A Cobweb Party: 1892

From American Spiders and their Spinningwork, 1889.

From American Spiders and their Spinningwork, 1889.

Of all the pleasing and novel entertainments, nothing affords more genuine enjoyment than a cobweb party. It is truly a curious sight to watch a merry party flitting here and there, in this room and that, untying knots, crossing and uncrossing ribbons which have been interlaced and intertwined until it seems that there is no end to any of them.

A cobweb party affords a pleasant and amusing entertainment for those who do not play cards or other games, and is very simple to arrange, as well as inexpensive. Of course, like many other festive occasions, the hostess, if she so desires, can make it as elaborate as she sees fit, and spend any amount of money, but there is no need of it.

If the company is small, double parlors are sufficiently large for the occasion. A network of gay ribbons, yards and yards in length, woven and interwoven, with one end within reach, makes the large rooms resemble an immense rainbow. At the other end are fastened prizes, which are hidden in all sorts of odd nooks, behind pictures, under chairs, on mantels, up-stairs or down stairs.

The number of ribbons is governed by the number of guests invited.

Sometimes the prizes are exquisite little souvenirs in jewelry, silver, books and pictures. Just now, when the latest fad is spoons, it is a pretty idea to have half a dozen or so of these useful and acceptable articles among the prizes, if expense is no object with the hostess.

Scarf-pins, rings, bracelets, etc., heart-shaped, are all pretty novelties for prizes.

Where economy must be practiced, all manner of dainty things can be made at home, which will be fully as acceptable as those which are purchased.

Sachets of all styles and designs, sofa pillows, doileys and tray cloths of fine linen, handsomely embroidered scarfs, of bolting cloth or white silk, embroidered or painted; bureau pads, glove, handkerchief and jewelry boxes and book-covers are among the many attractive and useful pieces of fancy work suitable for prizes. Very frequently amusing and ridiculous prizes are given, to which are attached an original poem or an apt quotation.

Sometimes it requires hours to find the coveted prize; then, again, a few moments will bring the article to view. Some few, who lack perseverance and persistence, never get to the end of their string.

One writer says: “Cobweb parties are not intended for the entertainment of philosophers, but to while away an evening in a novel and pleasant way; and they do.”

Refreshments are by no means one of the least important features of a cobweb party. Oftentimes the company are invited to a six o’clock tea, which they fully enjoy before going to the parlors in search of prizes. At a novel and festive party the guests were given envelopes, containing blank cards, with a bow or, rosette of ribbon attached. The gentlemen were sent in search of their partners, who had duplicate cards and ribbons. Inasmuch as no two ladies or gentlemen had the same color and number, it was not difficult to find their partner.

Each table had a distinct color in decorations, and would accommodate two couple, so the cards were numbered “yellow, number one,” and “yellow, number two,” for the two couple who were to sit at the yellow table. The colors used for the tables were pink, blue, yellow, red, white, green, buff, orange, purple and lavender.

The flowers, candelabra, and souvenir cards all corresponded in color, and the lunch cloths used were fine and sheer, and laid over a solid color that showed through faintly, The souvenir cards used were simple ones, of heavy, cream-tinted cardboard, with a dainty spray of flowers painted on them, and containing several appropriate quotations, with the name of the hostess and date of party. Ribbons to match the table were used to tie them with.

Simple refreshments can be used where it is an evening party, which consist of sandwiches and coffee or chocolate, and ice-cream and cake. Sometimes fruit is used instead of anything else. Below is given a menu suitable for the six o’clock tea:

Fried Chicken, Creamed Potatoes,

Pineapple Ice, Macaroons

It lies with the hostess to make such a party pleasant and successful. It is especially suitable for a merry crowd of young people.

A young girl of seventeen celebrated her seventeenth birthday recently by giving a cobweb party, which was a delightful affair.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] July, 1892

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As for the cobweb party not being “the entertainment of philosophers,” Mrs Daffodil can readily conceive that such a hurly-burly,  whether pineapple ices were served or not, would quite possibly have lacked essential appeal for Schopenhauer, the angst-ridden Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche (unless his Dionysian side attended). No matter. They were not invited.

Mrs Daffodil notes that the cobweb party has been recently revived as a wholesome family entertainment instead of a method for merry young couples to delay getting to the end of their strings.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



2 thoughts on “A Cobweb Party: 1892

  1. Pingback: Alternative Gifts for Kids and Adults – The Dumpling Cart

  2. H. A.

    Thank you for the material. I saw a write-up in a 1904 newspaper announcing a “cob web social” held at my great-grandparents house and wondered what that could be. Apparently they followed social custom by serving watermelon.



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