11 Outlandish Ways Aristocrats Displayed Their Wealth During the Gilded Age

The Gilded Age was a time of extreme poverty and extreme wealth (with said wealth often covering up deep-seated social issues). Like, a crazy ridiculous amount of wealth. Here are some ludicrous ways the one percent of the turn of the 20th century spent their money—because, well, they could.

1. Buying entire villages and rerouting trains 

In the late 1800s, John D. Rockefeller began buying up land in Westchester, New York. By 1913, he had built Kykuit, an impressive estate boasting over 3,400 acres of land. The oil tycoon spared no expense and filled his home with fine art and over 70 sculptures. But his extravagance didn’t stop with gilded trinkets. 

Upon realizing that smoke from the nearby railroad billowed onto the estate’s golf course, the Rockefellers decided to simply move the Putnam Division tracks—the section between East View and Briarcliff Manor, New York—five miles from the property. In 1929, the family also purchased the village of East View and removed forty-six families. To soothe public opinion, they paid each family more than their home was worth. In total, it cost around $700,000 to buy the land and even more money to move the train. But it was all worth it, because now guests could tee off without any unsightly smoke. 

2. Building a gold bathroom 

In 1878, the Garrett family (known for their success in the railroad industry) moved into the Evergreen estate in Baltimore. Formerly a summer home for the wealthy, the family quickly transformed the rental into a mansion stuffed with worldly treasures. The home even had a private gymnasium, which Alice Whitridge Garrett converted to a private theater in 1923. 

The most lavish segment of the home—which would surely be the envy of many a rap star or pop princess today—is the gold bathroom, which features Roman tiles and a bathtub covered in 23-carat gold leaf. It also boasts the only confirmed gold toilet seat in the United States. 

3.  Shipping in bugs from Brazil 

For socialite Mary Astor Paul’s debutante ball in 1906, over 10,000 Brazilian butterflies were hidden behind netting attached to the ceiling. Unfortunately, the heat of the lamps was too much for the delicate insects and they all perished before the big reveal. When the netting was finally released, the butterfly carcasses rained down on the disgusted guests.

4. Tricking out their pads 

Although no longer flushed with money, the Vanderbilts were once the poster family of the Gilded Age. Built in 1889, the staggeringly large Biltmore Estate is still the largest private estate in the country, with 178,926 square feet of floor space. Guests of the estate never worried about a lack of activities. Inside, you can find a bowling alley, heated pool, and a library with over 10,000 volumes. Upstairs, there is a billiard room where guests could play pool. Through a secret passage, men (no women or servants were allowed) could enter the bachelor’s wing, which featured a smoking room and gun room. Don’t tell your husband about that last part, or he’ll demand an upgrade for his “man cave.” 

5. Committing serious party fowls  

Lawyer and socialite Ward McAllister once attended a banquet in New York City in 1890 that was so extravagant, it shocked even the jaded New Yorker attendees. Hosted at Delmonico's, the event featured a long table with a thirty-foot lake in the center. Four swans brought in from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park floated peacefully in the water, surrounded by a variety of different flowers. The entire thing was encased in a magnificent gold-wired cage to prevent splashing. 

6. Rubbing elbows with VIPs   

Marion Graves Anthon Fish, or “Mamie,” was known for throwing extravagant parties for hundreds to thousands of guests at her opulent homes in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island. To add intrigue, she would advertise unusual guests that might drop by her shindigs. On one occasion, she mentioned an unnamed prince on her invitations. Guests were surprised when the “prince” was actually a monkey in a tuxedo. Another time, she asked her friend Henry Lehr to dress as the Czar of Russia and donned him in robes, a crown, and a scepter. For entertainment, she would also invite prize fighters and athletes to perform. 

7. Creating elaborate themed parties

Socialite and billionaire James Hazen Hyde loved a good party, and in 1905 he threw an elaborate costume ball in honor of his niece Annah Ripley. Hyde was an unapologetic Francophile, so the masquerade was decorated to look like the court of Louis XIV. Flowers covered the walls of the ballroom and the Metropolitan Opera House's forty-piece orchestra serenaded the guests. Fine wine was shipped in from France and diners ate in the dining room while surrounded by roses.

8. Bringing the outdoors inside 

In the early 1900s, businessman James Stillman threw a dinner party with a somewhat rustic theme. His dining room was converted into a faux forest, complete with an artificial waterfall. 

9. Booking the cast of a Broadway musical

Just in time for Newport’s famous tennis week, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt invited the entire cast of the musical The Wild Rose to the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, to entertain New York’s 400 families (a kind of fancy social club). The full-scale production (complete with sets) was well received, but no one requested an encore. 

10. Torturing their dinner guests 

In 1903, well-known horse enthusiast Cornelius K. G. Billings finished the construction of his $200,000 stable (it was just a small edition, really). The expensive infrastructure housed 20 carriages, 33 horses, a trophy room, gymnasium, and enough living space for two families. 

