Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dinner Guest Etiquette; From the Ladies' Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness in 1860


From 1860 Vanity Fair Magazine

Her General Thoughts on Etiquette and Manners

In preparing a book of etiquette for ladies, I would lay down as the first rule, "Do unto others as you would others should do to you." You can never be rude if you bear the rule always in mind, for what lady likes to be treated rudely? True Christian politeness will always be the result of an unselfish regard for the feelings of others, and though you may err in the ceremonious points of etiquette, you will never be impolite.
Politeness, founded upon such a rule, becomes the expression, in graceful manner, of social virtues. The spirit of politeness consists in a certain attention to forms and ceremonies, which are meant both to please others and ourselves, and to make others pleased with us; a still clearer definition may be given by saying that politeness is goodness of heart put into daily practice; there can be no true politeness without kindness, purity, singleness of heart, and sensibility.
Many believe that politeness is but a mask worn in the world to conceal bad passions and impulses, and to make a show of possessing virtues not really existing in the heart; thus, that politeness is merely hypocrisy and dissimulation. Do not believe this; be certain that those who profess such a doctrine are practising themselves the deceit they condemn so much. Such people scout politeness, because, to be truly a lady, one must
carry the principles into every circumstance of life, into the family circle, the most intimate friendship, and never forget to extend the gentle courtesies of life to every one. This they find too much trouble, and so deride the idea of being polite and call it deceitfulness.
True politeness is the language of a good heart, and those possessing that heart will never, under any circumstances, be rude. They may not enter a crowded saloon gracefully; they may be entirely ignorant of the forms of good society; they may be awkward at table, ungrammatical in speech; but they will never be heard speaking so as to wound the feelings of another; they will never be seen making others uncomfortable by seeking solely for their own personal convenience; they will always endeavor to set every one around them at ease; they will be self-sacrificing, friendly, unselfish; truly in word and deed, polite. Give to such a woman the knowledge of the forms and customs of society, teach her how best to show the gentle courtesies of life, and you have a lady, created by God, only indebted for the outward polish to the world.

It is true that society demands this same unselfishness and courtesy, but when there is no heart in the work, the time is frittered away on the mere ceremonies, forms of etiquette, and customs of society, and this politeness seeks only its own ends; to be known as courteous, spoken of as lady-like, and not beloved as unselfish and womanly.
Etiquette exists in some form in all countries, has existed and will exist in all ages. From the rudest savage who dares not approach his ignorant, barbarous ruler without certain forms and ceremonies, to the most polished courts in Europe, or the home circles of America, etiquette reigns.
True politeness will be found, its basis in the human heart, the same in all these varied scenes and situations, but the outward forms of etiquette will vary everywhere. Even in the same scene, time will alter every form, and render the exquisite polish of last year, obsolete rudeness next year.
Politeness, being based upon real kindness of heart, cannot exist where there is selfishness or brutality to warp its growth. It is founded upon love of the neighbor, and a desire to be beloved, and to show love. Thus, where such pure, noble feelings do not exist, the mere forms of politeness become hypocrisy and deceit. Rudeness will repel, where courtesy would attract friends. Never by word or action notice the defects of another; be charitable, for all need charity. Remember who said, "Let him that is without fault cast the first stone." Remember that the laws of politeness require the consideration of the feelings of others; the endeavor to make every one feel at ease; and frank courtesy towards all.  Never meet rudeness in others with rudeness upon your own part; even the most brutal and impolite will be more shamed by being met with courtesy and kindness, than by any attempt to annoy them by insolence on your part. Politeness forbids any display of resentment.  The polished surface throws back the arrow.
Remember that a favor becomes doubly valuable if granted with courtesy, and that the pain of a refusal may be softened if the manner expresses polite regret. Kindness, even to the most humble, will never lose anything by being offered in a gentle, courteous manner, and the most common-place action will  admit of grace and ease in its execution. Let every action, while it is finished in strict accordance with etiquette, be, at the same time, easy, as if dictated solely by the heart.  To be truly polite, remember you must be polite at all times, and under all circumstances. 


When you receive an invitation to join a dinner-party, answer it immediately, as, by leaving your hostess in doubt whether you intend to accept  or decline her hospitality,  you make it impossible for her to decide how many she must prepare for. If you accept at first, and any unforeseen event keeps you from fulfilling your engagement, write a second note, that your hostess may not wait dinner for you. Such a note, if circumstances render it necessary to write it, may be sent with perfect propriety an hour before the time appointed for dinner, though, if you are aware that you cannot attend, earlier, you must send the information in good season.
You should enter the house of your hostess from a quarter to half an hour earlier than the time appointed for dining. Proceed at once to the dressing-room, and arrange your dress and hair, and then enter the drawing-room. By going to the house too early, you may hasten or interrupt the toilet arrangements of your hostess; while,  by being late,  you will  establish a most disagreeable association in the minds of all present, as "the lady who kept dinner waiting at Mrs. L——'s."
Immediately upon entering the parlor find your hostess, and speak to her first. It is very rude to stop to chat with other guests before greeting the lady of the house. You may bow to any one you know, in passing, but do not stop to speak. Having exchanged a few words with your hostess, turn to the other guests, unless you are the first arrival. In that case, converse with your host and hostess until others come in.
Be careful, if dinner is delayed by the tardiness of the guests, or from any other cause, that you do not show by your manner that you are aware of such delay. To look towards the door often, consult your watch, or give tokens of weariness, are all marks of ill-breeding. Your hostess will probably be sufficiently annoyed by the irregularity itself; do not add to her discomfort by allowing her to suppose that her guests perceive the deficiencies. Look over the books and pictures with an air of interest, converse cheerfully, and in every way appear as if dinner were a matter of secondary importance, (as, indeed, it should be,) compared with the pleasure of the society around you.
When the signal for dinner is given, your hostess will probably name your escort to the table. If he is a stranger, bow in acknowledgement of the introduction, take his arm, and fall into your place in the stream of guests passing from the parlor to the dining-room.  Take the seat pointed out by your hostess, or the waiter, as soon as it is offered. Each one will do this upon entering, and it prevents the confusion that will result if those first entering the room, remain standing until all the other guests come in. When you take your seat, be careful that your chair does not stand upon the dress of the lady next you, as she may not rise at the same instant that you do, and so you risk tearing her dress.
Sit gracefully at the table; neither so close as to make your movements awkward, nor so far away as to drag your food over your dress before it reaches your mouth. It is well to carry in your pocket a small pincushion, and, having unfolded your napkin, to pin it at the belt. You may do this quietly, without its being perceived, and you will thus really save your dress. If the napkin is merely laid open upon your lap, it will be very apt to
slip down, if your dress is of silk or satin, and you risk the chance of appearing again in the drawing-room with the front of your dress soiled or greased. 

