Monday, January 22, 2018

Etiquette Advice for Entertaining


A Perplexing Query

It is right for a girl twenty-six years of age, keeping house alone in one room, to receive visits from gentlemen? If not, is it right if she has a private sitting room? Is the sitting room of a boarding house always at the disposal of the boarders? If there is not a sitting room, what is a girl to do with gentlemen visitors? — Jane S. 

The living room of a boarding house should always be at the disposal of the people in the house, and it should be attractive, so girls should feel no qualms in asking their friends to call. You would be open to adverse criticism if you entertained In a room alone; If you have a sitting room arrange for a chaperon, then your self-respect will be maintained and your men friends will think all the more of you. 

Entertainment for Young People 

Would like to entertain a crowd of about twenty girls and boys (ages from eighteen to twenty) at an evening party, but am perplexed as to the entertainment. All of our parties seem so very much alike. Can you help me?— Jim

One of the liveliest parties I ever saw was conducted in this fashion: Each of the boys was asked to come wearing something to represent a famous man and each of the girls to dress as a famous woman. Programs and pencils were provided to write down ‘who was who’ and prizes were awarded. There was “Paul Revere” with his lantern, "Washington" and his cherry tree, “Betsy Ross” and her flag, “Francis Willard,” wearing a little white ribbon, etc... Try It. – Madame Merrk, Sausalito News, 1913

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Etiquette, Cards and “At Home”



Acknowledging Wedding Cards

Will you kindly tell me how to acknowledge a wedding announcement? —Grace 


Unless the wedding announcement includes the “at home” address of the happy pair, no notice need be taken. If it does, make a call upon the day mentioned, or, if that is impossible, send your card to arrive upon that date. If the announcement is from a very dear friend, a personal note of love and good wishes would not be amiss. 


Two Questions

Will you please tell me where I can get a good book on etiquette? Would it be correct to have the day of the week best suited for me to receive callers put on my calling cards? —Mrs. A. L. 

For your first question I must ask you to send me a self-addressed stamped envelope. It will be perfectly correct for you to have an “at home” day engraved upon your visiting card. But be sure you adhere strictly to the day given and remain at home all prepared for visitors. – Madame Merrk, Sausalito News, 1913


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tea Etiquette and the Pinky Debate


Not only did Disney have it wrong on the pinky finger sticking out, but Alice having her elbows on the table, is certainly considered rude.
“Disney has it wrong I’m afraid; the extended pinky is a big no-no. The correct way to hold the teacup is to lightly grip the handle between your thumb and fingers but not clutch your fingers around the handle. Sticking your little finger out into the air whilst drinking tea in England will likely get you some strange looks and weak smiles but they won’t get you invited to the palace for afternoon tea, so please keep them tucked in nice and tight. Some people say that the “pinkies out” affectation dates back to the eleventh century when it was considered cultured to eat with three fingers and common to eat with five. Another explanation is that the earlier styled tea cups had no handles and therefore the little finger was extended to provide balance.” – Rachel North

Old Chinese tea cups In Great Britain. 

Many disagree on the whole pinky finger debate, but most anthropologists believe the lower classes watched the upper classes on how to hold their cups, and believe that heat had nothing to do with how people held their handless cups of tea. “After all, the tea and cups came from China and the Chinese held their handleless cups in a manner without fingers extended.” – Maura Graber 

And prior to small salt spoons being used, other ways of salting one's food or adding spices were devised. "Pinky fingers were extended while eating, and kept away from the greasy foods so that they could be used for dipping into expensive spices." –Bernadette Petrotta, The Art of Social Graces



Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Place Card Etiquette and More


Use of Place Cards

I have never used place cards, and I think them a great convenience. Do you write the names of the guests and put them at the place you wish them to sit and are they supposed to carry them home with them as souvenirs? — “Ignorant” 

The place cards bear the names of the guests and are put at the places they are to occupy. They are usually laid on the napkins and are retained by the guests to be taken home If they wish. Where there are many to be seated or few these cards certainly make it easier for everyone.

The Matter of Calling Cards

I am at present visiting here in the city, but live in a small town. Quite a few people have called on me. In returning their calls do I leave my card, providing I find them at home?—A. L. 

When returning a first call it is quite the proper thing to leave your card as a matter of record, as well as to show you know the proper thing to, do. In the case of very intimate friends whom one calls upon frequently, it is not necessary to leave a card if the person is at home. –Madame Merrk, Sausalito News, 1913


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Early 20th C. Etiquette Advice


Refreshments for Bridge Tea

I am going to have a friend to visit me for a week and wish to give a Bridge Tea in her honor. What refreshments can I serve besides sandwiches, tea and candy? Would an Ice be proper? I want to do the correct thing and will depsnd so much on your answer. —M. A.

I presume you wish to serve refreshments after the game. A fruit salad, served in grape-fruit shells, with cheese, crackers, a bit of bar-be-que in center of each; with it serve coffee. I would pass an ice or frappe during the middle of the afternoon, when one is apt to be thirsty. You could serve individual russe and hot chocolate or oyster cocktails and sardine sandwiches, with coffee.


