“Rugoff’s spirited and immensely beguiling book takes a joyful bite out of the nineteenth century.”
– The New York Times
“King of the Lobbyists” Sam Ward was best known for his talent for throwing parties – courtesy of the U.S. Treasury. And Alva Vanderbilt squandered tens of thousands on one evening to crack the closed social circle of the Mrs. Astor. And when Jay Gould, of Black Friday fame, sent his card to one of the Rothschilds, it was returned with the comment, “Europe is not for sale.” It was this climate of mid- and late-nineteenth-century excess that fostered the most rapid period of growth in the history of the United States, replacing the unyielding Puritanism of Cotton Mather with the flexible creed of Henry Ward Beecher. National Book Award nominee Milton Rugoff gives his uniquely revealing view of the Gilded Age in this collective biography of Americans from 1850 to 1890.
Writing on the political spoilsmen, money kings, parvenus, forty-niners, lords of the press, sexual transgressors, and women’s rights leaders, Rugoff focuses on thirty-six men and women from almost every walk of life. His exponents include U.S. Grant, John Charles Frémont, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jim Fisk, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Horatio Alger, free-love advocate Victoria Woodhull, first female surgeon Bethenia Owens-Adair, Brigham Young’s rebellious nineteenth wife Anna Eliza Young, Boston Brahmin Charles Eliot Norton, Gold Rush pioneer Sarah Royce, black visionary Sojourner Truth, and to critique American society, Walt Whitman.
In examining the Gilded Age, Milton Rugoff offers fresh glimpses into the lives of the celebrities of the era, as well as some lesser-known Americans, while at the same time revealing the roots of problems that still plague us today.