Friday, January 1, 2016

Etiquette's Changing New Year's Customs in Gilded Age New York

 "The politicians will have all their constituents down on them like a swarm of locusts and there is no advoiding it. No etiquette will answer to repulse them, for hunger is at their back, and their charge is the ravenous rush of the famishing wolf."— New Year's, 1871
Change of New Year's Day Customs in New York of 1871
Part 3
The General Crows

Meantime the canaille will hunt in couples and crowds, as usual, and prey on the great part of our people who foolishly adhere to the custom of furnishing forth immense tables with dainty commissary stores in quantity sufficient to satisfy a battalion of hungry troopers. Every livery-stable carriage in the City was engaged two weeks ago, and the “roughs” especially have taken care to form their little parties and engage their conveyances in time. The politicians will have all their constituents down on them like a swarm of locusts and there is no advoiding it. No etiquette will answer to repulse them, for hunger is at their back, and their charge is the ravenous rush of the famishing wolf.

Temperance Movements

Public prejudice has done a great deal toward reforming custom this year, as far as wine and whisky drinking at New-Year’s tables goes. Many will abandon the flowing bowl for this one time, in disgust with the effects of “cheering spirits” on the late callers: but the great mass of those who receive calls will cling to their rum as of yore. The result of course, will be a maudlin aspect of affairs when the gas-lights begin to illuminate the depleted decanters and the remains of the New-Year’s feasts. The retail liquor trade for holiday uses is reported as fully equal to that of any previous year, which is a good showing, we take it, for King Alcohol, after all the boasts of his Temperance toes.
New fashions for the 1870s —On New Year’s Eve the New York Times in 1871 publicized the outcome of “cheering spirits” and the public prejudice toward such behavior with the result of how rum can be disruptive with no conscience of etiquette politeness.

Part 4
Reception of Callers by the Sheriff

The Mayor will not receive New-Year’s Day officially. Sheriff Brennan will take possession of his Department on Monday morning, and he and County Clerk Loew will receive jointly in the Sheriff’s office, between the hours of 11:00 am and 1:00 pm on Monday.

Suspension of Public Business

The Custom-house will be closed on Monday, except between The Sub-Treasury will be closed during the entire day, and the Gold and Stock Exchanges adjourned over yesterday until Tuesday morning. The various public offices will also be closed to-morrow, together with the National and State Courts.

New Year at Newark

Last night the Methodists of Newark, according to custom, held watch meetings to usher the old year out and the new year in. This morning the chimes at St. John’s Church will be rung, and at many of the churches special services will be held and sermons preached appropriate to the occasion. Monday will be observed as a legal holiday, and the banks, as well as most of the other places of business, will be closed. The Mayor and Senator Taylor will receive calls at the City Hall, and most of the City Fathers will keep open house for their constituents. Rev. Alfred Taylor of New-York, will make an address at the New Year’s celebration of the Sabbath-schools connected with the First Reformed Church, Market Street Newark, to-day.

Observed at Brooklyn

The following chimes were sung at St. Ann’s Church on the Heights of Brooklyn, about midnight, as greeting to the New Year:

  • Ringing the Changes on Eight Bells
  • Old Dog Tray
  • Blue Bells of Scotland
  • Yankee Doodle
  • Life Let Us Cherish
  • Once in Royal David’s City
  • A Happy New Year to Thee
  • Watchman, What of the Night
  • The Christmas Tree From Greenland’s Icy Mountains
  • Hosannah to King David’s Son 
  • Carol Christians
  • Home Sweet Home
To-morrow the city dignitaries of Brooklyn, including the Alderman, Supervisors and Park Commissioners, will celebrate New-Year’s Day by a reunion at the District-Attorney’s office.

Part 5
Trinity Chimes

The chimes at Trinity Church did not attract a very large crowd last night. There seems to be a feeling among Americans that it is best to forget the past, live in the present, and look to the future. As the bells rang out the old year, there were but few to listen to the artistic music. The clear star-lit night made the melody very entrancing to a reflective mind, and as the old year, whose dying song, which seemed to blend harmoniously with the joyous anthems of the new, became a thing of the past, one could fancy that the firmament participated in high hopes of the future and assumed a more glorious aspect.
This might be the mere effects of imagination, in the thought that such an eventful year as 1870, with its holocaust of slain and its wonderful changes in the map of Europe, was dying out in this peaceful land to the music of merrily-peeling bells, while on the bloody-dyed fields of France 1871 may be welcome with the deadly boom of cannon, belching death and destruction.

The Decline of Brooklyn

On the whole, however, it is apparent that New-Year’s Day is fast losing its jolly characteristics and becoming a dreary, formal period of platitude and palaver, instead of a day of innocent mirth, merriment and congratulation, as in the olden time. As an institution the New-Year is slipping away from us fast. Even today the olden customs are so modified as to be scarcely recognizable. And What remains is devoid of spirit – a mere meaningless bacchanalian orgie on the one extreme, or a formal senseless dropping of cards in baskets on the other. It is the New-Year’s Day of the future that we see not the New Year’s Day of the past— From New York Times January 1, 187

Note — In 1871 New Year Day fell on a Sunday, thus the public offices and officials observed the holiday on Monday.

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

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