The Lantern Party: 1902

A Unique Affair.

“It would seem now and then as if society devices in delightful entertainment were about exhausted.” remarked a little lady just home from a summer up north, “but we were invited to a rarely charming garden party while away. It was called ‘a lantern party.’ and was given by a lady who owns a summer cottage set far back from a country road almost In the deep woods. The cards of Invitation were decorated with her own delicate drawings and water color sketches of Chinese lanterns and antique lanterns, and the guests were expected to carry lanterns with them; it was quietly noised around that a prize would be given to the bearer of the most unique or artistic lantern.

“As you can imagine, there was much energetic scurrying about in the small town to find something pretty in lanterns. Richard drove several miles out into the country to borrow a quaint old tin lantern he had seen at a farmhouse; but Louise and I contented ourselves with some pretty Japanese lanterns we had in the house. Little Richard was invited, too. and he got together quite a surprising and dazzling achievement in the way of a lantern out of an old cigar box and some red and yellow tissue paper.

“It was a great lot of fun, going after dark down the village street carrying our lighted lanterns. The sidewalks here and there were dotted with other guests, also carrying bright lanterns. People on the sidewalks and on the summer piazzas exclaimed at this unusual sight. When we reached the country road leading to the cottage of our hostess the spectacle was even more beautiful. Such a number of bright, yet subdued, lights flitting noiselessly along in the dark. As we neared the cottage we were all spellbound; a beautiful picture was presented house, porches and the long lane to the great gate hung with colored lanterns of all kinds and sizes. After we arrived in the garden and were seated, it was charming to watch all the new arrivals coming up the lane bearing lanterns a long vista of gigantic fireflies done in bright color. Those who wearied of carrying their lanterns could hang them, ticketed, on one of the verandas; and, before the evening was over, three judges quietly inspected them and made the awards. The chief prize was a lovely little Moorish lantern, and was won by a gentleman who carried a curious little Venetian lantern, which was said to have belonged to Robert Browning. He sent to his Chicago home for it. I learned, and as he was a much-traveled man, no doubt the little literary lantern was authentic.

“To our great surprise, little Richard’s cigar-box lantern won the consolation prize–a pretty copy of Stevenson’s beautiful essay, ‘The Lantern Bearers.’ “Music, conversation and the usual summer refreshments were other features of the evening, but the charm of the lanterns really made all else seem superfluous. Our lantern hostess told me she had once given such a party at her city home, where she knew many artists and curio lovers; and the rallying of beautiful, rare old foreign lanterns on that occasion, she said, really made her heart ache with the envious greed of nonpossesslon.”

The Indianapolis [IN] Journal 14 September 1902: p.13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Parties and cosy-corners were not the only venues for these pretty lanterns:

Some riders, in view of the fact that lamps are easily extinguished, have adopted the gaudy Chinese lantern, which, if it goes out, is readily noticed. In the evening these gay lanterns are very attractive.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] October 1896

Mrs Daffodil is sorry to dash her readers’ cherished beliefs, but Chinese lanterns were rarely made in that country:

The Chinese Lantern Trade.

During the last two or three years a large and regular demand for Chinese-lanterns has been created in this country, and the sale of these articles now constitutes one of the most important, if not the most important branch of the business of dealer in pyrotechnics. This has been especially true this season, when the demand for ordinary “fireworks” has been insignificant, but for Chinese-lanterns it has been larger than ever before. Garden parties, which are becoming very popular, are a profitable source of income to the manufacturers of Chinese-lanterns, as is also the custom now in vogue at some of the watering places of having a grand illumination once or twice each season. On two different occasions this summer Martha’s Vineyard has called upon Boston dealers for 15,000 lanterns for a single evening’s illumination.

The greater part of the “Chinese-lanterns” are made in this country, in the vicinity of New York, or in Germany, and as they have been in such active request of late years much ingenuity has been expended in producing them in the most attractive and convenient, and at the same time the cheapest, forms. The result of these ingenious efforts has been the manufacture of paper lanterns, some of which are surprisingly well adapted to the purposes for which they are designed, others being marvelously cheap, and many combining both of these desirable qualities to some extent. Pretty Chinese-lanterns of a cylindrical shape, and perhaps twelve inches long and four or five inches in diameter when in use, but capable of being compressed into about one-twelfth of their ordinary length for transportation, are sold as low as $6 per hundred; and large, gorgeously decorated globes, selling at $20 to $30 per hundred, are constructed with wire frames so as to be capable of being folded into the merest fraction of their usual space.

The Pittsfield [MA] Sun 7 November 1877: p. 7

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 anecdote

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.

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