The End of Dinner (detail), 1913, by Jules-Alexandre Grun
Whether their fortunes were old or new, members of Gilded Age society reveled in hosting and attending teas, cotillions, lawn parties, luncheons, and formal dinners—all of which had their own codes of dress and manners. Even picnics were served on fine china. Food historian Francine Segan highlights the variety of foods, elaborate etiquette, and entertainments enjoyed by the period’s upper crust.
Discover the most popular toasts of the 1890s, when it was proper to remove your gloves or tip your hat, and what a gentleman meant when he sent a lady tulips instead of roses. Enjoy a trivia contest on the uses of many unique but now-obsolete food-focused objects, and a demonstration on creating 19th-century garnishes as you immerse yourself in the social history of a vanished era of elegance. Afterward, get your own taste of Gilded Age-inspired entertaining at a light reception.
Cucumber and herbed cheese; tarragon chicken salad; brie and fig jam; roast beef, arugula, and horseradish cream; tomato, mozzarella, and basil
Lemon poppy seed pound cake
“…during the Gilded Age, the New Year’s holiday, like other elements of American social life, transformed. What was once a folk celebration became, for a certain class, a soignee wealth-fest—one that still influences how we celebrate the holiday today.”
Learn how Newport became the location of choice to ring in the New Year—extravagantly, of course—during the late 19th century.
The menu of a Manhattan “love hotel” called The Palette reveals how its patrons, described in an 1890 vice report as “only the misguided of the upper-ten (percent)” dined during an evening of discreetly hidden romance.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)