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tv   Staatsburg and the Gilded Age  CSPAN  June 18, 2017 7:45pm-8:01pm EDT

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[indistinct conversation] watching: you're american history tv, all we can, every weekend on six and three. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. announcer: we are just out of hyde park, new york. of next, we take you inside mill's mansion for a look at the gilded age in because in valley. the term came from a novel by mark twain and it did notes -- it denotes that things are gilded and opulent but underneath is perhaps something not quite here. pure. quite
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gilding so many objects obviously gave the great opulence but it is not gold. not pure as you look at the furnishings on the house, you see a lot of gilding. gilding so many objects and architectural elements in your house gave you great opulence, but it's not pure gold. it is on the surface. so, that sort of translates to the period where you have all this amazing wealth and power. but you don't have the european heritage behind it. so, these folks are creating an image of what they wished to be. we live in a democracy. you cannot be an aristocrat in america but you can live like one and live in a house that looks like you are one and dress like one. for balls and dinner parties and to ba person of leisure like someone from europe, from the aristocracy. the story of this house is a lot of that the gilded age story of people accumulating fabulous wealth and choosing to live, to model their lives on the people they are sort of fascinated by. we're at staatsburg state historic site and we are in the mansion.
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the ruth livingston mills is a member of a prominent family. the livingston's are initially received their land as a parcel patent from the king of england. >> and, ultimately, they owned about one million acres on this side of the hudson river all the way east towards massachusetts. so ruth mills is a member of the landed gentry in the old family name, venerable family lineage. ogden mills is what would've been called nouveau riche. he decides to take a boat under south america and go to california. he sells tools and equipment to the miners. he starts a bank and also helps investment build the virginia truck he railroad from california silver mines in nevada.
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when the comstock load happens, the silver, he makes more money and goes back to california and begins the bank of california. but he makes a fabulous fortune in a decade or so. in the the gilded age you could make it or lose it very quickly in this period. when ruth livingston marries ogden mills, she has the land and the family connection to the land in the mid-hudson valley. he has got a lot of money. and you get the marriage of the two and you get a home like this. the 79 room mansion that you see is not the house that ruth and ogden mills move into. ruth mills inherits her great-grandfather's house, which was built in 1832 and had 25 rooms. after her marriage in the 1880's she inherits this property, 200
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acres and this 25 room greek revival house. but by the 1890's she is vying to become the next queen of new york society. and that 25 room house is simply not large enough or not opulent enough for the kind of entertaining she and ogden want to do, particularly her. to be the next reigning queen of society have to do this olympic level entertaining constantly and a build your reputation as the hostess of perfection. the 79 rooms, guest rooms and rooms for the service, these gorgeous decorated spaces are meant to overwhelm and send a clear message about her prominence and her wealth but also her lineage, how established she is in society and so, they decide in 1894, they commission stanford white to expand the earlier home, that 1832 home, to what we see today.
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and you know, people may say, gee, it would have been easier to knock down that earlier home and start fresh. you do not do that here because this is ruth's ancestral home, built by her great-grandfather, the third. governor of new york so, and said, stanford white is given the challenge of expanding that earlier home -- instead but not eclipsing it. one of the things quite unique about this house is you still see that earlier home at the core of the architecture. as you walk from the room to room, and the architecture, she is clearly saying, this is my ancestral home. there are places in the house were stanford white had to make compromises because he was working with existing structure.
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you will see the grand staircase off the main hall blocks one of the windows. i very much a doubt stanford white would've chosen to do that. it definitely does not ascribe to his beaux arts architectural principles that he was steadfastly following. of crse, in the the gilded age you have fortunes made or lost overnight. throughout the country, you have railroad and mining, a lot of exportation of natural resources, industry, huge amount of immigration happening. and the hudson valley, you've got this major river, these arteries that even before the the gilded age is the major kind of highway of the 18th and 19th centuries connecting it to the erie canal. a lot of active trade, shipping, transportation, commerce on the hudson river.
