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April 26, 2024 29 mins

Holly and Tracy discuss Ward McAllister as the ultimate historical mean girl. They also talk about how people were reacting to the Blitz when it was happening. 

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, a production
of iHeartRadio, Hello and Happy Friday. I'm Holly Fry and
I'm Tracy V. Wilson. We talked about the Bradley Martin
Ball this week. I have mixed feelings about it. Yeah, yeah,

I mean there's part of me that would love to
go to an event like this. It sounds amazing, and
I also recognized that it sounds wasteful as hell, and like, yeah,
and the whole idea of like, uh no, no, this
is benevolent, it's good for people is such a mixed
bag and kind of shortsighted. Last summer, I was invited

to an event that was like a garden tour in
Boston that I didn't realize until I was There was
an event for donors, which I am one of, but
I very quickly realized not of the same caliber as

some of the other people there. Right, those are the
people whose names are on the buildings. Yeah, and like
everyone was nice, nobody seems awful in a like really
overt way. But like I did kind of overhear this
conversation about like whether Doha is the best airport to
fly through, as though just taking a flight to the

United States to somewhere that might need to connect through Doha, right,
was like a routine experience. And I was just like, I, so,
this this level of opulence, I feel like would be
ten jillion times more opulent than the garden door for donors,
I went on, yeah, uh, and I think I would

mostly feel very uncomfortable. Well, that's why you would not
be part of the four hundred. Yeah, because that was
kind of part of the criteria, right, was that, according
to Ward McAllister, if you seemed like you would be
uncomfortable at an event, you would not make the list.
If you seemed like you would be comfortable at the event,
but you might make other people uncomfortable at the event,

you would not make the list. Like you had to
be wealthy and chill in those circumstances to be part
of the magic List. Yeah, that list the four hundred
is based on his theory that there were about four
hundred people give or take in New York that were
really like the right people that just come up. Yeah.

I don't remember where, but like, yeah, it's popped up
on the show. It pop up on the show before
and when I first heard it, I was like, are
you serious? This was a real thing. Yes, it was
a real, real thing. I mean, this is part of
why I would like to talk about word McAllister, because
he is a weird case of a human who just
decide they were the boss of that, Like I am

the boss of who is and who isn't in New York. Yeah,
I'm the boss of what society is right and like
a high society, and like people were like, all right,
I guess you are. I mean, he like aligned himself
with Missus Astor and they were BFFs for a while.
They had a big falling out towards the end of
his life. But like, and he had died two years

I think before this ball happened, so he was out
of the picture to give his opinion on it. But
like just that whole concept of like I have only
done a little bit of research into his life, but
it seems like he only did like two years of
actual work where he was like a lawyer for a
couple of years and then was like I'm just gonna
boss people around about whether or not they're cool. And

I'm like, you're like a professional mean girl. How do
you make that your job description? I don't understand you
made a formal mean girl hierarchy for New York. Yeah, essentially,
like New York was his slam book. I'm so fast
that whole thing as much as like I will say, right,
I am loving the Gilded Age, like I said, I

blazed through the whole thing. But it's also one of
those things where I'm like, I hate all these people.
I hate this hierarchy. Yeah, like even the good ones
are back. Just like the idea of clinging to these
weird ideas of who isn't isn't important based on whether

or not someone else is willing to go to their house.
I'm like, this is nonsense. I would be a nightmare
in that kingdom. I would be Yeah. I also just
felt like the whole argument of like, we're going to
have a gigantic party to give work to the people
that work in these industry it was like a very
trickle down economics justification for having this party. Yes, uh,

And I was like, yeah, I don't. I was just
I was annoyed by the concept from the beginning. Of course,
so here's an odd thing that makes research not difficult,
but it becomes a head scratcher. Mm hmm. Sometimes you
see Bradley Martin, which his name was Bradley Martin, but

you will see the name's Bradley Martin with a hyphen Betwen, Yeah,
I thought hyphenated a lot, and I don't know what
that is. I saw one book that said that Cornelia
hyphenated her last name is Bradley Martin, but I didn't
see anything to back that up, So I'm not sure
if that was like an offhanded quip by the author

