My boyfriend and I headed to the New York Historical Society in Manhattan this weekend. It's an awesome museum but not many people know about it (the ticket-taker actually asked us if we meant to go to the Museum of Natural History when we entered), so you can see a lot of cool stuff without the crowds. There was a sterling silver exhibition and and a room full of paintings of historical American scenes, but my favorite, by far, was a tiny, dimly lit room which displayed Gilded-Age miniatures by artist and New York socialite Peter Marié. All the pieces were painted on ivory in frames measuring about 2x2" and completed between 1825 and 1903. It basically felt like walking into an Edith Wharton novel.
Among the amateur actresses and Upper Easy Side dames, my favorite was the lady pictured above. Julie Grinnell Storrow (Mrs. Stephen Van Renssalaer Cruger) was born in Paris but lived in New York. She was the grandniece of Washington Irving, a society-wife-turned-widower (later turned divorcée), and most interestingly, the author of 17 novels under the penname Julien Gordon. She looks innocent enough, but I like to think she had a bit of a wild, Old-New-York life.
Also, 17 novels is nothing to scoff at. She inspires me to get started on something new.
P.S. We also saw this carriage, one of only three fully intact models of its kind that survive from the era (late 19th century). How much does it remind you of Downton Abbey and Lady Sybil and her chauffeur?