Episode #26: A Forgotten Real-Life Gilded Gentleman: The World of Effingham Nichols (coming 9/27/22)

The Merchant’s House Museum is one of New York City’s most important and cherished historic house museums. Built in 1832 and still intact to this day, the house was home to patriarch Seabury Tredwell and his family for just about 100 years before opening to the public as a museum in 1933. Nowhere can one see the antebellum world of Old New York quite as clearly as one can see here with much of the family’s original furniture and belongings still in place. HIdden in the Tredwell family tree is Effingham Nichols, the husband of Seabury’s eldest daughter. Born into old Knickerbocker New York, Effingham rose in wealth and stature to become a true player in the Gilded Age that ended the century brushing up against Astors and Vanderbilts. Join me and my guest, Merchant’s House historian Anne Haddad for a look at his life, what he did and where he was, to gather a very personal and extraordinary picture of the life of a long forgotten, but very real, gilded gentleman and just how that life and the life of others like him, came to be. 

Episode #25: Chicago’s Bertha Palmer: More than Mrs. Astor

Bertha Palmer was the wife of Potter Palmer whose famous Chicago hotel, the Palmer House, was one of the grandest of the Gilded Age.  Bertha has been compared to the queen of New York society, Mrs. Astor. However, as my guest, historian Tom Miller shares in this week’s show, that comparison minimizes who Bertha Palmer truly was.  While both women ran and ruled society in their respective cities, Bertha was in many ways the more complex and deeper character.  She was an astute businesswoman, cared so deeply about her charity work, she’d often roll up her sleeves to do what needed to be done, assembled a major collection of French Impressionist art and after her husband’s death, became one of the first real estate developers of Florida. Join Tom and me for a look at this fascinating woman and a look at Chicago’s Gilded Age. 

Episode #24: Where Thrushes Sing and Dreams are Dreamt: The Gardens of Beatrix Farrand

Beatrix Farrand, Edith Wharton’s niece, was born during New York’s Gilded Age and went on to become the first successful female landscape designer of the early 20th century. Her path was not easy since any career for a woman held challenges at the time and landscape design was at that point a men’s domain.  But her perseverance, determination, business acumen and exceptional talent led her to create some of America’s most beautiful gardens including Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, DC and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden on Mount Desert, Maine.  Join me for a look into the extraordinary life of Beatrix Farrand to celebrate her pioneering vision and style.  

Episode #23: Beneath the Gold: The Gilded Age with Tom Meyers of The Bowery Boys

Julian Fellowes’ new series on HBO “The Gilded Age” fascinated viewers with its complex plotlines and endlessly entertaining characters, some of whom were based on actual historical figures.  The show depicted the enormity of the age in so many of its social, political and cultural layers.  It also raised so many new insights and new viewpoints on this, not always, glittering age.  Tom Meyers of The Bowery Boys joins me for this show to take an even deeper look at it all.  Tom was co-host along with TCM’s Alicia Malone of HBO’s The Official Gilded Age podcast and he had the unique opportunity to delve further into the history behind what we saw on screen and hear insights from members of the cast and creative team.  Joins us for a unique look behind the glitter and the gold. 

Episode #22: English Country House Style: The Legacies of Nancy Lancaster and Nancy Astor

While the sumptuous dinner parties and grand country house weekends of years past may have vanished, the secrets of elegant entertaining and hospitality live on. Nancy Lancaster and Nancy Astor, two American-born women entered upper class British society in the early 20th century and brought the traditions of great Southern hospitality to some of England’s greatest estates including the renowned Cliveden. Today, Emilly Astor and Jane Churchill descendants of Nancy Lancaster and Nancy Astor continue the tradition and share its elements with today’s hosts and hostesses in their book of history, memories, and recipes “Entertaining in Style” (Rizzoli). Join me and both Emily and Jane for a look back at the tables of the two Nancys and particularly Nancy Lancaster’s vision which led to what we think of as great English Country House style. 

The Dining Room at Cliveden

Episode #21: Dancing with the Green Fairy: The Mysteries of Absinthe

Absinthe was one of the most popular and most mysterious drinks that fueled Paris and London’s cafe society and artistic circles in the Belle Epoque and late Victorian and Edwardian worlds. Artists and writers from Henri Toulouse-Lautrec to Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde were proponents along with members of the upper classes as well as everyday workers. Myths sprang up that it created dramatic hallucinations and even provoked crimes to be committed. It became banned throughout most of  Europe and even in the United States by the early 19th century. Join me and my guest, Don Spiro, creator of New York’s Green Fairy Society to discuss and demystify the myths and legends of this most evocative of spirits. 

Episode #20: Creating Drama with Edith Wharton, Henry James and Jennie Jerome

Edith Wharton’s novels were full of drama of course but so were moments from her own life. Jennie Jerome, Lady Randolph Churchill,  the mother of Winston Churchill,  had a life of high drama, public scrutiny and moments of happiness as well as tragedy.  Join me and my guest, playwright and actor, Anne Undeland as we discuss how she dramatized the characters of Edith Wharton, Henry James and Jennie Jerome in her plays, “Mr. Fullerton Between the Sheets” and “Lady Randy”. We’ll discuss how Anne brought these complex characters to the stage as well as take a look at how some of Wharton’s own work has been dramatized.  

Episode #19: Stealing a Smile: The Theft of the Mona Lisa, Paris 1911 

The enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa has captured the attention of the public for centuries,  But even today, few people actually realize that on a warm summer morning in Paris in 1911, the Mona Lisa was also stolen.  The theft captured the attention of the world and made this masterwork of DaVinci’s quite simply the most famous painting in the world.  Much is still murky in the tale of the theft and recovery so join The Gilded Gentleman to take a look at this case and attempt to piece it together. 

Episode #18: Victory and Apollo: Black Artists Models Hettie Anderson and Thomas McKeller

Gazing up at the dramatic gilded statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman being led into battle by the allegorical figure of Victory in New York’s Grand Army Plaza or staring at the mythological figures that are painted on the Rotunda ceiling of Boston”s Museum of Fine Arts, one can’t help but be struck by the beauty, majesty and power of elements in these works. Sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens’ model for the image of Victory on the Sherman monument was a mixed-race woman named Hettie Anderson and John Singer Sargent used the black model Thomas McKeller as the principal model for his depictions of the Greek deities in his Boston paintings. Recent scholarship and discoveries have shed light into the lives and work of both of these models  This episode tells the story of what is known about the worlds of these exceptional artists models and the great art that they inspired.  

Episode #17: Mary Rogers Williams: The Rediscovered Life Of A Gilded Age Impressionist

Eve Kahn, independent scholar and author, calls Mary Rogers Williams “the Mary Cassatt you never heard of”. While Cassatt and Rogers lives differed and they likely never met, the rediscovered life of Gilded Age painter, Mary Rogers Williams is a fascinating tale of late 19th-century artistic circles. From the farmlands of Connecticut, Mary Rogers Williams lived and painted among the famous in New York, London, and Paris and her studies included time with artists such as William Merritt Chase and James MacNeil Whistler. A mysterious painting and an extraordinary discovery in 2012 led my guest Eve Kahn to reconstruct the life and world of a unique, innovative, yet little known until now, female artist of the Gilded Age. 

Episode #16: Golden Plates and Dinners on Horseback: Tales of Dining in Gilded Age New York

Outrageous stories of Gilded Age dinners served on plates of gold, live swans swimming in a lake in the center of your table and yes, even dinners served on horseback are all true. In this show, find out what some of the actual dishes served really were made and served along with stories of the restaurateurs, chefs and hostesses that created these lavish events. We’ll take a look at some actual balls and dinners given by Mrs. Astor among others and even on the fictional table of Bertha Russell in the recent HBO series “The Gilded Age.”

Episode #15: Castle Howard to Highclere: Treasures of the English Country House

For fans of the great period television and film dramas Downton Abbey and Brideshead Revisited among many others, one of the great pleasures is seeing the grand, sumptuous, imposing interiors of some of England’s greatest homes used as stage sets in the drama.  This week’s episode features Nick Dawes, master specialist and appraiser seen regularly on “Antiques Roadshow” who shares some insight into the decorative arts collections of some of these fictitious as well as some very real families.  

Episode #14: A Sprig of Witch Hazel: Edith Wharton’s Secret Affair

As writer Edith Wharton began to spend more and more time in Paris during the early years of the 1900s, she made the acquaintance of the American journalist Morton Fullerton.  Their meeting grew into a passionate and complicated love affair combining joy and emotional pain. Still, the affair led Wharton to some of her greatest creative moments and it wasn’t until the 1980’s when a long thought lost trove of letters brought the full story of the affair to light.  This week’s episode brings you to the Paris of the Belle Epoque and into the story of this surprising romance. 

Episode #13: The Gilded City: New York 1870-1900

To viewers of the first season of HBO’s “The Gilded Age” by Julian Fellowes, the city itself became one of the show’s most fascinating characters.  In this episode, join master tour guides Emma Guest-Consales, PhD. and Jeff Dobbins for a unique look at the architecture, neighborhoods, and landmarks that we see portrayed in the show.  Tune in for a look deep inside the Gilded Age metropolis with a perspective that only a tour guide can give.
Explore upcoming tours with Emma, Jeff and Carl at Bowery Boys Walks www.boweryboyswalks.com

Episode #12: Social Climber: The Iron Will and Determined Rise of Alva Vanderbilt

The fight for social dominance and acceptance was a battle fought by many Gilded Age wives along with their financial warrior husbands.  One of the most famous was Alva Vanderbilt who rose to finally make it through the golden portals into Mrs. Astor’s social circle.  Her iron determination resulted in her daughter Consuelo’s seemingly fairytale marriage to a British aristocrat in 1895 — but none of it was a fairytale.  Join The Gilded Gentleman for a look inside the story of who Alva really was as a social climber but also as a 19th-century woman.