To celebrate the stable’s completion, he invited 36 members of the Equestrian Club, of which he was president, to a dinner party at Louis Sherry’s, a 12-floor restaurant in New York City. The ballroom, as decorated by Billings, featured live birds, flora, and sod on the floor. However, there was no table. Instead, guests were expected to mount trained horses that faced each other in a circle. Their plates were connected to their saddles and champagne was drunk through straws connected to saddlebags. 

11. Giving out awesome party favors 

Caroline Astor threw exclusive parties for the old money of New York (the nouveau riche Vanderbilts were famously shunned from the affair). Limited to 400 guests, invitations were a highly sought after prize.  The events were apparently a dull affair, but no one cared—as long as they could go. (Kind of like Jennifer’s eighth grade sleepover birthday party.) At the end, Astor gave out decadent party favors like gold pencil cases (Jennifer would be proud), China figurines, and leather letter cases.

11 Masks That Will Keep You Safe and Stylish

Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods
Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods

Face masks are going to be the norm for the foreseeable future, and with that in mind, designers and manufacturers have answered the call by providing options that are tailored for different lifestyles and fashion tastes. Almost every mask below is on sale, so you can find one that fits your needs without overspending.

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The breathable, stretchy fabric in these 3D masks makes them a comfortable option for daily use.

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This cotton mask pack is washable and comfortable. Use the two as a matching set with your best friend or significant other, or keep the spare for laundry day.

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Prices subject to change.

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21 Defunct Disney Park Rides and Lands

Some of Disney's most beloved rides and attractions have gone the way of the Dodo.
Some of Disney's most beloved rides and attractions have gone the way of the Dodo.
Paul Rovere/Getty Images

Over the course of their 65-year history, Disney's parks have hosted a lot of rides—including many that didn't last. Here are a few defunct rides and lands you should know about, adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube.

1. Superstar Limo

Did you know that Jackie Chan, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cher were once featured in a Disney ride? It sounds fun, but Disney visitors were not a fan of Superstar Limo, which didn’t even make it a single year at California Adventure in the early 2000s. It was a slow ride through Los Angeles featuring audio animatronics of those celebrities and others. Maybe it would have been more successful as one of the later ideas for the ride: Miss Piggy’s Limo Service.

2. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

Walt Disney World once had an attraction inspired by the movie Alien. During ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, guests were terrorized in the dark by an escaped alien. It was frightening enough that only people over the age of 12 were recommended to experience the Encounter. While the attraction was in early stages, it was going to be called Alien Encounter and feature a Xenomorph from the Alien movies. But the park’s Imagineers objected to building a ride around R-rated fare in Tomorrowland, which was meant to have an optimistic vision of the future. As a result, the creature ended up just becoming a generic—but still very scary!—alien. It did have another cool Hollywood connection, though: George Lucas was one of the designers. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter lived in the Magic Kingdom from 1995 to 2003, when it was replaced with a Lilo and Stitch attraction (which was itself dismantled in 2018).

3. Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour

This ride in Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1986 and was operational for 20 years. A tour guide took groups on a journey involving confrontations with Disney villains from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Fantasia, and Pinocchio. These were done the way that Disney does best: a combination of video and animatronics. The big finale featured the Horned King from the film The Black Cauldron. It involved him saying that the guests were now trapped and would be sacrificed to the cauldron. One person who was given a sword earlier on the tour pointed it at the Horned King and "destroyed" him (there was a flash of light, then he disappeared).

4. Submarine Voyage

For almost 40 years, Disneyland maintained the Submarine Voyage ride. Riders would enter a submarine that was on a track. The submarine then looked like it was being submerged in water and proceeded to move slowly past various creatures, like turtles, fish, and mermaids. When the ride opened in 1959, the submarines were gray and named after actual U.S. navy submarines. In the ‘80s, they were painted yellow and given exploration-related names like "Explorer" and "Seeker." In 2007, the ride reopened at Disneyland with a Finding Nemo theme. At that time, more sub names in line with the explorer theme were added, like "Seafarer" and "Voyager." A Walt Disney World version similar to the original lasted from 1971 through 1994.

5. and 6. Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride and Rainbow Caverns Mine Train

Two of the earliest rides at Disneyland were the Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride and the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, which were part of Frontierland. The Stagecoach Ride had actual stagecoaches led by actual horses going through a desert. It opened in the mid-’50s and closed in 1959.

The Mine Train journeyed through illuminated caverns, and would later turn into Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. In 1979, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad took over the spot. But if you ride that roller coaster, you can still see evidence of the Mine Train. In the queue for Big Thunder Mountain, there are pieces from a town that were part of the old ride. The same queue leads you through a Ventilation Service Room where there’s a map with a section labeled “Rainbow Caverns.”

