Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Etiquette in the Gilded Age Washington Social Scene

Gilded Age Washington society life was one of granduer and continual entertainment and parties, even in the coldest of Washington DC months. The etiquette was rigid and all of the details were scrupulously covered in the press - nationally and internationally.
Washington Social Life

Dinner at the White House to the Diplomatic Corps., a Luncheon by Mrs. Leland Stanford, a Reception by Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Barney, and a Tea by the Corean Minister and Wife...

Washington, February 2, 1892-

The state dinner given at the White House tonight was in honor of the Diplomatic Corps, which august body of Ministers Plenipotentiary and Chargés d'Affaires was well represented. The dinner, as compared with that of last season, was attended by unusually large number of ladies of the Corps. The decorations in the East Room were on a more elaborate scale than at the dinner given to the Cabinet. A large oval basket of maidenhair fern, thickly studded with pink orchids of the variety Cattleya triannal, formed the centerpiece, on each side of which were semi-circular plates of ferns, surrounded by narrow gilt railing and filled with crotons, cypripediums, and dracenaes, from the middle of which rose the spiked leaves of variegated pineapple. At each end of the transverse sections of the table were oval baskets of ferns and Dendrobium nobilis orchids, flanked on the sides with smaller circular plats of ferns and different varieties of orchids.
Exotic flowers were en vogue
Boutonnieres for the gentlemen were of Dendrobium Wardianum. For the ladies, in place of the conventional bouquets, were Watteau bows of Heliotrope pink in the shade of the orchids. One end of the ribbon was painted in gold with the name of the guest, and on the other was engraved the front view of the White House and grounds. The guests were Secretary and Mrs. Blaine, Minister and Mme. Romero, Chargés d'Affaires of the Italian Legation; the Ministers of the Netherlands, Turkey, France, Austria-Hungary, Colombia, Switzerland, Argentine Republic, Belgium; Sweden, China, Portugal, Guatemala, Salvador, the Chargés d'Affaires of Russia, Spain, and Germany; Chargés d'Affaires of Costa Rica and Señora Calvo, Minister of Japan and Mme Tateno, the Hawaiian Minister and Mrs. Mott-Smith, the Corean Chargés d'Affaires and Mrs. Ye Cha Yun and Nicaraguan Minister and Mrs. Guzman.
Spiked leaves of variegated pineapple... No expense was spared for entertaining the Diplomatic Corps.
England was the only country not represented at the dinner, owing to the six weeks' mourning to be observed by the members of the legation for the late Duke of Clarence. There were also present the Haitian Minister, Senator and Mrs. Manderson, Senator and Mrs. Frye, Senator and Mrs. Sherman, Representative and Mrs. Blount, Representative and Mrs. Holman, Mrs. Russell, Mrs. Dimmick. Count and Countess Sponneck sent regrets in the afternoon upon receipt of a cablegram announcing the death of a near relative.

Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford, photographed with their son, Leland Stanford, Jr. on a trip to Paris in the 1880s. Their son died shortly after, and the Stanfords later founded Stanford University in his honor.

The most elegant luncheon of the season was the one given today by Mrs. Leland Stanford in honor of Mrs. Harrison. The long table was laid in the spacious blue and white banquet hall recently added to her residence on K St. In the bay window to the east, among the plants, was an aquarium filled with goldfish, with birds in cages on each side. From the white buffet and mantel hung the branches of branches of orange trees laden with fruit and tied with gold-colored ribbon. Over the cloth of blue and white brocaded satin damask at each end or squares of blue satin under lace on which rested gilt baskets on jonquils tied with yellow ribbon. Beyond these were low epergnes holding varieties of California fruit, single bunches of grapes filling flat cut-glass dishes. 

The centerpiece of lilies of the valley and yellow tulips filled a scalloped shell epergne of gold and silver, which restaurant on the silver-bordered mirror. At the end of each of this were silver and cut-glass stands of fresh strawberries. White tapers burned under white-and-gold shades. The flagons and wine glasses were Bohemian glass, beautifully decorated in figures and flowers. Souvenirs of the luncheon were card cases of different colors in satin, on the cover of which, and gold lettering, was the name of the guest. A service of repoussé gold was used at the first course. About the room were groups and figures of marble statuary, while the walls were hung with valuable paintings.
"A service of repoussé gold was used at the first course." Repoussé flatware remains a popular choice for hosts and hostesses today.
The guests at lunch and were Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Morton, Mrs. Elkins, Mrs. Noble, Mme. Romero, Mrs. Schofield, Mrs. Justice Brown, Mrs. Sheridan, Mrs. Gorman, Mrs. Senator Dixon, Mrs. John Sherwood, Countess Esterhazy, Mrs. Menocal, Mrs. Swift of California, Mrs. Montgomery, Mrs. McKenna of California, Mrs. Justice Field, Mrs. Sherman, Mrs. Carlisle, Miss Gray, Mrs. Washburn, Mrs. McPherson, and Mrs. Bruen.

Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Barney gave a large reception tonight at their residence on Rhode Island Ave. The host and hostess received in the music room. The hostess wore a gown of white satin brocade and lace, with diamonds. Among the guests were Vice President and Mrs. Morton, secretary and Mrs. Blaine, Secretary Elkins, Justice and Mrs. Fields, Justice Blatchford, Senator Hale, Representative and Mrs. Bellamy Storer, Senator and Mrs. McPherson, Senator and Mrs. Manderson, Commander and Mrs. Train, General and Mrs. Nicholas Anderson, Senator and Mrs. and Miss McMillan, Mr. and Mrs. Marcellus Bailey, Dr. and Mrs. McKim, Dr. and Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Gale, Miss Biddle, Miss Pendleton, Dr. Bispham, Mrs. Sheridan, Mr. and Mrs. Audenreid, Mrs. and Miss Holick, Miss James, Mrs. and Miss Richardson, mr. and Mrs. Pollak, Miss Brewster of New York, Mr. and Mrs. Newlands, Miss McAllister, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Brown, Miss Brown, Lieutenant and Mrs. T.M.B. Mason, Miss Phenix, Mr. and Mrs. Emmons, Mr. and Miss Linden Kent, Mr. and Mrs. Slater, Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Warder, Representative and Mrs. Hitt, Assistant Secretary and Mrs. Stoley, Minister Leghalt, Mr. von Mumm, Minister Paternostre, Mr. Botkin, Mr. Horace Washington, Captain Cowles, Mr. Stevens, Mr. Jesse Brown, General Fullerton, Dr. Murray, Captain Dewey, and Lieutenant Buckingham.

The Corean Minister and Mrs. Ye Cha Yun gave a tea from 4 to 7 o'clock this afternoon which was largely attended by society. The parlors of the location were decorated with growing plants and smilax. Mrs. Ye received her guests in a native gown of light blue brocade with a waist of yellow, trimmed in garnet velvet. Her English is now quite perfect, and there was not the slightest hesitation in starting or sustaining conversation with the many who approached her desirous of that pleasure. Minister Ye remained by his wife's side during the earlier portion of the afternoon, as the company increased he mingled with the guests, escorting friends now and then to the dining room where the receiving party, in pretty light gowns, dispensed with the refreshments. 

In the first parlor Mrs. Sevellon Brown assisted in receiving. In the adjoining room Miss Thompson poured tea, and in the dining room Miss Moore served coffee frappé. Miss Cuthbert served bouillon, and Miss Beatrice Farquhar presided at a large bowl of punch. The other young ladies were Miss Riggs and Miss Thompson of Philadelphia.
Stunning, Gilded Age private ballroom in 1890s Washington D.C.
Mrs. Dixon, wife of Representative Dixon of Montana, gave a tea from 4 to 7 o'clock this afternoon in the ballroom of the Shoreham, which was elaborately decorated with flags which lined the walls on all sides and waved from the chandeliers and balconies about the apartment. In the south balcony, behind an arrangement of palms and plants, an orchestra played, the young people present availing themselves of the good music and perfect floor to enjoy dancing. The effect of the decorations and the elegant gowns of the receiving party as one entered the apartment was very agreeable. The hostess stood at the doorway leading to the ballroom, receiving in a gown of silver-gray satin with silver brocade and passementerie, with vest of pink crêpe. A bouquet of La France roses was carried.

Mrs. Charles Gibson wore black thread lace over ivory-tinted satin; Mrs. Carrie, white satin-striped tulle; Mrs. Governor McCreary, white satin brocaded in pompadour colors; Mrs. Hemphill, black lace with scarlet flowers; Miss McCeney, white brocade flowered in colors; Miss Carrie Parker, grey tulle with pink ribbons. The other ladies of the receiving party were Miss Lieutenant Williams, Miss Lieutenant Hare, Miss Howell, the Misses Newberry, Miss Helm, Mrs. Senator Saunders, and Mrs. Sutherland.

At the rear of the ballroom a delightful collation of salads, ices, sandwiches, cakes, confections, and champagne punch was served from an immense round table, in the center of which was a plant of ferns. From a smaller table tea was served by the young ladies.

Miss Lenore Armstrong gave a pink luncheon today in honor of Miss Lansing of Watertown. The guests were Miss Hazeltine, Miss Davidson, Miss Warfield, Ms. Scott, Miss Church, Miss Deering, Miss Buriitt, Miss Rundlett, Miss Kerr, Miss Todd, Miss Hunter, and Miss August.

This article appeared originally in the New York Times, February 3, 1892

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