Vivian Maier Developed Part 1-The Backstory

The Remains of the Day

The priest arched his brow, the cemetery attendant eyed the ledger and the renowned genealogist digested the record, then verbalized what each was thinking, “they’re as dysfunctional as I’ve seen.” He was referring to the family of Vivian Maier, the talented  photographer who lived much of her adult life as a nanny. While the posthumous discovery of Maier’s remarkable images and her years in Chicago have been well documented, there has been scant coverage of her upbringing. With the discovery of credible new sources, the mystery surrounding her American family and childhood has been solved.

Famly Tree

Knowledge of Maier’s history informs an understanding of her personality, perspective and photography. Tellingly, her ten New York relatives were laid to rest in eight different locations in the metropolitan area, so divided in life a physical separation was effected for eternity. Only Vivian escaped, her ashes lovingly scattered in a  Chicago forest, by a family she considered her own.


Big Fish Small Pond

Vivian Maier’s story begins conventionally enough, the tale of two families who, just after the turn of the 20th century, left everything behind for a better life in New York. While the American Dream was realized by some, many were forced to take a step down, living in conditions inferior to before. Financial pressures and clashing personalities resulted in hostile, broken homes like the one into which Vivian was born.

The von Maiers were culturally German from the rural village of Modor, now part of Slovenia. William, Vivian’s grandfather, was from a large Lutheran family of ten children and owned a butcher shop. His wife, Maria Hauser, was from nearby Sopran.Their home was one of the most beautiful and valuable in town, a former evangelical prayer house. The family that purchased it from the Maiers over 100 years ago, still occupies it today. The  clan was of distant noble ancestry as evidenced by their inherited “von” prefix. In 1905, William and Maria immigrated to New York with daughter Alma (18) and son Charles (13). The only relative to follow was Uncle Julius, Maria’s brother.

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Von Maier Modor Home, 2015 (Michael Babincak)

Vivian’s maternal grandmother, Eugenie, was born into the large Jaussaud family of the French Haute Alpes. Her forbearers resided in the area for centuries, working as farmers, sheepherders, and builders. Eugenie Jaussaud was raised in St. Julien, in the ancestral home called Beauregard, one of the village’s largest residences. Her family farmed in an idyllic mountain setting, living a simple life.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 1.25.11 PMBeauregard: Jaussaud Ancestral Home

Comparatively colorful circumstances drove Eugenie to leave her bucolic life in France. As a teenager she was impregnated by Nicolas Baille, a young laborer hired to work the family fields. Unwilling to recognize paternity, Baille left Eugenie a marked woman when on May 11, 1896, she gave birth to Marie Jaussaud, the future mother of Vivian Maier. By 1901, with still no claim of paternity, Eugenie (20) fled to New York in shame. She traveled with a cousin of famed photographer Jeanne Bertrand, who had immigrated earlier and would soon be featured on the front page of the Boston Globe. Eugenie was sponsored by Bertrand’s Uncle Cyprian Lagier, and this  circle of French friends would provide a lifeline in America.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 10.46.29 PM  The Front Page: Jeanne Bertrand,  Boston Globe 1902

Little Fish Big Pond

The family quickly settled into New York’s Upper East Side, in a typical tenement rental.  Their neighborhood was flooded with new arrivals packed into tight quarters. Vivian’s father received two years of tutoring to qualify as an engineer. From all appearances they were high-functioning and hardworking, although no longer business owners. They joined St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, which conducted services in German. Sister Alma quickly left the family, marrying twice by 1915, both times to Russian Jewish immigrants. She stayed happily married to her second husband, clothing manufacturer Joseph Corsan, for the rest of her life and maintained distance from her family. Later, she would discreetly disinherit all of her relatives, never mentioning the reason. If affluence was the goal of the Maier immigration, Alma was the only one to hit the jackpot, living  life on posh Park Avenue.

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Disinherited by Joseph and Alma Maier Corsan

High Society

Eugenie Jaussaud quickly established herself in New York as a French family cook, a position of high regard among household workers. This afforded the opportunity to room in comfortable quarters and accrue savings. She joined St. Jean Baptiste, the stunning Catholic Church designed for new French immigrants. Back in St. Julien, daughter Marie had been placed in the care of Aunt Marie-Florentine. In 1914, Eugenie’s employer, a generous bachelor who would create the city’s first public housing, funded Marie’s passage to New York. She and Eugenie lived together in his apartment overlooking Central Park, reunited after more than ten years. Marie reportedly worked as a seamstress.