or if she actually did. Some papers had it with
the hyphen, some did not. It leads you to the
false thought that there are two people named mister Bradley
and mister Martin who were paying for this whole time.
That's what I thought. That's what I thought when I
first encountered this years ago. And then I was like, wait, no,
it's just a guy named Bradley Martin. Okay. Even when
I started reading your outline, I somehow like just glaze

past the fact that his first name was Bradley. And
so we were three or four paragraphs in and I
was like, wait, we've been talking about Mark, and who's
Bradley though it's the same guy. The cults are coming
from inside the house I'm like, were you just confused
about like the sort of AP style esque rule about
how compound modifiers coming before get hyphenated, because we don't

do that with people's proper names. No, And I'm not
sure what the scoop is there, to be honest, I
also thought I almost put it in the thing, but
I didn't really ever find anything definitive this idea of
like these all night parties that were very popular. Yeah,
my understanding. And again I read this somewhere online and

I'm not sure where, and I didn't ever find like
a true historical reason. Uh huh. Was just to basically
go like, we don't have to get up and go
to work. We can party until six am and then
go home and sleep. I haven't looked into this at all,
but I do know that like all the balls that

happen in Jane Austen novels, uh huh, often started very
late at night and would really dance through the night.
And I don't think I had really thought about like
a why that worked that way. But I kind of
wonder if the timing of this ball was a pattern
patterned after the way that it worked in Well, this

was not an outlier in New York at the time.
That's what I'm saying, Like, like the I didn't express
it very well, but what I was trying to say is,
like these kinds of events, if they were just basically
following what was established as the pattern in like Britain
in terms of how society functions operated and when they
started and when they ended, right, but why did those

do that? That's what I'm saying, like going all the
way back. Yeah, and not because people did not have
to get up and yeah a nine to five Yeah,
I love that idea. It's kind of my personal hours
if I'm left to my own devices and don't have
to function in society. So I'm I'm down with this plan.
Not me. The idea of like a twelve thirty to
five am breakfast service sounds amazing. Or supper service, yeah,

those two. We mentioned the two different line items for
supper and buffet supper, and one with the cheaper of
the two, which was I think the buffet supper was
like lighter fair. It was like light sandwiches. You could
kind of grab and go versus sitting at one of
the actual tables and having people wait on you. Sure
all of this sounds amazing. I'm in for it. There

is a very funny thing that came up as the
papers were covering everything in the weeks leading up to it, Okay,
And there was one rumor that started and the floorists
of the city were like, shut up, you guys. You
don't know what you're talking about. This isn't real, this
is not really a problem, which is that the rumor
had started that someone or someone's going to the ball

had read about tulip mania and were like, we need
all of the tulips. I do love this detail. It is.
It's fun because they're like, France love tulips. We love that,
we need all the tulips, and one of the florists going,
that's not really a problem. We're fine, mm, like there's
a whole rose problem going on, but tulips are not
an issue. And also France wasn't really in on that

whole thing the way like Germany and all, so like,
I don't know where you're getting your information, but it's
it's not legit. And I just sort of loved this
idea of this poor beleaguered florist who was like, I'm
not taking any more orders and you don't know what
you're talking about. Can you please stop asking me questions
so I can finish my work. It made me chuckle
a little bit. Yeah, we already talked about how on

the nose I thought all of the Marians when it
costumes were, and you all had already put that in
that line, which I knew, but I wanted to say
it anyway because I just was like, yes, yes, everyone
dressed like Marianne's whette. Of course they did. Listen, I
get it. Who doesn't love those outfits? I love them.
In terms of like the the expected hubbub and potential riot,

there was I read in one account, but it was
so sort of flimsy and not substantiated that there was
one person arrested outside who was a black man who
is allegedly named George Walker, who just sounded like he
was like get out of my way, like this is
your blocking the street, and that he shoved somebody. But
like there's nothing even the way the paper reported it

is like we heard that this happened, but there was
no like they didn't have anyone from the police to
corroborate that. They didn't have anything other than a guy
said m hm. So I don't know if anything like
that happened at all. Yeah, I'm sure if anything did,
nobody wanted it to be known. Sure, there are pictures,

and the photographs are cool, except some of them are
like yikes, appropriation, yike y. Sure, So if you go
looking for pictures from this ball, just be ready. Some
of these costumes look incredible, but they are people doing
things like play acting Native Americans and like and again
in gorgeous costumes that probably don't know anything about that

