The cultural and social milieu of Westmoreland Davis

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute


Born into an aristocratic Southern family in 1859, Westmoreland Davis grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He received his education at the Virginia Military Institute, the University of Virginia and the Columbia University. After graduation in 1886 with a degree in law from Coluabia, Davis remained in New York and experienced a meteoric rise to prominence and wealth. In 1887, he joined the Tuxedo Corporation of Tuxedo Park, New York City's most exclusive suburb. There, he built Bagatelle, whose exterior and furnishings epitomized Gilded Age America. He married wealthy, New York socialite Marguerite Inman and, with her, attended the Tuxedo Club’s fashionable Autumn Balls along with Pierre Lorillard, J. Pierpont Morgan and E. H. Harriman.

In 1903, Davis purchased Morven Park, a northern Virginia plantation. Davis further manifested the Gilded Age through furnishings or the mansion as well as riding to the hounds, breeding thoroughbreds and pedigreed dogs, yachting and giving extravagant banquets. At the same time, he exemplified the antebellum. Southern gentleman by becoming a good-farmer equivalent of the good-planter, by continuing the horticultural tradition of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and by serving the Commonwealth as governor from a sense of responsibility which had been synonymous with the Virginia term, gentleman. Thus, one can understand Westmoreland Davis through consideration of his social and cultural milieu. More significantly, one can understand nineteenth century America through consideration of Westmoreland Davis.