Monday, September 24, 2012


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I love looking at societal etiquette from decades past.  Each generation thinks that their young people are the worst behaved.  People tend to look to the past with sentimentality and an unrealistic idea that things were much better then...

In the 1920's:

Upper echelons thought of etiquette as strict guidelines for life.

-Gentlemen never spoke of money or his possessions especially in the presence of women.
-Even stronger, a man never ill-spoke of his marriage in public, even in the face of infidelity.  Any visible emotions would be considered weakness in a man. 

"No matter who he may be, whether rich or poor, in high life or low, the man who publicly besmirches his wife’s name, besmirches still more his own, and proves that he is not, was not, and never will be, a gentleman.”

Men or women must never act like social climbers.  There were easy signs to spot for picking out old money from new.

   “When you see a woman in silks and sables and diamonds speak to a little errand girl or a footman or a scullery maid as though they were the dirt under her feet, you may be sure of one thing; she hasn’t come a very long way from the ground herself.”

Men and women were to follow the rules of social etiquette to the letter else punishment would be swift and severe.  Rule breakers would no longer be welcome or invited to posh dinner parties. 

Our society no longer holds these rules in high regard.  We've become a much looser society.  But I do like that there are some elements of good manners which has lasted the test of time - such as opening doors for women. 

Above quotes are courtesy of:
Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk &
Wagnalls, 1922. [4/6/09].

Thought you might enjoy excerpts from the vintage book shown above:


A book of etiquette from the 1920s.

Manners at the table:
Do not be late for dinner.
Do not read at the table.
Do not seat yourself before the ladies.
Always put your napkin over your knee.
Do not cut bread-break it.
Do not make a noise when supping soup.
Pick your conversation, light and cheerful.

In society:
If you visit, leave your coat and umbrella in the hall.
Do not shake a ladies hand first, let her do it.
Do not stare at people or things in the room.
Do not talk about the weather, talk about music, art, literature, sport.
Cross a room to open a door for a lady.

Love Courtship and Marriage:
A well bred person does not wear his or her heart on their sleeve.
Do not trifle with affections, to pretend to be in love is contemptible.
It is a becoming courtesy to ask the father before offering an engagement ring.
When engaged it is not usual for young people to spend much time alone.
Do not forget that your wife's letters or your husband's letters are not your concern.

Training the children:
Do not say or do anything in front of them that you would not wish them to say or do.
If the children see consideration and feeling for others displayed, they will learn to do the same.
If courtesies like Good Morning and Good Night are not taught, other delinquencies will follow.
Teach your children to answer plainly and boldly, when asked a question, two somewhat disagreeable traits that very many children exhibit are the failure to answer promptly and the other who are overbold and pert, who volunteer information or even advice unsought.

Wow, maybe I should just stay at home, eat junk in my underwear and yell at the neighbours' kids!


1 comment:

Porcelina said...

My Dad was born in 1930 and his mother must have had all these etiquette points drilled into her in the decades before, and then passed them on to him, because my Dad got really cross with me once when I tried to cut a bread roll with a knife!!

Fab post!

Porcelina xx