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Author Topic: Manners, Culture and Dress of the best American Society  (Read 1189 times)
Tommy_
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« on: February 19, 2014, 10:28:26 pm »

I'm new to steampunk, and I've just finished writing a simple essay on it for school.
While looking around on the internet I found this book (available as PDF on many sites), called Manners, Culture and Dress of the best American Society.
It was written in 1890ish, and has well over 500 pages. It seems to describe just about every form of social interaction, and how to act like a true lady/gentleman in this situation. I've only read the first 25 pages so far, but I'm fascinated, this is one of the things that seem to attract me most in Steampunk.
Of course it's outdated (giving a lady your seat because she is 'physically less capable of standing for a long time', would get you a slap nowadays), but I hope to learn from it Smiley

Has anyone read this?
Manners, Culture and Dress of the best American Society
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Dameon Vitrum
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2014, 12:18:47 am »

Sounds interesting.  I do find it curious, as it seems that in Europe even the suggestion that the feminine sex is weaker (holding a door open, for example) is now considered an insult.  I can un derstand why blurting aloud something stupid like "women are less able to stand for long times" would get you reprimanded, but NEVER have I ever experienced a lady be offended by my person holding the door open for her.

In a sense the United States (and the Americas, as I speak for Mexico as well), are older fashioned, and in a quite welcome way, may I add.  In fact I will add that in Mexico, polite manners are taken one degree higher (e.g. men will not kiss men, but men and women who have met at least for the second time and are in good terms will kiss on the cheek as a standard form of salutation in a sign of friendship.  Holding a door and a chair for the lady are absolutely standard.  And cursing of ANY kind is absolutely forbidden in front of ladies in all the Spanish speaking countries on this side of the Atlantic - noting the latter rule has been much relaxed on the European side).
« Last Edit: February 20, 2014, 12:20:33 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Keith_Beef
Snr. Officer
****
France France


« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2014, 12:29:54 am »

Of course it's outdated (giving a lady your seat because she is 'physically less capable of standing for a long time', would get you a slap nowadays), but I hope to learn from it Smiley

I don't often ride on public transport these days (I don't remember ever riding on a bus in the seven years I lived in the US, and I've not ridden on one in the last 18 months I've been back in Europe, I've ridden on the train perhaps eight to twelve times in that period), but I have given up my seat to a lady on more than one occasion during that time.

When I was a child, it was absolutely normal for children to be taken on a parent's knee to free up a seat for an adult, for a gentleman to stand for a lady, even for a young lady to stand for an elderly lady or gentleman.

Courtesy seems to be waning, but has not altogether vanished.
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2014, 12:35:15 am »

Of course it's outdated (giving a lady your seat because she is 'physically less capable of standing for a long time', would get you a slap nowadays), but I hope to learn from it Smiley

I don't often ride on public transport these days (I don't remember ever riding on a bus in the seven years I lived in the US, and I've not ridden on one in the last 18 months I've been back in Europe, I've ridden on the train perhaps eight to twelve times in that period), but I have given up my seat to a lady on more than one occasion during that time.

When I was a child, it was absolutely normal for children to be taken on a parent's knee to free up a seat for an adult, for a gentleman to stand for a lady, even for a young lady to stand for an elderly lady or gentleman.

Courtesy seems to be waning, but has not altogether vanished.

Ypu still see some of the latter here, but you are right it is waning.
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Narsil
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2014, 12:48:42 am »

I think that, from a historical perspective these sorts of etiquette manuals, while certainly interesting, do need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. They certainly need to be placed in a proper historical context for several reasons.

It's important to remember that they basically represent the opinions of the writer and aren't necessarily a transcription of the general social norms. Obviously anybody either writing or buying one of these manuals has some sort of agenda. Often they were the particular preserve of the upwardly mobile and socially aspirational middle classes who found they had money but worried (not without cause) that they would be looked down on by the more established aristocracy and upper classes. Obviously as times changed the goalposts moved a bit and you often see cases of aristocratic and titles but financially strapped families intermarrying with wealthy but 'socially inferior' 'new money'. As time went on the merchant classes got their feet pretty well under the table and in their turn were a bit sniffy about the new wave of industrialists.

