The South that is cultivating country-clubs is a South presumably . . . quite in the right.
-- Henry James, 1907
In Atlanta and Nashville the leading businessmen rose on the strength of their individual wealth and accomplishments and learned to advance their collective interests as stockholders in the community enterprise of city building. Beyond their shared pursuit of purely economic interests, these men, together with their wives and children, came to form a coherent social class whose purpose went beyond narrow material benefit. Here it may be useful to employ the distinction adopted by E. Digby Baltzell, who identified the elite -- in this case, businessmen whose status derived from their position in the economy -- and an overlapping upper class made up of families whose status was determined by their formal and informal associations with one another. 1
To be sure, one of the chief sociological functions of the upper-class institutions formed in the late nineteenth century was to acknowledge newly won economic success with the intangible but socially important reward of status. These institutions also became a means of recruiting and screening the other nouveau riche families who would follow. The entry requirements for this social class were not mere wealth or admission to the city's board rooms, but acceptance into a constellation of new associations that came with residence in opulent suburban neighborhoods, membership in exclusive clubs, participation in high-society charities, and patronage of elite culture and education. In these realms it was typically the wives of business leaders who took the initiative. Social settings, particularly the society balls, country clubs, and elite schools, also provided the backdrop for courting among the children of upperclass families, whose intermarriage worked at once to perpetuate, consolidate, and recruit new entrants into the local upper class, as well as to establish links with counterparts in other metropolitan centers.
In Atlanta an essentially new upper class emerged within an environment of dynamic growth. The ground was clear for the rising men of wealth, their