Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Great 20th C. Etiquette Era

If you are a regular Etiquipedia reader, you have probably noticed that throughout time, several distinct “ golden eras” have seen a popular resurgence in the desire for the development of better manners and learning etiquette. The 1920’s until the late-1930’s was one such golden “etiquette era” in the United States (and to a certain extent, the United Kingdom.) Following WWI and the Great Influenza, as with other similar periods through the ages, new advances in communication, travel, medicine and technology were quickly spreading around the world. Any period like this in history will generally bring back a surge in popularity for education in manners. Numerous etiquette books and pamphlets, for children, teens and adults, were published. W.C. Green’s “Dictionary of Etiquette,” Emily Holt’s “Encyclopedia of Etiquette” and Lillian Eichler’s “Etiquette” and “Etiquette Jr.” were extremely popular. Emily Post’s first major book on etiquette, the Blue Book of Social Usage, was the number one non-fiction bestseller of 1923. “What would Emily do?” became a common phrase during the era. 

The 1920’s: A Golden Era of Etiquette

You can hardly pick up a magazine nowadays without reading something about etiquette, which is one of the highly advertised things of the times. There are as many or more advertisements about how to make money, along with these manuals of manners. The two seem to work together in a way. In the old days when Kings and Queens were in fashion, the business of fine manners was confined to royal courts. Then it got into the drawing rooms or parlors, and now we are trying to run it into the scramble of modern life. That’s why the books on etiquette are on sale. Our ancestors had the manners. We have treatises on the subject. But goodness knows there’s need of something to keep us from being crude and boorish. 

We live at such a pace and are so full of the go-getting spirit that our manners are ripped off, the way lace would be, if we wore any these days. But at the same time, I can’t just savvy why a person who has any kind of feelings and as much good sense, needs a book to tell him or her how to behave. We are supposed to do that sort of thing naturally. The attempt to get good manners by buying a fancy book is just about as foolish as the idea of making money by reading about gold mines. About all the etiquette book can do is to call your attention to the fact that there is still room for manners in this world, which is jammed so full of people that they keep parking out on one another’s toes. The real manners which a person should have and display, the way flappers reveal knees, are things that you must cultivate for yourself. If you haven't the etiquette urge, the book isn’t going to put it into you. 

The best recipe for manners is The Golden Rule. Act as though you bad some idea that the other person is more or less like yourself. If you don’t like being pushed into the gutter, chances are the other fellow isn't itching to be bumped off the curb either. And the positive side of manners depends upon your baring self-conddence and strength. To have good manners yon must assert yourself—but in a clever way. You must have poise, which is only personality nicely balanced. If you are shamefaced, and overmodest, you will make other people feel wriggly, and that isn’t good manners, is it? My recipe would be —equal parts of strength and fineness, well mixed. Or you can cook it up by combining egoism with altruism, love of others and self-respect. Season with pepper. That's a popular commodity and in good taste. Use sugar—but not too much. Employ a certain amount of pep and sweetness, as also regard for others, and the book of etiquette need never be read. – Coronado Eagle and Journal, 1929

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

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