Godey’s Lady’s Book played an important role in shaping the cultural customs in 19th century America. The “Queen of Monthlies” is best known for the hand-tinted fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, which provide a record of the progression of women’s dress.
Beyond clothing fashions, the articles and editorials in Godey’s included descriptions of current trends and acted as an arbiter of manners and helped shape many of the traditions practiced by American families today.
This was part of an 1890 series of articles covering a year of American domestic traditions and lore.
A Year in the Home: November
By Augusta Salisbury Prescott
For November, the yule log, the glowing fire upon the hearth, the family gathering-in of those who have long been separated, the home cheer.
November, more than any other month, appeals to families and family ties, because of the Thanksgiving festival. Christmas partakes more of the nature of a religious festival, being a part of our dogma or creed. But it is to Thanksgiving that we must give all the honor and glory of being the day of days, when every one rejoices that we have a land of our own, and a home in which to keep good cheer.
Every one knows that “the” event of Thanksgiving Day is the Thanksgiving dinner. And it is right and reasonable that it should be thus. For a good dinner is the crowning achievement of every home. It strikes a chord to which all hearts are responsive.
But even the Thanksgiving dinner— that ancient and time-honored institution —has undergone a change, and been subjected to a process of evolution which has so changed its nature, that it no more resembles the old-time dinners than a lunch out of a tin pail resembles a Delmonico fête.
The old-time dinner was enormous in quantity and of sickening richness in quality. The viands—some of them smoking hot, and others icy cold—were piled upon the table regardless of proper selection or judicious combination. And, when the board was heaped to overflowing, the guests were invited in to do their uttermost in the way of stowing away the eatables. Each was expected—and did—eat until he could hold no more, and this constituted the most glorious dinner of the year.
Now it is so no longer. To be sure, the Thanksgiving dinner is graced by that national bird, the turkey . But it is not all turkey . His Birdship is brought on after the soup and fish course, and is removed in depleted glory to make room for the à la mode beef that comes next at Thanksgiving feasts of to-day.
To proclaim to the public at large that the turkey course is the most important one, is done by dressing his person in a lovely suit of tissue paper. A broad, green pistache fringe is gathered around his neck, and a lemon, sliced and tied together again with pale green ribbons, is placed where the turkey’ s head would naturally be. The tip of each drumstick is twisted with a green fringe, and yellow and green ruffles are becomingly tied around his body. The edge of the platter on which he lies is garnished with celery tops and sliced lemons and oranges. Under the turkey’ s wings are fastened a couple of olives.
You must have a “millinery party” Thanksgiving night, just before the dancing begins; or, if you intend to bring your festivities to a close early, you can have your millinery party some other cool November evening, when you are seeking ways to pass a frolicsome evening.
The material for your party consists of a number of untrimmed hats—as many as there are gentlemen in the company, the material to trim them with, and separate tables for the different hats.
Each hat is put upon a table with a few feathers, or flowers, and some cheese cloth, or any gay stuff that may be at hand. There is also thread, scissors, needles and pins. The ladies seat themselves at the tables and the gentlemen draw lots. Each man seats himself at the table that has fallen to his share, and goes industriously to work on the hat, which he is told he must trim in twenty minutes. The lady, if she so desires, may aid him with her counsel.
At the end of twenty minutes a whistle is blown, and work is suspended. A committee, previously selected, awards a “King” prize to the man who has been most successful in his attempts at millinery, and a “Booby” prize to the one whose efforts have been nearest to failure. A suitable “King” prize is a velvet or Japanese smoking cap, a “Booby” prize may be a fool’s cap and bells.
All the men now don the hats of their own manufacture, and the evening concludes with a dance.
Among the November “fads” that bid fair to run riot all winter is the stick-pin craze. The height, and depth, and length, and breadth of this pin-fancy can scarcely be described. One must meet the stick-pin girl, or woman, to realize how many of these little ornaments can be utilized in her toilet, and how completely they can supplant all others. In décollété costumes a curve of stick pins extend from one lovely bared shoulder to the other, making sometimes the only trimming on a waist. They are of all sizes, makes and jewels—diamonds, rubies, moon stones, opals and garnets. Every sort of stick-jewel is appropriate with every sort of costume.
Hats are entirely trimmed by means of stick-pins, and the “hat-pin” itself is a stick-pin with a jeweled head.
About the house stick-pins are used to bunch the drapery on mantel, or picture, or bracket; everywhere that one would expect to find a common every-day pin doing duty there is a jeweled substitute. An enterprising firm of house decorators sells “papers” of stick-pins arranged like common pins, in rows, upon heavy, broad stripes of lustreless black paper.
Rattan furniture stained into the resemblance of every kind of wood upon the earth, or side of the earth, is more popular than ever. Most popular of all is the white enameled kind that soils with a breath of dust, but looks pretty until it has been reached by that same contaminating influence.
Calling cards are very, very small, unless one is in mourning, and then they are very, very large—large enough to accommodate the broadest of borders and the inscription besides, without crowding one upon the other.
The fashionable mourning stationery is pale violet, bordered with black. The address is stamped in black, straight across the top of the first page.
A novel scheme has arisen with people of fashion, whom one would not expect to be so sensible. It is that of using stamped envelopes for private correspondence. These envelopes, stamped with two-cent stamps, come in at least two sizes, and are so very convenient that one who has used them will not readily go back to the old stamp licking process. If one “spoils” an envelope the postal authorities will redeem it.
Just how popular this innovation will become no one can predict. At present it is confined to those who move on such an exalted elevation of the social plane that they can say, and do, and wear, and use almost anything they please.
Source: Godey’s Lady’s Book, November, 1890
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