culture and are just like what there was like a
dude a banker who dressed as a Native American and
shaved his head and looks incredible in the picture. I
will say it's and it's also just a gorgeous photograph
in terms of like artistic composition, but like it's a yikes,
it's a y on bikes. Ah, there's so there was

so much money in that room. It's wild to me,
mean too wild. You know, there's rich and then there's
like redonka doodle rich and this this drove right up
to the line of good taste and then it popped
a wheelie and went over it. It's just went beyond, beyond,

beyond right, which again there's part of me that's like, okay,
getting the time machine because I just want to be
there and see it. Yeah, because I do love a party,
and I do love beautiful clothes. Uh huh. I just
don't want to be part of the whole justification that like, no,
we're helping people by having this, right, having so much fun. Yikes,

you can't see me kind of wincing. But yeah, I
really really like that Rabbi's take of like I get it,
I understand it, but like you could do better stuff
with your money that would actually help people. We also
didn't mention it right. This was after like a crash,

a stock market crash had happened in what like eighteen
ninety three, and like New York just had not recovered financially,
which is why so many people were really struggling. But again,
you can't that one night is not going to fix stuff.
It's like great for a couple of weeks, and then
all those people will go back to struggling because they
probably use that money to get caught up on all

the stuff they were behind on. Yeah, that's not how
it works. Yeah, I do sort of crack up at
the fact that after this the Bradley Martins were like,
everyone's mean to us. Now we're out, We're gonna go away,
take our money somewhere else. And they did live, presumably

a great and fun life in London. Yeah, sounds amazing.
Must be nice, I guess. Yeah. Anyway, I'm tickled by
the whole weirdness of it. It's just so goofy. Yeah,
and we'll see what happens on the Gilded Age. Maybe
they'll get right up to that and that'll be the
finale of the whole series. I don't know. I know

we have a season three coming, but I don't know
where that's going, right. It's so good, though, Oh, it's
really good. That show is satisfying in a way that
I think you would enjoy. Yeah, I think I've had
intentions to watch it, and there's just like a finite
amount of time to do things. Then. Yeah, it's there

are certainly sad things that happen on it, but overall,
like things tend to end in upbeat places, okay, you know,
in a way that's not too fairy taily. Although there's
a thing that happens at the end of season two
where I'm like, that is convenient and it is, but
you're kind of happy about it anyway. This is yet

another show that I picked up on a flight and
then came home and became obsessed with. I was just thinking,
I'm supposed to have a flight soon and maybe I
will preload some of that on my iPad. Well, if
you're flying Delta, it's in your in flight, So I
am not because it's not an option. Foosball, Well, I don't.
I don't know. I don't know about other airlines. If

you live in Atlanta, you're kind of Delta air Bus.
That's not true. But yeah, I had one option and
it wasn't Delta. I got to talk to Rachel Lance
this week. Yeah you did. I like her heaps, so

I made for a very fun time for me. This
book is who. Some of it's real hard to read.
I mean it's amazing, yeah, but like some of the
stuff those people went through is hair. I said it
during the interview. It's harrowing. But it's like that stuff
that makes my entire body kind of stiff and nervous,

right because I enjoy comfort. I have not read this book.
I did read her other book obviously before doing the
other interview with her about it. I just I didn't
think I had the wherewithal to read the book at
this time, and was also going to be out of
the office for a little bit. So, uh so Holly

took the lead on this one. Yeah, it actually worked
out great because you were going to be gone during
a week that worked best for the record on her end,
and I was like, okay, we'll just do it. It
all alignes. It all worked out just fine. So I
have listened to the interview though as a little behind
the scenes and behind the scenes. Normally, when we record

the behind the scenes part of our episodes, like we
record the episode and immediately after Holly and I record
the behind the scenes, Tracy, you're ruining the illusion that
we meet on Friday and discuss having a separate time. Yeah,
it just doesn't work. There's too much other stuff now. No.
That's also why a lot of times, if an episode

comes out and we make a mistake in it, there's
not going to be acknowledgment of that mistake on Friday
because we don't know it happened yet, right, so we'll
get corrections sometimes where people will say you can say
this on your Friday episode. It's like the Friday episode
is already done. But in this case, though, I had

