America's Secret Aristocracy: The Families That Built the United States

America's Secret Aristocracy: The Families That Built the United States

by Stephen Birmingham


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America has always been a constitutionally classless society, yet an American aristocracy emerged anyway—a private club whose members run in the same circles and observe the same unwritten rules. Renowned social historian Stephen Birmingham reveals the inner workings of this aristocracy and identifies which families in which cities have always mattered and how they’ve defined America.

America’s Secret Aristocracy offers an inside look at the estates, marriages and financial empires of America’s most selective club and a gallery of vivid portrait of its members: the William Randolphs, the first of the first families of Virginia; the Carillos and Ortegas, the premier ranchero families of California; Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt; the Boston Brahmins, including the Lowells, “who speak only to Cabots, and the Cabots, who speak only to God”. With countless anecdotes about our nation’s elite, including interviews with their modern-day descendants, this is a social history both insightful and entertaining.

Scores of social chroniclers have tried to define America’s aristocracy with various Social Registers and Who’s Whos. Stephen Birmingham outdoes these lists as his colorful portraits go far beyond simply naming names; they capture the true definition, essence and customs of America’s aristocratic families.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493024766
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 08/15/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 8.90(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Stephen Birmingham is a preeminent social historian, known for his books The Right People, Real Lace, and The Grandees. He allows his reader unparalleled access to the most exclusive society sets, and tells their stories with great warmth and wit.

Table of Contents

Part 1 First Peers of the Realm

Chapter 1 Telling Them Apart 1

Chapter 2 A Royal Wedding 17

Chapter 3 Manor Lords 26

Chapter 4 Ancient Wealth 35

Chapter 5 A Gentleman's War 44

Chapter 6 Coronation in New York 50

Chapter 7 The Great Silverware Robbery 61

Chapter 8 From Camping Out with Indians… to Dinner at the Jays' 67

Chapter 9 Livingston Versus Livingston 78

Chapter 10 Weak Blood 87

Chapter 11 Morrises and More Morrises 100

Chapter 12 Outsiders 108

Chapter 13 Endangered Species 120

Part 2 Brahmins, Knights of the Chivalry, and California Grandees

Chapter 14 Knowing One's Place 137

Chapter 15 O Ancestors! 153

Chapter 16 Beer and the Bourgeoisie 166

Chapter 17 O Pioneers! 176

Part 3 Heirs Apparent

Chapter 18 Secret Society 203

Chapter 19 Old Guard Versus New 213

Chapter 20 The Gospel of Wealth 223

Chapter 21 Comme Il Faut 230

Chapter 22 "To Serve…" 236

Chapter 23 The Bogus Versus the Real 252

Chapter 24 Family Curses 258

Chapter 25 The Great Splurge 277

Chapter 26 The Family Place 297

A Note on Sources and Acknowledgments 311

Sources 314

Bibliography 323

Index 327

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