Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Table Setting Etiquette, 1934

This vintage breakfast table setting, shows how simplicity of arrangement, colors and effective selection of china may combine to make a happy beginning for the day. (Then again, Etiquipedia notes, the sugar and caffeine rush of the typical 1930’s diet, could have something to do with that happy beginning.)

Table setting is often a problem for housewives. Books of etiquette sometimes disagree sharply as to what’s proper. Sometimes it's a matter of geography, too, with the East and West far apart. For Western homes, where informality is the rule, the Safeway Stores Homemakers’ Bureau has prepared a guide. Here in outline form, are its main points: 

Table linen should be spotless. Doilies, either linen of lace, are appropriate for informal luncheons and dinners. Colored linens are used only for luncheon and breakfast. For more formal service, completely cover the table, using linen of banquet cloth or an elaborate lace cloth. This is placed on the bare, polished table and not over colored cloth. Napkins should match linen in color if not in material. Breakfast and luncheon napkins may be small, but dinner napkins should be from 18 to 20 inches square. They are placed to the left of the silver, or if the table is crowded, on the service plate. They may lay folded in a triangle for breaklast or lunch, but are usually folded very simply for dinner. If folded in rectangular shape, place with open lower corner nearest the plate. Never stand a napkin on the table. 

Table decorations should be kept simple. A centerpiece is always appropriate, but should be kept low, not obstructing the view across the table. Candles have no place on the luncheon or tea table, unless they are lighted and the room darkened by drawing the shades. Silverware, whether plate or sterling, should be kept well polished and courses should not be included in the menu if the proper silver is not available. However, it is possible to substitute for various pieces. The position of flat silver is, as a rule, one inch from the edge and vertical to the edge of the table, placing it in correct sequence as used, beginning from the outside and working towards the plate. For informal entertaining at home, not more than four or six pieces of silver (not counting the oyster fork) should be laid on the table at one time. These generally consist of knife, fork, salad fork and spoon. 

If necessary, additional pieces may be placed on the table before the course is served. Knives are laid cutting edge toward the plate, next and to the right of the plate. Spoons are placed next to the knife, bowls up and parallel with the knife, if soup is to be served, the bouillon, cream soup or large soup spoon is placed on the outside; and next, the teaspoon. Forks are placed on the left of the salad plate, tines up. If salad is served Western style (before the main course) the dinner fork is placed next to the plate and then the salad fork. If the salad is to be served with the main course, or after the main course, the salad fork is put next to the plate. The cocktail fork or spoon is placed on the cocktail plate, parallel to the other silver on the table. Through popular usage, a spoon may easily be substituted for a cocktail fork, unless serving fish. 

Silver for the dessert may be brought in on the plate or laid on the table just before it is served. The water glass or goblet is placed above the tip of the dinner knife. If other glasses are used, they are placed to the right of the water glass or in a line slanting from the goblet to the right. Bread and butter plates are placed above the tips of the forks, in line with the water glasses. Bread and butter spreader may be placed in a variety of ways, laid on the top or right side of the bread and butter plate with the blade toward the center of the plate, or diagonally across the top of the plate. Salt and pepper containers may be placed at either end of the table within easy reach of the guests; If Individual sets are used, they may be placed for each cover or between every two covers. The cream and sugar bowl may be put on the table; the latter is always filled with lump sugar if to be used for a hot beverage. If coffee is to be served only with, or after, the dessert course, the cups and saucers and creamer and sugar bowl are brought on with the course they are to accompany. — Madera Daily Tribune, 1934

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

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