In Banquet at Delmonico’s, Barry Werth draws readers inside the circle of intellectuals, scientists, politicians, businessmen, and clergymen who brought Charles Darwin’s controversial ideas to post-Civil-War America. Each chapter is dedicated to a crucial intellectual encounter, culminating with an exclusive farewell dinner held in English philosopher Herbert Spencer’s honor at the venerable New York restaurant Delmonico’s in 1882. In this thought-provoking and nuanced account, Werth firmly situates social Darwinism in the context of the Gilded Age. Banquet at Delmonico’s is social history at its finest.
Matt Quay was called “the ablest politician this country has ever produced.” He served as a United States senator representing Pennsylvania from 1887 to 1904. His career as a Republican Party boss, however, spanned nearly half a century, during which numerous governors and one president owed their election success to his political skills. James A. Kehl was given the first public access to Quay's own papers, and herein presents the inside story of this controversial man who was considered a political Robin Hood for his alleged bribe-taking, misappropriations of funds, and concern for the underprivileged-yet he emerged as the most powerful member of the Republican Party in his state.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson was well on his way to becoming the “Wisest American” and the “Sage of Concord,” a literary celebrity and a national icon. With that fame came what Robert Habich describes as a blandly sanctified version of Emerson held widely by the reading public. Building Their Own Waldos sets out to understand the dilemma faced by Emerson’s early biographers: how to represent a figure whose subversive individualism had been eclipsed by his celebrity, making him less a representative of his age than a caricature of it.
Drawing on never-before-published letters, diaries, drafts, business records, and private documents, Habich explores the making of a cultural hero through the stories of Emerson’s first biographers— George Willis Cooke, a minister most recently from Indianapolis who considered himself a disciple; the English reformer and newspaper mogul Alexander Ireland, a friend for half a century; Moncure D. Conway, a Southern abolitionist then residing in London, who called Emerson his “spiritual father and intellectual teacher”; the poet and medical professor Oliver Wendell Holmes, with Emerson a member of Boston’s gathering of literary elite, the Saturday Club; James Elliot Cabot, the family’s authorized biographer, an architect and amateur philosopher with unlimited access to Emerson’s unpublished papers; and Emerson’s son Edward, a physician and painter whose father had passed over him as literary executor in favor of Cabot.
Just as their biographies reveal a complex, socially engaged Emerson, so too do the biographers’ own stories illustrate the real-world perils, challenges, and motives of life-writing in the late nineteenth century, when biographers were routinely vilified as ghoulish and disreputable and biography as a genre underwent a profound redefinition. Building Their Own Waldos is at once a revealing look at Emerson’s constructed reputation, a case study in the rewards and dangers of Victorian life-writing, and the story of six authors struggling amidst personal misfortunes and shifting expectations to capture the elusive character of America’s “representative man,” as they knew him and as they needed him to be.
William Sharon was one of the most colorful scoundrels in the nineteenth-century mining West. He epitomized the robber barons of the nation’s Gilded Age and the political corruption and moral decay for which that period remains notorious; yet he was also a visionary capitalist who controlled more than a dozen of the greatest mines on Nevada’s mighty Comstock Lode, built the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, manipulated speculation and prices on the San Francisco Stock Exchange, and revived the collapsed Bank of California. One enemy called him “a thoroughly bad man—a man entirely void of principle,” while a Comstock neighbor called him “one of the best men that ever lived in Virginia City.” Both descriptions were reasonably accurate. In this first-ever biography of one of Nevada’s most reviled historical figures, author Michael Makley examines Sharon’s complex nature and the turbulent times in which he flourished. Arriving in San Francisco shortly after the Gold Rush began, Sharon was soon involved in real estate, politics, banking, and stock speculation, and he was a party in several of the era’s most shocking business and sexual scandals. When he moved to Virginia City, Nevada’s mushrooming silver boomtown, his business dealings there soon made him known as the “King of the Comstock.” Makley’s engaging and meticulously researched account not only lays bare the life of the notorious but enigmatic Sharon but examines the broader historical context of his career—the complex business relationships between San Francisco and the booming gold and silver mining camps of the Far West; the machinations of rampant Gilded Age capitalism; and the sophisticated financial and technological infrastructure that supported Virginia City’s boomtown economy. The Infamous King ofthe Comstock offers a significant fresh perspective on Nevada and the mining West.
From the early 1870s until his death in 1902, John Mackay was among the richest men in the world and was without a doubt the wealthiest man to emerge from Nevada’s fabulous Comstock Lode. Author Michael J. Makley explores how, from his beginnings as a poor Irish immigrant, John Mackay developed a strong work ethic that distinguished him for the rest of his life. He came west to seek his fortune in the California Gold Rush and then moved on to Virginia City, Nevada, where he dealt in mining stocks and operated silver mines. After making a fortune in mining, he transferred his energies to banking and communications.
