Ward McAllister
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Ward McAllister
Ward McAllister
Ward McAllister.jpg
Samuel Ward McAllister

December 28, 1827
DiedJanuary 31, 1895(1895-01-31) (aged 67)
Sarah Taintor Gibbons
(m. 1853)
Parent(s)Matthew Hall McAllister
Louisa Charlotte Cutler
RelativesSamuel Ward (uncle)
Julia Ward Howe (cousin)
Samuel Cutler Ward (cousin)
Benjamin Clark Cutler (grandfather)

Samuel Ward McAllister (December 28, 1827 - January 31, 1895) was a popular arbiter of social taste in the Gilded Age of late 19th-century America. He was widely accepted as the authority as to which families could be classified as the cream of New York society (the Four Hundred). But his listings were also questioned by those excluded from them, and his own personal motives of self-aggrandisement were noted.

Early life

Born Samuel Ward McAllister to a socially prominent Savannah, Georgia, judicial family. His parents were Matthew Hall McAllister (1800-1865) and Louisa Charlotte (née Cutler) McAllister (1801-1869).[1]

Through his maternal aunt, Julia Rush Cutler, and her husband, Samuel Ward, he was a first cousin of Julia Ward Howe and Samuel Cutler Ward, the lobbyist whose first wife Emily Astor had been the daughter of William Backhouse Astor Sr. and a granddaughter of John Jacob Astor. His maternal grandparents were Benjamin Clark Cutler, Norfolk County Sheriff, and Sarah (née Mitchell) Cutler.[1]

In 1850, McAllister traveled to California with his father during the Gold Rush and became one of the partners in the law firm of "McAllister & Sons."[1][2]

New York Society

"Snobbish Society's Schoolmaster." Caricature of Ward McAllister as an ass telling Uncle Sam he must imitate "an English snob of the 19th century" or he "will nevah be a gentleman". Published in Judge, 8 November 1890.

McAllister wrote that after his marriage in 1853, he bought a farm on Narragansett Bay, planted trees and left for a three-year journey throughout Europe's great cities and spas--Bath, Pau, Bad Nauheim, and the like--where he observed the mannerisms of other wealthy Americans and titled nobility, returning to New York with his wife and two small children 15 October 1858.[a][3][4][5] Using his wife's wealth and his own social connections, McAllister sought to become a tastemaker amongst New York's "Knickerbocracy", a collection of old merchant and landowning families who traced their lineage back to the days of colonial New Amsterdam.[6] Above all in McAllister's life was his desire for social recognition by what he termed the "Ton," i. e. the cream of society.[7]

Although purported to be an index of New York's best families, McAllister's list was suspiciously top-heavy with nouveau riche industrialists and McAllister's southern allies, seeking a new start in the nation's financial capital after the American Civil War. In his glory, McAllister referred to his patroness, Mrs. Caroline Astor (The Mrs. Astor), as his "Mystic Rose".[8] McAllister was an early summer colonist of Newport, Rhode Island, and was largely responsible for turning the simple seaside resort into a Mecca for the pleasure-seeking, status-conscious rich of the Gilded Age. His gift for party and picnic planning soon made him a society darling.[9]

Among the undesirables McAllister endeavored to exclude from the charmed circle of the Four Hundred were the many nouveau riche Midwesterners who poured into New York seeking social recognition. In 1893, McAllister wrote a column about the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in which he urged that if Chicago society hostesses wanted to be taken seriously, they should hire French chefs and "not frappé their wine too much."[10] The Chicago Journal replied, "The mayor will not frappé his wine too much. He will frappé it just enough so the guests can blow the foam off the tops of the glasses without a vulgar exhibition of lung and lip power. His ham sandwiches, sinkers, and ... pigs' feet, will be triumphs of the gastronomic art."[11][12]

McAllister's downfall came when he published a book of memoirs entitled Society as I Have Found It in 1890.[13] The book, and his hunger for media attention, did little to endear him to the old guard, who valued their privacy in an era when millionaires were the equivalent of modern movie stars.[14]

"The Four Hundred"

McAllister coined the phrase "The Four Hundred" by declaring that there were "only 400 people in fashionable New York Society."[15] According to him, this was the number of people in New York who really mattered; the people who felt at ease in the ballrooms of high society ("If you go outside that number," he warned, "you strike people who are either not at ease in a ballroom or else make other people not at ease."). The number was popularly supposed to be the capacity of Mrs William Backhouse Astor Jr.'s ballroom.[16][17] The lavish parties were held at the Astor mansion.[18]

