Take Ten: The Gilded Age

Take a break from your labors this Labor Day Weekend and get a glimpse of life on the other side of the street, historically. The books below all describe what life was like during the “Gilded Age” – the time period that covers the late 1800s through the turn of the 20th Century. The term was coined by Mark Twain to describe the superficiality of the wealth that seemed to cover deeper social problems. It was a time of success and excess – which still has ramifications in American society today. Read more about the names, institutions, and ideas that resonate even now.

Banquet at Delmonico’s: Great Minds, the Gilded Age, and the Triumph of Evolution in America – Barry Werth

  • Draws readers inside the circle of philosophers, scientists, politicians, businessmen, clergymen, and scholars who brought Charles Darwin’s controversial ideas to America in the crucial years after the Civil War. Prominent among these men were the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, clergyman Henry Ward Beecher, and political reformer Carl Schurz.


A Disposition To Be Rich: How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States – Geoffrey C. Ward

  • Documents the story of Gilded Age con artist Ferdinand Ward, recounting how his large-scale pyramid operation and other sensational schemes triggered one of the greatest financial scandals in American history.


Edith Wharton – Hermione Lee

  • A critical biography of one of America’s greatest writers describes Wharton’s adventure-filled travels in Europe, the literary and artistic circles in which she lived and worked, her heroism during World War I, and the evolution of her writing.


First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt – T.J. Stiles

  • A biography of the combative man whose genius and force of will created modern capitalism, documenting how Vanderbilt helped launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation.


Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World – Hugh Brewster

  • Presents an account of the experiences of the historical ship’s wealthy and famous passengers and their world, drawing on original research to place their lives within an arc of the Titanic’s dramatic demise, explaining how their stories reflect key tenets of the Edwardian era.


Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt – Edward P. Kohn

  • Shows how Democrat William Jennings Bryan’s hopes for the presidency began to flag amidst the abhorrent heat of 1896 New York just as police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt scrambled to mitigate the dangerously high temperatures.


Love Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance – Jean Zimmerman

  • Documents the Gilded Age love story of an heiress who fought for women’s rights and an architect, tracing their upbringings, their pursuits, and their advocacy efforts on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised.


Scoundrels in Law: The Trials of Howe & Hummel, Lawyers to the Gangsters, Cops, Starlets and Rakes Who Made the Gilded Age – Cait Murphy

  • This true story of the most colorful and notorious law firm in American history offers an inside look at crime and punishment in the nineteenth century, and a whirlwind tour of New York’s Gilded Age


Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America’s Gilded Age – Mosette Broderick

Traces the story of the Gilded Age architectural firm, describing its partners’ shared vision about the role of architecture in shaping America and establishing an architectural practice that would set an international standard.


When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age – Justin Kaplan

  • Traces the lives of cousins William Waldorf Astor and John Jacob Astor IV, rivals who pursued separate ambitions, built the original Waldorf-Astoria hotel, and influenced social behavior before John Jacob perished aboard the Titanic.


Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus. Log in to NoveList Plus using your Library card.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: