December 29, 2016During the Gilded Age, the American traditions of New Year’s Eve started to transition from the folk celebrations of immigrants to the elaborate soirees we are more familiar with today, especially for those of a certain class.
March 30, 2016In the early decades of the 20th century, the fictional Crawley family of Downton Abbey® hosted grand dinners and fretted about the Great War. At the same time, the real Fisher family was doing the same—right here in this Gilded Age mansion the Driehaus Museum calls ‘home.’
April 15, 2015As we reflect today on the 103-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook an entire culture’s belief in its own bright, progressive destiny, some American teens have supposedly been surprised to discover that the RMS Titanic’s sinking was, in fact, real. (“I never knew titanic actually happened,” one tweeted. “Always thought it was just a film,” wrote another.)
December 24, 2013As the Nickerson and Fisher families looked forward to their holiday seasons, they and other Gilded Age families would have enjoyed games, toys and books in their spare time.
June 28, 2013Edward J. Burling was, arguably, the first great architect in this city of great architects.
May 20, 2013Henry Flagler and Henry Plant had much in common. Both came from humble American beginnings; were undereducated relative to their future self-made success; adopted New York City as home;
May 15, 2013We are so inspired by the image of Robert Redford as the lovelorn Jay Gatsby, standing on a Newport mansion’s balcony—an image that combines a character of the Lost Generation with the architecture of the Gilded Age—that we decided to show the 1974 film in our own Gilded Age mansion as the first of our new Mix and Mingle at the Movies program series.
April 04, 2013A beautiful Romanesque house was completed for John and Frances Glessner in 1887, just five years after the dust had settled from construction on our Nickerson mansion.
January 28, 2013Patenting his electric lightbulb would, more than Edison’s 1,093 other inventions, cement his spot as American inventor extraordinaire.
December 17, 2012The following blog post by WBEZ architecture critic Lee Bey, originally titled “New ‘Lost Chicago’ Book Explores the City That Once Was,” was published November 29, 2012, on his blog,.
December 04, 2012I have always been struck, while reading Anna Karenina (or, more recently, while watching Leo Tolstoy’s 1873-1878 tale played out by Jude Law and Keira Knightley in sumptuous costumes in this year’s film version) by the similarities it shows between upper-class late 19th-century Russia and late 19th-century America.
November 14, 2012Typically (and stereotypically), the Gilded Age is known for: 1) Money and industry, and 2) People who made a lot of money in industry.
October 29, 2012One might be surprised to discover a giant black spider attacking a Gilded Age fine and decorative arts museum. But yes, at the corner of Erie and Wabash, a colossal arachnid is navigating the exterior of the historic Nickerson Mansion.
October 22, 2012Next week 119 years ago, with a crisp chill entering the air, the closing ceremonies concluded, the crowds began piling into Pullman cars to head back to their own parts of America, and the World Columbian Exposition’s dismantling began.
September 24, 2012This year marks the 150th birthday of Edith Wharton, and Dr. Caroline Hellman—associate professor of English in New York—graciously accepted our invitation to speak about the writer and interior designer for our Samuel M. Nickerson Lecture Series.
August 28, 2012Ah, Lincoln Park. Here, leafy trees offer dappled shade to quaint, historic residential buildings aligned in cozy, shoulder-to-shoulder rows.
July 16, 2012There is this great line in the book Great Houses of Chicago, 1871-1921, which I lugged from the shelf in search of insights on the popularity of conservatories during the Gilded Age. It begins, “The Victorians were notorious for collecting…”—and that’s a perfect enough start.
July 09, 2012John Gardner Low was a ceramics artist of about 41 when he approached the crowded exhibitions in Philadelphia at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. He was a Massachusetts man and had traveled far, like the millions of others, to see the first U.S. world’s fair.
June 29, 2012The Fourth didn’t become a federal holiday until 1941, but America has been celebrating it since the signatures went down on the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Looking back at a Gilded Age’s worth of Fourth of July celebrations in Chicago, here are some of best (and some of the worst) moments between the Civil and First World Wars.
June 14, 2012The Museum’s visitors are always interested in how America’s wealthy lived back in the Gilded Age—with their parties, art collections, luxuries, Europe tours, and so on—but lately we’ve noticed this curiosity giving way to a positive deluge of questions about the other half: the Nickersons’ live-in servants.
April 14, 2012As we near the 100-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook an entire culture’s belief in its own bright, progressive destiny, some American teens have supposedly been surprised to discover that the RMS Titanic’s sinking was, in fact, real.
March 06, 2012I reread F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby recently and was struck by two things. First, the efficacy and pure, unusual beauty of Fitzgerald’s language—just not something you can appreciate in the same way as a teen, even one who loved English lit. Second, the wild wealth depicted by Fitzgerald with everything from desperation and sadness to superficiality and cruelty residing just inches beneath.
February 01, 2012A tempting thought: Slipping into the Nickerson Mansion with a sleeping bag, claiming a guest bedroom, and making oneself at home.
December 24, 2011(This blog is the final in a short series of snapshots that illustrate how Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came upon or celebrated certain holiday traditions.)
December 19, 2011[This blog is the second in a short series of snapshots that illustrate how Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came upon or celebrated certain holiday traditions.]
December 15, 2011As you settle into winter holiday traditions of your own—re-watching that Rudolph claymation film, stringing popcorn and cranberries to hang on the tree, and dining on fried catfish and Austrian potato salad on Christmas Eve were a few of my own childhood favorites—here’s a look at how many Americans during the Gilded Age celebrated “the most wonderful time of the year.”
December 03, 2011The Nickerson Mansion has nearly 20 galleries on its three floors and design-wise, each room is pretty much doing its own thing. Walk into the drawing room, and bam. All the noble delicacy of Louis XIV France.
November 16, 2011You Asked… Why was this neighborhood called McCormickville (and why didn’t the Nickersons live down on Prairie Avenue with the rest of the wealthy)?