On February 16, 1892, McAllister named the official list of The Four Hundred in The New York Times.[19]The Four Million, the title of a book by O. Henry, was a reaction to this phrase, expressing O. Henry's opinion that every human being in New York was worthy of notice.[14]

Society of Patriarchs

In 1872, McAllister founded the "Society of Patriarchs" which was a group of 25 gentlemen from New York Society.[20] The group of 25 were "representative men of worth, respectability, and responsibility."[20] Beginning with the 1885-1886 season,[21][22] the Patriarchs threw a ball each year, known as the Patriarchs Ball, which each member was entitled to invite four ladies and five gentlemen to, thereby establishing the invitees as fit for society.[23] The first Patriarchs Ball was held at Delmonico's,[21] with the Balls, which were difficult to obtain invitations to, receiving significant press coverage.[24][25][26][27] The Patriarchs Ball inspired similar balls, including the Ihpetonga Ball, which was considered "the most important social event of the season in Brooklyn."[28]

The Society dissolved two years after McAllister's death in 1897 due to a lack of interest.[20]

Personal life

On 15 March 1853, McAllister married a Georgia born heiress who was then living in Madison, New Jersey, Sarah Taintor Gibbons (1829-1909), the daughter of William Gibbons (1794-1852) and Abigail Louisa (née Taintor) Gibbons (1791-1844).[29][30][31] Her grandfather was politician, lawyer, and steamboat owner Thomas Gibbons.[3][b] Her father built the Gibbons Mansion in Madison, which her brother sold to Daniel Drew after their father's death, and which Drew donated to found Drew Theological Seminary (now known as Drew University).[32] Together, they were the parents of:[1]

  • Louise Ward McAllister (1854-1923),[33][34] who in 1920 married A. Nelson Lewis, a linguist who owned the 600 acre "old Lewis estate" at Havre de Grace, Maryland that had been in the family since 1806.[35] She was engaged to George Barclay Ward (1845-1906)[36] at the time of his death in 1907.[37][c]
  • Ward McAllister, Jr. (1855-1908), an 1880 Harvard Law School graduate,[38][39] who became a San Francisco lawyer who served as the first Federal district judge of the Territory of Alaska,[40][41] beginning in 1884 and was responsible for the arrest of Sheldon Jackson.[42][43][44][d]
  • Heyward Hall McAllister (1859-1925),[41] who married Janie Champion Garmany (b. 1867)[45] of Savannah in 1892.[46] In what became a minor scandal when it was made public, the couple was secretly wed first in 1884, then in 1887,[47] and lastly in 1892.[48] They later divorced[49] and he married Melanie Jeanne Renke (d. 1939),[50] who was born in France and did not speak English, in 1908.[41][e]

In disgrace, McAllister died while dining alone at New York's Union Club, in January 1895.[14] His funeral, held on February 5, 1895, was well attended by many society figures of the day, including Chauncey Depew and Cornelius Vanderbilt II.[51] McAllister is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.[52][53] In 1907, Sarah was described as having been an invalid for 25 years.[37]