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and, also, you know, the hudson river school painters have popularized this area. so, tourism, the first eco-tourism is in the catskills and into this area, the mid hudson valley. people coming up by train and boat to enjoy the pleasures of the country, not just the wealthy guests, but well-off middle-class folks going to some of the hotels in the area on mountain tops. it's bustling, it is busy. but in places like this, you have got all of these the state one after the other along the banks of the river. because it is just such a beautiful property. and so, you've got these prominent families who have business ties to new york city usually and they can get there during the week if they want, but when you are here, unlike your new york home, because most of these folks of mills' ilk have beautiful mansions on fifth
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avenue as well but when you are here, you're very exclusive, you are set away from everyone else. really removed and there is this barrier of all of this land and the water between you and the hoi polloi, the regular people. the major employers, for the area. they have a working farm across the street. they have all of this beautiful designed and managed trade. all of these outbuildings. right on the river. they had a powerhouse. one of the highest paid members of the electrician because there is no grid. you are making your own. and so they are generating power and they have an ice house, harvesting ice on the river and storing it for the entire year. there is a lot of labor hidden in the design landscape, tucked away that makes this house work. this house functions like a five-star hotel and a grand house, but in terms of how it
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looks, it really looks like you walk in the main hall and it looks like an english manner home. there is all of that oak panel and the trophy antlers and so forth. you say, english manor home. you walk in the dining room and you see all of this french louix xiv furniture. they were in love with that french culture and english manor homes. it is a melding of this. if you come here for the weekend, it is a very exclusive invitation. you know, caroline -- had the 400, the people who mattered in society but mrs. mills, ruth livingston mills, is more exclusive. she felt there were only about 40 families in america worth bothering with.
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and, of course, those were all of this a venerable lineage like her own. and glitterati of the period. you would come for the weekend and during the day you would enjoy the pleasures of the country. you would be yachting and on their private golf course, their tennis courts, fox chasing, taking walks -- strolling down to the river and so forth. and, after you have enjoyed those pleasurable country activities during the day, the culminating event in your visit is this grand, elaborate, multicourse dinner of the finest french food. the mills' employed three french chefs and they would travel with them from home to home. you would be at dinner -- the women would be wearing their finest gowns from the house of worth in paris. the ropes of pearls.
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the men in their finest evening attire. it is not going to be a relaxed affair. you have been invited to this incredibly exclusive house, and you are going to be judged on your conversation. do you know which fork of the five on the table you are to use for your oysters or salad? you have all the right manners and witticisms in all the right socialavoir faire to belong in this company? the people in the the gilded age, i don't mean just the mills, the melons and rockefellers, they collected amazing collections of art. when forces in europe were waning, these folks are going to europe and purchasing fabulous collections of art and other aspects of european culture which they are sort of appropriating into their own lifestyles, but it left us with carnegie libraries over all the country.
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it left us with most of the collections of places like the metropolitan museum of art. while they were very much living high for themselves and their own reputations and interests, they also left legacies. and to have a mansion, an estate like this, to see the architecture of the period in most cases pretty well preserved, allows us to see the material culture of that period. we have them to thank. mrs. mills died in 1920. all of the entertaining comes to an end. mr. mills continues to come to the estate because, while her passion is the entertaining and the parties on weekend, his passion is the working farm across the street. he continues to come here until 1929 when he passes.
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it becomes a state historic site in the 1970's. then a professional museum functioning for tours and programs for the public in the 1980's. e mills' twin daughter gives the house as a memorial to the lifestyle of her parents. it really is with all of its original furnishings pretty much where they left things. it really is a time capsule into a time in american history that we just most of us anyway are never going to re-create. and she wanted it to be sort of the way to see how her parents lived and how they transformed this landscape. announcer: this weekend we're featuring the history of hyde
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park, new york. learn more not hyde park and other stops on our cities tour on were. you're watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. tonight on afterwards, utah republican senator mike lee talks about forgotten historical figures who fought against big government in his book "written out of history." he is interviewed by neil capital. >> they come to you gradually. i have asked and friends who they thought should get more credit than they get. this is an turquoise indian iroquioso understood -- indian chief. not in a most americans
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know anything about and yet he had a pronounced impact on our system of government. he is the guy who enabled this man franklin to learn about made its way first into the articles of confederation, then into the street >> watch afterwards tonight at 9:00 eastern and's book tv. >> next on the presidency, joe haldeman offers an insider's view of richard nixon's white house and the watergate scandal that ended with his resignation. her husband, hr bob haldeman served as 37th president's chief of staff. she shares experts from her book -- excerpts from her book. the richard nixon foundation hostedhi


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