7. Flying Saucers

Flying Saucers existed for five years in the early 1960s at Disneyland. They looked like bumper cars, but they were slightly lifted above the ground thanks to air vents beneath the ride. Like air hockey, but with flying saucers. According to the site Yesterland, Flying Saucers used technology that was developed and patented especially for the ride. When it opened, the Los Angeles Times reported, “The Flying Saucer ride cost $400,000 to build, Each saucer is ‘blown’ 8 inches off the ground and is under constant control of its pilot,” a.k.a., a park guest, who moved the saucer by shifting their body in the direction they wanted to go. Part of the problem was that only people within a specific weight range could do that effectively. Flying Saucers was ultimately closed for a redesign of Tomorrowland.

8. If You Had Wings

Disney is really into flying. Between 1972 and 1987, Walt Disney World had a ride sponsored by Eastern Airlines called If You Had Wings. Passengers got on an omnimover—that line of cars that you can, in theory, board without them ever stopping—which “flew” them around the world (the world being animatronic scenes of places like Mexico, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico).

9. and 10. If You Could Fly and Delta Dreamflight

If You Had Wings briefly became known as If You Could Fly, and in 1989 turned into Delta Dreamflight. That’s right: a new sponsor. The idea was similar, but it was now an homage to airplanes. Passengers got a glimpse of aviation’s history and potential future. Buzz LightYear’s Space Ranger Spin is now where If You Had Wings and Delta Dreamflight once were.

11. Horizons

From the mid-1980s through the late-'90s, Horizons was a hugely popular ride at Epcot. Guests rode through 24 animatronic, futuristic sets. (According to Disney, the future holds robot butlers, robot chefs, and domesticated seals.) At the end of the ride, the car would let you vote on how you wanted to be returned home—through a space, desert, or ocean scene. Nowadays, Mission: SPACE sits in Horizon’s place.

12. Rocket Rods

Rocket Rods only lasted about three years. It was a high-speed thrill ride that used an old track that had belonged to the much slower People Mover ride—which ended up being its demise. The coaster broke down too often and permanently closed in 2001.

13. Adventure Thru Inner Space

Starting in 1967, for almost two decades, Disneyland guests could experience what it was like to be microscopic while riding Adventure Thru Inner Space. People waiting in line would watch as passengers sat in pods, went through a 37-foot-long microscope and were "shrunk" (in reality, they were replaced by 8-inch tall replicas on screen). While on the ride, they’d go through scenes of becoming smaller than a snowflake, mostly by watching videos.

14. Body Wars

On Body Wars—which was located at Epcot’s Wonders of Life Pavilion and operated from 1989 until January 1, 2007—40 riders took a journey through the human body. They were jostled around, causing motion sickness for many, as they watched a video of their dramatic chase. Fun fact: The video was directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. Even funner fact: The other famous Wonders of Life pavilion attraction was The Making of Me, where Martin Short learned how he was conceived. (Apparently they had a disclaimer about all the sexy stuff at the entrance to the attraction.)

15. Maelstrom

Maelstrom lasted a bit longer at Epcot, between 1988 and 2014, before it was replaced by a Frozen ride. It was a boat journey through the “history” of Norway, though that history involved some embellishment ... like an animatronic three-headed troll.

16. The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride was at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios from 1989 through 2017. Guests entered a building that looked like the famous Grauman’s (now TCL) Chinese Theatre, boarded a car, and traveled through scenes from 12 movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Wizard of Oz, as well as a montage of a bunch more classic films. Drama ensued when a live actor hijacked the ride. It closed in 2017.

17. and 18. Rocket to the Moon and Mission to Mars

In 1955, Disneyland had a simulation called Rocket to the Moon that showed patrons what it would be like to, well, travel to the moon. It closed in 1966, and a year later was replaced by Flight to the Moon, which became way less exciting when Apollo 11 actually landed on the moon in 1969. The area became Mission to Mars in 1975. That ride closed in 1993, and later, the space became … ExtraTerrorestrial!

19. Holidayland

Holidayland, part of Disneyland between 1957 and 1961, was actually a 9-acre area just outside of Disneyland. It was less ride-oriented and instead contained picnic spots, sports fields, and a large tent for performances.

20. Camp Minnie-Mickey and Beastly Kingdom

In the early days of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, the company wanted to include a Beastly Kingdom in homage to fake creatures like dragons and unicorns. While prepping for that, Camp Minnie-Mickey went up in 1998, intended to be a temporary placeholder until Beastly Kingdom was ready to be built. Well, now we don’t have either; Beastly Kingdom never came to be and the camp-themed section closed in 2014.

21. Lilliputian Land

Finally, one land that never became a land: Lilliputian Land. We know that Walt Disney wanted part of Disneyland to be based on a section of the book Gulliver’s Travels thanks to a map drawn in 1953. With everything in that area made to look tiny, like fake people, guests would feel like giants. It’s thought that some of the DNA of Lilliputian Land can still be seen on the Storybook Land Canal Boats.