When the Astors Owned New York

When the Astors Owned New York

Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age

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Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780452288584
  • 208 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


In this marvelous anecdotal history, Justin Kaplan––Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Mark Twain––vividly brings to life a glittering, bygone age.

Endowed with the largest private fortunes of their day, cousins John Jacob Astor IV and William Waldorf Astor vied for primacy in New York society, producing the grandest hotels ever seen in a marriage of ostentation and efficiency that transformed American social behavior.

Kaplan exposes it all in exquisite detail, taking readers from the 1890s to the Roaring Twenties in a combination of biography, history, architectural appreciation, and pure reading pleasure


A gem of a book . . . No one since [Henry] James has written with such ease and grace about the era of excess as Kaplan. (Megan Marshall, author of The Peabody Sisters)

Mr. Kaplan, a dazzling stylist, is perfectly suited to his subject: what Henry James lovingly called æhotel civilizationæ . . . [A] splendid book about a bygone age that has not quite gone away. (The New York Sun)