The Astors vs. the Vanderbilts! A clip from the new PBS American Experience film ‘The Gilded Age’

The Gilded Age, the captivating new installment from PBS’ American Experience, presents a familiar period in American history from a surprising angle. Mark Twain gave the period of America’s post-Civil War posterity its tongue-in-cheek nickname; what’s gilded might look sophisticated and rich, but it’s a hollow facade.

This film begins with the most common imagery of the Gilded Age period — the Fifth Avenue parlors, the lush ballrooms — then proceeds, over the course of its two intense hours, to dismantle them.

Here’s an exclusive clip from the film, focusing New York CIty’s richest rivalry between the Astors and the Vanderbilts.

The film unfolds well beyond the comforts of well-decorated manors and into the heartland, presenting the stories of a great many Americans whose stories are often overshadowed by the machinations of wealthy industrialists. Even in New York, the story takes a surprising (and welcome) twist, following one of the most unconventional politicians of the late 19th century — Henry George.

American Experience: The Gilded Age premieres on Tuesday, February 6 (check your local listings).

Greg and Tom were thrilled to be invited to moderate a panel about The Gilded Age at the New-York Historical Society on Thursday, January 25, featuring Mark Zwonitzer, writer of The Gilded Age; and two historians featured in the film — Steve Fraser, historian and author, Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power; and Sylvia Hoffert, Professor of History Emerita, Texas A&M University and author, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont: Unlikely Champion of Women’s Rights