Although The Gilded Age is a fictional series, it definitely still plays around with revisionist history. And in doing so, it introduces us to some people who actually existed during America’s Gilded Age in the late 1800s — one of those people being James “Rosy” Roosevelt, who’s seen on the arm of one of the Astors.
Throughout the first episode of The Gilded Age, “Never the New,” the Astors are referred to multiple times as the family to know, and the matriarch of the new Russell family won’t rest until she’s on Mrs. Astor’s good side. But at the end of the episode, Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt are greeted as they walk into the Astors’ mansion. Mr. Roosevelt is also called James and Rosy, so who is he?
James “Rosy” Roosevelt married into the Astor family in history and in ‘The Gilded Age.’
At the end of the first episode of The Gilded Age, we meet James Roosevelt, affectionately referred to as “Rosy” by Carrie Astor, the youngest daughter of Mrs. Astor, whose full name is Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor. When Mrs. Astor asks Carrie about where Helen Astor, Carrie’s older sister is, Carrie explains that Rosy needs to be up at the break of dawn, so they’ve gone to bed.
In reality, James Roosevelt was also often referred to as “Rosy,” and he was actually President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s older half-brother. As was traditional during the Gilded Age, to keep wealth in the family, cousins and distant relatives often married. James’s parents were actually second cousins, James Roosevelt I and Rebecca Brien Howland. The New York Times wrote that Rosy was considered, “an aimless if charming member of New York society's sporting set.”
Rosy married Helen Astor in 1878, which means that The Gilded Age must take place around that time since they don’t yet have children in the series. In reality, Rosy and Helen had two children — James “Tadd” Roosevelt Jr. in 1879 and Helen Rebecca Roosevelt in 1881. Helen Roosevelt continued the tradition of marrying close to the family when she married Theodore Douglas Robinson, President Theodore Roosevelt’s eldest nephew.
It’s unlikely that James Roosevelt will be a major figure in ‘The Gilded Age,’ although the Astors definitely will be.
For those who have spent a reasonable amount of time in New York City, the mark of the Astors on the city is clear. Today, we still have Astor Place and the 6-train that stops there. The Astors’ fashionable home at 350 Fifth Avenue is the current site of the Empire State Building, and they also owned the Beechwood mansion or “summer cottage” in Newport, Rhode Island. Mrs. Astor also led “the Four Hundred,” a list of New York’s finest elite.
We can presume that this is the list that Bertha Russell is so eager to get her family onto in The Gilded Age, although Mrs. Astor was historically hesitant to welcome any “new wealth” to New York. Mamie Fish, who we’ve also met in The Gilded Age, was one of three socialites who eventually took over the Four Hundred when Mrs. Astor passed away in 1908.
As for Rosy, although he’s adjacent to Astor family history, The Gilded Age picks up when he’s already in the family. So there’s not much more drama involving him going forward, at least in the story’s history. In addition, Andy Talen, who plays Rosy, is only credited for the first episode of The Gilded Age on IMDb.
So unless we get a crossover series about the scandal inside the Roosevelt family (which we would definitely watch), it’s unlikely we’ll see much more of Andy in The Gilded Age.
Tune into new episodes of The Gilded Age every Monday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.