  1. ^ McAllister wrote (Chapter IV) that this trip included London and then Paris for the Universal Exposition of 1855 (incorrectly referenced by him as 1857) followed by the baptism of the Imperial Prince on 11 June 1856. If he attended both events in Paris, he would have returned to Paris after his first European winter (1855-1856) spent on the Arno River. He employees first person plural for payment of meals, indicating his family was with him possibly until their return in October 1858. His second and third winters (1856-57 and 1857-58) were at Pau. (Chapter VI)
  2. ^ Sarah's grandfather, Thomas Gibbons, was the plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Gibbons v. Ogden and was a mentor to Cornelius Vanderbilt.
  3. ^ George Barclay Ward, the son of Susan Barclay Parsons (1822-1893) and Montagnie Ward (1812-1879), cousin of William Barclay Parsons and brother-in-law of Luther Kountze, was a widower of Jane Mary de Pau (1848-1886), with whom he had three children. Louise and George were engaged for fifteen to eighteen years before his death.
  4. ^ Appointed by President Chester Arthur "through the political pull" of his friends including the Alaska Commercial Company, Judge McAllister, an alcoholic, was removed from office after a year on the bench due to his indiscretions. Although incorrectly referred to as McAllister's nephew instead of his son, he was described "a man of enormous power" who was incompetent.
  5. ^ His first wife, Janie or Jennie, remarried in 1898 to Augustus Philip Brandt of William Brandt's Sons and Co.
  1. ^ a b c d McAllister, Mary Catharine (1898). Descendants of Archibald McAllister of West Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, Pa. 1730-1898. Scheffer. p. 51. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ "Samuel Ward McAllister (1827-1895)". www.nyhistory.org. New-York Historical Society. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ a b McAllister, Ward (1890). Society as I Have Found it. New York: Cassell Publishing Company. Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ "Personal Intelligence / Americans registered with American European Express and Exchange Company, Paris, from 26 May - 3 June 1856". New York Herald. 22 June 1856. p. 8.
  5. ^ "New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957". www.ancestory.com. Retrieved 2021.
  6. ^ Vanderbilt II, Arthur T. Fortune's Children. Wm. Morrow and Co., 1989: 90-93. ISBN 0-688-07279-8
  7. ^ Hitchcock, Jane Stanton (2012). Social Crimes. New York: Harper Paperbacks. ISBN 9780062206565.
  8. ^ Vanderbilt, 97.
  9. ^ Gavan, Terrence. 'The Barons of Newport: A Guide to the Gilded Age'. Newport: Pineapple Publications, 1998. p. 11. ISBN 0-929249-06-2
  10. ^ Dedmon, Emmett (2012). Fabulous Chicago: A Great City's History and People. Garrett County Press. p. 259. ISBN 9781891053634. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ Larson, Erik (2004). The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 209. ISBN 9781400076314. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ "Ward M'allister's Triumph; His Work as As A "Society Reporter" Excites Much Gossip. Other Newspaper Men Received at the Patriarchs' Ball with Chilliness--For Mr. McAllister Did Not Wish Them to Obtain Descriptions of the Women's Dresses--His Story of the Ball a Prose Poem--Some of the Choices Gems from His Pen". The New York Times. 15 December 1893. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ Ward McAllister (1890) Society as I Have Found It, Cassell, New York
  14. ^ a b c "WARD M'ALLISTER DEAD; He Had Been Ill for a Week with an Attack of the Grip. THE END WAS UNEXPECTED His Condition Not Considered Serious by His Physicians Until Wednesday Morning -- His Long Career as a Society Leader". The New York Times. 1 February 1895. Retrieved 2017.
  15. ^ Salvini, Emil R. (2005). Hobey Baker: American Legend. Hobey Baker Memorial Foundation. p. 3. ISBN 9780976345305. Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ Vanderbilt, 98.
  17. ^ Keister, Lisa A. (2005). Getting Rich: America's New Rich and How They Got That Way. Cambridge University Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780521536677. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ Parker, Maggie. "The Four Hundred: Then and Now Tony Abrams has reinvented Gilded Age society. Will you get in?". Dujour. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ a b c Bryk, William (August 8, 2005). "The Father of the Four Hundred". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2018.
  21. ^ a b Hicks, Paul DeForest (2016). John E. Parsons: An Eminent New Yorker in The Gilded Age. Easton Studio Press, LLC. p. 97. ISBN 9781632260741. Retrieved 2018.
  22. ^ "Society Topics of the Week". The New York Times. January 3, 1886. Retrieved 2018.
  23. ^ Vanderbilt, Arthur T. (1991). Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780688103866. Retrieved 2018.
  24. ^ "The Patriarchs' Ball; a Brilliant Scene at Delmonico's Last Night". The New York Times. January 18, 1888. Retrieved 2018.