not read the book or heard the interview, and it
was like, what are we going to talk about? So
we delayed this discussion. Yeah, this one is actually later
in the game. Yeah, as I was listening something that
I misunderstood. There's a conversation about how during the Blitz
there were people who sort of in England who sort

of approached the Blitz the way some folks approached the
you know, the early COVID nineteen pandemic when everything was
shut down and people were like there were people who
were like this, everything seems fine and didn't really weren't
living in the same world of a pandemic that some
of the others of us were living in. And I

had interpreted that as being significant numbers of people in
London who were somehow unaware of the Blitz happening, And
that's not what she was saying at all. First of all,
to be clear, and it is certainly possible that there
were folks in London who were, you know, somehow so
wrapped up in their own stuff going on that they

were not fully cognizant of everything that was happening. But no,
she was talking about, you know, when people were evacuating
out to the country, folks in the country being like,
but it seems fine here, like yeah, yeah, everything's okay.
I mean, the war won't come to us, and it's
like it is it is at us. Yeah. I was
really I was sort of imagining somebody standing in London

next to a smoldering crater being like, I don't know
what you're talking about. A blitz thing that the I mean, listen,
trauma denial is real, that is true, but I don't
think large numbers of people in London were doing that. No, no,
she yeah, she was was discussing how jolting that was
for people when they moved out of the city. Yeah,

and in particular, this team had moved their lab outside
of the city as things were getting worse and worse,
and they were just like strangers in a strange land
where nobody was really at the level of anxiety and
stress that everyone in London was living in, and it
was like people were just having life. You're all very

relaxed out here. What is this but really serious stuff
is going on. Yeah. Yeah. Of all the stories of
scientists that Rachel shared with you in this interview, I
was most delighted by the one who would just go
up to people's houses and ask to look for salamanders. Yeah.
I was one hundred percent on board with this. I

am friends with people who I am certain would do this,
And like when we were in Texas to try to
see the eclipse, which didn't fully go as planned, we
went out every night looking for scorpions with a black light.
So I was very much here for the salamander exploring.
Maybe not so much for announcing that she was going

to marry the professor, but very excited about the salamander excitement. Yeah,
all of the people I mentioned it to Rachel, but
all of the people in this book, they were on
this team were just almost criminally interesting. Yeah, I am
fascinated by them. And you see why. It becomes clear

that they all were the perfect assortment of folks to
be working together because they were all a little bit
oddball to varying degrees, which I say with love, that's
not a disparaging or pejorative term at all, But like,
I think they just had an innate understanding of the

otherism that all of them were living in, so nobody
felt like they were being judged by their peers in
that group, which is pretty great. Yeah, and probably why
they were all so good at just taking leaps of
faith together, right, some of which were horrified. Right. It

is so fascinating to me though, I really I mention it.
And I love Rachel's writing so much because one of
the things that she does in her narrative style, and
I didn't read all of In the Waves her previous books,
so tell me if this was the case there for
kind of we had like the opposite scenario we did
time to last time, because last time I was like,

I can't read a book right now, like I have
too many things going on. But she'll set things up
where you're like, wait, did I just read that, and
then she will explain it, which is kind of a
great way to hook you. Like the story she talked
about with the lit cigarette, Yeah, she just she doesn't
explain why he does it. Initially, She's like, so, of

course his doctor handed him a lit cigarette and I
was like, who, Like, I made a total Scooby Doo
noise while I was reading the book. And then she
then goes on to explain why, as she did on
the show, and I was like, oh, this is a
smart way to structure these discuss because yeah, it does
make your brain go what yeah, or make a Scooby

Do noise. It's true. I am also my biggest fear
in the like what is the worst way to die? Universe? Drowning? Okay,
And so all of the all of these stories were
very white knuckly for me. Yeah, you know, the stories

of like the horrible things that had happened to precipitate
the formation of this group, right. I also just love
that it's a group of geneticists that end up doing
this work. Yeah, I don't I don't remember which specific
thing Ian I read. I hadn't realized that it was

specifically geneticists, and I had this moment where I was like,
how did the geneticists get on this, because that seems
like a different field to me, Like it is. Yeah,
there's a really great quote, and I was gonna ask
Rachel about it, but we were running along and so
I didn't cause it really didn't add that much to