If, by the carelessness or awkwardness of your neighbors or the servants, you have a plate of soup, glass of wine, or any dish intended for your mouth, deposited upon your dress, do not spring up, or make any exclamation. You may wipe off the worst of the spot with your napkin, and then let it pass without further notice. If an apology is made by the unlucky perpetrator of the accident, try to set him at his ease by your own lady-like composure. He will feel sorry and awkward enough, without reproach, sullenness, or cold looks from you. 

Gloves and mittens are no longer worn at table, even at the largest dinner-parties.

To make remarks upon the guests or the dishes is excessively rude.

If the conversation is general, speak loudly enough to be heard by those around you, but, at the same time, avoid raising your voice too much. If the company is very large, and you converse only with the person immediately beside you, speak in a distinct, but low tone, that you may not interrupt other couples, but carefully avoid whispering or a confidential air. Both are in excessively bad taste. To laugh in a suppressed way, has the appearance of laughing at those around you, and a loud, boisterous laugh is always unlady-like. Converse cheerfully, laugh quietly, but freely, if you will, and while you confine your attention entirely to your neighbor, still avoid any air of secrecy or mystery.
Never use an eye-glass, either to look at the persons around you or the articles upon the table.
Eat your soup quietly. To make any noise in eating it, is simply disgusting. Do not break bread into your soup. Break off small pieces and put into your mouth, if you will, but neither bite it from the roll nor break it up, and eat it from your soup-plate with a spoon.
In eating bread with meat, never dip it into the gravy on your plate, and then bite the end off. If you wish to eat it with gravy, break off a small piece, put it upon your plate, and then, with a fork, convey it to your mouth.
When helped to fish, remove, with knife and fork, all the bones, then lay down the knife, and, with a piece of bread in your left hand and a fork in your right, eat the flakes of fish.
Need I say that the knife is to cut your food with, and must never be used while eating? To put it in your mouth is a distinctive mark of low-breeding.
If you have selected what you will eat, keep the plate that is placed before you; never pass it to the persons next you, as they may have an entirely different choice of meat or vegetables.
Never attempt to touch any dish that is upon the table, but out of your reach, by stretching out your arms, leaning forward, or, still worse, standing up. Ask the waiter to hand it, if you wish for it; or, if the gentleman beside you can easily do so, you may ask him to pass it to you.
Do not press those near you to take more or other things than are upon their plate. This is the duty of the hostess, or, if the company is large, the servants will attend to it. For you to do so is officious and ill-bred.
When conversing let your knife and fork rest easily upon your plate, even if still in your hand. Avoid holding them upright. Keep your own knife, fork, and spoon solely for the articles upon your own plate. To use them for helping yourself to butter or salt, is rude in the extreme.
When you do not use the salt-spoon, sugar tongs, and butter- knife, you may be sure that those around you will conclude that you have never seen the articles, and do not know their use. You need not fear to offend by refusing to take wine with a gentleman, even your host. If you decline gracefully, he will appreciate the delicacy which makes you refuse. If, however, you have no conscientious scruples, and are invited to take wine, bow, and merely raise the glass to your lips, then set it down again. You may thus acknowledge the courtesy, and yet avoid actually drinking the wine.
No lady should drink wine at dinner. Even if her head is strong enough to bear it, she will find her cheeks, soon after the indulgence, flushed, hot, and uncomfortable; and if the room is warm, and the dinner a long one, she will probably pay the penalty of her folly, by having a headache all the evening.
If offered any dish of which you do not wish to partake, decline it, but do not assign any reason. To object to the dish itself is an insult to your entertainers, and if you assert any reason for your own dislike it is ill-bred.
Do not bend too much forward over your food, and converse easily. To eat fast, or appear to be so much engrossed as to be unable to converse, is ill-bred; and it makes those around you suspect that you are so little accustomed to dining well, that you fear to stop eating an instant, lest you should not get enough. It is equally ill-bred to accept every thing that is offered to you.
Never take more than two vegetables; do not take a second plate of soup, pastry, or pudding. Indeed, it is best to accept but one plate of any article.
Never use a spoon for anything but liquids, and never touch anything to eat, excepting bread, celery, or fruit, with your fingers.
In the intervals which must occur between the courses, do not appear to be conscious of the lapse of time. Wear a careless air when waiting, conversing cheerfully and pleasantly, and avoid looking round the room, as if wondering what the waiters are about.
Never eat every morsel that is upon your plate; and surely no lady will ever scrape her plate, or pass the bread round it, as if to save the servants the trouble of washing it.

Take such small mouthfulls that you can always be ready for conversation, but avoid playing with your food, or partaking of it with an affectation of delicate appetite.  Your hostess may suppose you despise her fare, if you appear so very choice, or eat too sparingly. If your state of health deprives you of appetite, it is bad enough for you to decline the invitation to dine out.

Never examine minutely the food before you. You insult your hostess by such a proceeding, as it looks as if you feared to find something upon the plate that should not be there.

