Welcome to Staatsburgh State Historic Site's blog! Learn more about the Gilded Age home of Ruth and Ogden Mills!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Francis Lewis: A Revolutionary Life

Happy Independence Day!

You may not realize what a close connection Staatsburgh and the Mills family have to the events we commemorate by recognizing Independence Day as a national holiday.  Ruth and Ogden were born about eighty years after the momentous event, but there is a family connection!  Mrs. Mills' great-great grandfather was a member of the Continental Congress and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  We know that Ruth took considerable pride in her ancestors because several historic documents relating to Francis Lewis and other illustrious fore-bearers were displayed in the house.

Francis Lewis (1713-1802)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The House of Worth:
Designer Fashion in the Gilded Age

Today there are countless dress designers who have successfully made a career of dressing the rich and famous.  Names like Armani, Dior, Chanel, Gucci, and Valentino are commonly muttered by artists and entertainers walking the red carpet.  However, if one were to ask the most elite women in Gilded Age society about their gowns, the vast majority of answers would be the same...the House of Worth.

Friday, April 27, 2018

New Discoveries: The Edgar Mills Letters

With history research, there are always new things to discover and the internet has made many of those discoveries easier than ever.  Recently, when I was looking for something completely unrelated, I stumbled upon a description for the Edgar Mills papers at the California State Library.  Part of the collection included correspondence with his brother, D.O. Mills, and his nephew, Ogden Mills.  The description also mentioned that the correspondence included a discussion of Ogden's engagement to Ruth Livingston.  Since we know very little about their courtship and marriage, I was very excited by the prospect of reading these letters.  Keep reading to see what I found!

Headline in Sacramento's The Record-Union, February 4, 1882

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Life Downstairs at Staatsburgh: A Servant Wedding

Fans of the television series Downton Abbey may remember the slow burn of the relationship between the butler, Carson, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes.  Finally, after many seasons of the show, and many more years of working together, the pair expressed their love for each other and were married (much to the delight of the show's fans!).

Romance between servants was usually discouraged, but it did happen.  Some left service after being married, but others continued like Anna and Mr. Bates (another married couple featured on Downton Abbey!).  Even here at Staatsburgh, we know the servants were not immune to falling in love.  Staatsburgh's butler was already married with children when he started working for the Mills family, but his daughter fell in love and married a footman!  Read their story below:

Carson & Mrs. Hughes (Photo: PBS/Masterpiece)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Love in the Gilded Age: Successful Second Marriages

During the early years of the Gilded Age, divorce was quite uncommon and a reason for immediate expulsion from Gilded Age society. However, within a couple decades, divorce was more frequent even among families like the Vanderbilts and Astors. A few groundbreaking divorces from those high up in society, and more couples decided not to remain married to individuals they despised. Many Gilded Age marriages, especially among the upper classes, were not love matches. Parents would push for and even arrange certain marriages in order to cement a partnership, elevate social status, or increase finances, but the individuals were frequently ill suited to each other.  Many of these marriages ended in divorce, but what often resulted from these divorces was a happy second marriage.