Eugenie would go on to command the kitchens of a “Who’s Who” of New York, in homes where staff outnumbered family, like the Strausses’ and Vanderbilt’s. She was undoubtedly an exceptional cook and individual to attract this steady stream of esteemed employers, with their lavish apartments and country estates. Through Eugenie, Marie and her children were exposed to the top-tier of society, resulting in a kind of high-low existence; touched by the riches, culture and glamour of the city’s premier families, with the knowledge that they didn’t really belong.

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Town & Country: Eugenie’s Kitchens

Meet The Parents

No one knows how Marie Jaussaud and Charles Maier met, but the relationship was almost over before it began. Charles was living at home and held a steady job at National Biscuit Company. Family documents describe him as stubborn and dishonest, explaining  sister Alma’s remove. On May 11, 1919, Charles married the Catholic Marie Jaussaud on her birthday at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, with only the Pastor’s wife and church janitor as witnesses. On the certificate Marie identified her parents using concocted names, camouflaging her out-of-wedlock birth.

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The Knot: Charles Maier and Marie Jaussaud Wed

Marie instantly became pregnant. Her first child, Charles Maier Jr., was born at St. Ann’s hospital on March 3, 1920, just 9½ months after the wedding. By the time the new family moved into their own rental, the marriage was in deep trouble.  Growing up, Charles and Marie were each the focus of their small households, well-known in their villages, and from the best house in town. In New York they were anonymous and unimportant, plodding through immigrant life. Marie was a difficult, argumentative person and Charles  complained she never worked, prepared meals or cleaned the house. In turn, she characterized her husband as a cheap drunk. According to the family, the bickering never stopped, particularly over money, and the couple separated and reunited multiple times.

Bringing Up Baby

On May 11, once again Marie’s birthday and the couple’s first anniversary, Charles Maurice Maier was baptized in the Catholic Church. The only witness was Grandmother Eugenie. A small notation in the record’s typically blank comments section read —”filius naturalis,” the Latin phrase denoting a son born out of wedlock. Marie appeared to declare her son illegitimate, although from all indications he was conceived post-wedding; perhaps she was signaling Carl was a bastard because the marriage seemed over.

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Charles Maurice Maier, Catholic Baptism, May 11, 1920

Leveling the playing field, Charles requested a Protestant baptism and an unusual double-dip occurred two months later. The boy was now christened Karl William Maier, Jr., in honor of his paternal grandfather. This was the official name he would use until the end of his life. He called himself Carl, as did the Maiers, but the Jaussauds stuck with the original Charles.

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Karl William Maier Jr., Lutheran Baptism II: July 30, 1920

With the demands of a baby, the strain worsened. Charles continued working, now a steam engineer at Borden, yet displayed a rough and troublesome side. Called “Charlie” by those who knew him, he used excessive profanity and behaved with aggression. He considered himself a “man about town,” glad-handling people to get what he wanted. According to his own mother, as the marriage failed he became a very serious drinker and gambler. He frequented the racetrack and lost much of the money he earned. Sunday mornings were for studying the Times sports pages while pounding down shots of whiskey. Marie Jaussaud may have been initially charmed by Charles, but her life view was very different. She had a Catholic sensibility, spotty work ethic and prickly temperament. In her village she displayed a sense of entitlement and a tendency to live above her means. As an illegitimate child, she was extremely sensitive to reputation, deliberately massaging the truth to promote an improved image for posterity.

55_00275-001_260dpi    Marie Jaussaud, 1951 (Vivian Maier, Sylvain Jaussaud Collection)

Son Carl was raised amongst constant conflict and mixed messages, an existence of emotional pins and needles. His father was volatile and his mother escalated battles, frequently taking her husband to court for support. The rancor compelled the grandparents to bond over distain for the couple and love of their grandson, with the unlikely outcome that Eugenie Jaussaud and Maria Hauser Maier formed a close friendship. Finally, conditions deteriorated such that the five-year old was placed in the Hecksher Foundation Children’s Home for protection and then in the custody of his paternal grandparents. In respect to his parents, Carl later noted “they obviously didn’t want me.” An uncoupling was hoped for so the squabbling would cease, but when Marie became pregnant again, the pair officially reunited for the upcoming birth.  On February 1, 1926, Vivian Dorothy Maier was born into this dysfunctional, broken family and joined her parents on Sutton Place.