“G.’s” Questions

When one is dining out and the host serves more than you really care for, is it a breach of etiquette to leave the plate quite well filled? I am nineteen years old and the eldest girl in the family. How should my visiting cards be engraved?—G. 


One is never compelled to eat more than is desired. It might be well to caution your host by saying, “That is quite sufficient, thank you.” Your card should be engraved simply, “Miss Brown.” To your other questions I must say I fear the reply is too late to be of benefit. I only have just so much space and only a limited number of letters can be answered each week.–Madame Merrk, Sausalito News, 1913


Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

“Dear Beatrice” Etiquette Advice

The “Dear Beatrice Fairfax” advice column began in 1898 and is said to be the first advice column in the U.S. (though the popular 1890, “Ruth Ashmore” advice column by Isabel Mallon, was actually the first). Written by Marie Manning, it was an immediate success. At one point the column received so many letters, the U.S. Post Office refused to deliver them. The New York Evening Journal, publisher of the column, had to retrieve the letters itself. Manning's common sense advice was popular and imitated nationwide. Sadly, Manning's efforts went largely unrewarded. Manning’s pay and status remained low at the Journal, so she eventually resigned, only returning after financial hardship during the Great Depression. Manning went back to work for the Journal, again writing her Beatrice Fairfax column (which had been syndicated for years) and wrote the column until she passed away in 1945. During her lifetime of giving advice, she wrote four novels and “Beatrice Fairfax” was immortalized in several popular songs of the era. One is in the opening line of George and Ira Gershwin's song “But Not For Me,” from the 1930 musical “Girl Crazy.”

Manners are the gracious way of doing things. No better rule for “good form” and “etiquette” can ever be evolved than this simple little statment. Kind-hearted people have the first asset toward good manners, if they govern their kindly impulses by good taste and common sense they are sure to act in a manner that far exceeds “the proper thing" in human value.

Take the simple question of whether a girl shall ask a man to call on her, or no. The little courtesy of suggesting to an interested acquaintance that you will be glad to see him in your own home can not be improper. It offers dignified hospitality and suggests friendly good will, so it is kind. It is surely in better taste to meet your friends in your home than at dances or public entertainments of any sort. And common sense ought to indicate to any girl whether a man is sufficiently interested in her to want the opportunity of seeing her again, or no.

For test of any question where you doubt the certainty as to what is the proper thing to do, just apply kindness, common sense and good taste. And you will be as well off as if you had studied manners in a finishing school or a book of etiquette. – Marie Manning, aka “Beatrice Fairfax,” 1916

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Etiquette and Royal Fads

Barely 125 years after the United States discarded the yoke of the British monarchy, and barely a hundred years after President Thomas Jefferson experimented with his crazy “Pell-Mell” etiquette, a “sham aristocracy” had developed in Washington D.C. and everyone wanted to be treated like royalty. – “Precedence is killing Washington as a place of residence. It is destroying its chief charm. If one thinks of going there to live it is because he expects to have the opportunity to meet in the easy circumstances of social intercourse people who are interesting or amusing or curious.”
Social Precedence Fads and
a Growth of Monarchical Customs at the Nation's Capital

Other parts of the country may be amused by the wrangling and heartburnings incident to the Coronation of King Edward, but Washington follows them with serious and sympathetic interest. Only a few Americans have any idea of the rigid system of etiquette which has grown up at the national capital. The other day, a high officer of the government said: “My daughter went to lunch with the daughter of Secretary yesterday. She did not come home until long after she was expected, and her mother asked her what was the matter. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘Secretary’s daughter, was there, and none of us could go until she left, and we thought she never would go.’ And I find that precedent is carried out in the strictest possible way all through Washington society in all of its sets, down to the very children.” 


If there are any persons in official life in Washington who do not attach importance to precedence, do not resent being seated out of rank at table or in other ways given less than their exact official amount of deference, these persons keep extremely quiet. In Washington, one ceases to be surprised at hearing of persons of national reputations complaining fiercely because they have been subjected to some trivial slight in this matter of precedence. It irritates a cabinet officer to be put a shade out of his rank just as much as it irritates a congressman from nowhere or a government clerk. 

Precedence is killing Washington as a place of residence. It is destroying its chief charm. If one thinks of going there to live it is because he expects to have the opportunity to meet in the easy circumstances of social intercourse people who are interesting or amusing or curious. That social intercourse is becoming practically impossible. No one giving any sort of entertainment, however informal, dares to arrange his or her guests according to congeniality. The same people must always be put next to each other. The same man must take the same woman into dinner. The same youth must dance with the same girl. And as official life expands the blight of precedence spreads. 

It is difficult for an outsider to listen without laughing or showing irritation, as the Washingtonians discuss precedence and relate incidents of national and international catastrophes almost brought about by violations of it. But as some of the persons who most strenuously insist upon it, are otherwise high above the human average. It would be well, before utterly condemning the Washingtonians, to reflect whether the craze for precedence not a universal human weakness, latent —happily latent —in most of us because it has no chance to show itself. However, if Washington is to be saved as a residence city, some scheme must be devised whereunder precedence, and its complications and its depressing influences, shall be confined to formal international functions for the Diplomatists, who are primarily responsible for the present state of affairs.— New York Times, 1902

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette