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☞ Several historical publications frame the action of this week’s episode. Mrs. Russell poses for a sketch for The Daily Graphic, which Agnes Van Rhijn was reading in last week’s episode. This week, Mrs. Van Rhijn mentions a recipe for lamb published in The Ladies’ Home Journal, which had just begun its run as an independent publication that year. Bertha Russell learns that gossip about her son Larry and his client, Mrs. Blane, has been reported in a Newport newspaper, probably either the Newport Mercury or The Newport Daily News. Finally, various characters react to the news in The New York Times, the Sun and Town Topics that the Russells will host the Duke of Buckingham at their home in Newport.
☞ The introduction of the Duke of Buckingham into the show brings to mind a recurring story during the Gilded Age: the courtship of European aristocracy by wealthy Americans. The best-known example is the matchmaking done by Alva Vanderbilt between her daughter Consuelo and the Duke of Marlborough; Alva got her wish, which was to integrate her family with the British aristocracy, but for Consuelo the result was an unhappy marriage.
Others in Newport also competed for the privilege and prestige of hosting European aristocrats and royals, including Herminie Berwind of The Elms. In 1907, Prince Willhelm of Sweden visited Newport as part of his naval rotation. Many of Newport’s society women grasped at the chance to host the prince. The winner of this social sprint would have had to prove that they have mastered the protocol for entertaining at the highest level. Ultimately, Mrs. Berwind won and was a hostess of a ball in the prince’s honor.
☞ Television speeds up journeys that would have been much more arduous in the 19th century than today. Susan Blane travels from Newport to New York and back over the course of an episode, as we often see characters do. This trip would have involved both trains and sea travel. Travelers could go by rail to Providence, then to Fall River to connect with the Old Colony railroad to Newport, or stop in Kingston to transfer to a stagecoach, then take a series of ferries. Beginning in 1871, the Newport and Wickford Railroad and Steamboat Company, founded by wealthy investors that included Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his brother Frederick, ran three and a half miles from the Wickford Junction railroad station to the port of Wickford for transfer to steamboat.
☞ A much longer journey by train is taken by Peggy Scott and T. Thomas Fortune to Tuskegee, Alabama, to meet Booker T. Washington, one of the most significant figures of 19th-century America. A brilliant mind in his own right, he used his genius to help countless African American men and women learn skills that would advance their pursuits of employment, as well as narrow the racial disparity in this country. Although this episode just scratches the surface of Washington as an individual, it does capture the monumentality of what he was trying to accomplish in the founding of the Tuskegee Institute, then known as the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers, in 1881.
☞ The headmistress of Marian’s school asks her to teach classes for lower-class girls, a program inspired by the work of Jane Addams (1860-1935). Addams was early in her illustrious career at the time of this episode, in 1883. Six years later she co-founded Chicago’s Hull House. Later in life she co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union and in 1931 she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
☞ The scene depicting a ladies’ maid (Mrs. Bruce) and a chef (M. Baudin) in the parlor of a Gilded Age mansion would have been a wholly uncommon occurrence. Domestic staff would not be permitted, nor would they feel they had the right, to be in spaces such as this, whether the lady of the house were present or not.
☞ The unflattering newspaper cartoon of George Russell crushing the laborers who work for him between “Low Wages” and “Foul Conditions” was typical of the time. This very similar cartoon from 1894 shows railroad car magnate George Pullman crushing an employee between “Low Wages” and “High Rent.” Satirical cartoons depicted the growing inequalities and polarization of America through an economic lens. In other words, these caricatures showed the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
☞ Mr. Russell hires Pinkerton & Co. to protect his company during the upcoming strike. Pinkerton had been founded several decades earlier and was often involved in operations against organized labor in the United States. Russell’s assistant Mr. Clay mentions getting strikebreakers, or “scabs” – outsiders recruited to do the work of striking workers. The conversation suggests that conflicts between the Pinkertons, scabs and striking workers will likely turn violent.
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.
Kingscote makes its debut as the home of widow Blane, with whom Larry starts an affair. Peggy is welcomed back to the van Rhijn house by almost everyone. Oscar's hopes are dashed, while Marian fends off a suitor.
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.
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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