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Vivian Maier’s First Home

Vivian’s birth certificate denoted Charles Maier as the father, and perplexingly, Marie Jaussaud Justin, as mother. This new surname came out of nowhere; Justin was not Marie’s middle or baptism name and is not referenced in the direct family line. Confounding this were the baby’s chosen names, Vivian and Dorothy, neither reflective of family nomenclature.

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If Marie was suggesting another father, it seemed unlikely. She frequently doctored records and toyed with names. Justin was not mentioned again and the offspring looked very much alike.

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Family Resemblance:The Maier Siblings

Vivian was baptized only once, on March 3, 1926, in the Catholic Church. Witnesses were Carl and a governess filling in for Eugenie. The day of the ceremony was Carl’s 6th birthday and one of the few times brother and sister are documented together.

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Baptism: Dorothee Viviane Therise Maier, March 3, 1926

By 1927, the couple separated for good, on grounds of abuse brought by Marie. For the next few years the siblings lived apart, with signs that Vivian’s mother kept her away from the Maiers. Eugenie, however, was very involved in the lives of Vivian and Carl, supporting both. The French family matriarch emerges as a wise, responsible woman who expressed herself in charming broken English. A former employer said she was sweet and amenable, although wizened beyond her years from hard work. As a boy, when he proudly shot and dragged home a woodchuck, Eugenie agreed to skin, clean and roast it. She served it for dinner on a fancy platter and became part of family lore.

Grandfather William worked through old age to support Carl, and Grandmother Maria, described as lovable, respectful and fluent in English, stayed home to raise him. Right after the boy moved in, Uncle Julius Hauser passed away at age 57. The struggling family was apparently unable to provide a proper send-off; he was buried in an unmarked grave for indigents at St. Michael’s Cemetery. By 1930, Carl (10) and his grandparents had relocated to the Bronx. Vivian (4) and her mother moved nearby with photographer Jeanne Bertrand. The Bertrands and Jaussauds were much entwined, sharing nearby hometowns, friends and relatives.  Bertrand lived alone, having lost the love of her life and allowing cousins to adopt her out-of-wedlock son for reputation’s sake. Charles Maier moved to Queens and saw little of his children. With the onset of the Depression, Marie struggled to support herself after the split, half-heartedly looking for work through classified ads.

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Uneducated and unmotivated, she had little success. With no home, marriage or resources, Marie decided to move back to St. Julien with six year-old Vivian. By abandoning her son, Marie set in motion the siblings’ highly divergent life paths. She and husband Charles would never meet again.

It Takes A Village

Mother and daughter moved into Beauregard with Aunt Marie-Florentine and spent six idyllic years in the alps. Vivian was released from the tension of her earlier childhood–playing outdoors with cousins and visiting doting relatives. Marie was in a place where she was comfortable and in control. Soon after her arrival, Nicolas Baille officially recognized his biological daughter, imparting the right to carry his name. The serenity was briefly interrupted in 1934 when Marie and Vivian suddenly moved from Beauregard. Their aunt had taken a paramour outside of marriage, a serious drinker and violent man. It was said an incident occurred in regards to Vivian, although details are unknown. They continued their stay in a shabby apartment and Vivian later returned to photograph these two controversial men

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 10.38.11 PMGrandfather Baille and the Paramour, 1950  (Vivian Maier, Goldstein & Maloof Collections)

Villagers remember Vivian as a leader among the local children with unwavering energy and creative ideas. She had a clear preference for joining the boys in their outdoor adventures. During this time Marie barely worked and was supported by Eugenie. She was attentive to Vivian who went to school, dressed well, and was confirmed in the local church. As an adult, Vivian was photographed in  the town that brought back such fond memories.

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Vivian Maier 1951 (Bulger Collection)

In 1933, a baby named Sylvain was born to first cousin Marcel Jaussaud.  Vivian loved her new cousin and he would later serve as an ongoing family link. Today, the only living relative that knew Vivian, Sylvain still resides in the alps and has provided details of the Maier’s life in France. The first pictures of the cousins were taken with Marie Jaussaud’s small camera.

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Sylvain, Marie & Vivian, 1933  (Sylvain Jaussaud Collection)

Family Matters

While they were away, Charles secured a divorce in Mexico and remarried a German woman who had emigrated a few years prior. Berta Ruther was raised in a large, Catholic family from Lake Constance and tragically lost three brothers in WWI. Her remaining five siblings were spread across the globe, with their feminist mother’s encouragement. Berta found work in New York and traveled back and forth to Germany on several occasions. On one passage in 1934, she sailed home sporting a new name, Berta Maier.