If you find a worm on opening a nut, or in any of the fruit, hand your plate quietly, and without remark, to the waiter, and request him to bring you a clean one. Do not let others perceive the movement, or the cause of it, if you can avoid so doing.

Never make a noise in eating. To munch or smack the lips are vulgar faults.

Sit quietly at table, avoid stiffness, but, at the same time, be careful that you do not annoy others by your restlessness.

Do not eat so fast as to be done long before others, nor so slowly as to keep them waiting.  When the finger-glasses are passed round, dip the ends of your fingers into them, and wipe them upon your napkin; then do not fold your napkin, but place it beside your plate upon the table.

To carry away fruit or bonbons from the table is a sign of low breeding.

Rise with the other ladies when your hostess gives the signal.

After returning to the parlor, remain in the house at least an hour after dinner is over. If you have another engagement in the evening, you may then take your leave, but not before. You will insult your hostess by leaving sooner, as it appears that you came only for the dinner, and that being over, your interest in the house, for the time, has ceased. It is only beggars who "eat and run!"



Monday, November 19, 2012

Manners for American Boys and Girls in 1922

Manners in the Family; More from

Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls 1922

By the Faculty of South Philadelphia High School for Girls 1922

There are people who think that courtesy is merely a matter of form. The manners of such people are not worth much. Sincere good manners require that a person be helpful and kind at all times, which means that good manners are closely associated with one's daily work. If you would cultivate the better kind of courtesy, there are many opportunities to do so in your own home life. 

Boys, never let your mother carry coal, beat rugs, or go to the store when she is tired, if you can do the work for her. Show your appreciation of her by drying the dishes in the evening, so that she may get an opportunity to rest.  Help your mother when she is tired. 

Girls, you can at least make the beds, straighten the living room, and, in the evening, wash the dishes even if you are attending school. On Saturday and Sunday you have your opportunity to learn to cook and clean and to give your mother a little play time. Sometimes your mother wants to be so very kind to you that she tells you you need not help. The next time she does it, remember your manners and fall to work. 

Outsiders judge you largely by the way you treat your mother. Do not impose your work on your little sisters and brothers. Always do more than they do, as you are bigger than they; and help them out when they are tired. You can never expect them to be considerate if you do not set a good example. Work quickly and carefully and quietly. If you put your best efforts into your task, you will find yourself enjoying it. 

A thorough piece of work, no matter what it may be, is always a great satisfaction to the doer. Aside from this, you should endeavor to do your work cheerfully, because your mother is very little benefited by your labor if you are cross and disagreeable. Remember too that the skill and ease with which you accomplish the small home tasks are the best possible preparation for the big tasks you will meet later on.

Take care of the things you handle while you are working around the house. Do not let the baby's doll be broken, or your sister's book be mislaid. Do not throw into the waste paper basket the composition over which your brother has toiled hard, even though he has left it very untidily on the table. Your good breeding shows nowhere more markedly than in the care you take of the things other people value. Always thank a member of your family for any favor as graciously as you would an outsider, and remember that "Please" is a helpful word anywhere. Don't say "Thanks"; it sounds ungracious. "Many thanks, Mother" or "Thank you, Fred" are much pleasanter expressions of appreciation. 


1. Suppose that a child has never formed the habit of greeting his family with a smiling "Good morning!" — how can he learn to do it? What may make it difficult at first? How can he overcome this difficulty? 

2. Each of you may make a list of things that you might do when you go home to-day that would help your mother. How can you get into the habit of helping her every day? 

3. What do you think of beginning now a manners drive? You must do the planning for slogans, posters, scenes, plays, tags. These all help to arouse interest and to fix facts. 

Here are two suggestions for manners slogans. Can you add others? 

Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy. — Emerson. 

Family intimacy should never make brothers and sisters forget to be polite to each other. — Silvia Pellico.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

1922 Table Manners and the Meaning of 'Goop'

I thought "Goop" was a term for something messy or sticky.  The term not only means those things (oddly it's the name of Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle site), but in 1922 it also meant children with the most of hideous of table manners.

Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls 1922

By the Faculty of South Philadelphia High School for Girls 1922

Table Manners

"The Goops they lick their fingers,

And the Goops they lick their knives;
They spill their broth on the tablecloth —

Oh, they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating,

And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why I'm glad that I

Am not a Goop — are you?"

Don't be a Goop!

Which of your friends have good manners at the table?

What pleases you most in their manners? Is it the way in which they handle their food? Their positions at the table? Their conversation at the table?

Eating is not a very attractive process, but in these busy days, meal time affords one of the few opportunities we have for meeting and greeting our friends. For that reason, the unattractive part of eating should be made as inconspicuous as possible, so that the social part of the meal can be emphasized. If you handle your silver and consume your food just as your neighbors do, your manner of eating is unnoticed, and you can dine without embarrassment and be welcome at any table. If, however, your table manners are unusual and peculiar, you at once become conspicuous; you embarrass your hostess; and your peculiarities may be so revolting as to take away the appetite and upset the conversation of others at the table. This being the case, you find yourself unwelcome, perhaps ignored and laughed at, because of your clumsy and unpleasant maneuvers. Consequently, it is necessary to know and to follow the customs that have been accepted by those who have learned best how to be agreeable to, and considerate of, their fellow men.

First of all, be prompt at your meals. It is very trying to the person who planned the meal to have people come in late. If there are guests, allow them to enter first, and in any case, if those partaking of the meal come from the same room, the men and boys stand aside for the women to pass first, except when arrangement has been made for people to enter with partners. At the table, remain standing until all have arrived, or until the mother, or the hostess, or whoever is at the head of the table, gives the signal for sitting. It is a pleasant courtesy for a man to pull back the chair of the woman next to him, and then push it in toward the table for her as she sits down.

Do not begin to eat until all have been served.

