Mid-19th Century Table Linens – Part 2

I’ll continue with one of my favorite household guidance authors, Eliza Leslie….

In her Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book, 1850, she says this about table linens:

Table-Linen. – If the circumstances of the family will allow the expenditure, it is advisable always to get the table-linen of the best quality; as that which is fine and thick will last much longer and look better than if comparatively coarse and thin. There is nothing of the sort superior to the best double French damask; it being not only fine and thick, but soft and glossy, like satin’ and it looks as well after washing as before. The appearance of all table-linen is improved by being mangled in a machine, instead of ironing. A tablecloth ought to be considerably larger than the table, so as to hang down all round.”

Napkins. – There are few genteel families who are not in the practice of using napkins at the table, to spread on the lap while eating, and for wiping the mouth and the fingers. The best size is about three-quarters square. [she doesn’t say three quarters of what] It is now more customary to hem the napkins than to ravel them with a fringe. If fringed, they must be afterwards whipped with a needle and thread, to secure them from ravelling still farther. Napkins with coloured borders look less genteel than those that are all white. The fines French double damask are the best and handsomest, and will last twice as long as any others. For a dinner party it is customary to place the napkins on the table, nicely folded in squares or diamonds, of which there are a variety of ingenious forms. But when the family dine without company, or with only two or three guests, the napkins are usually folded square, and then rolled up tightly and slipped into a ring of silver, ivory, ebony, or box-wood. These rings are generally numbered or lettered, and care should be taken to place the napkin of each person in his own ring. All table-linen should be marked in full with the whole name of the family.”

“Doilies. These are small napkins intended for wiping the fingers after eating fruit, and are placed round the table for that purpose. They are generally of coloured cotton, with a border; the colours are dark, that the stains may not be conspicuous on them. Unless they are washed very frequently, they acquire a rather unpleasant smell, and are not agreeable to use. We think it best to have white ones, as they are much nicer, and the stains can easily be removed from them. Doilies are always fringed.”

“Setting the dinner table. – Before you begin to set the table, see that every thing is ready and in good order; so that, after you once commence, you may not have to quit for the purpose of making something clean, or of remedying some inconvenience. If in winter, first see that the fire is good, and the hearth clean, and the plates set before it in the plate-warmer. In summer, if there is to be wine, attend in proper time to putting the bottles into the cooler, heaping round them pieces of ice. Also have ready, in one or more small glass dishes or saucers, a sufficiency of bright clean ice, broken into small bits, (with a dessert spoon in each dish, ) for the purpose of using while at table to cool the glasses of wine or water. Cut the dinner bread into thick oblong pieces or blocks; as it is not customary to slice bread, except for breakfast or tea; and take care to have enough in the bread-basket to supply all the persons at the table with a second piece, if required. It is extremely awkward to be obliged to replenish the bread-basket in the midst of dinner, some of the company, perhaps, waiting for it in the mean time. Every thing may be so arranged before-hand that the waiter will not have occasion to leave the room during the progress of the dinner.

First lay down the crumb-cloth; and then, if there is a woollen cover on the dining-table, remove it before you put on the linen cloth, which must be laid smoothly and evenly, so as not to hang down more on one side than the other. Bring in the things (as many at one time as you can) on your tray. Set your plates round the table, one for every person, but place them at the sides only, except those that are intended for the master and mistress of the house, who of course occupy the two ends and will not be able to carve so conveniently of any one is seated beside them.

It is always better to have too much space than too little; and it is therefore advisable to set a table rather to large for the company, than one that is in the least too small. We have seen a whole dinner party made uncomfortable all the time, from being crowded at a table of insufficient size; and in warm weather, particularly, this is no trifling inconvenience.” (She continues in detail how to properly set the table on p 257)

 I currently plan to put up other notes I have from household guide books as well as some odds and ends. In the last post I said I think I will also put up some notes on the kitchen linens. This would include those used for cleaning, food prep and storage in the pantry. While entering the notes above I was thinking about visuals, primarily of dining rooms. Then while typing the part about napkins on the lap, I wondered about non-genteel usages of the napkin such as in the drinking area of a tavern. So, I think I will try to find some images other than nicer dining rooms as well.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Mid-19th Century Table Linens

In connection with a previous post on Table Clothes, I’ve decided to put up some additional information on table linens that never quite seemed to get organized into an article to go with the article on trays. I’ll begin with some information from the 1840’s Workwomen’s Guide.

