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Ward McAllister and his 400

Ward McAllister was the self-appointed head of New York Society during the Gilded Age.  It was a time when the very wealthy of New York wanted to hold themselves above the fray, establishing themselves (at least in their minds) as the Aristocracy of the United States.  Without the nobility titles, they searched for a way to do this. Eventually they decided upon thier “king” as Ward McAllister, who was a man with a great understanding of “polite society” and a wife, Sarah Gibbons, who was happy to remain in the background throughout life.  He had little interest in acquiring power through work–instead he turned to society.  In this he partnered up with Caroline Astor, who would become New York’s Queen. 

Finally in 1872 McAllister–who would come to be known to some as McLister–created a list of 400 people who basically were “society”.  The New York nobility if you will.  It was published (with changes, I assume) in 1892, around the time when McAllister’s reign was ending.  I found this list recently on-line.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9B04EEDF173BEE33A25755C1A9649C94639ED7CF&oref

But apparently you have to log in, so I’ll type in a few names now and see if I can add more over the next month or so until they’re all there.

Mr. and Mrs. F.R. Appleton                                        Fred II Allen

Mr and Mrs Astor                                                       Mr and Mrs J.J. Astor

Mr and Mrs George H Bend                                         Mr and Mrs Lloy Bryce

Mrs. Cavendish Bentinck                                            Mr. And Mrs. F Bronson

Reber Bishop                                                              Miss Bishop

William Harold Brown                                                Mr and Mrs Edmund N Baylies

Mr. Temple Bowdoin                                                  Mr. and Mrs J. Townsend Burden

Miss Burden                                                               Mrs. Barbey

Miss Barbey                                                                Harold Brown

Edward Bulkley                                                           Mr. and Mrs. James L. Barclay

C.C. Baldwin                                                               Miss Baldwin

C.O. Baldwin Jr.                                                          Gen and Mrs. Henry L. Burnett

Mr. Thomas Cushing                                                 Miss Edith Cushing

Mr. F Bayard Cutting                                                  Miss Coster

Mr. Harry Coster                                                        Mr. and Mrs Charles Carroll

Mr. and Mrs. Claence Cary                                         Mr. and Mrs. Winthrop Chandler

Mrs. Brockholst Cutting                                             Mr. and Mrs Harry Cannon

Robert L. Cutting Jr                                                    Col. J Shuyler Crosby

Miss Crosby                                                               Mr and Mrs W. Bayard Cutting

Mr. and Mrs S.V.B. Crager                                           Rawlings Cottenet

F. Brockholst Cutting                                                 W. Cutting Jr

Sir Roderick Cameron                                                Duncan Cameron

The Misses Cameron                                                 Mr. and Mrs. James Cross

Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cooper                                     The Misses Chanler

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9 Responses

  1. So he published his list when his reign was winding down? Interesting. Trying to hold onto power I wonder? Makes me wonder about him. Thaks, Dee, really…now I have something to procrastinate over this morning!

  2. Yup, sure looks like that Isabel! I think a lot people try to hold onto power like that.

  3. I love to see the names. Who names a boy Brockholst now days?

  4. When he died in 1895, barely anyone from the social set he created attended his funeral. His downfall came from his pomposity and airs as he gave “pronouncements” about society to newspapers, which made the 400 look ridiculous to the general public , but the final nail in his coffin was when he published his ridiculous, bombastic memoirs, “Society As I Have Found It.” The memoirs were laughed at from coast to coast, and an anonymous satirist, under the name “Would Make-All-a-Stir,” published a parody of McAllister’s memoirs that same year, entitled “Society as I Have Left it.”

  5. Right Evangeline! Oooo, someone who’s as interested as I am in McAllister. One book I read said he was also know as MakeALister. He was also, though, the man that brought New York to Newport RI, where the high society types continued to congregate for many more years. Who was the guy who took his place. . . hold on, I’ll find it. . .Harry Lehr, I believe.

  6. It was Harry Lehr. Have you read his wife’s memoirs? Their marriage was pretty rough and I felt really sorry for her(the little racist bits notwithstanding). Anyways, Lehr and Mamie Fish made the Knickerbockracy look nuts–what with dog dinners and Harry pretending to be Czar Nicholas! But I love Gilded Age NY. In fact, my WIP is set in New York!

  7. No, I haven’t read much about Lehr because he’s just a little past my time. But those Gilded Age parties were NUTS. My WIP takes place partly in NYC, and the hero is a visiting (wealthy) Colorado rancher. You can imagine his reaction to those tea-parties for dolls and such. I’m getting a kick writing about it from his perspective.

    San Fran wasn’t much better. Leland Stanford actually presented his newborn son at a dinner party on a silver platter–surrounded, I think, by lettuce. I have to do a post on that at some point.

    The little I read about Lehr, I wondered if he might have been gay. What do you think?

  8. How many of these socialites would have enjoyed the Divorce Saloon, do you think?

  9. Oh, he was gay. His wife sort of revealed it in her memoirs–which is why they were so scandalous when published! I forget the exact words, but she said after Harry’s death, she found his diary, and it revealed an impossible love and his reasons for being so cruel to her: aka he was gay.

    And the Stanford story: crazy! I really think that when you’re that wealthy and no one is around to check you, you just do crazy things to keep from growing insanely bored with yourself and your life.

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