In my latest release, Until We Meet Again, my heroine goes back to the gilded age of New York in 1888. It was a time of the Astors (old money) vs the Vanderbilts (new money).
There is an often repeated story of how Alva Vanderbilt wanted to overtake Caroline Astor as the reigning queen of New York society. To achieve this status, Alva designed to hold a ball in her newly built home on Fifth Avenue in honor of her friend, Lady Mandeville, who was visiting from London. Alva scheduled her grand ball to gain the greatest effect by setting the date as March 26, 1883, the first Monday after Easter. In doing so, Alva was ensured her ball would be the first big social event since the start of Lent, a somber, party-less time in New York. As an added bonus, she held a costume ball, a form of merriment that was frowned upon by the old school, Knickerbocker crowd headed by Caroline Astor. And as if that wasn’t enough, Monday was the night when Mrs. Astor was traditionally at home to receive guests. Alva had planned well.
Alva’s upcoming ball was the talk of the city in the weeks leading up to the event. It’s said that 140 dressmakers labored day and night for weeks to finish all the fancy dress outfits commissioned by the invited guests.
Alva knew perfectly well that as a “newcomer” in New York society it wasn’t proper for her to approach Mrs. Astor, she must wait for Mrs. Astor to call on her. To have circumvented the procedure would have been considered too pushy. It also seemed that Mrs. Astor’s one soft spot was her concern for her children. Interestingly, it happened that Mrs. Astor had a debutante daughter named Carried who had been practicing a dance called the Star Quadrille to be perform at Mrs. Vanderbilt’s ball. Not surprisingly, Alva learned of these rehearsals and let it be known that as much as it pained her, she could not ask Miss Carrie Astor to attend her ball when her mother, Mrs. Astor had never acknowledged Alva.
Mrs. Astor drew the line at allowing her child to be disappointed and so she sent a footman in blue livery to deliver her calling card to Mrs. Vanderbilt. And shortly after that, a footman in maroon livery was sent by Mrs. Vanderbilt to deliver an invitation to her ball to Mrs. Astor.
Old money vs new, and new money found a way to win the day.
– – – Enjoy always, T