John Mackay offers new insight into the life and achievements of this remarkable man. It also places Mackay in the broader context of his time, an era of robber barons and rampant corruption, rapidly advancing technology, national and international capitalism, and flagrant displays of newfound wealth. Even in this context, he stood out, not only for his contributions to Nevada and mining history, but also for his reputation as an important business leader fighting the consolidation and venality of corporate power in the Gilded Age. His actions freed the Comstock from a financial monopoly, resulting in moderated rates for the milling, timber, shipping, transportation, and water that made mining possible and precipitated the discovery and development of the ore field known as the “Big Bonanza.”
Makley’s book recounts the life and career of one of the most successful men of his age, a capitalist of immense wealth who generously helped those around him and worked diligently in the public interest. This engaging biography will appeal to readers interested in the Comstock Lode and mining in the West during the latter part of the nineteenth century as well as general western history enthusiasts.
In The Labor Question in America: Economic Democracy in the Gilded Age, Rosanne Currarino traces the struggle to define the nature of democratic life in an era of industrial strife. As Americans confronted the glaring disparity between democracy's promises of independence and prosperity and the grim realities of economic want and wage labor, they asked, "What should constitute full participation in American society? What standard of living should citizens expect and demand?" Currarino traces the diverse efforts to answer to these questions, from the fledgling trade union movement to contests over immigration, from economic theory to popular literature, from legal debates to social reform. The contradictory answers that emerged--one stressing economic participation in a consumer society, the other emphasizing property ownership and self-reliance--remain pressing today as contemporary scholars, journalists, and social critics grapple with the meaning of democracy in post-industrial America.
Long overlooked in histories of finance, women played an essential role in areas such as banking and the stock market during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet their presence sparked ongoing controversy. Hetty Green’s golden touch brought her millions, but she outraged critics with her rejection of domesticity. Progressives like Victoria Woodhull, meanwhile, saw financial acumen as more important for women than the vote.
George Robb’s pioneering study explores the financial methods, accomplishments, and careers of three generations of women. Plumbing sources from stock brokers’ ledgers to media coverage, Robb reveals the many ways women invested their capital while exploring their differing sources of information, approaches to finance, interactions with markets, and levels of expertise. He also rediscovers the forgotten women bankers, brokers, and speculators who blazed new trails--and sparked public outcries over women’s unsuitability for the predatory rough-and-tumble of market capitalism.
Entertaining and vivid with details, Ladies of the Ticker sheds light on the trailblazers who transformed Wall Street into a place for women’s work.
A spirited reevaluation of the public moralists who shaped public policy in nineteenth-century America, Mugwumps: Public Moralists of the Gilded Age provides a refreshing look at a group of Americans whose importance to the history of our country has commonly been dismissed.
A public interest group that labeled the generation following the American Civil War as the "Gilded Age," Mugwumps were college-educated individuals who lived the lessons of their moral philosophy—Christian values, republican virtue, and classical liberalism. Tracing Mugwump values back before the term was commonly used, Tucker defines these liberals as benevolent and altruistic, active campaigners against slavery and imperialism, and for sound money, lower tariffs, and civil service reform. The earliest Mugwumps took on the self-assigned task of advocating public principles over private interests.
Evaluations of these public moralists during the 1950s and 1960s, however, did not paint the Mugwumps in so positive a light. Awash in the popular New Deal public policies that advocated positive government intervention and regulation in the economy, these studies dismissed Mugwump liberalism as outdated. More specifically, the reformers were criticized as being self-interested failures.
Tucker obliges readers to look beyond such dismissals to the history and accomplishments of Mugwumps as a whole. Unlike previous historians, Tucker examines the antebellum roots of the Mugwumps and follows their ever-increasing participation in American government throughout the nineteenth century. Tucker portrays Mugwumps not as selfish agents of the middle class but as fascinating practitioners of eighteenth-century public virtue and nineteenth-century social science.
This book forcefully challenges previous studies on the Mugwumps and restores these public moralists to the mainstream of nineteenth-century American history. Their concerns for morality and free-market economics are again fashionable in contemporary politics and deserving of fresh attention from both the general reader and the scholar.
Capello investigates why we’ve been so blithe about giving up our privacy and all the opportunities we’ve had along the way to rein it in.
Every day, Americans surrender their private information to entities claiming to have their best interests in mind. This trade-off has long been taken for granted, but the extent of its nefariousness has recently become much clearer. As None of Your Damn Business reveals, the problem is not so much that data will be used in ways we don’t want, but rather how willing we have been to have our information used, abused, and sold right back to us. In this startling book, Lawrence Cappello targets moments from the past 130 years of US history when privacy was central to battles over journalistic freedom, national security, surveillance, big data, and reproductive rights. As he makes dismayingly clear, Americans have had numerous opportunities to protect the public good while simultaneously safeguarding our information, and we’ve squandered them every time. None of Your Damn Business is a rich and provocative survey of an alarming topic that grows only more relevant with each fresh outrage of trust betrayed.