The silver at your place is usually arranged in the order in which you will use it—beginning at the outside. If soup is served, fill your spoon away from you, always, not toward you. If this rule is observed, there is less danger of letting drops fall on the tablecloth or on your clothes. Soup should always be eaten from the side of the spoon, never from the front.

If you notice people while they eat, you can see how much less awkward it is to eat from the side than to push your spoon straight into your mouth, as though you meant to swallow it.  See that you put the soup into your mouth quietly. Never suck it from the spoon with a noise; a noisy soup eater is most distressing to his neighbors. When you put down your spoon, if soup plates are used, leave the spoon in the plate. If bouillon cups are used instead, never leave the spoon in the cup, but put it in the saucer.

When fish is served, it is eaten by means of the fork only, except in those rather rare cases where a fish knife is provided. Fish bones may be removed from the mouth by means of the fork, or by the fingers. Often the latter method is a safer way of getting the bones to
your plate. You should, as far as possible, avoid taking the bones into your mouth; and, when removing any, should shield your mouth with your napkin.

When the main course is served, you may be asked your preference in regard to the cuts of meat. If so, and if you have a preference, express it.  If you are not asked, take what is served to you without comment.  If the vegetables are placed on the table, help to pass them. If the table is set correctly, you will always find a tablespoon beside the vegetable dish, and it is your part in picking up the dish, to put the spoon into it, and pass the dish to your neighbor.  In case your neighbor is occupied, it may be more convenient and less conspicuous to help yourself first. Never reach across the table or in front of a person for anything you desire, but ask the person nearest to pass the article. Try to anticipate the needs of your guests, so as to offer them what they need before they are obliged to ask. Always take bread with your fingers, never with your fork. The same is true of olives or radishes, or any food which is not provided with its own spoon or fork. Such dishes are ordinarily those that contain food which you eat from your fingers. Always use the butter knife provided to help yourself to butter. It is exceedingly bad form to help yourself from any dish with your own individual silver.

In cutting your meat, be careful not to hold your knife and fork as weapons. The knife should be held easily in the right hand, with the forefinger running along the back of the blade near the handle. The fork, in the left hand, should be held with the prongs down, and the forefinger extended along the handle. Keep your arms close to your sides — never with the elbows out. The latter position produces an awkward appearance and frequently causes real annoyance and inconvenience to your neighbors. Never cut more than one mouthful of meat at a time. It is decidedly out of place to cut up all of your meat at once. 

When you have cut off a  small piece, the general rule is to rest your knife across your plate, transfer your fork to your right hand, with the prongs up, and so pick up and eat with your fork what has been cut. (It is permissible, however, to keep the fork in the left hand, prongs down, and so eat your meat. This method prevails in England.) Vegetables should be eaten with the fork whenever possible. If a vegetable is served in liquid or nearly liquid form, it may be eaten with a spoon. When not in use, the spoon should be allowed to rest in the dish with which it belongs. It should never be put back on the tablecloth. Just so, with the knife and fork; after they have been picked up, they should never rest anywhere but on the plate. They should not be put back on the tablecloth, or allowed to lean against the plate. For one thing, they are no longer perfectly clean, and it is unsanitary to spread the germs from your hands and mouth to the tablecloth. Moreover, leaning them against your plate puts them in your way, and is likely to cause accidents. In passing your plate for a second helping, leave your knife and fork side by side on your plate — do not remove them. When you have finished, put your knife and fork in this same position.

Never spread a whole piece of bread at one time at the table. Break the piece in halves, and if one half is more than two or three small mouthfuls, break it again, and spread just one little piece at a time. If a bread and butter plate is provided, your bread, of course, belongs there. If none is provided, rest your bread on your  dinner plate, if possible. If that is too crowded, all but the piece you have buttered may rest on the tablecloth. The buttered piece must rest on your plate.

At one time it was considered good form to leave a little food on the plate. Our lessons in thrift during the  war, however, taught us that it is better to take no more than we want, and then to eat what is set before us, simply avoiding any impression of scraping the plate. A hostess is more flattered by a normally good appetite than by one which is too dainty. The latter makes her feel that you do not like her food.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

1887 Etiquette and How to Behave

                                    1. Tobacco.

Ladies, in this country, do not use tobacco, so they may skip this section. A large and increasing number of gentlemen may do the same; but if you use tobacco, in any forth, allow
us to whisper a useful hint or two in your ear. Smoking, snuff-taking, and especially chewing, are bad habits at best, and in their coarser forms highly disgusting to pure and refined people, and especially to ladies. You have the same right to smoke, take snuff, and chew that you have to indulge in the luxuries of a filthy skin and soiled garments, but you have no right, in either case, to do violence to the senses and sensibilities of other people by their exhibition in society. Smoke if you will, chew, take snuff (against our earnest advice, however), make yourself generally and particularly disagreeable, but you must suffer the consequences — the social outlawry which must result.

Shall we convert our parlors into tobacco shops, risk the ruin of our carpets and furniture from the random shots of your disgusting saliva, and fill the whole atmosphere of our house with a pungent stench, to the discomfort and disgust of everybody else, merely for the pleasure of your company? We have rights as well as you, one of which is to exclude from our circle all persons whose manners or habits are distasteful to us. You talk of rights. You can not blame others for exercising theirs.

There are degrees here as everywhere else. One may chew a little, smoke an occasional cigar, and take a pinch of snuff now and then, and if he never indulges in these habits in the
presence of others, and is very careful to purify his person before going into company, he may confine the bad effects, which he can not escape, mostly to his own person. But he must not smoke in any parlor, or sitting-room, or dining room, or sleeping chamber, or in the street, and particularly not in the presence of ladies, anywhere.

                                   2. Spitting.

"The use of tobacco has made us a nation of spitters," as some one has truly remarked. Spitting is a private act, and tobacco users are not alone in violating good taste and good manners by hawking and spitting in company. You should never be seen to spit. Use your handkerchief carefully and so as not to be noticed, or, in case of necessity, leave the room.