The author provides a nice chart in her House Linens section suggesting the number of linens required. For the table she suggests 8 to 10 damask breakfast cloths in 4 sizes ranging from 1 1/4 yards x 1 1/4 yards to 2 yards x 2 yards, 8 to 10 table cloths each in damask separated into one suggestion for a Common table-cloth 2 1/2 yards by 2 yards, and 4 table cloths  ranging from 2 1/2 yards by 2 yards to 5 yards by 2 1/2 yards, 1 to 3 largest size table-cloth in fine damask 8 yards by 2 1/2 yards. 1 to 3 “table linen in the piece, per yard” in damask 1 1/2, 1 3/4, 2, 2 1/2 yards wide, and the same in Diaper, 3 to 6 dozen fine damask dinner napkins 14 nails wide, 3 to 6 dozen breakfast napkins in Damask 12 nails wide, 3 to 6 dozen Doyleys “White or coloured do.” 6 nails square, 6 to 12 dozen large tray clothes in damask or diaper 1 yard 6 nails long by 2 yards 6 nails wide, and 6 to 12 dozen small tray clothes in damask or diaper 1 yard 3 nails by 13 nails. (She also includes price ranges for these items in English prices.) A separate list of kitchen linens suggests 6 to 12 coarse diaper table cloths as well as many other cloths used in the kitchen.

For table cloths the author says “These vary in quality, according to circumstances. The finest are the most expensive, and are only used for company. The price varies not only with the size, but also with the pattern. The material of which they are made is called damask, and may be purchased up to a certain size in single table-cloths, after which it must be bought in the piece. Care should be taken in choosing a table-cloth, to see that the edges are even, and the threads are regular.”

For dinner napkins, she makes suggestions for the napkins then provides information on how to fold them. “Dinner Napkins. These are also made of damask, and vary in quality and price, according to the pattern. The best are from 50s. to 60s per dozen. The second quality from 18s. to 45s per dozen. Dinner napkins are folded in various ways, and are generally put upon the plate, enclosing the roll or bread. The following modes are those usually adopted. [images to come asap]

The Half-Pyramid shape – Plate 21, fig 7,8,9,10. 1st. Take the cloth as it comes from the wash, and open the square length-wise, drawing the folded napkin to its fullest extent. 2nd. Turn up the ends to meet in the centre. Fig. 7. 3rd. Turn the napkin thus folded, so that the turned ends are below, or underneath. 4th. Turn up each corner, half-handkerchief-wise, towards the centre. Fig. 8. 5th. Turn the cloth again the other side uppermost, and again turn the corners up to the centre. Fig. 9. 6th. Take hold of the corners, A B, and by drawing them under, make the napkin stand on its end, so that C stands up, and the cloth is supported by A B D. the bread is within the hollow, or between the folds thus formed.

The Diamond Shape. Plate 21. fig 7,8,9,11,17. 1st Open the square length-wise, drawing out the napkin to its full length. 2nd. Fold the ends to meet in the centre. Fig. 7. 3rd. Turn up each corner, half-handkerchief-wise, towards the centre. Fig 8. 4th. Turn down the corners towards the centre. Fig 11. 5th. Turn the cloth entirely over, and it is ready. Fig. 9. The bread is put in the mouth of the napkin, which should be turned on the plate towards the person. Fig 17.

Another Mode. Plate 21. Fig. 12, 13, 14, 14, 18, 19. 1st. Open the napkin length-wise. 2nd. Fold it down from the centre, half-handkerchief-wise, at the centre, leaving two long ends. Fig. 12, 18. 3rd. Take the right-hand piece, and draw it over towards the left hand, making the point, B, lie upon the point, A, thus forming a second half-handkerchief, fig. 13; turn the end back towards the right from the centre, fold it back again in several neat straight folds towards the centre, Fig. 19; do the same with the left hand piece, Fig. 14, turn the napkin, and it resembles a diamond on the square, Fig. 15.

