Elite Families

Class and Power in Nineteenth-Century Boston

By Betty G. Farrell

Subjects: Economic History
Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Work and Organizations
Paperback : 9780791415948, 229 pages, September 1993
Hardcover : 9780791415931, 229 pages, September 1993

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Table of contents



1. Family and Economy

2. The Setting of Brahmin Boston

3. Kinship Networks and Economic Alliances

4. Kin-keeping and Marriage Ties: The Domestic Side of Kinship Networks

5. Patterns of Economic Continuity

6. Kinship and Class: Into the Twentieth Century


Appendix: Genealogical Charts of the Lowells, Lawrences, Appletons, and Jacksons

Lowell Genealogy

Lawrence Genealogy

Appleton Genealogy

Jackson Genealogy





This book maps the development of a regional elite and its persistence as an economic upper class through the nineteenth century. Farrell's study traces the kinship networks and overlapping business ties of the most economically prominent Brahmin families from the beginning of industrialization in the 1820s to the early twentieth century. Archival sources such as genealogies, family papers, and business records are used to address two issues of concern to those who study social stratification and the structure of power in industrializing societies: in what ways have traditional forms of social organization, such as kinship, been responsive to the social and economic changes brought by industrialization; and how active a role did an early economic elite play in shaping the direction of social change and in preserving its own group power and privilege over time.

Betty G. Farrell is Associate Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College.


"Good work! Well written! A solid contribution to an important area of American social history." — Peter Dobkin Hall, Yale University

"Farrell has made an important contribution to the study of social organization by demonstrating the fundamentally important role of kinship connections in macroeconomic and social change. She demonstrates significant family capitalism well into the period that other historians, who have not done the kind of kinship analyses she has, have asserted marked the beginning of managerial capitalism. Moreover, this book also points the way to new research questions and approaches linking the 'sociology of the family' to major themes in the study of social organization." — Paul J. DiMaggio, Princeton University