                              3. Gin and Gentility.

The spirit and tenor of our remarks on tobacco will apply to the use of ardent spirits. The fumes of gin, whisky, and rum are, if possible, worse than the scent of tobacco. They must on no account be brought into[Pg 30] company. If a man (this is another section which women may skip) will make a beast of himself, and fill his blood with liquid poison, he must, if he desires admission into good company, do it either privately or with companions whose senses and appetites are as depraved as his own.

                                4. Onions, etc.

All foods or drinks which taint the breath or cause disagreeable eructations should be avoided by persons going into company. Onions emit so very disagreeable an odor that no truly polite person will eat them when liable to inflict their fumes upon others. Particular care should be
taken to guard against a bad breath from any cause.


                              5. Several Items.

Never pare or scrape your nails, pick your teeth, comb your hair, or perform any of the necessary operations of the toilet in company. All these things should be carefully attended to
in the privacy of your own room. To pick the nose, dig the ears, or scratch the head or any part of the person in company is still worse. Watch yourself carefully, and if you have any such habits, break them up at once. These may seem little things, but they have their weight, and go far in determining the character of the impression we make upon those around us. 

From the book, "How to Behave" 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The White House Etiquette And Precedence of 1908

Big Bird has plenty of cash feathering his nest, but there is no debating it, the rest of the country is not that fortunate!

Regardless of who wins the upcoming Presidential election, we are certain of one thing; Before someone even thinks of running for office, they should not overlook lessons in manners and they need to know what politeness and etiquette mean. That goes for debate moderators as well.  Do they actually know the rules? 

Take a look at this analysis on the VP debate;
Our Vice President was rude, and the rest of the world noticed
Then there was this news byte, after President Obama overwhelmingly was seen as losing the first debate with contender Mitt Romney: President Obama on Wednesday said he was “too polite” in dealing with Mitt Romney at last week’s debate. “I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite,” Obama said in a phone interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show.  

We had to scratch our heads and ask ourselves, "Huh?" Too polite... No, that was really not the problem, Mr. President. 
Theodore Roosevelt addresses the crowd on his inauguration day in 1905

With manners in such a sore state these days, it is fun to look back and see in history just what needed to be known about Washingtonian etiquette if one were to run for office before the year 1909.  

 The White House Etiquette And Precedence of 1908


George Washington saw the necessity which would confront his successors, as well as himself, for some plan regulating the etiquette at the White House entertainments, dinners, receptions and the like. Upon consulting Alexander Hamilton, he received from Hamilton the following formal "Code of Procedure," which, with certain broad changes, has governed every President from Washington to Teddy Roosevelt.

1. The President to have a levee once a week for receiving visits ; an hour to be fixed at which it shall be understood that he will appear, and consequently that the visitors are to be previously assembled. The President to remain half an hour, in which time he may converse cursorily on different subjects, with such persons as shall invite his attention, and at the end of that half hour disappear. A mode of introduction through particular officers will be indispensable. No visits to be returned.

2. The President to accept no invitations, and to give formal entertainments only twice or four times a year, the anniversaries of important events in the Revolution. If twice on the day of the Declaration of Independence, and that on the day of the Inauguration of the President, which completed the organization of the Constitution, to be preferred; if four times, the day of the treaty of alliance with France, and that of the definitive treaty with Great Britain to be added. The members of the two houses of the Legislature; principal officers of the Government; foreign ministers, and other distinguished strangers only to be invited. The President on levee days, either by himself or some gentleman of his household to give invitations to family dinners on the days of invitation. Not more than six or eight to be invited at a time, and the matter to be confined essentially to members of the Legislature and other official characters. The President never to remain long at the table.

Washington's Conception of Official Etiquette

Among the records of the social customs of George Washington, as President, in Philadelphia, the following vivid and detailed description is given :

"He devoted an hour every other Tuesday from three to four to visits. He understood himself to be visited as the President of the United States, and not on his own account. He was not to be seen by anybody and everybody ; but required that every one who came should be introduced by his Secretary, or by some gentleman, whom he knew himself. He lived on the south side of Chestnut Street, just below Sixth. The place of reception was the dining-room in the rear, twenty-five or thirty feet in length, including the bow projecting into the garden. Mrs. Washington received her visitors in the two rooms on the second floor.

"At three o'clock, or at any time within a quarter of an hour afterwards, the visitor was conducted to this dining-room, from which all seats had been removed for the time. On entering one saw the tall, manly figure of Washington clad in black velvet; his hair in full dress, powdered and gathered behind in a large silk bag; yellow gloves on his hands; holding a cocked hat with a cockade on it, and the edges adorned with a black feather about an inch deep. He wore knee and shoe buckles; and a long sword, with a finely wrought and polished steel hilt, which appeared at the left hip; the coat worn over the blade, and appearing from under the folds behind. The scabbard was white polished leather.

"He always stood in front of the fireplace, with his face towards the door of entrance. The visitor was conducted to him, and he required to have the name so distinctly pronounced that he could hear it. He had the very uncommon faculty of associating a man's name and personal appearance so durably in his memory as to be able to call any one by name who made him a second visit. He received his visitor with a dignified bow, while his hands were so disposed of as to indicate that the salutation was not to be accompanied with shaking hands. This ceremony never occurred in those visits, even with his most near friends, that no distinction might be made.

"As visitors came in, they formed a circle around the room. At a quarter past three, the door was closed, and the circle was formed for that day. He then began on the right and spoke to each visitor, calling him by name and exchanging a few words with him. When he had completed his circuit, he resumed his first position, and the visitors approached him, in succession, bowed and retired. By four o'clock this ceremony was over.

"On the evenings when Mrs. Washington received visitors, he did not consider himself as visited. He was then as a private gentleman, dressed usually in some colored coat and waistcoat (the only one recollected was brown, with bright buttons), and black on his lower limbs. He had then neither hat nor sword ; he moved about among the company, conversing with one another. He had once a fortnight an official dinner, and select companies on other days. He sat (it is said), at the side, in a central position, Mrs. Washington opposite ; the two. ends were occupied by members of his family, or by per-sonal friends."

Such, then, with modifications, is the basis upon which some of the rules of etiquette are in force in the White House today.

Jefferson's Simple Social Forms

Thomas Jefferson, with his ideas of simplicity, abolished some of the more formal of the rules, stopping entirely the formal weekly receptions, or levees, and the State receptions. Among the quaintest of Mr. Jefferson's rules is the one wherein it is stated that "gentlemen offering their arms to ladies and going in to dinner in any order of rank or honor is prohibited."

The Order of Precedence Today

The order of precedence has always been a source of some embarrassment and a great deal of discussion among those invited to the White House. Among Cabinet Ministers and their wives, and among the foreign diplomats, especially, the question has sometimes caused amusing complications.

In the Roosevelt administration, however, in order to settle this long standing question of precedence that is, the question of who, by reason of rank, shall precede another at White House entertainments the United States Government established a set of rules embracing an "order of precedence" for those in official life, as follows :

The President, the Vice-President, the foreign Ambassadors, the Secretary of State, the foreign envoys and plenipotentiaries, the Chief Justice, the President pro tem, of the Senate (only upon the death of a Vice-President and the  consequent election of a President pro tern. of the Senate does he precede the Speaker of the House) ; Cabinet Secretaries, other than the Secretary of State; Foreign Ministers-resident, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, the Admiral of the Navy, Senators, Governors of States, Representatives in Congress, the Chief of Staff of the Army, Foreign Charges d'Affaires, Major Generals of the Army, Rear Admirals, Foreign Secretaries of Embassy and Legation, Assistant Secretaries of the Executive Departments, Judges of the Court of, Claims, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, District Commissioners, District Court of Appeals, District Supreme Court, Brigadier-Generals, Captains in the Navy, Director of Bureau of American Republics, Army and Navy Officers below army brigadiers and navy captains, Foreign guests in private life, untitled, American guests in private life.

For the wives of the officials named, the order of precedence is precisely the same as in their husbands, thus :

The wife of the President, who is exempt from returning visits.

The wives of Ambassadors in the order of their official recognition. These ladies make the first call upon the wife of the President and the Vice-President, but upon no others.

The wives of envoys plenipotentiary, who should make the initial visits on those ranking above them:
The wife of the Chief Justice.
The wife of the Speaker of the House.
The wives of Cabinet Ministers other than the Secretary of State.
The wives of Foreign Ministers-resident.
The wives of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court. The wife of the Admiral of the Navy.
The wives of Senators.
The wives of Governors of States.
The wives of Representatives in Congress; and so on, to the end of the order of procedure as given for the officials.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our Twitter Etiquette

Etiquette was defined to me as this; The word 'etiquette' means 'label', in many languages.  'Etiqueta' is Spanish. 'Etikket' is Dutch. It also can mean a type of 'ticket', or 'form'.  It got the connection to manners in France.  

The French Court passed around a written form, label, ticket, what have you.  It was the 'etiquette' that listed all of the manners expected of one when visiting the French Court.  In modern terms, etiquette is simply a list of the manners expected for any given situation or place that one might find themselves in, and that can mean one's own home too. 
No jumping on the furniture!
Most people I know have general house rules.  Mine are mostly like these listed here;  If you finish a roll of toilet paper, don't leave it there empty for the next household member.  Put a new one on.  No drinks on the antique furniture.  Make sure your friends use a coaster.  Grand kids, regardless of cuteness, are not allowed to jump on the sofas, beds, or any other furniture!  I don't want a child falling and hitting his or her pretty face on the nightstand or coffee table.  These rules are common sense and common courtesy.
We enjoy Twitter
There is a site my sister and I try to visit frequently.  Twitter, it appears, is a site that in many cases, is lacking a set rule of manners.  There is no Twitter Etiquette, but there needs to be. We are truly appalled at some things we read on that site.  Mind you, my sister and I are not appalled easily.  We have tried to be as polite as possible.  If someone follows us, we now do not blindly follow back without doing a bit of checking, but even then, we get fooled.  

We have started to read the tweets of people who, for example, we are convinced are selling some sort of pornography.  They may have great quotes or motivational sayings, however we do not want to re-tweet anything that may keep them in business. If any of our followers tweets, or re-tweets a tweet, with profanity or anything racist, or even religion intolerance, we unfollow them or block the person they are re-tweeting.  That way we have our follower still, but do not read something racist, profane or anything else we dislike.  Problem solved.
These things listed below, dismay and perplex us
My sister, @EtiquetteEQ and I, @EtiquetteFacts have had a long chat and we have decided 3 things about our Twitter accounts; 

