A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York

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9780470185698: A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York
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Journey through the splendor and the excesses of the Gilded Age

""Every aspect of life in the Gilded Age took on deeper, transcendent meaning intended to prove the greatness of America: residences beautified their surroundings; works of art uplifted and were shared with the public; clothing exhibited evidence of breeding; jewelry testified to cultured taste and wealth; dinners demonstrated sophisticated palates; and balls rivaled those of European courts in their refinement. The message was unmistakable: the United States had arrived culturally, and Caroline Astor and her circle were intent on leading the nation to unimagined heights of glory.""
—From A Season of Splendor

Take a dazzling journey through the Gilded Age, the period from roughly the 1870s to 1914, when bluebloods from older, established families met the nouveau riche headlong—railway barons, steel magnates, and Wall Street speculators—and forged an uneasy and glittering new society in New York City. The best of the best were Caroline Astor's 400 families, and she shaped and ruled this high society with steel.

A Season of Splendor is a panoramic sweep across this sumptuous landscape, presenting the families, the wealth, the balls, the clothing, and the mansions in vivid detail—as well as the shocking end of the era with the sinking of the Titanic.

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From the Inside Flap:

On January 1900, Caroline Astor greeted the new century with her annual Opera Ball. Dressed in a black velvet gown, she was draped with diamond necklaces and brooches and wore her famous diamond tiara—the jewels alone worth over $2.3 million in today's dollars. Her guests danced all night in her palatial ballroom, stopping only for a ten-course supper that included consommé, supr?eme de volaille, filet de boeuf, terrapin, duck croquettes, pa?té de foie gras, salade Orientale, and bonbons.

Small in stature, but as determined as ever to maintain the rigid social structure she established decades earlier, Mrs. Astor was every inch an American queen surveying her subjects: families whose wealth and power dominated New York City society for nearly forty years. Just fourteen years later it all came to a crashing end, first with the sinking of the Titanic and then the start of World War I. Caroline Astor would not live to see it.

A Season of Splendor takes you on a spectacular journey through this Gilded Age, the period from roughly the 1870s to 1914, when old-money bluebloods and patricians confronted the nouveau riche—railway barons, steel magnates, and Wall Street speculators—and forged an uneasy and dazzling new social order in New York City. Together, their extreme wealth, elaborate parties, marble mansions, shocking excesses, and delicious scandals transformed the social, architectural, and sartorial landscape.

Author Greg King places you in the heart of this glittering era. You'll meet the rich and famous—Astors, Vanderbilts, Belmonts, Goulds, and others—and tour sumptuous estates furnished with marble and silk and filled with antiques, tapestries, and European art. You'll sit at the table of lavish dinner parties that start with two soup courses (consommé and bisque) and include up to twelve more courses, plus sherry, wine, champagne, and liqueurs. You'll attend society balls, go yachting in Newport, buy dresses in Paris—and for everything, the more extravagant, the better.

"Money was poured out like water," one society lady recalled. "No one thought of the cost." But by the time parties began to include cigarettes rolled in hundred dollar bills, each stamped with the guest's initials in gold, or live elephants wandering from room to room in mansions to amuse the guests, even Caroline Astor was disillusioned by the excess. The Gilded Age—so named by Mark Twain to capture the essence of its avarice—was beginning to disintegrate from within. In A Season of Splendor, you'll discover all that was beguiling and appalling about this altogether extraordinary epoch.

About the Author:

Greg King is the author of the British bestseller The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson as well as The Court of the Last Tsar, The Fate of the Romanovs, and Twilight of Splendor. He has appeared as an onscreen commentator for the BBC, the Discovery Channel, and A&E.

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