Class and Leisureat America's First ResortNewport, Rhode Island1870-1914

Date In Newport In America
1639 Newport founded by dissenters
of the Puritan Church
The colonies' first constitution, the Fundamental Orders, is adopted
1680 Newport becomes one of America's leading ports
New Hampshire separates from Massachusetts
1748 The Redwood Library, an early Newport cultural center, opens
Coffee houses become popular in the colonies
1807 Slave trade abolished; Newport economy shifts to tourism
Robert Fulton's steamboat Clermont travels from New York City to Albany in 32 hours
1840 Ocean House, one of Newport's first large hotels, opens Americans discover hydrotherapy; Saratoga Springs, New York, becomes gathering place for upper-class families
1841 Richard Upjohn designs Kingscote, one of Newport's first summer estates, for George Noble Jones In America: Historical, Statistical, Descriptive, James Buckingham describes New York City as "speculative, extravagant, and loaded with nouveaux riches"
1844 Atlantic House Hotel opens The New York Hotel becomes the first American hotel to offer private baths
1847 Fall River Line established The Astor Place Opera House is a popular meeting place for New York society

Musical satires and tableaux vivants become popular

1850s Samuel Ward McAllister, creator of "the Four Hundred" social list, purchases Bayside Farm
Baseball becomes a national pastime
1870 Wickford Railroad and Steamboat Company begins steamboat service

First American boardwalk appears in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Vaudeville becomes popular

1873 Reverend Mahlon Van Horne helps desegregate Newport School Committee

Newport Hospital established

America suffers economic depression

First cable car used in San Francisco

1875 Old Colony Railroad establishes network of lines between New York, Boston, and southeastern Massachusetts

The traveling circus becomes popular

First public zoo opens in Philadelphia


Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luceestablishes Naval Training Station on Coasters Harbor Island

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opens, funded by New York society

James Gordon Bennett Jr. opens Newport Casino, built from designs by Stanford White

U.S. Lawn Tennis Association established; national championship held in Newport

William K. Vanderbilt's home on Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City completed at a cost of $3 million

Coney Island, New York, becomes middle-class playground; features museums, sideshows, and rides

1884 Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce establishes Naval War College on Coasters Harbor Island Andrew Carnegie builds mansion on Fifth Avenue and 91st Street in New York City; Gilded Age wealth on display
1888 "Dumplings" steamer put into service to carry visitors to and from Jamestown Island Edward Bellamy publishes Looking Backward, 2000-1887, a novel about social problems in industrial society

George Eastman introduces the Kodak camera; Americans can now capture vacation moments on film

1889 Upper-class summer residents file injunction opposing construction of trolley system in Newport; Supreme Court of Providence denies injunction

Newport Street Railway opens Rhode Island's first electric street car on Commercial Wharf

Thomas Edison develops first movie film
1892 Richard Morris Huntcompletes Marble House for William K. Vanderbilt Samuel Ward McAllister publishes a list of "the Four Hundred" in the New York Times

Richard Morris Hunt completes The Breakers for Cornelius Vanderbilt II; the largest of Newport's summer estates

Electric trolleys run from Commercial Wharf and Broadway to Easton's Beach, Morton Park, and Middletown

French author Paul Bourget visits Newport; writes of upper-class leisure in Outre-Mer

Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition opens, featuring transportation, electric, arts, and technology buildings; and a Midway featuring working-class entertainments

Stephen Crane publishes Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, a naturalistic novel about a working-class American girl

1897 Upper-class summer residents oppose trolley system between Newport and Fall River The Bradley Martins of New York City give a lavish party, transforming the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel into the Palace of Versailles. The media criticizes the excess

Newport and Fall River Street Railway Company open trolley line between Newport and Fall River

Providence, Fall River, and Newport Steamboat Company establish additional steamers between Newport and Narragansett Pier

Amusement parks become popular; many built by trolley lines to stimulate business

Horace Trumbauer designs The Elms for coal magnate Edward J. Berwind

Economist Thorstein Veblen publishes Theory of the Leisure Class, critiquing the excesses of the rich

1904 Newport and Providence Street Railway connect Newport with Providence via Bristol Ferry

William K. Vanderbilt sponsors the Vanderbilt Cup Race, the first organized auto race in America
1912 Newport Civic League conducts study of winter unemployment; recommends establishing manufacturing industries to create more jobs and redistributing workers in slow months

New England Steamship Company purchases Fall River Line
The R.M.S. Titanic, carrying Americans of all classes, hits an iceberg and sinks off the coast of Newfoundland

Calbraith Rodgers makes the first cross-country flight, from New York to California, in 82 hours

1913 Boardwalk and amusements added to Easton's Beach Henry Ford begins production of the
Model T

Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001