As Pittsburgh and its surrounding area grew into an important commercial and industrial center, a group of families emerged who were distinguished by their wealth and social position. Joseph Rishel studies twenty of these families to determine the degree to which they formed a coherent upper class and the extent to which they were able to maintain their status over time. His analysis shows that Pittsburgh's elite upper class succeeded in creating the institutions needed to sustain a local aristocracy and possessed the ability to adapt its accumulated advantages to social and economic changes.
Rishel's book is an excellent, highly readable contribution to the literature on Pittsburgh and on the question of elites and social mobility.
Traces the evolution of twenty of Pittsburgh's earliest families into an 'identifiable and homogeneous upper class.' Such a study adds to our understanding of the persistence of regional elites of the late revolutionary period through the nineteenth century. . . . Rishel has written a laudably readable book using quantitative analysis and, more importantly, has given us a very interesting look at the elite of a non-seaboard city.