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The Stepmother: Berta Maier

In 1936 bad news arrived, although Marie Jaussaud was likely indifferent. William Maier had succumbed to pneumonia at age 76. Carl was at the deathbed and claimed his grandfather had worked himself to death because his father, Charles Sr., had “no conscience,” refusing to provide support. The funeral ledger stated that William had one son, one daughter and one grandchild. Similarly, the first day the New York Times obituary ran, Vivian’s name was omitted but was added the following day. This reflected her minimal presence in the Maier’s life. William was cremated at Fresh Pond and his ashes were returned to his wife.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 10.48.48 PM       Survivors: Marie nee Hauser, One Son, One Daughter, One Grandchild
Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.01.04 PMWithout Vivian, NYT Jan. 30, 1936                With Vivian, NYT Jan. 31, 1936


Soon after, word came that Carl was in trouble. As an adolescent he lived happily with his grandparents, attending grammar school in the Bronx. An indifferent student, at 13, he began to demonstrate “disorderly and disobedient behavior” and was transferred to a truancy program where he successfully graduated. He spent most of his time on the streets and had run away from home several times, once hitchhiking all the way to California. After starting high school, his father encouraged him to drop out and find work. With the death of his grandfather, he quit school to play the guitar in a band and moved into the YMCA. Already on probation, he and a  buddy were caught tampering with mail and forging a check. With a history of delinquency, Carl was sentenced to three years in the New York Vocational School at Coxsackie.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.32.09 PMMean Streets: Three Year Sentence

The reformatory had a bucolic campus and formal mission to provide inmates psychological, academic and vocational support. Wayward youths arrived expecting a boarding school, but according to Joseph Spillane’s book on Coxsackie, were faced with “an unstable and brutalizing prison.” Carl (16) checked into his new home in April of 1936, a very tall 6’2” and in good health.

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Carl’s full story is told through the exchange of letters between administrators and family during his four-year period of  incarceration and parole. Simultaneously, a vivid portrait of Vivian Maier’s childhood environment and family influence is revealed. Perhaps most surprising, is the disgust the two grandmothers display for their own children—Vivian’s parents.

Maria Hauser Maier blamed her son Charles for the family’s troubles—he didn’t pay support and was so dishonest he tried to steal the life insurance policy she bought to protect her grandson.  She considered Charles a “worthless individual,” and had “no desire to ever see him again.” Working in Palm Beach, Eugenie wrote to reformatory administrators that her daughter Marie “is very nervous person, always full trouble” (sic) and the family is “vild” (sic). She apologized to the institution for all the trouble. The grandmothers spoke highly of one another, stating they were good friends and visited each other often. In his interview with the officers Charles claimed the grandparents had spoiled his son, thus the boy was lazy, had no respect for authority, and wouldn’t work. The only point of agreement was that Carl was in need of discipline.

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He Said-She Said: Maier Family History

During his imprisonment, Carl was allowed to send one letter a month and receive family visits. The first to arrive at the prison gates was the tiny and frail Grandmother Maria (76), accompanied by Aunt Alma. They also sent a steady stream of letters, gifts and inquiries. Carl typically wrote his monthly letter to them. His father visited in the fall and then declined to drive in the winter. Letters to and from friends occasionally made it through, revealing Carl’s large social circle. He comes across as a bit of an operator, planning and manipulating events, but also as someone with a good heart, torn between right and wrong. Eugenie also regularly wrote to Carl. In a “truth is stranger than fiction” juxtaposition, she sent her correspondence to the prison from the new Vanderbilt Estate in Palm Beach, once addressing the envelope “Vacational School.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 11.55.07 PMFrom Palm Beach to Prison Block

When Marie Jaussaud got wind of the situation, she demonstrated self-importance by sending an inquiry on Carl’s status  to the US Post Office, addressed to the President.  The inmate was up for parole after a year, but was delayed because of poor grades, a bad attitude and participation in fights.  Numerous comrades from the Bronx were at the institution and Carl couldn’t stay out of trouble. It was granted in August of 1937 and Carl was sent to live with his father, who had arranged employment. Within days the teenager violated his terms of release by interacting with another inmate and was thrown into the “Tombs” prison. Carl accused his father of framing him, but was returned to Coxsackie after telegramming Grandmother Maier “I’m going back.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.32.42 PMTelegram from the Tombs, September 1937

With this set-back, the family sought a re-release, but Eugenie agreed with the officers that more discipline was needed. She sent a supportive letter advising her grandson to take responsibility for his own actions, adding “Vivian prays God every day in your name.” Maria Hauser Maier did the same. It is perplexing that these admirable women spawned children like Charles and Marie.

