Do you ever run into this problem when researching? You begin researching one specific thing, which leads to something else that intrigues you, so you decide to learn more about that—and so on and so on until you’ve spent so much time reading and researching, you haven’t had time to write!(That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. *G*)
But that’s exactly what happened to me when I began to research social etiquette in the Victorian era. Now, mind you, my fellow Victorians know this stuff like the backs of their hands and will probably snicker when they read this post—they undoubtedly already knew all of this. I didn’t. When writing historical, my heroes (Cowboys. Ranchers. Lawmen. Gunslingers.) usually eschew society and customs. So it’s all new to me to be writing about a character who makes it his business to know these things. And kind of fun!
Here’s a sampling of what I’ve learned.
Here’s my card.
Today, we think nothing of handing someone our business card with contact information on it. If you’ve ever been to an RWA conference, you’ve seen this exchange many times over. But did you know that it was once considered bad manners to hand a social acquaintance a card with your personal business information on it? Like with everything else, there were rules to be followed!
Every gentleman and lady had engraved calling cards. Some were made of thick paperboard, some were even made of copper. The cards served as an introduction and there were many rules regarding their custom and use.
- A married woman’s card was larger than her husband’s; his had to fit in a breast pocket.
- A young girl could only have calling cards after she had been properly presented to society.
- Cards were always presented by a servant to the mistress of the house. If the mistress wasn’t home, the caller was not welcome.
- Servants collected the cards on silver trays or glass bowls and present the cards to the lady of the house with the most important caller on top.
- After moving to a new neighborhood, it was polite to wait until your new neighbors left you their card before attempting to meet them.
- A proper lady (or gentleman) never wrote regrets or accepts on a card as a reply to an invitation. These required a hand-written note.
There was an elaborate system of “card protocol” to be remembered, as well, and an even more elaborate system of turning corners up or down to show whether you were leaving on a short trip, a long trip or moving away permanently.
Did you know hat etiquette was practiced mostly by cowboys? The practice dates back to the days of chivalry when knights would raise their helmet shields as a sign of respect. But it was the American cowboy who popularized the custom. According to the John B. Stetson Hat Company (founded in 1868) there are very specific rules to dictate when a man should tip his hat and when to remove it.
Tip your hat…
*If a lady thanks you
*After receiving directions from a stranger
*If you excuse yourself to a lady
*When walking with another man and he greets a woman you don’t know
Remove your hat…
*During the playing of the national anthem
*Upon entering a building
*During an introduction
*When attending a funeral
*When initiating a conversation.