Delmonico's, the place to see and be seen during the Gilded Age.
Once upon a time, I had to write a short piece about the history of bagpipes for a reading textbook--a reading comp passage for test prep. I tried to find out where bagpipes came from, but couldn't find one definitive place; it seems bagpipe type instruments began to appear in numerous places around the world at roughly the same time. It seems like sometimes it's just the right moment for an idea.
Numerous people had been working their way towards the idea of evolution for years before Charles Darwin published his "Origin of the Species"-- including Darwin's own grandfather. While many people considered and tried to put together a theory about how species might be related to each other and previous versions that were no longer here, Darwin was the one who slogged through the actual experimentation and study to come up with a scientific grounding for evolution. Henry Russel Wallace, who did his own study in the field rather than the lab, was the one who probably came closest to earning the credit for the theory, but that didn't stop others from claiming the prize.
One of the most notable claimants was Herbert Spencer; in fact, thanks to the tireless promotion of his friend, editor Edward Youmans, Spencer was for a time more famous in the United States than Darwin for discovering evolution. Today, Spencer is better remembered--when he is remembered at all--as a founder of the study of sociology, and one of the proponents of "social Darwinism."
While Spencer was the one who coined the term "survival of the fittest" (Darwin preferred natural selection), to lump him in with those who advocated leaving the weak and the poor by the wayside is a bit much, or at least that's how it seems in Bruce Werth's Banquet at Delmonico's. Spencer believed that society was capable of improving, or evolving, but in those pre-genetics days he believed that this progress would occur because acquired knowledge or characteristics would be passed on, rather than through the elimination of those not seen fit; near the end of his life, when the study of genes proved that acquired characteristics could not be passed on--that humans did not biologically learn from their mistakes--Spencer was crushed and tried to find a way to work around it. However, a number of Spencer's American acolytes did take it to mean that the weak got what they deserved--Yale professor William Sumner once commented that a drunkard in the gutter was where he should be, and protested the town of New Haven's suggestion around Christmas during a financial depression that the town try to find jobs for unemployed men.