While browsing the African American Biographical Database, from ProQuest and Chadwyck - Healey collection (available through link below)I stumbled across an obscure pamphlet - "The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis", a detailed and - bitingly humorous portrayal of the "elite" in St. Louis in the early to mid 1800's.
I did a google search to see if I could find other references to the text and to my surprise I found it has been re-issued and edited:
"The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis, by Cyprian Clamorgan
Edited with an Introduction by Julie Winch
"In 1858, Cyprian Clamorgan wrote a brief but immensely readable book entitled The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis. The grandson of a white voyageur and a mulatto woman, he was himself a member of the "colored aristocracy." In a setting where the vast majority of African Americans were slaves, and where those who were free generally lived in abject poverty, Clamorgan's "aristocrats" were exceptional people. Wealthy, educated, and articulate, these men and women occupied a "middle ground." Their material advantages removed them from the mass of African Americans, but their race barred them from membership in white society.
The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis is both a serious analysis of the social and legal disabilities under which African Americans of all classes labored and a settling of old scores. Somewhat malicious, Clamorgan enjoyed pointing out the foibles of his friends and enemies, but his book had a serious message as well. "He endeavored to convince white Americans that race was not an absolute, that the black community was not a monolith, that class, education, and especially wealth, should count for something."
Despite its fascinating insights into antebellum St. Louis, Clamorgan's book has been virtually ignored since its initial publication. Using deeds, church records, court cases, and other primary sources, Winch reacquaints readers with this important book and establishes its place in the context of African American history. This annotated edition of The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis includes an introductory essay on African Americans in St. Louis before the Civil War, as well as an account of the lives of the author and the members of his remarkable family--a family that was truly at the heart of the city's "colored aristocracy" for four generations."
About the Editor
Julie Winch is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts in Boston."
Even after reading this - it was hard to believe some of the folks described were real - so I looked them up in census records - and found them.
Some of the people covered in the text are:
Mrs Pelagie RUTGERS, wife of Louis Rutgers (former slave who bought herself for 3 dollars)
Mrs Pelagie NASH
Mrs Sarah HAZLETT - daughters Emily and Theodosin
Mrs Mary OBUCHON
Samuel MORDECAI - gambler
Albert WHITE - barber
Byetere HICKMAN - barber
RJ WILKINSON (from Cincinatti)
E HENLEY - (from VA)
Richard MERRIN (from VA)
Mrs Nancy LYONS (keeps a boardinghouse)
PG WELLS (described as a " a spy and a dog" and "an informer against his own race")
Mr and Mrs SAWYER (her father Gabriel HELMS)
William JOHNSON Sr and Jr- barber, real estate, business
Antoine & Peter LABADIE - butcher & farmer
Louis CHARVILLE - cattle dealer
Mr and Mrs COX (he was from PA)
Henry Alexander McGEE - vegetable dealer
Ludwell LEE - vegetable dealer
James NASH - steward
Mr and Mrs TAGGERT- from VA
Gabriel HELMS - barber
Frank ROBERSON - barber (from VA)
James THOMAS (from TN) barber
Mrs Pelagie FOREMAN
Mrs Margaret BEUVAIS
The Misses REYNOLDS
James WILLIAMS - VA
George CAREY - barber
Harriet and Julia JOHNSON ("sisters-in-law of Smith, who killed his wife and mother-in-law"
James HOLMES - steward
James W THOMPSON - steward and brother-in-law of Sam Mordecai
Track it down and read it - even if these aren't your ancestors