In Old and New New Englanders, Bluford Adams provides a reenvisioning of New England’s history and regional identity by exploring the ways the arrival of waves of immigrants from Europe and Canada transformed what it meant to be a New Englander during the Gilded Age. Adams’s intervention challenges a number of long-standing conceptions of New England, offering a detailed and complex portrayal of the relations between New England’s Yankees and immigrants that goes beyond nativism and assimilation. In focusing on immigration in this period, Adams provides a fresh view on New England’s regional identity, moving forward from Pilgrims, Puritans, and their descendants and emphasizing the role immigrants played in shaping the region’s various meanings. Furthermore, many researchers have overlooked the newcomers’ relationship to the regional identities they found here. Adams argues immigrants took their ties to New England seriously. Although they often disagreed about the nature of those ties, many immigrant leaders believed identification with New England would benefit their peoples in their struggles both in the United States and back in their ancestral lands.
Drawing on and contributing to work in immigration history, as well as American, gender, ethnic, and New England studies, this book is broadly concerned with the history of identity construction in the United States while its primary focus is the relationship between regional categories of identity and those based on race and ethnicity. With its interdisciplinary methodology, original research, and diverse chapter topics, the book targets both specialist and nonspecialist readers.
The first edition of Purity in Print documented book censorship in America from the 1870s to the 1930s, embedding it within the larger social and cultural history of the time. In this second edition, Boyer adds two new chapters carrying his history forward to the beginning of the twenty-first century.
The biography of Raphael Pumpelly, a transitional figure in a period of rapid change
Raphael Pumpelly: Gentleman Geologist of the Gilded Age provides an excellent opportunity to look at the development of the profession of geology during the years spanned by his career, from 1860 to the early twentieth century. In this period, the practical applications of geology to resource development were of major importance, but geologists were also investigating new subjects, such as petrology, geomorphology, glaciology, and structural geology. These investigations resulted in an explosion of knowledge in these areas and in the growth of subdisciplines. Pumpelly did research in these fields but like others of his generation did not limit himself to any one of them; he remained a generalist in a time of increasing specialization, a transitional figure in a period of rapid change.
In this brilliant study, Charles Rosenberg uses the celebrated trial of Charles Guiteau, who assassinated President Garfield in 1881, to explore insanity and criminal responsibility in the Gilded Age. Rosenberg masterfully reconstructs the courtroom battle waged by twenty-four expert witnesses who represented the two major schools of psychiatric thought of the generation immediately preceding Freud.
Although the role of genetics in behavior was widely accepted, these psychiatrists fiercely debated whether heredity had predisposed Guiteau to assassinate Garfield. Rosenberg's account allows us to consider one of the opening rounds in the controversy over the criminal responsibility of the insane, a debate that still rages today.
In the late nineteenth century, Midwestern miners often had to decide if joining a union was in their interest. Arguing that these workers were neither pro-union nor anti-union, Dana M. Caldemeyer shows that they acted according to what they believed would benefit them and their families. As corporations moved to control coal markets and unions sought to centralize their organizations to check corporate control, workers were often caught between these institutions and sided with whichever one offered the best advantage in the moment. Workers chased profits while paying union dues, rejected national unions while forming local orders, and broke strikes while claiming to be union members. This pragmatic form of unionism differed from what union leaders expected of rank-and-file members, but for many workers the choice to follow or reject union orders was a path to better pay, stability, and independence in an otherwise unstable age.
Nuanced and eye-opening, Union Renegades challenges popular notions of workers attitudes during the Gilded Age.
A Sensational Crime and Trial that Confronted Racism, Sexism, and Privilege as America Took to the World Stage
On the foggy, cold morning of February 1, 1896, a boy came upon what he thought was a pile of clothes. It was soon discovered to be the headless body of a young woman, brutally butchered and discarded. She was found just across the river from one of the largest cities in the country, Cincinnati, Ohio. Soon the authorities, the newspapers, and the public were obsessed with finding the poor girl’s identity and killer. Misinformation and rumor spread wildly around the case and led authorities down countless wrong paths. Initially, it appeared the crime would go unsolved. An autopsy, however, revealed that the victim was four months pregnant, presenting a possible motive. It would take the hard work of a sheriff, two detectives, and the unlikely dedication of a shoe dealer to find out who the girl was; and once she had been identified, the case came together. Within a short time the police believed they had her killers—a handsome and charismatic dental student and his roommate—and enough evidence to convict them of first-degree murder. While the suspects seemed to implicate themselves, the police never got a clear answer as to what exactly happened to the girl and they were never able to find her lost head—despite the recovery of a suspicious empty valise.
Centering his riveting new book, Unwanted: A Murder Mystery of the Gilded Age, around this shocking case and how it was solved, historian Andrew Young re-creates late nineteenth- century America, where Coca-Cola in bottles, newfangled movie houses, the Gibson Girl, and ragtime music played alongside prostitution, temperance, racism, homelessness, the rise of corporations, and the women’s rights movement. While the case inspired the sensationalized pulp novel Headless Horror, songs warning girls against falling in love with dangerous men, ghost stories, and the eerie practice of random pennies left heads up on a worn gravestone, the story of an unwanted young woman captures the contradictions of the Gilded Age as America stepped into a new century, and toward a modern age.