Were there distinctions between 'old' and 'new' wealth in American society during the 1920's? If so, why?

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dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great history question because it not only asks for the facts, it asks 'why' people acted in a particular manner. Wealthy American society during the 1920's could be compared to looking at ones' reflection in a broken mirror. You could see yourself, however the reflection was a fracture of the whole. The fact was that 'Old wealth' were those people considered to have made their fortunes the old fashion way...they earned it and deserved it. This attitude reflects the philosophy of 'Social Darwinism', the idea that those who became wealthy did so because of hard work and thrift.  Those who were labeled 'New wealth' by the 'Old wealth' made their fortunes the easy way of the unregulated stock market or perhaps in illegal alcohol.This mentality suggests that 'old wealth' had 'dibs' on the morality of the accumulation of wealth. What I find most interesting is that those of 'old wealth' believed their fortunes were made fairly and honestly, they weren't. Their wealth was created at the back breaking expense of others. As for those of 'new wealth' they too used others, perhaps not in the same way to acquire fortune but definitely at the expense of others. 'Old wealth' had to subject 'New wealth' to its silent tyranny to sustain its place in society, using its lineage as a pseudo argument of the truth.