Turn-of-Century Movers and Shakers
While one could hardly recommend New York State’s Prominent and Progressive Men as a “good read,” these two-volumes (+1,000 pp.) are an interesting resource on turn-of-century New York Society, providing brief life sketches of the city and state’s most influential men. This was, of course, before women even had the right to vote. This was also the age of immigration, particularly for New York, which received more newcomers by far than any other state. Immigration may help to explain why so many of the biographies delve into the family pedigrees of the mostly Anglo-Saxon gentlemen. America’s Gilded Age was ending and the Great Wave of immigration (1880-1930) was picking up steam.
In fact, steam was in large part responsible for the many newcomers arriving on American shores. By 1900, the steamship had cheapened and quickened passage across the Atlantic, making it possible for immigrants from southern and eastern Europe to make the trip in great numbers. Previously, northern and western Europeans had dominated arrivals. Those “old immigrants” from Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia were now greatly outnumbered by the “new immigrants” from such countries as Italy, Russia, Poland, Greece, and Hungary.