A Lady Washington Tea Party Comes to Grief: 1877

Some Faux-Colonial Costumes, 1911

Some Faux-Colonial Ladies, 1911


They were going to get up a Lady Washington tea party for the benefit of their society. It was to come off on the night of the 22nd, and on an afternoon a few days before, several ladies met at the house of one of their number to perfect the arrangements. It was determined to give a grand affair—something especially designed to transcend the tea party by a rival organisation last year. To this purpose it became necessary to devote the most careful thought to all the details, and this was done. In fact, it would be difficult to find a more conscientious committee in a hamlet the size of Danbury When all the particulars were arranged and the various stands and minor offices assigned to the ordinary members of the society who were not present— the important question as to who should take the leading character was brought up. With a view to do without the delay and feeling of balloting, the President kindly offered to do Lady Washington herself. She said that she felt it was not a favorable selection, but she was willing to take it, so that there need be no discussion or ill-feeling. If she thought she had not placed a sufficiently modest estimation upon her qualification for the post, she was presently set at rest on that head. Her offer was received with silence.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“I’m willing to do it.”

“Lady Washington never weighed two hundred and fifty pounds,” ominously hinted a thin lady with very light eyes.

“She had fat enough on her to grease a griddle, which is more’n some folks can claim,” retorted the President, with anything but a dreamy expression to her face. The tall lady’s eyes grew a shade darker, and her lips shaped themselves as if they were saying “Hussy!” but it is probable they were not.

“As our two friends are so little likely to agree,” observed a lady whose face showed that she was about to metamorphose herself into a barrel of oil, and precipitate herself on to the troubled waters, “I would suggest that I take the character.”

“Humph.” ejaculated the President.

“Is there any objection to my being Lady Washington?” said the new party, facing abruptly the President, and emptying out the oil and filling up the barrel immediately with a superior grade of vinegar.

“I don’t know of any, if some one will demonstrate that Lady Washington had a wart on her nose,” replied the President, with unblemished serenity.

“Am I to be insulted?” hotly demanded the proprietor of the wart.

“The truth ought not to be insulting,” replied the President.

“I s’pose our President thinks she would be a perfect Lady Washington,” ironically suggested a weak-faced woman, who saw her chances for taking the character dejectedly emerge from the small end of the horn.

“I don’t know as I would be perfect in that role,” replied the President, “but as there will be strangers present at the party, I shouldn’t want them to think that the nearest approach Danbury could make to the dignity of ‘76 was a toothless woman down with the jaundice.” And the head officer smiled serenely at the ceiling.

“What do you mean, you insinuating thing?” hoarsely demanded the victim of the jaundice.

“Keep your mouth shut until you are spoken to then,” severely advised the President.

“I’m not to be dictated to by a mountain of tallow,” hissed the chromatic delegate, flouncing out of the room.

“I think we had better get another President before we go any farther,” said a sharp-faced woman very much depressed by the outlook for herself.

“It isn’t hardly time for you yet,” observed the President with a significant look at the sharp-faced woman, “we will have to arrange for Lady Washington and George Washington before we need the hatchet.”

The sharp-faced lady snatched up her muff without the faintest hesitation, and rushed out of doors to get her breath. She was immediately followed by the proprietor of the wart, the thin lady disastrously connected with a griddle, and the toothless case of jaundice. This left but the President and a little woman who had yet said nothing.

“Has it occurred to you that you would like to be Lady Washington?” asked the President, concentrating both of her eyes on a wen just under the small woman’s left ear.

“Oh. no,” gasped the small woman, impulsively covering up the excrescence with her hand.

“Then, I guess we’ll adjourn sine die” said the President, and pulling on her gloves, she composedly took her departure. And the tea party became the fragment of a gloomy memory.

Mr. Miggs of Danbury and his neighbours, J.M. Bailey, The Danbury-News Man, 1877

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is shocked, shocked, at the things these club-women get up to…

A Lady Washington tea was a popular entertainment inspired by the 1876 anniversary of the Colonies’ rebellion against their King. “Colonial” costume was donned, relics of the Revolution were displayed—all the better if they were family heirlooms, and a General Washington and Lady Washington were often selected to preside over the gala affair.

Décor was usually patriotic in theme:

Lady Washington Tea

A menu for this tea would depend largely upon the way in which the tea is to be served, whether the guests are to be seated at tables, or passed the refreshments from one, or two tables, presided over by young matrons. The young women presiding at the tables, the young girls waiting on the table, and the matrons receiving the guests, might be dressed in “Martha Washington” costumes. See prints of Martha Washington. The vestry might be decorated with flags, and the tables with red, white, and blue crepe paper. Or the paper might be omitted, and red, white, and blue china form the decoration, as blue plates, red cups, or cream pitchers and sugars, etc. Or the colors might be carried out in both the decorations and china. Small rosettes of narrow red, white, and blue ribbon, placed on each napkin, if the guests are seated, and pinned to the dress or coat, are appropriate souvenirs of the occasion. The Boston Cooking School Magazine, Vol. 6 1902, p. 336

And menus were of a suitably “historic” nature:

A Colonial Tea

This would be appropriate either for Washington’s Birthday, or Independence Day. If used for the former, it might be called a Lady Washington Tea. The list of refreshments was copied from an old cookery book of the colonial period. Of course the hostess may modify it to suit her own convenience.

“The dishes proper for a handsome tea-table are: Tea and coffee; light biscuit, with honey; cold ham, glazed thickly all over with a mixture of bread-crumbs, cream and yolk of egg; two smoked tongues, one placed in the center of the platter, the other cut into slices and laid around it; hot game pie; chicken or lobster salad; oyster patties, sweetmeats, mixed cakes, blanc-mange and plum cake.” The Party Book, Winnifred Shaw Fales, Mary Harrod Northend, 1912

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.



1 thought on “A Lady Washington Tea Party Comes to Grief: 1877

  1. Pingback: An Imposter at the Concord Ball: 1875 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s