Victorian-American newspapers illustrate the rules of etiquette governing New Year’s calls. Society’s expectations were made public and adherence expected. What did proper decorum require on January 1?
Etiquette and all that is deemed “good manners” morphs over time. Behavior that our nineteenth-century ancestors would find appropriate has largely disappeared, and today’s idea of a man’s best actions with his hat would appall our great-granddaddies. Specifically speaking, “Common Details of Western Historical Romance that are Historically Incorrect, Part 2” entails nineteenth century hat etiquette–specifically men in the company of women–and contains more vintage citations than my earlier post titled Hat Etiquette of the Victorian Era.
Etiquette governed much during the Victorian Era: courtship, marriage, mourning, letters, social calls, dancing, engagements and breaking of engagements, clothing…and men’s hats. When reading fiction and nonfiction alike, I’ve wondered about men tipping their hats to ladies, removing their hats (or not), giving their hats over to the butler (or not), wearing a Stetson inside or during a business meeting… What did good manners demand? How did a cowboy show respect? How did a lady know if a man hoped to stay awhile when he paid a call?
Though American Victorian women took to the safety bicycle in droves, newspaper and public notices of the day show that women on bicycles were not widely accepted. A public service announcement from The Woman’s Rescue League proclaimed that women on bicycles were immoral, vulgar, disease-ridden, and unwomanly. Such attitudes didn’t keep women from their bicycles, and with the advent of the new Safety Bicycle, women such as my character, Sophia Sorensen (Sophia’s Leap-Year Courtship), took to cycling and had no interest in forfeiting the exercise and transportation.
Flirting, during the American Victorian era, was often deemed in poor taste (and a sign of low-breeding). Men and women in large cities found a way around the censure–they flirted in the personals column of newspapers. Examples illustrate the personals used requesting an introduction (or interview), private and secretive communications, and to find a lady to begin a courtship. Mother (and/or chaperones) may not have approved…but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.