SOCIAL REGISTER. A semiannual publication listing elite Americans, the Social Register first appeared in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1886. The New York edition followed in 1887, and compiler Louis Keller became the de facto arbiter of aristocratic status in the land of equality during the fluid period of the Gilded Age. Keller incorporated his project as the Social Register Association, which as of the early 2000s still publishes the book from New York City.
Over the four decades following the first edition, Keller produced separate volumes for 24 cities; in 1977 the association consolidated the various lists into a November pre-holiday edition and a supplemental Summer Social Register. The basic format has changed little: each book lists entries alphabetically by family head, along with addresses of first and additional homes, phone numbers, schools and colleges attended, and clubs.
Members of the Social Register are disproportionately eastern and urban. Inclusion is based on birth, marriage, or, occasionally, application. As American "society"—in both the broad and narrow senses—has changed, so has the composition of the Register. Once restricted to Protestant Anglo-Saxons, the Register now includes African Americans, Jews, and those of diverse ethnic groups.
Cullen, Carole. "Social Register." In Encyclopedia of American Studies. Edited by George T. Kurian, Miles Orvell, Johnella E. Butler, and Jay Mechling. Volume 4, pp. 147–148. Danbury, N.Y.: Grolier Educational, 2001.
Higley, Stephen Richard. Privilege, Power, and Place: The Geography of the American Upper Class. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995.