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The Preservation Society of Newport County

Officers of the Women’s League of Newport, circa 1900 

Gilded Age Newport in Color

March 15 – June 30, 2024
Rosecliff 548 Bellevue Ave

The story of Newport, Rhode Island in the Gilded Age (1865-1915) is anchored by the economic, social and civic achievements of many of America’s wealthiest individuals and families, notably the Vanderbilts, Astors, Belmonts, Oelrichses and Berwinds. These names represent the critical economic and cultural growth period of late 19th- and early 20th-century America.

Newport also was home to many important African heritage business entrepreneurs who would leverage their commercial enterprises to promote economic security and build wealth to invest in and advance civic, recreational, social and political interests. Newport’s earliest African heritage doctors, dentists, teachers, hospitality entrepreneurs and elected officials appeared during the Gilded Age.

This exhibition explores a largely unknown but important chapter in American history in which African heritage families could come together and promote their economic and social well-being through self-reliance, entrepreneurism, political advancement and cultural interchange.

More than 150 objects from the collections of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, The Preservation Society of Newport County and other institutions will be featured, ranging from photographs, handbills, business cards and news clippings to furniture, clothing, jewelry and ceramics. All represent the experiences of African heritage Newporters who were active members of a new type of urban setting – the resort community. Men, women and families would travel to Newport from Providence, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington to take part in a rare opportunity for persons of color at the time to engage in uninhibited social and cultural interchange.

To learn more and view related programs, click here.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties – seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.