High Style in the Gilded Age: Jeanette Ralston Chase Hoyt

A few weeks ago we started including the staff lectures in our blog posts as a means to digitally archive everything we produce in one easy place to find everything so in the coming weeks we are going to be posting here my High Style in the Gilded Age talks. If you missed these talks live and have not yet had a chance to watch the video or are just now hearing about them, now is the best time to check them out!

Ladies gathered after a “Luncheon for Molly” Southampton, July 1900

As the Research Center Manager at the museum, my role has been to choose and describe the high-profile women among Southampton’s summer colony--fashion trendsetters and occasional fashion rebels--who wore the clothes and were admired, envied and lavishly covered on the society pages of the New York and local press in the years between 1870 and 1930.

Throughout those six decades, as Southampton transitioned from quiet village to fashionable resort, stylish women who arrived for the summer were liberating themselves from their corseted, constricting garments.

Elaborate hats in the Gilded Age were bedecked with copious flowers, ribbons and feathers. Howland Collection Southampton, c. 1900

For years, women of the upper classes had been covering their bodies with up to 25 pounds of petticoats, bustles, hats and ankle-length skirts. Of the dozen women featured in the exhibit, all were wealthy but none sailed through life on a cloud of privilege. Amidst the social triumphs, some had more than their share of stress, strife and scandal.



The High-Culture Bohemian

South Main Street Southampton, 1875

It is the arrival of the railroad in 1870 that precipitates Southampton’s ascent as a fashionable resort. You can see on this 1873 map that no one has yet built on the western shore of Lake Agawam.

Around 1875, Nettie and her family are summer boarders at the Home of William White.

It is only a few years after that, in 1875 or ‘76, that Nettie Hoyt spends her first summer in Southampton, boarding with her family in the home of William White on South Main Street.

An early view of South Main Street, circa 1890.
A later view of South Main Street, circa 1920.
Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, 1861-1864

Nettie was raised by her widowed father, the eminent Salmon P. Chase, a very imposing figure but one with a very familiar face; during his tenure as Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln from 1861 to 1864, he put his face on the front of every dollar bill (and on the $10,000 bill as well). Not for nothing was he known as “Old Mister Greenbacks.”