Samuel Ward McAllister (December 1827 – January 31, 1895) was the self-appointed arbiter of New York society from the 1860s to the early 1890s.
Born Samuel Ward McAllister to a socially prominent Savannah, Georgia judicial family, established himself as a successful attorney in California during the Gold Rush. He used the earnings from his legal prowess to journey throughout Europe's great cities and spas—Bath, Pau, Bad Nauheim, and the like-—where he observed the mannerisms of the titled nobility. Upon his return to the United States, McAllister settled in New York City and married heiress Sarah Taintor Gibbons. Using his wife's wealth and his own social connections (he was related to lobbyist Samuel Cutler Ward, who had married a granddaughter of John Jacob Astor), 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. Above all in McAllister's life, it was his desire for social recognition and what he termed "Tong", the cream of society.
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". 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...
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