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History of Newport and the Mansions
Founded in 1639, Newport was an important port city, a center of the slave trade, a fashionable resort and the summer home of the Gilded Age rich.
What was the Gilded Age?
The Gilded Age was a period of unprecedented change in America. Fortunes were spent on luxuries such as the lavish "summer cottages" of Newport.
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Learn about the people, places and events depicted in Julian Fellowes' popular historical drama series.
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☞ Kingscote appears for the first time in “The Gilded Age” as the Newport home of Susan Blane, the widow who hires Larry Russell as architect to remodel the house. They agree the rooms are too small and the décor “drab” and “dreary,” reflecting how tastes have changed by 1883 (Kingscote was originally built in 1841).
☞ During filming, Kingscote was still its pale gray color, before its repainting this year to a darker color in keeping with historical paint analysis.
☞ The Elms does double duty as the Russells’ homes in New York and Newport. While they are in New York, we see George Russell walk in The Elms’ second-floor hallway, with its distinctive red wall covering, to daughter Gladys’ bedroom, which is the real Mrs. Berwind’s bedroom.
☞ Later, The Elms’ first-floor foyer and cross hall, Drawing Room and (for the first time) Conservatory appear as their Newport home.
☞ George Russell’s assistant Richard Clay seems to be based on Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), an anti-unionist who was in charge of Carnegie Steel Corporation’s operations. Frick later established the art collection in New York bearing his name.
☞ Founded in 1876, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers is one of the unions that would join to become United Steelworkers in the 20th century.
☞ Oscar Van Rhijn’s offhand remark to Maud Beaton, “Oh, I love the Drexels,” may be a nod to Harry Symes Lehr (1869-1929), a popular socialite known as “America’s court jester” who married Elizabeth Wharton Drexel (1868-1944), whose 1905 portrait by Giovanni Boldini hangs in The Elms. As gay men, both Oscar and Lehr pursued marriages of convenience to maintain their standings in society. Oscar and Maud could be referring to one of several Drexel siblings and cousins in Gilded Age society.
☞ Dashiell Montgomery bets $50 on Dick Sears winning the lawn tennis tournament; this would be the equivalent of more than $1,500 in today’s dollars.
☞ The United States Lawn Tennis Association began holding its tournaments at the Newport Casino in 1881. This tournament was the precursor to what is now the U.S. Open. Richard Sears (1861-1943), nicknamed “Dick” in this episode, won the tournament every year from 1881 to 1887.
☞ Peggy’s trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan would have involved a ferry until around this time; the Brooklyn Bridge opened in May 1883.
☞ Rumors surround new character Maud Beaton as possibly the illegitimate daughter of Jay Gould. While there does not seem to be historical speculation about illegitimate children of Jason “Jay” Gould (1836-1892), his son George Jay Gould (1864-1923) did have three children with his mistress, whom he later married, in the 1910s and 1920s.
☞ The Wetmores of Chateau-sur-Mer have brought Gladys to the tournament; while unseen, previously they had hosted the character John Adams in Season 1, Episode 8. At this time, George Peabody Wetmore (1846-1921) was about to go into politics. He and his wife, Edith Keteltas Wetmore (1848-1927), had four children by 1883: Edith, Maude, William and Rogers. Decades later, Edith and Maude would be among the founders of the Preservation Society of Newport County.
In 1882, Marian arrives at the home of her “old money” aunts Agnes and Ada, whose new neighbors vie to break into New York high society.
Marian receives a visit from Tom Raikes, whose legal advice Peggy seeks. The Russells take center stage at a charity bazaar.
George faces a surprise development. Marian sees Mr. Raikes against Agnes’ wishes. Ada runs into an old friend. Peggy gets an opportunity.
Marian learns more about Mrs. Chamberlain. George makes a deal to benefit Bertha. Peggy meets a trailblazing newspaperman.
Bertha, Marian, Aurora, and Peggy make an overnight trip to see Clara Barton speak. Gladys’ desired beau is invited to dinner.
Mr. McAllister’s visit to the Russells shakes the aunts’ household. George aims to control the narrative. Marian considers her feelings.
As a historic moment captures the city, Agnes vows to protect her family’s reputation, while Larry’s career plans rub George the wrong way.
Peggy reveals the truth about her past, while George’s day in court arrives, and Marian considers her romantic future.
Marian’s grand plan is threatened. Bertha and Mrs. Astor lock horns over Gladys’ debut. Peggy is stunned by a major reveal.
Agnes shares news of her nephew Dashiell's imminent arrival in New York. Bertha decides to back the new Metropolitan Opera House.
A surprising guest attends Bertha's fundraiser and starts trouble. Larry begins renovations at Mrs. Blane’s house, aka Kingscote. Peggy presses her editor to let her go to Tuskegee. Oscar Wilde charms society, but his play does not.
Bertha angles for position with the visiting Duke of Buckingham. With Marian’s help, Ada continues to see Mr. Forte. Peggy travels to Alabama and meets Booker T. Washington. Mr. Russell is confronted by angry critics of his labor practices.
The Marble House Dining Room is the setting for Bertha Russell’s dinner for the Duke of Buckingham. Peggy narrowly escapes danger in Alabama. Ada’s engagement causes conflict between her and Agnes.
Bertha’s opera house project is far from harmonious. George goes to Pittsburgh to deal with a potential strike by his steel mill workers. Peggy takes up the cause of schooling for Black children in New York City.
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