Upper ten thousand

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Upper Ten Thousand, or simply, The Upper Ten, is a phrase coined in 1852 by American poet Nathaniel Parker Willis to describe the upper circles of New York, and hence of other major cities.[1]

In 1852, Charles Astor Bristed published a collection of sketches on New York Society entitled "The Upper Ten Thousand." It appeared in the Fraser Magazine. The phrase also appeared in British fiction in The Adventures of Philip (1861-62) by William Thackeray, whose eponymous hero contributed weekly to a fashionable New York journal entitled “The Gazette of the Upper Ten Thousand”.[2] The general acceptance of the term seems to be attested by its use in the title of Edward Abbott's 1864 cookery book, The English and Australian Cookery Book: Cookery for the Many as Well as the 'Upper Ten Thousand'.

In 1875, both Adam Bissett Thom and Kelly's Directory published books entitled The Upper Ten Thousand, which listed members of the aristocracy, the gentry, officers in the British Army and Navy, members of Parliament, Colonial administrators, and members of the Church of England. The usage of this term was a response to the broadening of the British ruling class which had been caused by the Industrial Revolution.

Most of the people listed in Kelly's Handbook to the Upper Ten Thousand were among the 30,000 descendants of Edward III, King of England, tabulated in the Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval's Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal.[3] Most also appeared in Walford's County Families and Burke's Landed Gentry.

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  1. ^ Bartlett, John Russell (1859), Dictionary of Americanisms, 2nd ed. enlarged, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, p. 494 
  2. ^ Tillotson, Geoffrey (1995), William Thackeray: The Critical Heritage, New York: Routledge, p. 72 
  3. ^ London: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1903

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