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Wise Words from the Grandmothers

Carl finally tried to help himelf. He wrote to the administration sensitizing them to his miserable family and requesting to switch units, away from his friends. He began to seriously study music and his evaluations turned favorable. Parole was rescheduled for August 1938, with the recommendation that “the inmate would probably have a better chance for a successful adjustment if placed outside the immediate family circle.

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Parole II, August 1938

Charles Sr. requested that Marie and Vivian return to New York for Carl’s release and persuaded the Jaussauds in France to lend him money. Mother and daughter sailed home on the Normandie and moved into a 64th Street apartment funded by Eugenie, who now worked at a Gatsby-like estate on Long Island’s Gold Coast. Carl campaigned desperately for a friend’s mother to take him, but Marie now wanted her son and he was paroled to her with 18 months of formal supervision.

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Coming Home, September 1938

Mommy Dearest

As Carl eagerly prepared to leave Coxsackie, his mother wrote him a letter complaining that a home visit from the Parole Officer made her “violently sick,” “vomit all over the floor” and her “end would surely come soon.” (She lived almost 40 more years.) This was just the beginning. Throughout the probation his mother sent regular complaints to prison authorities, alternately complaining about them or her son. Each time, her fountain pen spewed a geyser of accusations and maladies. No reasonable parent would undermine their child’s parole by publicly criticizing him and antagonizing authorities. While intelligent and occasionally on point, Marie appears overwhelmed by narcissism and lacking in maternal instinct — Norma Desmond meets Joan Crawford – with large dose of hypochondria.

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Empress of Maladies: Letter from Marie Jaussaud Mair

Carl arrived home during the depths of the Depression with jobs in short supply, sharing a two-bedroom apartment with his mother and Vivian. When Eugenie funded a new guitar and lessons, he practiced diligently and secured gigs at local bars. Free time was spent with his paternal grandmother and fellow musicians. In all of the records from these years, there is virtually no mention of Vivian except by Eugenie. To everyone else, it was if she was wallpaper. What would Vivian have thought of the interloper—was her brother an unwanted intruder or source of excitement? It would be natural for a teenage girl to take interest in an older brother, but if she did, there was no obvious reciprocation.

Monthly reports exposed a tense home atmosphere. Marie missed parole officer calls and meetings due to ailments. Carl described a lazy mother who didn’t cook or clean, making him feel like a boarder. In various records, the administrators subtly attribute the poor relationship to Marie.

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Parole Officer Report

At the end of 1938, Marie complained to the police about  Carl  and  wrote a threatening letter to Coxsackie claiming her son had been beaten bloody by prison guards. The letter raises the possibility that Carl had been brutalized with regularity. Although there was no hint of this in other correspondence or records, such incidents were reportedly common at the reformatory. Whether true or not,  Marie seemed most concerned with her son’s ability to make money. She stated that after the beatings “if he couldn’t work due to mental deficiencies” she would hold them responsible.

Carl eventually put a lock on his door, and asked to move out, saying his mother was “crazy.” Marie last wrote to the Parole Officer claiming her ex-husband had new children (he didn’t) and that everyone was plotting against her. She was “terribly rundown,” had “heart beats” and her “health won’t stand for it.” Her desire was for Carl to move in with his father, to live with his own kind. This was the state of affairs when the probation term ended and Carl was free.

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Missile from Marie, 1939

                                                                                                                                                       Unexpectedly, the 1940 Census reflected the original family of four reunited on 64th Street. This was false, just the handiwork of Marie, who lived alone with her daughter. How unbearable the prior two years must have been for Vivian, consistently ignored and sharing a room with her self-centered, increasingly erratic mother. Again, Eugenie came to the rescue.

Home Alone

Eugenie had many friends from her Oyster Bay network, including a Swiss couple the Lindenbergers, who owned a small house in Queens and took care of foster children.  Vivian likely stayed with them in the early 1940s and when John Lindenberger died in 1943, he left an insurance policy for Vivian.  Another family connection was a French governess whose work on behalf of “widows, orphans and disabled soldiers” was noted in the Herald Tribune. Emilie Haugmard became Vivian’s unofficial guardian when she moved into 64th Street and Marie moved out. The two appeared to have a playful and affectionate relationship.

