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A New Documentary Shows How America's Gilded-Age Elite Married into the British Aristocracy

Get an exclusive sneak peek inside the world of the 19th century's wealthiest families.
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It's not uncommon to hear the modern era referred to as the "second gilded age." Current economic inequity harkens back to the turn of the 20th century, when titans of industry like Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan controlled not only the majority of America's wealth but also its power—socially and politically.

The Gilded Age, a new documentary on PBS's American Experience series, illustrates what it was really like when the richest 4,000 families in America possessed nearly as much wealth as rest of the country combined. The film hopes to showcase "an era of glittering wealth contrasted with extreme poverty."

"Once again, people are questioning whether America is fulfilling its promise; if there really is equal opportunity for everyone," Mark Samels, an executive producer for American Experience on PBS, said in a statement. "Examining the original Gilded Age reminds us that the questions and debates we currently wrestle with are ones that have defined us for over a century."

The film also looks into the Downton Abbey-esque marriages of the children of America's wealthiest families into the British aristocracy.

The exclusive clip below recounts Alva Vanderbilt's scandalous divorce from William Kissam Vanderbilt, the oldest son of Cornelius—and how she orchestrated her daughter Consuelo's marriage to the Duke of Marlborough.

The Gilded Age premieres Tuesday, February 6 on PBS. Check your local listing for timing information.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Caroline Hallemann
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