Food and Drink During the Gilded Age

The years after the Civil War, but before the turn of the 20th century marked the “Gilded Age” in the United States. The name for the era was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley’s satirical novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. The book touches upon wealth, greed, and corruption in a period that marked great prosperity for the nation. The rise of industrialization led to greater wages for skilled workers as well as the unprecedented affluence of “robber barons” like John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt. These decades also witnessed an influx of immigration, poverty, and inequity.

Today, the era still evokes a mix of intrigue, nostalgia and criticism. A new HBO series from the creator of Downton Abbey titled The Gilded Age is sure to arouse renewed interest in this historical timeframe. In addition to gawking at the sets and costumes of this period piece, many will wonder: what were people of the era eating and drinking? HRN’s archive has podcasts about early New York City restaurants, cocktail culture, and the overlooked diets of ordinary Americans at the time. 

A Taste of The Past Episode 241: Food in the Gilded Age: What Ordinary Americans Ate: America's Gilded Age, the last quarter of the nineteenth century, is renowned for the excesses of robber barons and tycoons and their culture of conspicuous consumption. The lavishness of their tables impressed contemporaries and historians alike. But what about the eating habits of ordinary people at the time? Robert Dirks, author of Food in the Gilded Age, poses that question and discovers some surprising answers by peering through the lens of what then was a newly emerging science of nutrition.

Back Bar S2 Episode 1: Greensward: Manhattan: an island, a drink and a park for the people. As New York City grew it needed a place. A place for people to walk, to play, to promenade, to relax. A place with green. Meanwhile there was more and more money pouring into bars and the gentlemen barkeepers of the gilded age were experimenting with all kinds of new drinks from all over the world, including this new stuff from Italy called sweet vermouth. Somehow Central Park and the Manhattan stood the test of time and became not just for the few, but for the many. Special guests this week are Robert Simonson author of A Proper Drink and Kyle Sallee of Central Park Food Tours.

A Taste of the Past Episode 177: Food Obsessed Metropolis: Host Linda Pelaccio welcomes Cindy Lobel to the program. Cindy is an assistant professor of history at Lehman College, a cultural historian with interests in urban development and consumer culture as well as the history of New York. Today she and Linda discuss her book, Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York. Was New York City the first in the country to have a restaurant? What was the first restaurant to open in New York City? Surprisingly, it seems as though present day New York food scene is not so different than it was in the 1800s. Tune in as Cindy takes us through the beginnings of restaurants in New York City and how the now flourishing industry evolved through the years. 

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 531: Researching Beer History: 1898: Host Jimmy Carbone welcomes Clay Risen and Theresa McCulla to the studio to discuss what beer Americans were drinking in 1898. Clay is Deputy Editor of The New York Times Opinion Page and the author of The Crowded Hour: Theodore Roosevelt, The Rough Riders, and the Dawn of the American Century. Theresa McCulla is a beer historian at The Smithsonian, who is currently working to archive homebrewing and craft beer history for the museum. Together they talk about the first era of consolidation for American brewing, what styles of beer were popular at the time, and the ways in which beer shapes community and culture.

We Dig Plants Episode 196: Caroline Seebohm and Curtice Taylor: Hosts Alice Marcus Krieg and Carmen DeVito are joined by Caroline Seebohm and Curtice Taylor, author and photographer, respectively, of the book Rescuing Eden: Preserving America's Historic Gardens. From simple 18th- and early 19th-century gardens to the lavish estates of the Gilded Age, the gardens started by 1930s inmates at Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay to the centuries-old camellias at Middleton Place near Charleston, South Carolina—Rescuing Eden celebrates the history of garden design in the United States, with twenty-eight examples that have been saved by ardent conservationists and generous private owners, and opened to the public.

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