1.  There is no Twitter etiquette that states anything, much less that we need to  do the following;  
  • Thank people for following us.
  • Thank people for re-tweeeting our tweets, though we will thank them occasionally.
  • Just because a tweet starts with 'RT' or asks us to 'please pass this along' we are not obligated to pass it along unless we deem it within our personal Twitter parameters.
  • 'Team Follow Back' we are not particularly interested in following back, nor re-tweeting, unless the tweet is within our chosen parameters.
  • 'Follow- Back Friday' or any other such lines have gotten friends all sorts of followers who do not tweet in English.  If we cannot read your tweets, we will not re-tweet them.  Many years ago, I took Spanish in school.  My sister took German. We forgot most of it, as we do not speak the languages unless we are out of the country. I know a bit of French and she knows some Dutch. But Russian? No. Arabic? No. We never learned those languages.
  • If we tweet a news story headline or statistics, we are simply passing on the information.  We are not endorsing views expressed, or any way of thinking that may be expressed.  Please do not send us angry tweets over your preconceived notions.  We may just be as upset as you are, and that is why we tweeted the story!
2. We do not care how many people follow us on Twitter.  If they aren't reading our tweets, they are missing out. We cannot trade followers in for money. And though it is possible to makes friends on Twitter, we are not looking for friends. We have plenty. We wouldn't mind meeting someone new in our circle, but we have full lives and I travel seasonally between 2 homes in 2 different states, ever since my husband retired.  
We love to teach manners across the Twitterverse
We have been witness to a few growing friendships though, like Maura Graber's @Etiquettologist and @EtiquetteSleuth and Corey Peterson's @downtonabblings  We can't help but find it charming, that our own "Etiquette Guru", Maura Graber, is teaching etiquette to a 14 year old in New Zealand and is teaching him how to do talks on old silver, no less!  He needs braces.  She figured she could help him raise money to get them.  How cool is that?!?  We think it is very cool!  And that friendship started quite naturally.  It wasn't that Maura was looking for a teen to teach, who lived clear across the ocean from her.  (Maura has a chronic, degenerative disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, and she told us that she has slowed her teaching down quite a bit in the last few years.)  She had tweeted something about New Zealand. He tweeted back with something like, "Hey! I am in New Zealand!" and thus it began. He had followed her originally, as she tweeted things about the hit period drama, "DowntonAbbey".  He's a fan of the show and has a big 'schoolboy crush' on Michelle Dockery who plays "Lady Mary" on the show. 

 3. We are not looking for any 'awesome', 'phenomenal' or 'mind-blowing' opportunities!  Others evidently, think otherwise. We simply enjoy tweeting about etiquette and manners.  We re-tweet those  tweets we find interesting, thought provoking, newsworthy or helpful.  All have to deal with cultures, history, period films or television shows, peoples, religions and manners.

My sister and I feel it is very poor manners indeed, to come up with a bio of oneself (likes, interests, hobbies, etc...) when all one really wants to do is try to sell us a program to get more followers, or sell us some other nonsense which we do not even care to read.  So, bearing that in mind, we would like to say to these very different folks, with different names and bios, who sent us the following notes...

"Thanks so much for connecting :) To say thanks, may I introduce you to a unique, mind blowing opportunity: bit.ly/msty2"  

Thanks for the offer, but no thank you.
"Thanks so much for the follow :) As a thank you, here is an incredible opportunity for you, you'll love it: bit.ly/msty2" 

No thank you, I said I am not interested.  Wait...  are you the same person with the last bio who I graciously followed?  This link looks identical!

"Thank you so much for the follow :) As a thank you, here is an incredible opportunity for you: bit.ly/prftb1"

No thanks!
"Thanks, much love to you :) As a token of my appreciation, I share with you the opportunity of a lifetime: bit.ly/dmflp"

"Much love" to me? You are sending me Twitter-love and a smiley face, along with a link that could possible infect my iPad, or smartphone?  Or you love me so much you want to sell me something?

"Thank you for following :) There is a great opportunity I feel you would love, it'll blow you away: bit.ly/scspr"

I really do not wish to be "blown away", but if I ever do, I will contact you first :) Pinky swear!

Thanks for following, much love :) As a thank you gift may I introduce you to this phenomenal opportunity: bit.ly/sprg1

Wow! You love me too!  No thanks. I do not love you in return.

Now, if you follow me and send me these types of messages, I will still follow you and be eternally grateful, even re-tweet your tweets often, if they fit my twitter feed.  As will my sister.  We promise! If you keep tweeting this type of thing, we will do none of the above!

These, on the other hand, are great to receive; 
Hello, thanks for the follow! Look forward to tweeting with you! Have you seen our blog yet? bit.ly/Otptta.  No, but I just might now.
Thanks for following. This follower isn't looking for anything other than nice tweets. Yay! So am I!

Thanks for the follow! Hope you enjoy the conversation. Check out our website creatinghistory.com  Great idea!  We love history!

We may even reply to one or two of you, such as this polite tweep below;
Hi EtiquetteFacts, I'm a Business Improvement Specialist! Do you know anyone in need of  strategic planning, forecasting or new business? Tibor

Not in New Zealand, but if I hear of anything, I will pass it along to you :)

Thank you for responding. I appreciate it.

He, or she, is polite and I really will pass the information along, if I find new businesses in his part of the world. (Hmmm, maybe one Corey Peterson of New Zealand, in a few years?) I will most likely "unfollow" the others at some point, or as my sister does, "unfollow" them, and then block them. (Guess which one of us is the more hot-headed one?)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Good Manners, Social Etiquette in Washington D.C. and RSVP Requests

"Courtesy is the flower of culture, the expression of the highest refinement, and like hospitality ennobles those who extend it." Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren
Maura Graber is the fine woman, and etiquette authority who trained my sister and me.  We were already teaching for our church groups, but we wanted some assistance, to see if we could improve our methods. When I first spoke to Graber, she told me that her company name was "a reflection of her biggest pet peeve" ; That people failed to comply with a requested RSVP on an invitation.  In a subsequent email, she wrote "It drove me nuts that I would invite people to something, but very few actually replied.  I thought it was laziness until I had the new name (The RSVP Institute of Etiquette) on my business checks and my business cards.  At least once a week someone would ask or say, 'I can never remember what RSVP stands for.  Does it mean I need to call only if I'm going to go, or call if I'm not?'  That is when I knew I had my work cut out for me.
Maura Graber's Company Logo

One can see from below, that this was not simply a problem in the 1970's, 80's or 90's.  In an excerpt of the much reprinted and discussed book, "The Social-Official Etiquette of the United States", by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren, there was a problem with people responding to invitations in the 1870's, 80's and 90's.

