How to waste a fortune

These days, if you want to build a fortune, you need to sell nonstick pans on Instagram or start a prank channel on YouTube. Rich people in the Gilded Age were just built different. Take the Astor family, who built their wealth through the beaver fur trade. Doesn’t that sound vaguely classy? Nepo baby Anderson Cooper and his co-author Katherine Howe investigate in their new biography, the subject of our latest Instaread.

Old Money = Cool Parties

The Gilded Age in New York City is unparalleled in terms of weird decadence. Take the dinner given to celebrate the completion of the New York Riding Club’s complex in Washington Heights in 1903. The ballroom was transformed into a pastoral scene with live birds and horses, and guests were invited to dine on saddles, drinking champagne and enjoying dishes like caviar and turtle soup. Imagine the content those people would have had, if only TikTok had been founded a century or so sooner. Delve deep into more unhinged high-society shenanigans in Astor.

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