage was a very amusing trip. We stayed at the "Cataract House" on the N.Y side and really enjoyed ourselves. The manager was a young Univ. of Michigan graduate who was lonesome and so we played. He treated us royally at the bar, gave us the room Abe Lincoln & King Edward VII (I think) had for almost nothing and let us beat him and a lady friend at bridge. He also gave us the name of an ultra-swell night club in Buffalo. The next A.M. it poured so we slept late. After lunch we hired a car and saw the falls. Aren't they grand though! I think we were the only visitors in town for we certainly had the place to ourselves. The two of us donned rubber boots, great raincoats & hoods and went under the torrent. We crawled into all the barrels and rubber balls that had gone over the falls and generally got around.

That evening we left for Buffalo. Checked our things at the station and went out on a spree. We had dinner & danced at the swanky night club then saw Steve Dunne in "The Awful Truth" which, incidentally, Dad, you would love, and landed on the train in time to pull out with it at 2:38 A.M. We arrived in Detroit at 7:30 this morning checked in at the hotel, ate, rested & went through the classified telephone directory looking for renting agents. We phoned 25 of the larger renting offices & were told that there were no apartments for rent at any price. It seems that the Depression rather hit Detroit & all building was stopped. Another thing that made it tough is that there really isn't any residential section - houses are all mixed in with the most awful shops and factories. Well Bill & I felt pretty dismal about the whole situation & I just playing with the phone book opened it to the part where they list the numbers of the apartment houses. (By the way an apartment house here is always four stairs high - or less.) My eye lit on one called the "Cambridge Apts" and I thinking it sounded like home phoned to see if they had a vacancy. To make a long story short one of their tenants moved out yesterday and although the apartment wasn't up for rent yet we could look at it. We did. We loved it. We made the head man of the whole works meet us there at eight this P.M. and the apartment is ours. It's a little gem (see diagram) with lights & gas included in the rent which is $40 a month. We get no concession because they don't give leases in Detroit - which is swell for us - not knowing how long we'll be staying - but they are completely repainting, servicing the frigidaire & stove, cleaning the shades & scraping the floors. They are putting extra men on the job and we'll sleep on the studio couch we picked out today and twiddle our thumbs till our furniture comes. SO -

Will you send - immediately upon receipt of this our furniture - including radio, dressing table etc. to the apartment (Cambridge Apts.) 1550 Seward Ave., Detroit, Mich. I will pay them when I get the furniture so don't do anything about that. Also - if you would let me know the procedure for ordering the two more ladder back chairs, or if you could do that for me it would be swell. If you could wire me what day to expect the furniture I'd appreciate it so that I could be sure to be there when the furniture arrived.

The last request in this letter is for lists, lists, lists - with addresses (of your friends) whom I should thank, write to or what ever.

If you all have lasted this long maybe you could live through two diagrams - Huh?

Diagram I - our apartment on the 2nd floor rear, apt. #25.

1. Built in dinette table
2. benches by big casement window - sun all aft. from noon on
3. frigidaire
4. built in cupboard as in pantry in 103
5. gas stove
6. sink
7. drainboard
8. my dresser
9. dressing table
10. Bill's bureau
11. studio couch
12. table
13. arm chair
14. radio
15. desk
16. table
17. chest on chest
18. small arm chair (cheap)

The whole thing isn't as jammed as this but it may give you a rough idea.

Diagram II - Detroit & Seward St. [a map was enclosed, showing that the apartment building was between Trumbull St. and Broadway]

On Trumbull there are loads of good grocery stores, markets, florists, beauty shops & what not - also trolleys & busses - which take about 25 min to get Bill to the Equitable. Around [the Equitable] are the large department stores, city hall, factories and dirty frame houses as well as swell office buildings.

We are very happy!! We do miss you just loads and send all our love.


When she married, she told her friendS the move to Detroit would be temporary, and she expected to return to New York City shortly. However, when her husband was able to get a promotion within his company, it was to sell life insurance somewhat outside the city. There was an extra house on the property of his parent's country home in Bethel, Connecticut, so they took it. It was a marvelous little New England "salt box" house, built in 1732. The living room was dominated by a fireplace that had iron arms to support kettles and had been both the original heating and cooking stove of this antique dwelling. They named the house "Bailiwick" and believed that Bailey, P. T. Barnum's partner in the circus business, had lived there. It was on Cod Fish Hill Road, a country lane supposedly named after the codfish fed to the workmen at an early nineteenth-century factory, by then completely ruined, that had stood half a mile farther up the hill. The front door of the Bailiwick was the Dutch type, in two pieces, so one could open the top and get air without letting the pigs get in, but one winter they found it more convenient to keep the bottom closed against the drifting snow, and climb in and out through the top half. Although the house had great charm, it was extremely isolated, and she had little opportunity to get into the city.
With her son,
On October 12, 1940, she gave birth to her first child, William Sims Bainbridge. Her second child, Barbara Constance Bainbridge, was born February 17, 1943. During the Second World War, her husband served as an instructor in the First Cavalry, at Fort Riley near Junction City, Kansas, so she was alone with the children for many months. She taught her children that knowledge was not simply having information, but knowing how to find information.

In the summer of 1945, she took the children to Kansas, to meet her husband the moment he was discharged and travel back east by train. After a brief vacation in the Sims summer home in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, they returned to Bethel to resume their peacetime lives. Her son entered Grassy Plains Elementary School, then her daughter entered Center Elementary School, but their education was not of the highest quality. Her husband began to commute to the home office of the Equitable in New York City. The death of her father-in-law provided a small inheritance that would help finance the purchase of a new home, so the family made plans to move closer to the city.

Barbara Sims Bainbridge
With Connie and Billy
On January 10, 1950, the family moved to 16 Cove Road, Lucas Point, Old Greenwich, Connecticut. The house was a splendid dwelling, designed by the famous architect Sanford White, with two sets of stairs, twelve rooms, and four bathrooms. One virtue was that it stood just three houses away from Long Island Sound, but this was also a disadvantage because the basement tended to fill with water during hurricanes and a pump switched itself on and off constantly in a valiant attempt to keep the basement dry.

Lucas Point was a private area, a hand-shaped peninsula with a private beach and boating dock. The family bought a 20-foot sailboat of the Hurricane class, similar to the more popular Lightning class but somewhat more solid and rounded. She and her husband began entering it in races, and several times a summer they would take the children out in it, sometimes crossing the Sound to have a picnic in a natural harbor called the Sand Pit.

Barbara Sims Bainbridge with
her mother, Mildred Sims
her sister, Audrey Sims
her father, William E. Sims
She took great pride in her home, gradually redecorating it. She was an avid reader, and subscribed to magazines such as Gourmet, Horizon and American Heritage. Her father had been an enthusiastic amateur horticulturist, and she followed his example by joining the Old Greenwich Garden Club and by adding a small greenhouse to one side of the house. After she and her husband had gained experience sailing the small hurricane, they bought a yawl with which the entire family could cruise the Sound. They named it "September Song" after a sentimental song from Knickerbocker Holiday which they loved. Later, they bought a newer and better yawl, which they named Tripoli in honor of Commodore William Bainbridge who had fought the Barbary Pirates early in the nineteenth century. Eventually, when sailing became too strenuous, they sold the yawl and made preparations to build a new home in back country Greenwich, where they could have ponies for their grandchildren. Sadly they died before they could realize this dream.
Barbara Sims Bainbridge
April 12, 1914 - May 14, 1965


The Village Gazette, Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Thursday, May 20, 1965, page 5.

Mrs. Bainbridge, the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. William Ernest Sims of New York City, attended the Spence School and the Brearley School, both in New York City. She was graduated from Brearley in 1933 and entered Bryn Mawr College in the class of 1937. She left the college in 1935 to do special work in anthropology. She joined the staff of the American Museum of Natural History and remained there until her marriage. Mrs. Bainbridge was a member of the Garden Club of Old Greenwich, served on committees (most recently she was in charge of publicity) and was particularly interested in raising orchids.

The earthly remains of Barbara Sims Bainbridge
are interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, New York City.

This Memorial was established by her loving son,
William Sims Bainbridge.

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