The Philharmonic, founded in 1840, was one of the first seminal cultural institutions established in New York and would soon be followed by others like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1870 and the Metropolitan Opera in 1880. These new institutions helped transform the elite of the city into a “class” with a shared sense of self, which particularly revolved around cultural dispositions. However, these institutions were also used within class to differentiate between the “old elite”, who dominated these institutions, and the “new elite”, who had arrived at their station by success in business as opposed to lineage. The Philharmonic subscriber data covers 140 years of these machinations, and their transcription and digitization allows for a range of studies of how social status has been maintained and manipulated in different periods of the city’s history. This project was a joint effort by Columbia University and the New York Philharmonic.

Principal Investigators

Shamus Khan (Sociology, Columbia University) 
Fabien Accominotti (Sociology, London School of Economics)
Barbara Haws (Archivist and Historian, New York Philharmonic)

Project Dates

October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2015


Andrew W. Mellon Foundation