Napkins are often used to lay under fish, pastry, or sweet things, in which case, they may be folded in the shape of a diamond, or else the whole napkin, being first laid open, is plaited in regular and very small folds till reduced to the proper width; it is then doubled down a little at each end to secure the folds, and to make it fit the dish, Fig. 16.

About doyleys “These may be either white or coloured, and are sometimes open, of six nails square; they are generally fringed. The best linen doyleys are about 11s.  pre=””>6d. per dozen. The second linen quality, 8s per dozen. The common sort or cotton, 4s. to 5s. 3d. per dozen.”

The table cloths listed under Kitchen Linen are described such “These should be made of coarse and often unbleached diaper the size must depend on the number of servants, or rather the length of the table.”  This is the tablecloth placed upon the table for the servants to dine. It is not the cloth used for covering a cooking table. The cooking table covering is of huckaback or coarse diaper with a minimal fall beyond the edge of the table. The author strongly suggests marking the household linens with ink according to their use (H, P, K, S followed by the type of cloth) as well as purchasing the linens for each area of usage in a different pattern (in the weave) so they will not be easily mixed up.

I will add some more of my notes as I can get to them. I may also add  a post on kitchen and pantry linens because as I look back through my notes, I see there are many of those people may be interested in.

Published in: on October 25, 2009 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

September Citizen’s Companion

It was so nice to receive this month’s magazine this week. I’ve been so stressed, it was nice to be able to relax with something I can wrap my head around. I’ve decided there is more green on the cover of the magazine then in many places around me. (Sorry South-Westerners, I miss the green of New York.) The cover also made me think of the upcoming Agricultural Society Fair at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. It is about this time of year mom is in the midst of canning a variety of vegetables, pickles and preserves. I don’t know what she is working on for this year given the blight problem with the tomatoes. I’m hoping some basil pesto was done a few weeks back. I love homemade pesto. Mom was the one who entered preserves and food stuffs at the fair over the years. Grandma K. entered quilting and rug hooking projects. I remember her last one she changed at the end just so she could enter it in the fair before she left for the hospital. It was supposed to have a whole additional border with some of the birds from the central motif. My fair entries were more frequent as a kid then as an adult. I won ribbons in the children’s categories for floral arrangements, craft projects and penmanship. If you’ve tried to read my hand writing as an adult you know just how funny that is. The year I can remember we had to write out a portion of the Gettysburg Address.

Back to the magazine.

I want to thank Elizabeth Topping for including pictures from the July event at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. Most people know of the event as “Mumford” rather than by the Museum’s name. I’ve always had trouble making the switch because to me Mumford is the hamlet that several of my family members live in, the old stone church where my brother & sister-in-law and my Grandparents were married is, and where much of my family is laid to rest. This Mumford is much, much older than the Museum which opened the year I was born. The pictures Elizabeth included are lovely. She attended in a year of transition for the event.  This year the museum opened several of the buildings for reenactors to use for scenarios for the event. The plan to do so again next year as well. I am very excited this is the direction the Museum has chosen to go. Since Elizabeth included a nice picture of what I am pretty sure is the kitchen in Livingston-Backus, I have to mention the pottery shown. This pottery is made at the museum in the working pottery. There have been many great artisans over the years. I won’t try to name them because I don’t want to mutilate their names. The pottery is available at the Museum’s Flint Hill Store and  through the Museum’s website www.gcv.org. They have Salt Glaze, Redware and Albany Slip available. I think you will find the prices are very good. For the larger pieces, you may have to visit the store in person. There are many pieces I’ve seen that are not on the site.

That is all for now…..

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Serving Chocolate

While reading, I came across this passage that doesn’t really fit into the article, but I just had to share. The author, John Doran, was discussing the extreamnities of table traits in his book, Table Traits with Something about Them, when he included this rather extreame method of serving chocolate. This is obviously Not how the common American would have drank his or her hot chocolate.

