Monday, May 4, 2015

Etiquette and Gilded Age, Newport Summers

Pay no attention to what you read or hear! "There is much gossip and some scandal afloat at Newport at present, and some of this will undoubtedly reach the ears of the flock of special correspondents now there, to be sent out by them in garbled and exaggerated form. The reading public may therefore be cautioned against sensational stories affecting the members of Newport society, for the next few weeks, or until the season closes there."

Newport, Rhode Island In Summer The class distinctions, dining habits, drinking habits, fads and customs from the news of the day...

Source~ From a thesis by Kay Davis for the University of Virginia, in 2001
By the mid 1850s, the wealthiest and most elite class of Americans wealthy families chose Newport, Rhoode Island as their summer playground. The area was considered an ideal spot for their summer vacation "cottages."

A perfect vacation setting was established for a group known as, "The 400." It was a group of very wealthy individuals, as evidenced by their enormous mansions, which quickly sprung up, each larger, more expensive and more elaborate than the previous.

Their summer presence, their grand balls, lavish parties, yachting and hunting activities that surrounded their very being there, epotomized what is now known as "The Gilded Age." 

The grandest of Newport's "Summer cottages" and the symbol of the Vanderbilt family's financial and social preeminence, in turn of the century Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Cottagers; A Brilliant Social Season in Prospect

The list of cottage arrivals unusually large - crowded hotels— 

Newport, R.I., June 29, 1889

The season of 1889 starts out with flying colors, and everybody here is feeling in excellent spirits over the present condition of affairs and prospects. The season has taken a spurt this week, and at least 275 cottagers are now established here for the Summer. An astonishing number of people have arrived considering the earliness of the season, and the cottages have filled up so rapidly...

What is Doing in Society?

Newport, R.I., August 13, 1899

The most eccentric fads seem to be the most popular. Harry Lehr is responsible for appearing all the time without his hat and arranging his hair on the top of his head so that he will not be sunstruck, and Mr. James Stokes does likewise, and some of the gossips insist that it is he who has introduced this fashion this Summer at Newport. Last Summer two or three men, however, were conspicuous in the same manner. On the other hand, those who do wear hats have taken to the enormous affairs of straw or of the sombrero variety.

A form of indoor tennis called squash has also become the vogue, and everybody must play it, even if the automobile drive is sacrificed. All these whims and caprices here at the other watering places, which take up the latest thing from Newport with avidity.

Mrs. McK. Twombly introduced last season at Newport the French fashion of having a very dainty, but not a long dinner, in Summer. Four courses were considered to be quite enough. This year everywhere, the long menu has come into fashion. It is an English idea taken from the banquets given by various fashionable people to the Prince of Wales. At the cold dinner given by Mrs. Oppenheim to the prince, and mentioned last week, there were twenty courses, and there are stories of some recent stag dinners given at one of the watering places, the menu of which would've put the chef of Lucullus— if he had a chef— to shame.

There is a revival of the use of various wines with different courses and the rarer and more expensive the vintage the greater the glory. This champagne and scotch whiskey, which is held the favor of fashion for some years are being relegated to the background of the wine closet.

There is much gossip and some scandal afloat at Newport at present, and some of this will undoubtedly reach the ears of the flock of special correspondents now there, to be sent out by them in garbled and exaggerated form. The reading public may therefore be cautioned against sensational stories affecting the members of Newport society, for the next few weeks, or until the season closes there.


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