“Fish Forks and Fine Furnishings”—a Gilded Age exhibit in Knoxville

Mary Cassatt, The Cup of Tea, 1879

The Gilded Age in the United States generally referred to the post-Civil War period from the 1870s to the turn of the 20th century, when vast industrial fortunes led to lavish lifestyles for those relatively few families. Newport, Rhode Island came to be seen as the most fashionable resort for many wealthy industrialists, with such “summer cottages” as the Breakers, Marble House, Rosecliff, the Elms, and others. Eventually, as Henry Flagler extended the railroad down the Atlantic coast of Florida, St. Augustine became a winter destination with the opening in

1888 of the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College), before the winter resorts farther south at Palm Beach, Miami Beach, and the Florida Keys became popular.

Today, the primary reminders of the Gilded Age are the magnificent historic houses that are preserved as hotels, museums, and other types of tourist destinations. In addition to the extravagances of the architecture, the Gilded Age mansions also included elaborate furnishings. An exhibit at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in Knoxville, Tennessee, on view until August 17, 2017—focuses on these items. (Photo of Mary Cassatt’s 1879 painting The Cup of Tea, is in the public domain – painting is not included in the exhibit).


McClung Museum: Knoxville in the Gilded Age

By Rachel Downs


July 7, 2017