“I will only add that the ceremony of serving chocolate was never such a solemnity in England as in France. In the latter country as late as the days of Louis XVI a man of condition required no less than four footmen each with two watches in his fob according to the fashion to help him to take a single cup of chocolate. One bore the tray and one the chocolate pot, a third presented the cup and a fourth stood in waiting with a napkin, and all this coil to carry a morning draught to a poor wretch whose red heels to his shoes were symbols of the rank which gave him the privilege of being helpless.”

Published in: on July 21, 2009 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chocolate Advertisements

This pair of advertisments appeared regularly in the 1865 Notes and Queries:

Chocolate – Menier

(Manufactured only in France.)

The Healtiest, best, and most Delicious aliment for breakfast known since 1825; defies all honest competition, unadulterated, highly nutritious and pure. Sold in 1/2 lb Packets.

Also, especially manufactured for eating as ordinary sweetmeats, or at Dessert:

Chocolate Creams                   Chocolate Nougat                   Chocolate Praline

Chocolate Almonds                Chocolate Pistaches                Chocolate Pastilles

Chocolate Croquettes and Chocolate Liqueures (very delicate).

Wholesale, MENIER, 23 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.

Retail, by all responsible houses.



Sold by Grocers and Confectioners.


Fry’s French Chocolate for Eating,

in Sticks, and Drops.

Fry’s Chocolate Creams,

Fry’s French Chocolate in Cakes.

J.S. Fry & Sons, Bristol and London.

Published in: on July 21, 2009 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  


I’m working on an article for the Citizen’s Companion on Chocolate in the Nineteenth Century. What a perfect research topic to appease boredom and chocolate cravings (which I get when I am bored and stressed.) The article will look at chocolate as it became more readily available due to several inventions during the industrial revolution. It will also include a variety of chocolate recipies. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite chocolates:

Chocolate Drops, with Nonpareils. –Have some warm chocolate, as for pistachios; add a little butter or oil to it to make it work more free; make it into balls about the size of a small marble, by rolling a little in the hand, or else put some of the paste on a flat piece of wood, on which you form, and take them off with a knife. Place them on sheets of white paper about an inch apart. When the sheet is covered, take it by the corners and lift it up and down, letting it touch the table each time, which will flatten them. Cover the surface entirely with white nonpareils, and shake off the surplus ones. When the drops are cold they can be taken off the paper easily. The bottom of the drops should be about as broad as a sixpence. Some of them may be left quite plain.” (The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook and Baker)

Published in: on July 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Would You Like?

While adjusting to life in New Mexico and searching for employment, I also find I need a little inspiration or direction for research and writing. I have put together a survey on Survey Monkey to see of anyone has any imput or special requests. I have some questions on what you would like to see on the blog, what you would like me to write for the Citizen’s Companion and what research for larger book/booklet projects.


Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where do you put your….gloves, fan, purse, etc….Part 2

 Here are some passages referencing where women put their gloves, fan, purse, etc.: 

(a younger girl) “she fancied how her mamma would smile and kiss her, and how her papa would look pleased; and then she thought she would just take the gloves out of her pocket to see how tidy they were. She put her hand into her pocket, and pulled out first her pocket-handkerchief, and then some pretty colour pebbles which she had picked up during her walk, but her gloves were not there; there was no use feeling quite down to the bottom of the pocket, and turning it inside out, and shaking it – the gloves were actually quite gone; though Helen looked anxiously along the gravel walk and in and out among the raspberry bushes, she could not see them anywhere.”

Blind man’s holiday; or, Short tales for the nursery, by the author of ‘Mia and Charlie’.: or, Short tales for the nursery, by the author of ‘Mia and Charlie’.
By Annie Keary
Published 1860

This is a child “…as Effie took out of her pocket her gloves, or pocket-handkerchief, or something or  other, she pulled out at the same time Fritz’s letter and dropped it.” 

