Conspicuous Consumption

When sociologist Thorstein Veblen visited Newport at the turn of the twentieth century he coined the phrase ‘conspicuous consumption’ to describe the actions of some of America’s new entrepreneurial millionaires in flaunting their newly acquired wealth.

The evidence of their excesses can be seen in the many opulent mansions, known to the locals as’ cottages’, which were created by families such as the Vanderbilts and Astors who were determined to out-do one another, and whose creations today still line Newport’s famous Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive to draw tourists from far and wide.  Fascinating viewing, but more than a little incongruous to find a French chateau sitting alongside an English country mansion and  with a Chinese Teahouse at the bottom of the garden!

A Newport cottage
One of Newport’s so called ‘cottages’ – who says American’s don’t do irony?

A number of the properties are open to the public, but rather than add to the tourist footfall we saved our pennies and completed the seven mile ‘Ocean Walk’ which provides plenty of opportunities for peering over hedges into the back gardens of the rich and famous.