the conversation. But there is a great quote in the
book from one of the scientists where he's saying, like,
look at war, it doesn't really matter what your specialty is.
What matters is can you apply the scientific method to
solving problems? Right? And it's like, oh, that does make
a lot of sense. Like these are all people that
are used to figuring stuff out. So even though this

may not be in their specificity wheelhouse, they do have
a fundamental grasp of broad science, right. They understand how
like things like air and water pressure work and all
of that, even if it's not what they have been
focusing on in their careers. And so then for them
to just pivot from all of their biological specimens to

then going okay, so we have a water problem that's
going on here, can we fix this? And I'm like, oh,
of course it probably was kind of like I mean
for me, and we've talked about the way I work
on the show before and how it seems a little
bit disjointed to some people. For me, this honestly is like, oh,
I bet this made them better at both jobs. Yeah,
because I need to switch gears pretty frequently or I

get I just sputter out. I don't think that's necessarily
any of their personality or work style types. But I
do think like this gets into the discussion of like multitasking,
which is fraught right right, which I'll talk about briefly

if we want to. But I do think when you
leave a thing that you have been puzzling over, focus
on something completely different, and then come back often like
a new perspective is revealed to you. That often can
get you over that hump that you may have been
at in terms of a roadblock. By the way, multitasking
is if you want to start an argument, yeah, tell

people you multitask because the thing is right Like, there
are studies that are like, no, if you're actually multitasking,
you're doing well, uh, not as good a job at
everything kind of. But to me, it's not so much
I'm doing multiple things at once. It's that I'm changing constantly, right.
It's not like I'm trying to write and read a

book while I am also sewing. There are two different
things that I alternate, say because different parts of my
brain get fired, and then I can solve problems better.
I also let them. Obviously, I cannot speak knowledgeably on
the entire field of neurology. And why you didn't. You

didn't get a quick degree while you were out. I
went and got a PhD while I was on vacation. Now,
I'm kidding. Don't don't yell at me if you actually
got a PhD. And I know how much work that is,
But like, I feel like a lot of the studies
that are on those type things, so many of them
happen like on college campuses, and a lot of the

people being studied are like undergraduates getting us your credit.
And if you have a cohort for your study, which
is like a bunch of people with adhd, you're probably
gonna have very different results in terms of what works
for people. Yeah. Yeah, this has come up on the
show before, completely unrelated to science, but just where we've

talked about recognizing like people that ended up achieving big
things late in their life, people didn't realize when they
were young that like the standard method of education at
the time was not going to work for that, right,
because we hadn't really gotten into the level of educational
research and study and how how the brain functions at

that point. So and I would say there's still a
ton that we really don't know about how people are. Sure, Yeah,
for sure. And I think that's it's so individual from personal.
What works for you will not work for your you know,
closest friend will not work for their sibling will not

work like Yeah, it's I appreciate that there is a
level of challenge at this point in any caring education
system to try to address all of the disparate, kind
of optimal scenarios that would really really help all of
the people in their classes function at their best. Right.

That's hard. Yeah, educators, we love you. I'm sorry your
job is so hard and not appreciated or paid enough
for what you do. I will say, if you are
looking for a fun read, it's a good one. Yeah.
It's doing very very well. It's selling. It's on lots

of lists, so I'm pleased, and I'm not surprised because
it is quite compelling. Yeah, I really enjoyed what's the
name of the other one? Was it? Into the Way
in the way in the way. I'm going to have
multiple incorrect prepositions at the beginning of it. I didn't
like reading that book quite a lot. Well, if you're

lucky for something to read and you're okay with hearing
about people breaking their bones and other things while they
pursue advancements in science, it's a great one. Yeah. Yeah,
it's worth it alone. For all the quotes from those
scientists because they are a pithy, interesting group, So highly recommend.

If you have time off this weekend, it's a great
time to read a book if you are into reading books.
If you don't have time off, maybe sneak a couple
of pages in again if you're into reading books. If
you're not into reading books, or you don't have time off,
do whatever is going to optimize that time for you
and make you your happiest if at all possible. We
will be right back here tomorrow with a classic, and

then on Monday there'll be something brand new. Stuff you
missed in History Class is a production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
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Tracy V. Wilson

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Holly Frey

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