Etiquette governing balls and dances in the American Victorian era seems stuffy, old-fashioned, and strict to 21st century Americans. Every rule of decorum ensured good manners were in play, but most importantly, the moral purity and innocence of young women and young men were maintained. Etiquette governed everything from how a man asked a woman for a dance to how he could properly hold her hand while dancing, to how many dances that pair could have in one evening. This article contains the specifics propriety demanded, and the vintage sources where they may be found. Leap year turned some of the lady’s restrictions upon the men; see the true-to-history newspaper article from 1888 that starred in Sophia’s Leap-Year Courtship.
Really? Did Victorian Americans forbid kissing in public? Was it unreasonable to think the fictional town of Mountain Home, Colorado (the setting of The Gunsmith’s Bride (within GUNSMOKE & GINGHAM)) would have a “no kissing, no PDA” law? In 2017 U.S.A. it’s hard to believe Victorians would be so prudish as to object to public displays of affection–or a little peck. The newspaper articles, snippets from vintage magazines, and decorum advice from the era might leave you speechless… Oh! Read part of a scene where the law breaks up the hero and heroine (The Gunsmith’s Bride) kissing on the street–and threatens 48 hours in jail.
The Victorian Era drew to a close in January, 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria. The newspaper article I share within this post comes from July, 1902 (technically the Edwardian Era), but society’s expectations of table manners and propriety at a summer resort hadn’t changed. This article covers a few of the many, many “Summer Resorts” in the Victorian-Era United States and touches on why these resorts were so loved.
We’ve seen the financial, legal, and emotional costs of a courtship gone wrong and culminating in a suit for breach of promise. In Victorian America, where such a consequence was possible if not common enough (to scare a young swain or two), advice of how to break up an unhealthy courtship–or cancel a planned wedding–must have been given by mothers, fathers, society matrons, and “Dear Abby’s” of the day. Indeed they did! This article includes quotes from 3 era-specific books published during the time period.