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In Pursuit of PrivilegeA History of New York City's Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis$
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Clifton Hood

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172165

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172165.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

A Dynamic Businessman’s Aristocracy

A Dynamic Businessman’s Aristocracy

The 1890s

(p.171) 5 A Dynamic Businessman’s Aristocracy
In Pursuit of Privilege

Clifton Hood

Columbia University Press

Chapters 5 and 6 both examine the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. The single most momentous change to hit the upper class during this period was the enlargement and enrichment of the city’s elites. These pressures had existed to a degree before the Civil War, but rapid economic growth heightened their intensity and made them the central feature of upper-class life in the second half of the nineteenth century. Families like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers accumulated fortunes that dwarfed those of the Astors and Lorillards from earlier in the century, widening the income gap within the upper class as well as between it and middle- and lower-class New Yorkers. As a result of the structural instabilities caused by the dynamic urban economy and the lack of a titled American ruling class, along with the cultural strains caused by the nation’s democratic ethos, the upper class of New York City has throughout its existence been prone to thoroughgoing social and cultural changes. The intensification of these demographic and economic pressures in the second half of the nineteenth century raised concerns within that upper class about the sources of its legitimacy and the need for more coherent and restrictive social and cultural codes.

Keywords:   Men’s clubs, Junior League, elite women’s networks, New York Stock Exchange, investment banking, corporate headquarters, nouveau riches

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