Are you all caught up on the HBO series The Gilded Age? Check out these nonfiction books about the real people and places of New York society in the late nineteenth century.
The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Published in 2013
Traces the life of the reclusive American heiress against a backdrop of the now-infamous W. A. Clark family and includes coverage of the Internet sensation and elder-abuse investigation that occurred at the end of her life.
Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them
Published in 2021
"In an engaging and anecdotal social history, Maiden Voyages explores how women's lives were transformed by the Golden Age of ocean liner travel between Europe and North America. During the early twentieth century, transatlantic travel was the province of the great ocean liners. It was an extraordinary undertaking made by many women, whose lives were transformed by their journeys between the Old World and the New. Some travelled for leisure, some for work; others to reinvent themselves or find new opportunities. They were celebrities, migrants and millionaires, refugees, aristocrats and crew members whose stories have mostly remained untold-until now. Maiden Voyages is a fascinating portrait of these women as they crossed the Atlantic. The ocean liner was a microcosm of contemporary society, divided by class: from the luxury of the upper deck, playground for the rich and famous, to the cramped conditions of steerage or third class travel. In first class you'll meet A-listers like Marlene Dietrich, Wallis Simpson, and Josephine Baker; the second class carried a new generation of professional and independent women, like pioneering interior designer Sibyl Colefax. Down in steerage, you'll follow the journey of émigré Maria Riffelmacher as she escapes poverty in Europe. Bustling between decks is a crew of female workers, including Violet "The Unsinkable Stewardess" Jessop, who survived the Titanic disaster. Entertaining and informative, Maiden Voyages captures the golden age of ocean liners through the stories of the women whose transatlantic journeys changed the shape of society on both sides of the globe"-- Provided by publisher.
A Social History of the Debutante
Published in 2020
"The world of debutantes opens into a revealing story of women across six centuries, their limited options, and their desires. Digging into the roots of the debutante ritual, with its ballrooms and white dresses, Kristen Richardson- herself descended from a line of debutantes- was fascinated to discover that the debutante ritual places our contemporary ideas about women and marriage in a new light. In this brilliant history of the phenomenon, Richardson shares debutantes' own words-from diaries, letters, and interviews-throughout her vivid telling, beginning in Henry VIII's era, sweeping through Queen Elizabeth I's court, crossing back and forth the Atlantic to colonial Philadelphia, African American communities, Jane Austen's England, and Mrs. Astor's parties, ultimately arriving at the contemporary New York Infirmary and International balls. Whether maligned for its archaic attitude and objectification of women or praised for raising money for charities and providing a necessary coming- of- age ritual, the debutante tradition has more to tell us in this entertaining and illuminating book"-- Provided by publisher.
A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
Published in 2009
Clarence King is a hero of nineteenth-century western history. Brilliant scientist and witty conversationalist, bestselling author and architect of the great surveys that mapped the West after the Civil War, King hid a secret from his Gilded Age cohorts and prominent Newport family: for thirteen years he lived a double life--as the celebrated white Clarence King and as a black Pullman porter and steelworker. Unable to marry the black woman he loved, the fair-haired, blue-eyed King passed as a Negro, revealing his secret to his wife Ada only on his deathbed. Historian Martha Sandweiss is the first writer to uncover the life that King tried so hard to conceal. She reveals the complexity of a man who, while publicly espousing a personal dream of a uniquely American amalgam of white and black, hid his love for his wife and their five biracial children.--From publisher description.
The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Published in 2010
A biography of business tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, covering his personal life, development of a large fleet of steamships and a railroad empire, invention of the modern corporation, and other undertakings that shaped the economic world of the U.S. long after his time.
The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies
Published in 2022
"New York Times bestselling author Laura Thompson returns with Heiresses, a fascinating look at the lives of heiresses throughout history and the often tragic truth beneath the gilded surface. Heiresses: surely they are among the luckiest women on earth. Are they not to be envied, with their private jets and Chanel wardrobes and endless funds? Yet all too often those gilded lives have been beset with trauma and despair. Before the 20th century a wife's inheritance was the property of her husband, making her vulnerable to kidnap, forced marriages, even confinement in an asylum. And in modern times, heiresses fell victim to fortune-hunters who squandered their millions. Heiresses tells the stories of these women: Mary Davies, who inherited London's most valuable real estate, and was bartered from the age of twelve; Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American "Dollar Heiress", forced into a loveless marriage; Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress who married seven times and died almost penniless; Patty Hearst, heiress to a newspaper fortune who was arrested for terrorism. However, there are also stories of achievement: Angela Burdett-Coutts, who became one of the greatest philanthropists of Victorian England; Nancy Cunard, who lived off her mother's fortune and became a pioneer of the civil rights movement; Daisy Fellowes, elegant linchpin of interwar high society and noted fashion editor. Heiresses is about the lives of the rich, who-as F. Scott Fitzgerald said-are 'different'. But it is also a bigger story about how all women fought their way to equality, and sometimes even found autonomy and fulfilment"-- Provided by publisher.