You Are At: AllSands Home > History > Etiquette from 19th century
Think the rules of etiquette are tough now? Check out how proper folks were expected to behave just over one hundred years ago! There were rules for everything, from the proper way to behave when visiting, to how one should act at the dining table. While most of these ideas seem quaint and odd now, they were the norm at the turn of the last century. Read along to see how differently our great-grandparents dealt with every day life!

On visiting:

Gentlemen should never, ever sit next to their hostess on the sofa, unless invited to do so.
A lady should never call upon a gentleman, unless it was for professional or official reasons, or unless he was a confirmed invalid.
One should never touch the host's piano unless invited to do so!
A guest should never warm himself near the host's fire if it would interfere with the seating arrangements.
Ladies should never suck on the handles of their parasols.
Gentlemen should never leave his hat in the hall if the visit was a formal call.

On conversation:

One should never appear to notice someone else's mistakes in grammar.
One should never speak of private, personal or family matters in a group.
Conversation should not always be started with mentions of the weather.
One should never speak in a loud voice.
One should not whisper.
Never make reference to the fact that you may be from a notable family.

On shopping:

Don't take hold of a piece of goods that another may be examining. Wait until they lay it down before you take it up.
Pushing, shoving, lounging on the counter top, whispering or shouting, or damaging goods are signs of ill-breeding and should be avoided.
Do not make disparaging remarks about the quality of goods or the prices of such.
Do not haggle loudly over prices with the storekeeper.

On dining:

One should never explain at the table why certain foods do not agree with you.
Never introduce disgusting or unpleasant topics for conversation at the table.
Don't wear your gloves at the table.
Gentlemen should see that the lady he escorted to the dinner is served first; he should pay no attention to any other ladies near him, instead leaving their care to their escorts.
One should never eat with one's knife.
Conversation should never be allowed to become anything more than chit-chat; deep and abstruse conversations were thought to impair digestion.


Source: Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms, copyright 1887.