Emilie Haugmard, Early 1950s (Vivian Maier, Bulger Collection)

During her early teenage years, Vivian made do on her own. There is no record of her finishing school in the United States, but she was highly intelligent and embarked on a program of self-education. To re-learn English she attended the theatre and cinema. By devouring newspapers, magazines and books on art, photography, film, pop culture, history and politics, she became as cultured and knowledgeable as those with more formal schooling.

Summer of ’42

Brother Carl (22) was also on his own, earning upwards of $500 a month playing in bands and on the radio. Marijuana was prevalent in the music scene and he quickly developed a dependency, explaining the drug made him feel “wonderful” and able to “analyze each instrument in an orchestra.” To earn extra money, he worked as a “tout”—selling tips at the race track where his father spent the majority of his free time. Finally, out of control, he attempted to join the army in 1941, but was rejected because of his criminal record. Smoking thirty reefers a day, he started injecting himself with morphine. By the time he was drafted in 1942, he admitted to use of eight different drugs.

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Carl’s Cache

This time Carl made it through the enlistment process and again hoped the army would straighten him out. He passed the physical in extremely good health and with excellent posture, and was posted to Camp Upton. Failing to make the band, he ended up at Langley Field, where the life of Private Karl W. Maier, 416 Ordnance Company, Aviation (Bomb), completely unraveled.

Superiors noticed Carl was quiet and moody but never suspected his large supply of hidden drugs, replenished during furloughs. To get high, he would simply walk away and pretend to smoke a cigarette. When his supply dwindled, he began experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. In desperation, he used another soldier’s pass to leave base and was caught. Out poured his story and he was admitted to the station hospital for treatment. When an intercepted letter contained a joint, a formal proceeding was set to consider discharge. During the hearing the Medical Officer was asked if the military could make use of Maier and the response was a firm no.  He explained “it is not the drug alone that has to be contended with, but also the break-down in the moral character of the individual.” Carl was polite and articulate, but didn’t defend himself, offering  only “I have no control over myself, sir.”

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The military discharge was August of 1942, under dishonorable conditions. Carl Maier was also barred from all  future veteran benefits, a decision that would have lifelong impact.

The Departed

Carl returned to Manhattan and moved into a small 34th Street apartment with  Grandmother Eugenie, around the corner from Bellevue Hospital. For the remainder of the decade he and  Vivian lived near one another, and with common love for their grandmother, likely spent time together. Carl stopped working, alternatively numbed by drugs and his poor life prospects. The post-war period brought a cascade of bad news. Maria Hauser Maier died at age 87 in 1947, affecting no one more than Carl. Alma placed her mother’s ashes in a double niche in Ferncliffe Cemetery, but for unknown reasons, specifically did not include those of her father.

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Maria Hauser Maier 1860-1947

Shortly thereafter, Aunt Marie-Florentine died in France and made the divisive choice to bequeath the ancestral home to Vivian, provoking an irreparable rift between mother and daughter. The biggest blow of all, the loss of beloved Eugenie Jaussaud, came in the fall of 1948, at only 67. Marie, obsessed with her own health, showed little concern for her overworked mother. Eugenie reposed at the Frank Campbell Funeral Home on Madison Avenue, a former employer the likely benefactor. The family buried her in the sweeping Catholic Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester.

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Eugenie Jaussaud 1881-1948

The will showed Marie living apart from her family, in the boarding house where Lillian Duke of the tobacco family famously died in poverty. Carl was executor of the estate, worth upwards of $10,000, with assets to be split equally between heirs, 1/3 for Marie, 1/3 for Carl and 1/3 for Vivian. Eugenie stipulated that her grandchildren receive payment outright, but Marie receive a bond with regular payments, officially acknowledging her irresponsible nature. The document oddly referred to Charles Maier as a/k/a William Jaussaud, the first glimpse of future identity issues.

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Just over 21 and with money of her own, Vivian Maier emerged from a toxic childhood marked by family turmoil, abandonment, and abuse. Offsetting this were support from her grandmother, extended family in France and a nurturing group of “adopted” women in New York. She soon booked a berth and sailed to France to sell Beauregard.

Vivian Maier, Early 1950s Goldstein Collection
Vivian Maier, Early 1950s (Bulger Collection)

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