 "It is not a form, but a virtue. Based upon this sentiment, which should prevail in their case, I would grant a Foreign Minister the extent of precedence which can be given with any measure of propriety or  of respect for our own institutions. Their place relatively to each other, rank being equal, is accorded to priority of residence among us. The Dean or Doyen enters upon his functions in virtue of length of stay near our Government. Yet I have witnessed very grave offence given at a dinner-table, where the host led in the wife of a Foreign Minister, the fair belligerent being the wife of a Senator who claimed the honor as her due.

Now, since it is to be presumed that the special object of every entertainment is to promote good will and not to foster ill-will, it is to be regretted that the rule that defines social-official classification is not more definite. A carefully adjusted ceremonial would be no more incompatible with republican institutions than the legal classification which now exists, and which must continue to endure. These have a fixedness coexistent with the  republic, and our social life is their complement. Let us not undervalue its importance. Daniel Webster called a well-appointed dinner "the climax of civilization." We ought to be able to reach this climax smoothly. The breakfast, the luncheon, the five-o'clock tea, the "matinee dansante," the musicale, the soirte and the assembly are all and each charming in their degree as adjuncts of social life, yet the dinner is "the climax."

Now, there are some dinner rules which are absolute, although I fear at times they are either misunderstood or at all events disregarded. It seems needless to recapitulate; and yet the very fact that mistakes are so often made must serve as an apology here. For instance, an invitation to dine must be precise, and should be couched in some such formula as the following:




On Monday, the 1st December, at 7 o'clock.
Nov. 22, 1893

When such an invitation is received, an answer should not only be given in writing, but it should be sent at the very earliest moment at all practicable.

I knew a diplomat here, renowned for courtly manners and for the incomparable dinners which he gave, whose answer to a dinner invitation came on one occasion so promptly that my own messenger, •who also returned quickly, had not reached the house when the acceptance arrived. And the fine point on this piece of good manners was that this was an acceptance, not a regret, which is considered to demand greater expedition even in the sending. This gentleman entertained his friends so constantly at dinner that he understood the importance of prompt attention. In writing an answer to a formal dinner invitation, one should be careful to make it as exact as the note one has received. Indeed, this note should be repeated. If the host has a title,—for instance, The President,—repeat his title just as he himself may indicate to you. In answer to Mr. Jones, you reply:




For Monday, the 1st December, at 7 o'clock
Nov. 22, 1893

The reason for this repetition is to show that you have perfectly comprehended the invitation, so that no error may have been committed as to time or place.

I have known awkward mistakes to occur from want of attention in this matter.

Then, again, there should be no possibility of mistake as to your acceptance or non-acceptance. Let your answer be positively "Yes" or "No." At any other entertainment we may perhaps avail ourselves of a reasonable uncertainty, but not so with the dinner.

I once knew a poor little lady, "on hospitable thoughts intent," who went to live in a small town in the West. She had been accustomed to the wellregulated dinner at home, and had been taught to consider that the highest form of compliment was to ask a friend to dinner. Wishing to be on the best terms with her new neighbors, she sent out the usual written cards of invitation to a score of guests,—a formidable undertaking in a country village,—but she was in no wise daunted, and all the preparations went on bravely. Everything bade fair to make her dinner a success, except the dreadful fact that up to the very last moment she remained uncertain as to the number of her guests. In reply to her written invitations came a score of verbal messages, such as,' "They hoped to come;" "Would come if they could ;" "Could not tell exactly if their engagements would permit;" "If well enough, would come." But in no one case was a positive response received. So the banquet had to be prepared on this score. The hour came and passed, and, after a famishing delay which spoiled everything, two tardy guests dropped straggling in, and four rueful people sat down to a superb dinner prepared for twenty covers. This actually took place.

This grand collapse is just what may be expected where no one knows his own intentions, and society would receive its final doom did such conditions widely exist. Yet very disagreeable complications have arisen, even in Washington, from not paying due attention to the importance of a definite answer. Suppose, for example, there are fourteen covers at your dinner; and fourteen forms a pleasant and favorite number, suiting very well the size of the home dining-room ordinarily. Let fourteen be all counted, and suppose one guest disappoints! He leaves thirteen miserable souls to tell ghost-stories and wonder if the dinner will poison them, which very likely it may do, since they were all so "blue" in the discussing of it. It must be remembered that the guests at a dinner-table must be properly placed in advance, each plate marked with the name of the expected guest written on a card, or on the menu, or bill of fare, and the dinner chart mapped out, as if by line and compass, so as to avoid all these sunken rocks and breakers I have been considering, so as to place people who will like each other in proximity, so as to give "honor where honor is due," so as to keep husband and wife from treading on each other's toes, so as to please those you entertain by giving widows and marriageable young ladies desirable "partis" to captivate, so as to put the decanter of old Madeira near the bon-vivant, so as to leave the ends of your table open and unoccupied and the central places filled with your most distinguished guests. Now, how is all this, and more too, to be done—pleasure to reign, confusion to be avoided, exact distribution of this cornucopia of blessings to be showered on your blissful guests—unless there is certainty? Is  not life miserable because of the uncertainty of all its enjoyments, and are we thus ever to be cheated of even momentary happiness? A thousand times, say yes or no, and let the pleasure of this supreme social gratification be unimpaired!"

From "The Social-Official Etiquette of the United States, 
by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren. 6th Edition Copyright, 1894
1st Edition, 1873

On Dahlgren; She was born 'Sarah Madeleine Vinton' on July 13, 1825. Her father was Samuel Finley Vinton (1792-1862), a congressman and leading figure in the national Whig party.
 Dahlgren was educated at Picot's boarding school in Philadelphia and at the 'Convent of the Visitation' in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. 
In June 1846, she married her first husband, Daniel Convers Goddard, a lawyer. However, he died 5 years later, leaving his wife and 2 children, Vinton Augustine and Romaine (who married the Baron de Overbeck of Germany).
In August of 1865, she married Admiral John Adolph Dahlgren (1809-1870), the famous naval officer and inventor of the Dahlgren gun. They had 3 children.