 By mrs. Florence Williamson
By William Kirkus
Published 1864

 “She [Clara] took the gloves, thrust them roughly into the pocket of her dress, bowed coldly and haughtily to the restorer of them, and turned again towards the party with whom she had previously been conversing.”

Chambers’s Edinburgh journal
By William Chambers, Robert Chambers
Published by W. & R. Chambers, 1853

 “ ‘That reminds me,’ observed Maria, a young lady with some pretensions to good looks, ‘I had better put on my gloves; I have let my hands grow coarse and brown lately that I am ashamed of them, and just because it was too hot to cover them. I think my gloves must be in my bag;’ and diving into the profundities of a black silk affair which hung from her arm, and which also contained her missal and pocket-handkerchief, she withdrew the gloves, and commenced pulling them on.”

The slave son
By Marcella Fanny Wilkins, William Noy Wilkins
Published by Chapman and Hall, 1854


“She, supposing it to be some slur upon her religion, carelessly slipped it into her pocket and thought no more of it. The following morning, as she was taking her gloves out of her pocket, the piece of paper fell to the ground, and on examining it she found it to be a guinea note.”

The living sacrifice; or, A short biographical notice of Sarah Bentley: or, a short biographical notice of Sarah Bentley, of York ….
By John Lyth, Sarah Bentley
Contributor W. R. Lyth
Published by W.R. Lyth, 1848


“Having carefully rolled up, and deposited her gloves in her pocket, she pulled out a pin-cushion…”

Marriage: A novel
By Susan Ferrier
Published by Harper & brothers, 1847


“Her gloves were rolled up in a little ball in her pocket. She was at an age when gloves are rather a nuisance then otherwise.” [meaning an older age]

The doctor’s wife, by the author of ‘Lady Audley’s secret’.
By Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Published 1864


“Confident of success, she talked and laughed with unusual liveliness, and as soon as the meal was over, she went out with the fan in her pocket, and Charles by the hand.” [French setting possible]

Seven Years, and Other Tales
By Julia Kavanagh
Published by Hurst and Blackett, 1860


“‘Have you my fan?’ said Mrs. Quigg. I clapped my hand to the pocket where it should have been. There was no fan there. It was gone.”

The United States Democratic Review
By Thomas Prentice Kettell, Making of America Project, Conrad Swackhamer, D. W Holly, Spencer Wallace Cone, Isaac Lawrence
Published by Langtree and O’Sullivan, 1855

“ ‘Are you too hot, my dear?’ asked her tormentor, taking a fan out of her pocket, and raising as she spoke…”

The inheritance, by the author of Marriage. By the author of ‘Marriage’. Revised by the author
By Susan Edmonstone Ferrier
Published 1841


“Taking a box from her pocket, which she said contained the finest lozenges in the world for the preservation of the voice, she requested that one of the gentlemen would have the goodness to provide her with a glass of water, which was placed by the side of her pocket-handkerchief, the box, the fan, and the smelling-bottle.”

“Modern Accomplishments” Home and the world
By Mrs W Rives
Published by D. Appleton and company, 1857
New York


“It is a good practice to carry a pocket fan even in winter, in case you should chance to feel the heat more sensibly than any other lady in the room.”

The behaviour book: a manual for ladies / by Miss Leslie
By Eliza Leslie, Cairns Collection of American Women Writers
Published by W.P. Hazard, 1853


“She took a fan from her pocket….”

Autumn hours and fireside reading
By Caroline Matilda Kirkland
Published by Charles Scribner, 1854


“….she stepped into the carriage, took a place beside Madame d’Epplen, and demurely drew from her pocket a large fan, the movement causing the exposure of a pair of strong gauntlet gloves that had been concealed beneath, and which immediately protruded from their hiding-place, to the no small amusement of her companions.”

