They immigrated to America from Germany in the nineteenth century with names like Loeb, Sachs, Seligman, Lehman, Guggenheim, and Goldman. From tenements on the Lower East Side to Park Avenue mansions, this handful of Jewish families turned small businesses into imposing enterprises and amassed spectacular fortunes. But despite possessing breathtaking wealth that rivaled the Astors and Rockefellers, they were barred by the gentile establishment from the lofty realm of “the 400,” a register of New York’s most elite, because of their religion and humble backgrounds. In response, they created their own elite “100,” a privileged society as opulent and exclusive as the one that had refused them entry.
Our Crowd is the fascinating story of this rarefied society. Based on letters, documents, diary entries, and intimate personal remembrances of family lore by members of these most illustrious clans, it is an engrossing portrait of upper-class Jewish life over two centuries; a riveting story of the bankers, brokers, financiers, philanthropists, and business tycoons who started with nothing and turned their family names into American institutions.
Stephen Birmingham (1929–2015) was an American author of more than thirty books. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he graduated from Williams College in 1953 and taught writing at the University of Cincinnati. Birmingham’s work focuses on the upper class in America. He’s written about the African American elite in Certain People and prominent Jewish society in Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York, The Grandees: The Story of America’s Sephardic Elite, and The Rest of Us: The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews. His work also encompasses several novels including The Auerbach Will, The LeBaron Secret, Shades of Fortune, and The Rothman Scandal, and other non-fiction titles such as California Rich, The Grandes Dames, and Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address.