This was particularly the case in Britain where there was a unique combination of long term political stability and massive economic and industrial growth gave rise to what by the beginning of the 20th century was a massively complex system of social class of which people were acutely aware although the two world wars caused this to unravel to a great extent, although it does appear to be being reinvented in recent decades.

One of the up-shots of this is that the middle classes tend to be especially concious of manner and etiquette both to emulate the classes above and to distance themselves from the classes below so you see highly complex and formalised systems of manners which would have been just as baffling to the real established aristocracy as to the very poor.

There is also another intriguing thing that the British royal family at this time were not, in fact, noticeably British, in fact they felt moved to change their name during the first world war from the suspiciouly Teutonic Saxe-Coburg Goetha to the much more English sounding Windsor. For much the same reasons they were also obsessed with extremely complex and formal ceremonial formulae which they both resurrected from various historical sources and outright made up.

So in Britain especially, there was a particular combination of a highly stratified society and a reasonable degree of social mobility, at least in economic terms but at the same time one where class and background still mattered a lot,  which meant that big chunks of society were actually a bit uncertain and insecure in their position.

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Dr Fidelius
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2014, 02:02:55 pm »

Case in point: Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet")
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Tommy_
Deck Hand
*
Netherlands Netherlands


Enlighten me


« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2014, 09:28:57 pm »

but NEVER have I ever experienced a lady be offended by my person holding the door open for her.
I think you are confusing holding the door with giving a seat? As I wouldn't know how holding a door for someone (regardless of gender) could be insulting.
I must admit my comment on the seat thing was an assumption. I still think it's correct though, they would wonder why I would offer them my seat, and if I were to reply that women are weaker.. I'm in trouble Cheesy
But obviously it's normal (in my opinion obligatory) to give your seat to an elderly, a pregnant lady or someone with certain disabilities.
An interesting thing to think about is that here in the Netherlands (also in Germany and probably other countries) we have two words for "you". One is formal (bosses, teachers, elderly, sometimes your parents), and one isn't (friends, etc.). There's always a discussion going on about whether or not this is 'necessary'. I like to say the formal version of "you" to teachers, bosses and people with more life experience ("older"). However, teachers and bosses keep telling me that they don't want to feel like they're better, so they want me to address them with the informal version of the word. Older people (I'm 21) often seem to be in denial about their age, something I don't understand. They want me to use the informal version of "you" as well, so they'll feel younger. I dislike this as I see it as a form of showing respect.

Interesting story about the Mexicans. I've been to Morocco a few weeks ago, and ladies there cover their body. I can respect that, I'm not saying ladies should cover everything, but when in the middle of all those ladies you see a tourist with push-up bra, too much cleavage, tight pants, etc.. just seems hard to take them serious.

I don't often ride on public transport these days (I don't remember ever riding on a bus in the seven years I lived in the US, and I've not ridden on one in the last 18 months I've been back in Europe, I've ridden on the train perhaps eight to twelve times in that period), but I have given up my seat to a lady on more than one occasion during that time.
I'm sorry, your sentence confuses me, are you talking about your time in the United States, or in Europe?


I'm going to have to disagree with Narsil and Dr Fidelius that manners are a case of hypocrism (if I understand correctly?).
I don't see what's wrong with being a well mannered lady or gentleman and trying to better yourself to be more polite etc.
Of course some people want to appear better or more civilised, and Miss. Hyacinth takes it to a whole new level.
I don't think this is what it is about though, and I don't think you should take these things any farther than you're comfortable with. Social interaction should always be genuine.
I am confused about these comments though, aren't such manners part of steampunk?
As I said, I might have misunderstood, tell me if I'm wrong.
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frances
Zeppelin Captain
*****
United Kingdom United Kingdom



« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2014, 10:17:07 pm »

Here in England good manners are appreciated by all.  When someone offers me a seat on the underground I thank them when I sit down, I smile at them if they look in my direction and if they are still there when I get off I say thank you again, or good evening.  Politeness goes two ways.