At Odds: A Novel
By Jemima Montgomery Tautphoeus
Published by R. Bentley, 1863


“‘Dear me, Mrs. Colton, I’m exhausted coming up those vile stairs!’ said Mrs. Fountain, drawing out of her pocket a beautifully carved fan, which she opened and began fanning herself, and displayed at the same time her white hand, which was covered with diamond and opal rings…”

Portraits of My Married Friends, Or, A Peep Into Hymen’s Kingdom: Or, A Peep Into Hymen’s Kingdom
By Uncle Ben, Rhoda Elizabeth Waterman White
Published by Appleton, 1858

“The consciousness of this did not flash upon Mabel until she had drawn the
little silver reticule from her pocket and exposed her destitution …”

Mabel Vaugh by Maria Susanna Cummins – 1857


“Steadying herself against the post of the folding- door, she took a pair of
scissors from her pocket”

 All The Year Round by Charles Dickens – 1862

“She drew an elaborately worked purse of green silk from her pocket and counted out into my hand three pieces of old French gold.”

”John Heathborn’s Tale” Harper’s new monthly magazine
By Henry Mills Alden, Sarah Orne Jewett, Cairns Collection of American Women Writers
Published by Harper & Brothers, 1864


[Queen Elizabeth] “A pocket looking-glass hangs from her side, and a fan is clasped in fingers loaded with precious stones…”

“Curiosities of Fashion, in the Matter of dress”
Eclectic Magazine: Foreign Literature
By John Holmes Agnew, Walter Hilliard Bidwell
Published by Leavitt, Trow & Co., 1863


“A large fan of peacock feathers hung from her wrist….” [fanciful]

“The Toad’s Curse” Graham’s magazine
By George R. Graham, Edgar Allan Poe, John Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of Congress)
Published by G.R. Graham, 1853
Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Survey on Working Attire

A couple weeks ago I started collecting images of women wearing corsets while working for the local museum I volunteer at. (see this thread http://thesewingacademy.org/index.php?topic=4833.0) Thank you all very much for sending images. The Director I was working with is very happy with what we put together. While looking for images, I sent a message to Connie at the CC. She found the search interesting and wondered if I could take it a bit further by looking at what women wore while working in the mid-century. So, as a research/writing project to work on once I get resettled, I’ve decided to look at support garments as worn during various types of work/labor in the mid-century and by those currently doing living history. As part of the latter section, I put together a short survey on SurveyMonkey asking about support garment habits of reenactors. (SurveyMonkey limited the number of questions I could ask with a free account. So, the questions are narrowed down from what I started with.) If you would like to participate, the survey is at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=jj0CcjV5sg70sWALz6_2bgBA_3d_3d There are questions about what support garments you wear under different situations, about the fit of your corset and what influences when/how you wear it. The survey is anonymous. So, please answer truthfully as possible.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Social Movement Series – 19th c. Utopianism & Separatist Communities – Reading list

Andrews, Edward Deming. The People Called Shakers. New York: Dover, 1963.

Cohen, Daniel. Not of the World: History of the Commune in America. Chicago: Follett, 1979.

Dustin, S. S.. “Zoar and the Zoarites” Frank Leslies’ Popular Monthly. New York: August, 1890. (Available at http://www.zoarohio.com)

Fogarty, Robert All Things New: American Communes and Utopian Movements, 1860-1914, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990

Halloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. New York: Dover, 1961.

Hayden, Delores. Seven American Utopias: The Architecture of Communitarian Socialism, 1790-1975. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1976.

Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Co-operative Colonies. Chicago: Kerr, 1908.

Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1972.

Kern, Louis. An Ordered Love: Sex Roles and Sexuality in Victorian Utopians. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981.

Ness, Immanuel, Ed.. Encyclopedia of American Social Movements. Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2004.

Nordhoff, Charles. The Communistic Societies of the United Stated: From Personal Visit and Observation. 1875. Reprinted Williamstown, Massachusetts: Corner House, 1978.

Noyes, John Humphrey, History of American Socialisms. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1870. Reprinted as Strange Cults and Utopians in 19th-century America. New York: Dover Publications, 1966.

Shi, David E. The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

Streissguth, Thomas. Utopian Visionaries. Minneapolis: Oliver Press, 1999. (School-age text.)

A Summary View of the Millenial Church: Commonly Called Shakers (1848) available at Google Books.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment