Saturday, December 12, 2015

Place Cover Etiquette, 1922—Now

1920's inspired, luncheon place setting or place "cover," using mixed period flatware and glassware.

Before Anything Edible Comes to the Table

We will not waste time on directions regarding the laying of the tablecloth. Only remember that it must form a true line through the center of the table (your "silence cloth" had best be of table padding, a doubled cotton flannel or asbestos) and not hang below the table less than nine inches. 


The usual arrangement of the centerpiece in the center of the table (the table itself being immediately under the light, unless the waitress is thereby prevented from moving between the table and sideboard) with its dish of fruit or ferns or flowers (never so high as to cut off view or conversation) can be varied to suit individual taste. But the covers (the plates, glasses, napkin and silver of each individual) must always be in line, opposite each other on the opposite sides of the table.

The plate doilies indicate the covers when a bare table is laid. The service plate which each person receives stays where put unless it is replaced by a hot plate.

Napkins, Silver, China and Glass

Napkins (fold flat and square) lie at the left of the forks. The hem of the napkin, turned up, should parallel the forks and the table edge.

When dinner is served without a maid, everything yields to avoiding leaving the table. In that case put on the dessert silver (which otherwise should not be done) with the other dinner silver. 

Place all silver in its order of use, and remember that three forks are enough. If more are needed let them appear with the courses which demand them. The quietest and therefore most desirable way of putting the dessert silver on the table, is to serve it from a napkin, from the right. 

Knives should have their cutting edge toward the plate, at its right, and lie half an inch from the table edge. Spoons, bowls facing upward, lie at the right of the knife; forks at the left of the plate.    
 A typical 1925 luncheon menu.
When shell food is served (clams, oysters or mussels) the fork is placed at the right of the plate. The upper right-hand side of the bread and butter plate is the place for the butter spreader. 

In general do not arrange your cover too loosely, and see to it that the glass, china and silver for each cover sets close without the pieces touching. Glasses are placed just above the knives, a little to the right. Neither cups nor glasses should ever be filled to the brim. 

The bread and butter plate (bread and butter are, as a rule, not served with formal dinners) somewhat to the left, beyond the service plate. Between each two covers, or just in front of each, place your pepper and salt sets. The salt spoon lies across the open saltcellar.

When the table is set for some impromptu meal at which a knife will not be used, the fork takes the place of the knife at the right-hand side, and the teaspoon is laid beside the fork.

Desirable Improvements

No one wants to see the inner economy of the butler's pantry, nor should the perhaps fragrant but cloying odors of the kitchen be wafted into the dining room whenever the swingdoor of the pantry opens or closes. The screen obviates both disadvantages. 

Another improvement has been the introduction of the serving table in place of the sideboard. It now conveniently holds all the extras needed for the meal. — Lillian B. Lansdown's 1922, “How to Prepare and Serve a Meal; and Interior Decoration.”


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