Iron John In The Gilded Age

“The Almighty dollar,’ Washington Irving wrote, was the “great object of universal devotion” among Americans. Tocqueville described moneymaking as the “prevailing passion.” And though the object of their craving sometimes changed, Tocqueville noticed that the emotional intensity persisted. This was why tightfisted Yankee merchants would break down in penitential tears and convert to Christ, why sober Ohio farmers would abandon their homesteads and join Utopian communes.Read more »

The Gilded Age

For years it was seen as the worst of times: bloated, crass, witlessly extravagant. But now scholars are beginning to find some of the era’s unexpected virtues.


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When The Coachman Was A Millionare

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century you could ride in a handsome coach-and-four from a fashionable hotel on Fifth Avenue to Tuxedo Park or even to Philadelphia. The fare was just three dollars, and your driver might be a Roosevelt or a Vanderbilt.

The annual report for the 1906 season of the New York-to-Ardsley run of the public coach Pioneer, operated by the Coaching Club of New York, was both dismal and disconcerting. It showed a net deficit of $6,845.98, and while this was a slight improvement over the previous year (when the deficit had soared to $7,309.01), the seemingly inexplicable downward trend of passenger traffic had continued unabated. The amount derived from the sale of seats had declined to an all-time low of $1,863. Read more »

The Honest Man

In a day of rampant money-making, gentle Peter Cooper was not only a reformer but successful, widely loved, and rich.

Around 1875, at the feverish height of the Gilded Age, when conventional citizens were in greedy pursuit of the dollar, when the executive branch was vying with the legislative and the judicial as to which would prove the most venal, when monstrous fortunes lay ripe for the hook or the crook, an elderly gentleman of benign aspect commenced to make some distressing remarks, right out loud and in public. “The dealers in money,” said he, “have always, since the days of Moses, been the dangerous class.”