Alva Vanderbilt

Episode #11: How to Pluck a Peacock: Delmonico’s Charles Ranhofer and The Epicurean

Delmonico’s restaurant became famous for bringing elegant, luxurious dining to and sophisticated French dishes to American tables.  The culinary genius behind these dramatic dishes was Delmonico’s celebrity chef, Frenchman Charles Ranhofer who guided their kitchens from 1862-1896.  He left us with his extraordinary cookbook published at the height of the Gilded Age in the 1890’s,  detailing the ingredients and preparations of Delmonico’s classic dishes.   Join me and my guest, creative director and food stylist, Victoria Granof (www.victoriagranof.com) to take a look at this extraordinary chef and some of the most outrageous dishes from Delmonico’s tables – including a peacock. 

Episode #10: Invisible Magicians: Domestic Servants in Gilded Age New York 

Join The Gilded Gentleman and Esther Crain, author of The Gilded Age in New York 1870-1914 for a look below stairs!  In this show, we’ll take a look at the various roles and responsibilities of domestic staff in grand mansions and even in more modest homes.  The Gilded Gentleman will explore what servants did and most importantly who they really were.  This show pays tribute to the vast numbers of “invisible magicians” without whom the dinners, balls and just daily workings of households of the Gilded Age would never have been possible. 

Episode #9: The Education of a Snob: Ward Mcallister’s American Aristocracy

The famous Mrs. Astor was credited with building and shaping the Gilded Age elite. At her side and combining forces with her to create “the 400”,  was the controversial Ward McAllister.  McAllister was originally a Southerner who himself developed a complex persona as the most socially knowledgeable and refined gentleman of the New York elite.  Join me for a look into who Ward McAllister really was, how he developed his famous reputation and what led to his infamous break from the social court of Mrs. Astor.

Episode #8: Ladies’ Mile and the Glamour of Gilded Age Shopping

During the 1870’s and 1880’s New York’s famous Ladies’ Mile shopping district took hold along Broadway and grand palaces of retail grew filled with splendors and luxuries to tempt the glittering clientele that swept through their doors. Join me and my guest, art historian and master guide, Emma Guest-Consales, PhD for a unique and fascinating Gilded Age shopping trip. 

Episode #7: Getting a Bad Rap: Spiritualism in the 19th century

Many people throughout the 19th century were fascinated with the idea of connecting with the beyond including the famous Commodore Vanderbilt. Historian Anthony Bellov joins this week for a look into some rather strange phenomena and the story of Vanderbilt and one of the most famous spiritualists of the period, the fascinating Victoria Woodhull.  

Episode #6: The Gilded Page: A Conversation with NYT Bestselling Author Carol Wallace

“Carol Wallace, New York Times bestselling author, discusses her just-published novel of the Gilded Age, “Our Kind of People” as well as shares insights on her book “To Marry an English Lord” which served as an inspiration for “Downton Abbey”. 

Episode #5: To Catch a Prince: The Story of Alice Heine, Monaco’s First American Princess

Grace Kelly captured the attention of the world when she married Prince Rainier III and became Princess of Monaco in 1956.  Few people realize that she wasn’t the first American-born princess to hold the title.  Travel back to the Belle Epoque and discover the story of a New Orleans beauty who captured the heart of a prince nearly 100 years before. 

Alice Heine, Princess of Monaco (photo: Public Domain)

Episode #4: Man About Town: The Story of Murray Hall

When Tammany Hall politician, Murray Hall died at his home in Greenwich Village in 1901, his death sparked a national scandal.  Murray Hall had a secret he kept hidden for over 20 years — what was it? Historic preservationist Ken Lustbader joins The Gilded Gentleman for a look at this little-known and deeply compelling story. 

Episode #3: The Real Mrs. Astor: Ruler or Rebel?

Historian Tom Miller joins The Gilded Gentleman for a discussion about who Caroline Astor really was.  

Episode #2: Divas, Diamonds, Drama: The Opening of the Metropolitan Opera 1883

Join the Gilded Gentleman for a night at the opera! The glittering, glamorous opening night of New York’s new opera house at the height of the Gilded Age had perhaps more drama going on in the audience than on the stage.

Metropolitan Opera House on 39th Street (Library of Congress)

Episode #1: Gilded Age or Gilded Cage?

Was the Gilded Age as glamorous as it seemed? Join Carl and his guests — Tom Meyers and Greg Young from the Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast — to discuss the light and the dark of this fascinating era.

Carl, Tom, and Greg recording at the Salmagundi Club.

Carl recording an episode with Emma Guest-Consales about Ladies’ Mile.