  25. ^ "The Patriarchs' Guests; a Notable Social Event at Delmonico's. Debutantes at the Ball--a New Cotillion--Visitors from Other Cities--the Decorations". The New York Times. 17 December 1889. Retrieved 2018.
  26. ^ "Patriarchs Were Hosts; Their Third and Last Ball of the Season a Success. Many Distinguished Guests Made the Occasion Delightful -- Choice Music and Tasteful Decorations at Delmonico's". The New York Times. 10 February 1891. Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ "Society Ends the Season; the Third of the Patriarchs' Balls a Great Success. Throngs of Dancers at Delmonico's -- a Late Cotillion Led by Mr. Dyer -- the Guests from Other Cities". The New York Times. 1 March 1892. Retrieved 2018.
  28. ^ "PREPARATION FOR THE IHPETONGA; The Most Important Social Event of the Season in Brooklyn -- Patronesses and Subscribers". The New York Times. January 10, 1896. Retrieved 2018.
  29. ^ "U.S., Marriage Records, 1670-1965". www.ancestory.com. New Jersey. Retrieved 2021.
  30. ^ Cunningham, John T. (1998). Images of America: Madison. Dover, NH: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 19, 31. ISBN 9780738567792.
  31. ^ "William Gibbons - Drew University History - U-KNOW". uknow.drew.edu. Drew University. Retrieved 2018.
  32. ^ "A brief history of Mead Hall". Drew University. Archived from the original on October 24, 2013. Retrieved 2012.
  33. ^ "Mrs. Louise W. McAllister Lewis". The New York Times. 22 October 1923. Retrieved 2017.
  34. ^ "Estate of Ward McAllister's Only Daughter Appraised at $471,270; Bulk Goes to Husband". The New York Times. 1 April 1925. Retrieved 2017.
  35. ^ "MISS M'ALLISTER WED TO A.N. LEWIS; Daughter of Late Creator of "New York's 400" Married Quietly at the Waldorf. ONLY 3 COUSINS PRESENT Bride-to-Be, Recovering from Influenza, Was Ordered South and Ceremony Hurriedly Arranged". The New York Times. 4 May 1920. Retrieved 2017.
  36. ^ Moffat, R. Burnham (1904). The Barclays of New York: Who They Are And Who They Are Not,--And Some Other Barclays. R. G. Cooke. p. 151. Retrieved 2018.
  37. ^ a b "WHY G.B. WARD DIED UNWED.; His Fiancee Clung to Her Sick Mother -- Ready to Forego Dower". The New York Times. January 21, 1907. Retrieved 2018.
  38. ^ Warren, Charles (1908). History of the Harvard Law School and of Early Legal Conditions in America. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 380. ISBN 9781584770060. Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ The Railway World. United States Railroad and Mining Register Company. 1880. p. 520. Retrieved 2018.
  40. ^ Harring, Sidney L. (1994). Crow Dog's Case: American Indian Sovereignty, Tribal Law, and United States Law in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 219. ISBN 9780521467155. Retrieved 2018.
  41. ^ a b c "H. H. M'ALLISTER DIES IN FRANCE; Last Surviving Son of Late Leader of the Famous "400" Was III Two Years. FORMERLY A BROKER HERE Union Club Member's Marriage to Miss Melanle Renke in 1908 a Surprise to His Family". The New York Times. 2 December 1925. Retrieved 2017.
  42. ^ Alaska Bar Association and Sketch of Judiciary. Sanborn, Vail & Company. 1901. p. 21. Retrieved 2018.
  43. ^ Haycox, Stephen (2006). Alaska: An American Colony. University of Washington Press. p. 193. ISBN 9780295986296. Retrieved 2018.
  44. ^ Gruening, Ernest (1967). An Alaskan Reader, 1867-1967. Meredith Press. pp. 62-63. Retrieved 2018.
  45. ^ "Philip Alexius De László (1869-1937) , Portrait of Jean Garmany Brandt (b. 1867)". www.christies.com. Retrieved 2018.
  46. ^ "Mr. M'Allister and Wife.; Rumor Has It That the Young Couple Will Separate". The New York Times. 21 September 1892. Retrieved 2018.
  47. ^ "SHOCKING BAD FORM. Ward McAllister's Son Gets Married and Tells Nobody". San Francisco Call. 13 May 1892. Retrieved 2018.
  48. ^ "Why It Was Made Known; Story of the M'allister-Garmany Marriage Notice. Its Publication Demanded by Frank Garmany, a Brother of the Wife -- a Strange Affair from Beginning to End -- Off on a Tour". The New York Times. 14 May 1892. Retrieved 2018.
  49. ^ "Brandt -- McAllister". The New York Times. 5 May 1898. Retrieved 2018.
  50. ^ "Mrs. Heyward M'Allister". The New York Times. 15 September 1939. Retrieved 2018.
  51. ^ Homberger, Eric. Mrs. Astor's New York: Money and Social Power in a Gilded Age. Yale University Press, 2002: 150-152. ISBN 0-300-09501-5
  52. ^ "SOCIETY IN MOURNING; Ward McAllister's Death Came Almost Without Warning. A LIVING "TRILBY" TO BE SEEN Success of the Charity Ball -- Some of Its Leaders in the Past -- Incidents in the Social World". The New York Times. 3 February 1895. Retrieved 2017.
  53. ^ "MR. M'ALLISTER'S FUNERAL; Grace Church Crowded with Friends and Relatives. SOCIETY WAS WELL REPRESENTED The Body Placed in a Vault in Greenwood Cemetery -- Women Scramble for Flowers in the Church". The New York Times. 5 February 1895. Retrieved 2017.

External links

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