Irvington Historical Society board member Chet Kerr will be sharing insights into the Irvington of the late 1800s in an upcoming Zoom presentation titled “The Gilded Age in Irvington: Interesting Stories, Interesting People.”
To attend Kerr’s presentation this Sunday, March 5, at 2 p.m., register on the historical society’s website, irvingtonhistoricalsociety.org. The program is free, and a recording will be uploaded to the historical society’s YouTube page.
Kerr hopes to expand upon the current exhibit at the McVickar House on Main Street, which features items from the families who lived in Irvington during the Gilded Age. Visitors can see gowns, sewing equipment, menswear, children’s books, and other household items from the estates of Irvington residents such as David Dows, Charles Tiffany, and Cyrus Field. Visitors to the McVickar House will also find a map of the village from 1891, showing who lived where.
For his presentation, Kerr will focus on five Irvington residents.
“They’re interesting people for what they did,” Kerr said. “And I think their lives and how they lived reflects some, not all, but many of the changes in the social dynamics of the Gilded Age. So, what I’m going to do in my talk is introduce this idea of looking at these issues, specify who these five people are, and then talk about them, what their lives were, and what impact they had on Irvington itself.”
According to Kerr, the Gilded Age was a “tumultuous time period between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century,” marked by significant technological advances and economic growth, social movements such as women’s suffrage and temperance, massive immigration, and the spread of Jim Crow across the American South.
“It was a period in which greedy, frankly corrupt bankers and politicians enjoyed extraordinary wealth and opulence, and often at the expense of the working class,” Kerr said. “And all of that was going on; it was going on nationally, and to some extent it was going on right around Irvington, and ultimately when it hit the early 20th century it was a new kind of progressive age to try and corral some of that in... it’s a very interesting period of our country.”
Irvington had a front-row seat to some of that opulence thanks to its proximity to New York City.
“The Town of Greenburgh at this time, was probably the richest town in all of the United States,” Kerr said, “There was more money between Yonkers and what became Sleepy Hollow than anywhere else in the country, because all of these wealthy New Yorkers bought up a lot of the farmland and turned them into country estates.”
While Kerr noted that going to visit the physical exhibit on the Gilded Age has its benefits, the goal of both historical presentations is the same.
“There are things [at the Gilded Age exhibit] that you can both see, visually, you can pick up and touch, and that... is and important part of what a historical society can offer people. But it’s also telling stories. It’s talking about history, and its relevance back then, its relevance today.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.