Tahlequah Daily Press

March 18, 2013

A matter of manners

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — The mid-1800s was a time when etiquette was fashionable, women were ladies and men were gentlemen.

Martha Ray, retired from the Oklahoma Historical Society, presented, “Manners, Morals, Customs and Lifestyles of Mid-19th Century” to more than a dozen participants, some local and others from around the state, Saturday morning at the Murrell Home.

The workshop included topics such as conversation, education, courtship, marriage, dancing, grooming and clothing.

“When in doubt, watch your host or hostess,” Ray said.

A typical meal, or the main meal of the day, lasted about two hours with conversation – and for the men, drinks or cordials, like mint juleps between each course.

Fresh clothing was worn to the dinner. Some ladies also drank in between the courses and afterwards, as the men went to the parlor to smoke and have a night cap.

Indoors, families played cards, dice, and games like “The Fleas,” which was like Tiddlywinks, and 5 Stones which was similar to jacks.

Outside games included croquet, lawn bowling and hide-and-seek.

Etter Nottingham, a new volunteer with Friends of the Murrell Home, came to begin her training as a docent.

“This workshop is my first official training,” Nottingham said. “I want to see this home continue, it’s a treasure for this area.”

During the 1800s, children began training in etiquette at age 5 both at home and in school. The well-to-do often had tutors, and the children learned history, elocution, penmanship, higher math and Latin by age 13.

An Alphabet Doll was used with Posture Master Alphabet cards showing the doll spelling out letters.

Jean Knox, from Shawnee, attended the workshop with her husband. She was enjoying everything about the event, and said she was learning a lot.

“We like history and enjoy the different events, this is our third time here,” Knox said.

The basic manners and lifestyle of the mid 1800s was much different than we see today, she said.

“The procedure with calling cards was interesting and a matter of introduction, not bold like the kids are today,” Knox said.

The first dance of a ball would be the Grand March, where everyone showed off who they were with and what they wore. Grandparents and grandchildren would walk together. They would dance from 6 to 8 p.m., dine from 8 to 10 p.m., and then dance again until 2 a.m. Often, guests would stay the night, sleeping on pallets or sharing beds. Ladies would wear silk and satin dancing slippers and change back into their boots when not dancing.

Michelle Widener, of Gore, said the workshop covered one of her favorite time periods in history.

“I came to add to the collective information in my head,” Widener said. “It’s so interesting. She [Ray] talked about entertainment and dances, what they learned in school and topics of conversation.”

Some things never change, Widener said.


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