The Gilded Age social season began in November

Go back in time to the Gilded Age city. Right about now, in mid-November, the elite members of the Astor 400 were putting the finishing touches on their evening gowns, mansion ballrooms, and calling cards.

That’s because the middle of November marked the beginning of the winter social season. Starting with opening night of the Academy of Music’s opera series on East 14th Street, the next few months would be a swirl of parties the rest of us could only read about. (Newspapers covered these events the way gossip sites cover Red Carpet awards shows today.)

The festivities included the annual horse show later in the the month, debutante and Patriarchs’ balls in December, and then various balls (often costume balls) and charity events—the high point of which was Mrs. Astor’s own ball held annually at the end of January.

The winter social season ended at Lent, when fancy clothes and memories of dancing quadrilles and consuming multi-course meals until early in the morning were packed away.

Not longer after, New York society started readying themselves for the summer social season in the “cottages” of Newport, which began in July.

For more about the Gilded Age and the rise and fall of the society bigwigs who ruled the city’s social world, check out The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.

[Top image: “Old Vanderbilt House,” Everett Shinn; second image: James Hazen Hyde Ball, January 1905 via Find a Grave; third image: unknown]

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9 Responses to “The Gilded Age social season began in November”

  1. pontifikator Says:

    I saw the Rolling Stones play The Academy of Music on 14th st. And went to another remnant of the Gilded Age, Luchows. Gone now, alas.

  2. pontifikator Says:

    I saw the Rolling Stones play The Academy of Music on 14th st. And went to another remnant of the Gilded Age, Luchows. Gone now, alas.

  3. John Elkins Says:

    Great! Such history, New York City. Even the outlying areas have some rich history! Love it!

  4. pontifikator Says:

    If I recall, the Academy of Music was located between 3rd and 4th ave (Lafayette?), near Union Square, on the south side of the street.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Yes, it used to be where the Con Ed building is now, 14th and Irving. I believe there’s a plaque marking the site of this music hall that was so exclusive, only select old money elites could get box seats.

      • Timothy Grier Says:

        You are referring to the original AOM whereas Pontifikator is referring to the second AOM. I grew up on 14th Street and caught many rock acts at the second AOM on the south side of 14th Street.

  5. [Blog Glück] November 2019 – Seitenglueck Says:

    […] bei alten Fotos meiner Heimatstadt, aber es ist faszinierend. Außerdem gibt es einen Beitrag zumGilded Age und den Bällen der Academy of Music. Und es gibt einen Beitrag zum (schnell zu übersehenden) War […]

  6. The Fifth Avenue wedding present gifted to these rich Gilded Age newlyweds | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] not clear where Payne Whitney (whose mother was one of the fabled ‘Astor 400’) and Helen Hay lived while their mansion was going up. But after the wedding they spent a monthlong […]

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