The Gold Coast along Long Island’s North Shore is most often celebrated as a showcase for the rich and famous in the early 20th Century. A decidedly different aspect of that reputation comes into view when you consider the years leading up to America’s entry into the First World War.
The Morgan Bank, headed by J.P. Morgan, Jr. with his estate in Glen Cove, played a pivotal role in financing and supplying Britain in the early years of the war. Other famous North Shore families, notably former president Theodore Roosevelt of Oyster Bay, pushed for United States entry into the war.
Richard Welch presents this story in his book Long Island’s Gold Coast Elite and the Great War (History Press, 2021). He details the world of the Gold Coast and its prominent families, along with their important industry connections and political leanings. From financial dealings to political activism, large scale rallies, and even pushing their own children to serve, these families helped bring America into the war.
At the outbreak of World War One, the Gold Coast of Long Island was home to the most concentrated combination of financial, political and social clout in the country. Bankers, movie producers, society glitterati, government officials and an ex-president mobilized to arrange massive loans, send supplies and advocate for the Allied cause.
The efforts undercut the Woodrow Wilson administration’s official policy of neutrality and set the country on a course to war with Germany. Members of the activist families – including Morgans, Davisons, Phippses, Martins, Hitchcocks, Stimsons and Roosevelts – served in key positions or fought at the front.
Historian Richard F. Welch reveals how a potent combination of ethno-sociological solidarity, clear-eyed geopolitical calculation and financial self-interest inspired the North Shore elite to pressure the nation into war.
The latest episode of the Long Island History Project podcast features Richard F. Welch discussing his book. You can listen to the episode here.
The Long Island History Project is an independent podcast featuring stories and interviews with people passionate about Long Island history. It is hosted by academic librarian Chris Kretz.
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