People & Events
On Jane Fisher's first trip to Miami in 1910, her husband, Carl Fisher, drew a picture in the sand and told her, "'I'm going to build a city here. A city like
you read and dream about but never see." Touring the mosquito-infested jungle and swamp, Jane couldn't see it herself, but she knew better than to doubt her husband's visions.
Once Carl's sand drawing evolved into reality, Jane loved Miami Beach. In 1915 they moved to their newly built "The Shadows" estate there. Jane was frustrated by Palm Beach's social supremacy, and longed for society in Miami Beach. It was still in its infancy. "They thought we were just scum," she said years later. "We were nouveaux riches, you see. New money from the Midwest
. They were old money from the East.."
Carl was spending -- and losing -- a fortune on Miami Beach. To attract investors, Carl flooded the press with pictures of Miami Beach's good life. Jane claimed to have inspired his wildly successful "bathing beauties" campaign. After she appeared in public without the long black stockings standard to women's bathing attire of the time, ladies began to uncover their legs, most sensationally in Fisher's publicity photos. "[W]hen a Miami minister used [Jane's] bare knees as a living example of the depravity of Modern Woman, Carl said, 'By God, Jane, you started something!'"
Despite their 20-year age difference -- when they married in Indianapolis in 1909, Carl was 35, Jane 15 -- the Fishers seemed well matched in spirit. Their marriage, however, was troubled. Carl was a womanizer and a budding alcoholic, and he had no interest in society, as Jane did. In 1921, the relationship deteriorated further after the death of their infant son, Carl Jr. After 12 years, Jane had become pregnant. Tragically, the baby was born with an obstruction at the base of his stomach, and he essentially starved to death before he was a month old.
Carl and Jane's marriage was in free fall. The following year, in December of 1922, Jane adopted a two-year-old boy, Jackie, in an effort to repair her marriage. But Carl refused to take part in the adoption. Carl and Jane divorced in 1926.
Jane continued to live the high life, and to marry. Her last marriage was to a man known in Miami as Alberto Santos, but in New York as Alberto Guimares. Shortly before their divorce, Guimares was questioned in connection with a murder that had occurred in New York in the early '20s -- not exactly an everyday occurrence, but not the kind of excitement Jane was after, either. "I married again and again," she wrote. "I couldn't stay married to them because life was just too drab.
You see, living with Carl Fisher was like living in a circus
. It was excitement, aliveness, that I never found again."
In 1939 Carl died, broke, alcoholic, and nearly forgotten, in the city he built. He had married again, but when Jane returned to Miami Beach after his death, she dethroned his true widow, Margaret Collier Fisher, "by sheer force of personality."
Jane petitioned the courts to reclaim the name Jane Fisher. With her former identity intact, she began to do radio broadcasts and write articles about her late husband. Eventually she published a book, "Fabulous Hoosier," in which she told the story of Carl's early years. "Story" was the operative word; Jane was renowned as "a gifted storyteller who never let dates or details interfere with the sweep of her narrative."
By the end of Jane's life (she died in 1968), Miami Beach had changed dramatically. She said it was "growing into a big, ugly city. I don't think it's what Carl would have wanted."
Jane had changed, too. Her opulent lifestyle long gone, she spent her so-called golden years much as Carl had: "alone, unrepentant, her mind full of schemes to recoup her fortune." In one final stab at glory, she lent her name to a promoter pushing prefabricated houses in Puerto Rico. It was a venture, she said, that would be "worth millions."