However, in the 1970'sand 80's when women's liberation was at its height some women were offended if a man held a door open for them or offered a seat.  However even then a pregnant woman or someone with a pram and a toddler would have been glad to take an offered seat.
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Keith_Beef
Snr. Officer
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France France


« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2014, 11:54:11 pm »

but NEVER have I ever experienced a lady be offended by my person holding the door open for her.
I think you are confusing holding the door with giving a seat? As I wouldn't know how holding a door for someone (regardless of gender) could be insulting.

I've had a few comments of "I can open a door for myself and don't need a man to do it for me".  On the first couple of occasions I replied "I was was not suggesting you were incapable of opening the door, but since I walked through it less than half a second before you, it was no big deal for me to hold it open". But that invariable sparked a tedious argument where I was described as an "arrogant phallocrat".  Roll Eyes

During the 1980s and 1990s there seemed to be a whole generation of Radical Feminists who were not at all interested in sexual equality, but just had an axe to grind and wanted revenge against any man within spitting distance of their venom.
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Tommy_
Deck Hand
*
Netherlands Netherlands


Enlighten me


« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2014, 02:23:02 pm »

Wow, that's extreme. Yeah, you still hear of those women on the internet now.. Main reason I don't call myself a feminist is because it's hard to tell what they stand for. As wikipedia says, there are so many different 'branches' within feminism, some are completely contradictory.

Do you have a lot of such femminists in France?
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Capt. Dirigible
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2014, 04:31:26 pm »

I've had a few comments of "I can open a door for myself and don't need a man to do it for me".  On the first couple of occasions I replied "I was was not suggesting you were incapable of opening the door, but since I walked through it less than half a second before you, it was no big deal for me to hold it open". But that invariable sparked a tedious argument where I was described as an "arrogant phallocrat"

The best response to a feminist's anger that she doesn't need to have a door opened/held for her  just because she's female is: "I'm not holding it open because you're a lady but because I'm a gentleman"
And on the subject of manners and etiquette..may I present a National film Board of Canada cartoon I first saw some 30 odd years ago and loved. To this day I still like to say "A thousand pardons, I was most revolting" after burping. I don't know if 'Lady Fishbourne's Guide to Better Table Manners was a real book but I like to think it is/was.
Lady Fishbourne's complete guide to better table manners
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Tommy_
Deck Hand
*
Netherlands Netherlands


Enlighten me


« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2014, 09:26:05 pm »

Haha, very funny video!
Similar to the book where it has some good points that are still true to this day, and some that are either outdated or just too much (eating a banana with a fork Tongue).
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Keith_Beef
Snr. Officer
****
France France


« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2014, 09:43:20 pm »

Wow, that's extreme. Yeah, you still hear of those women on the internet now.. Main reason I don't call myself a feminist is because it's hard to tell what they stand for. As wikipedia says, there are so many different 'branches' within feminism, some are completely contradictory.

Do you have a lot of such femminists in France?

That was from when I was still living in the UK. I've never met any such hostility in France, the US, or any of the other countries I've been to. I think it was very specific to the time and place.

I also met plenty of Feminists who were much more constructive and open. But with every kind of political stream, you get mainstream and extreme views and everything in between. But the extremists are the ones with the loudest voices and who therefore get the most attention.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2014, 12:25:55 am »

but NEVER have I ever experienced a lady be offended by my person holding the door open for her.
I think you are confusing holding the door with giving a seat? As I wouldn't know how holding a door for someone (regardless of gender) could be insulting.
I must admit my comment on the seat thing was an assumption. I still think it's correct though, they would wonder why I would offer them my seat, and if I were to reply that women are weaker.. I'm in trouble Cheesy

But obviously it's normal (in my opinion obligatory) to give your seat to an elderly, a pregnant lady or someone with certain disabilities.
An interesting thing to think about is that here in the Netherlands (also in Germany and probably other countries) we have two words for "you". One is formal (bosses, teachers, elderly, sometimes your parents), and one isn't (friends, etc.). There's always a discussion going on about whether or not this is 'necessary'. I like to say the formal version of "you" to teachers, bosses and people with more life experience ("older"). However, teachers and bosses keep telling me that they don't want to feel like they're better, so they want me to address them with the informal version of the word. Older people (I'm 21) often seem to be in denial about their age, something I don't understand. They want me to use the informal version of "you" as well, so they'll feel younger. I dislike this as I see it as a form of showing respect.

Interesting story about the Mexicans. I've been to Morocco a few weeks ago, and ladies there cover their body. I can respect that, I'm not saying ladies should cover everything, but when in the middle of all those ladies you see a tourist with push-up bra, too much cleavage, tight pants, etc.. just seems hard to take them serious.


Actually I was basing my comments on previous comments (two years ago) made by British and other Europeans on this forum regarding the attitude of young women in public transportation settings, where it was specifically mentioned that someone became offended for having a door proped open.  Several Americans commented on it, because it seemed somewhat outrageous.  Either way, there is no reason why a lady should be offended, ehether giving up a seat or opening a door, it's just common courtesy.  *Gasp* I've done both! All the humanity!
« Last Edit: February 22, 2014, 12:33:49 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
Tommy_
Deck Hand
*
Netherlands Netherlands


Enlighten me


« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2014, 10:42:43 am »

Oh okay, I haven't been on this forum that long, so I probably haven't read that thread.
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bicyclebuilder
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« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2014, 03:09:21 pm »

Manners are changing.
It used to be polite to hold the door for women. Due to feminism, some women are insulted if you open the door for them. Because of the global warming, one has to keep the opening of a door to a minimum. So for equality of the sexes and the reduction of heating costs, the polite way nowadays is to deliberatly close the door behind you, even when a woman is right behind you?  Wink
Because I don't want to insult older looking people, I remain seated when going on public transport. It is a compliment NOT to stand up.  Grin

But really, the book Manners, Culture and Dress of the best American Society might be the way people used to interact with eachother. But in fairness, I think the rules apply after the class and rank filter was applied. I don't see a wealthy railroad tycoon doffing his head to an average guy.
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The best way to learn is by personal experience.
Keith_Beef
Snr. Officer
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France France


« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2014, 05:00:44 pm »

But really, the book Manners, Culture and Dress of the best American Society might be the way people used to interact with eachother. But in fairness, I think the rules apply after the class and rank filter was applied. I don't see a wealthy railroad tycoon doffing his head to an average guy.

You hit the nail on the head.

Nor would a wealthy gentleman raise his hat to a ageing fishwife, although he might well raise it to a pretty young flower seller. Wink
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bicyclebuilder
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A.K.A. Scanner Camera Builder


« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2014, 07:50:28 am »

My language (Dutch) has a polite personal pronoun. Meaning there is a polite word for "you". Although it is accustom to use it to be polite, I have found out that it is often used by upper class people to keep distance from lower class.
Using this politeness keeps a formal distance with little room to get familiar. This goes also for using the last name with a mister or miss, even after first names are known to both parties.

The way I often use politeness is to adress the person I'm talking with, with the same level of politeness as he/she adresses me. Starting with the highest form of politeness and turning it down accordingly.

Politeness is all about making the other person comfortable. Like any other form of communication, you can either place yourself below, above or equal to the other person. But it's always nice to know how the best manners are supposed to be.
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Camellia Wingnut
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Take my camel, dear. . . .


« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2014, 08:38:41 am »

My Dears,
On behalf of Aunts everywhere, I should like to warmly thank those gentlemen who risk a tongue-lashing to be polite. I should also like to point out that ladies in the Victorian ere were, in fact, physically weaker and unable to stand, due to the debilitating effects of wearing stays (pardon me for mentioning these torture devices). One could not breathe properly, and one's internal organs (which, like stays, were never to be mentioned in mixed company) were cruelly compressed. The provision of fainting couches was quite necessary.
The harridans among Suffragettes had far more important reasons for their aggression than modern feminists, such as demanding the vote. I consider it very odd that the height of obnoxious behavior by women in the 1960s and 70s coincided historically with an era of greater freedom and autonomy than women have ever had since they emerged from the mists of time, (with a few exceptions).
Books of manners are always funny when out of date (see Retronaut's 1938 tips for single women http://www.retronaut.com/2011/10/tips-for-single-women-1938/).
Personally, one of the things I regret most about not living in Victorian times is that ladies cannot wear hats with veils, for instance, when suffering from a head cold.
Only my own archaic opinions, however.
Gt.-Aunt Camellia
« Last Edit: February 25, 2014, 08:44:54 am by Camellia Wingnut » Logged

Take my camel, dear, said my aunt Camellia, climbing down from that animal on her return from high mass. The camel, a white Arabian Dhalur (single hump) from the famous herd of the Ruola tribe, had been a parting present, its saddle-bags stuffed with low-carat [sic] gold and flashy orient gems, from a rich desert tycoon. . . .
Tommy_
Deck Hand
*
Netherlands Netherlands


Enlighten me


« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2014, 02:07:34 pm »

Because I don't want to insult older looking people, I remain seated when going on public transport. It is a compliment NOT to stand up.  Grin
I guess it depends on the age. When they are of an age where they obviously have more need for a seat than you, then I would think it's rude to remain seated.


My language (Dutch) has a polite perso..
I have already mentioned this.

it is often used by upper class people to keep distance from lower class.
Using this politeness keeps a formal distance with little room to get familiar.
I'm not sure where you live where there are classes, but I would like to see this. When a teacher asks me to use the formal version, I have no problems with this. I always wonder why people seem to think that it has to do with classes, or feeling like they are better people. A teacher has (should have) more knowledge and experience on the field of study, I don't see the problem in acknowledging this and showing respect.
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Arabella Periscope
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United States United States


Edwardian summer


« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2014, 11:49:36 pm »

Having had the experience of strap-hanging on a bus with a new baby, a folded stroller, two bags of groceries and a post-operative scar while a young boy sprawled on two seats with his trousers falling down, I yearn for the age of chivalry. But if I saw a war veteran with one leg I would hope any female would jump up to offer him a seat.  It is basically a matter of empathy, isn't it?
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Terence Rattigan 'French Without Tears.'
bicyclebuilder
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« Reply #21 on: February 28, 2014, 09:38:47 am »

Because I don't want to insult older looking people, I remain seated when going on public transport. It is a compliment NOT to stand up.  Grin
I guess it depends on the age. When they are of an age where they obviously have more need for a seat than you, then I would think it's rude to remain seated.


My language (Dutch) has a polite perso..
I have already mentioned this.

it is often used by upper class people to keep distance from lower class.
Using this politeness keeps a formal distance with little room to get familiar.
I'm not sure where you live where there are classes, but I would like to see this. When a teacher asks me to use the formal version, I have no problems with this. I always wonder why people seem to think that it has to do with classes, or feeling like they are better people. A teacher has (should have) more knowledge and experience on the field of study, I don't see the problem in acknowledging this and showing respect.

I used to go to school by public transport. From school to central station the bus was packed. No empty seats, the mayority standing. One day, a older lady (about 50-60) came into the packed bus. She shouted:"..and I guess no one is going to stand up for me?" and indeed, no one did. Politeness goes both ways.

I'm sorry, I didn't read your previous post.

About classes: A former boss insisted he would be adressed in the polite personal sence. One of the customers at work has a lot of local political connections and also insists this. He also adresses me with sir. Even on informal occasions (when meating him at the mall) he greets me with "goodday mister.", but only after I greet him. Personally, I'm fine with that, but he is using politeness to keep a certain distance.
The teachers I had in school where adressed with their first name with a mister or miss before the name. The only teacher who insisted on the polite form was my German teacher. Mainly to teach the difference bitween formal and informal sence.

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