Hellen Ingram Merrill Plummer, Publisher

by | Oct 5, 2022

The 1920s is an understudied period in the pantheon of Jacksonville history. However, a glimpse of that era can be found within the pages of a little-known publication, The Silhouette. This bi-weekly publication highlighted the activities of a small but influential segment of the Jacksonville population, those with money and time for leisure activities. The initial focus of the magazine was the cultural news of the day, highlighting debutantes, happenings, personals, and music. Later, Volume 2 expanded to include “Jane Exploring the Shops” column; daily fashion hints from Vogue, and Vanity Fair for men, then, new in Volume 3, book reviews, “Footlights on Broadway,” and a Miami Beach section. In addition, “The Good Old Days,” a short-lived column published in Volume 1, Issues 19-26, included photos and one- to two-column biographies on William Ringwood Carter, J. Dobbins Holmes, Chief Thomas W. Haney, John L. Doggett, Lewis H. Mattair, John Earle Hartridge, Augustus G. Hartridge, and Senator Duncan U. Fletcher.

This staid “Peoples” magazine of its day was published by Miss Hellen (two ll’s not one) Ingram from October of each year to March/April of the next year, following the social season. She had the experience and background to be a successful entrepreneur. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Hellen graduated from Duval High School in 1916. She was then offered a job by the editor of the afternoon newspaper, The Metropolis. Her position was society editor. She is quoted in the Atlanta Journal (April 3, 1998, p. 90) that she rented a typewriter and within a week could type with two fingers on each hand and both thumbs earning $12 a week from 1917-1922.
In October 1922, The Silhouette was established with Miss Ingram as editor and publisher. This publication was the place to learn, for example, who were the debutantes of 1922-1923 with each girl identified in detail, announcements of engagements and births and who was visiting from out of town, such as Marjorie Riddle arriving from Lexington, Kentucky, for a visit with Isabelle Rosborough in Riverside. Or Charles Murchison leaving early in the week for Cambridge to resume his law studies at Harvard. Happenings such as a Seminole Club Dance, Yacht Club dance or a Postal Conference Convention were also newsworthy topics. Numerous local ads spotlighted various businesses. Hellen was known as the country’s youngest publisher, according to an Atlanta Journal article (Oct.1, 1950). She was also a charter member of the Junior League of Jacksonville, established in 1923.

At some point, during the early 1920s, Hellen Ingram studied writing at Columbia University and became an “almost adopted daughter” of Mr. and Mrs. Conde Nast of publishing fame. She mingled with many of the Nasts’ friends, including Charlie Chaplin and Katherine Hepburn. In New York during this time, Miss Ingram met a man from home who invited her to wonderful parties. In 1925, she married him, Charles E. Merrill of Merrill Lynch fame, in Jacksonville, and a year later had a son, James Merrill, who is recognized as one of the great American poets. In 1939, Hellen obtained a divorce that was very contentious. The marital discord became known when Charles advertised that he was no longer financially responsible for her bills.

In 1950 she married Brigadier General William L. Plummer who served in World War II and was commander of Orly Field in Paris. He was also the holder of numerous war decorations. After the war, Brigadier General was assigned to escort Winston Churchill on his tour of the United States. Mrs. Plummer also served, but as an American Red Cross staff welfare supervisor and volunteer in Guam for seven months. They resided in Atlanta, where they died; he in 1969, she in 2000 at 102; both are buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
In an article published in the Atlanta Journal (April 3,1998, p. 90), Kenneth Work of Georgia State’s History department and a longtime friend of Mrs. Plummer, said that “in an unheralded way she has been an integral part of the Atlanta and Palm Beach social life for many years and contributed much to them.” Her stepdaughter, Betty Plummer Potts, said, “she always had such a wonderful gift of making friends, a vivacious, independent woman with a fondness for the written word.”

Georgia Pribanic, Librarian
Jacksonville Historical Society


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