Monday Manners: Social Climbing Through Etiquette

Recently, I came across a two-volume set of etiquette instructions from 1922. It took me about ten seconds (after the first mention of “trolley etiquette”) to decide I’d need to share the best of the best. So I present to you: Monday Manners, a series of (often hilarious) excerpts revealing the worries and obsessions of 1922 folk.

To start off, here’s what our intrepid guide to manners, Lillian Eichler, says about the importance of manners for climbing the social ladder:

The secret of social success

Every man who so wishes may become a gentleman, and every woman may become a lady in every sense of the word. It requires only the cultivation of those qualities outlined above. And it is here that the use of etiquette lies, that the importance of good manners is most strikingly portrayed.

Etiquette teaches you how to be gentle, calm, patient. It tells you how to be at ease among strangers. It tells you how to cultivate grace, poise, self-confidence. Not only does it tell you how, but it gives you poise and self-confidence. By teaching you the right thing to do at the right time, it eliminates all possibility of mistakes—and hence all embarrassment and awkwardness vanish.

The existence of these fixed social laws, these little rules of etiquette, makes it easy for the man and woman who have not been bred in the best society, to master the knowledge which will enable them to enter that society and mingle with the most highly cultivated people without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. It tears down the barriers between the wealthy and the poor, between the educated and the ignorant. By knowing what to do and say and write and wear on all occasions, under all conditions, any man or woman can enter any society and mingle with any people.

Powerful stuff, huh? Keep it tuned to this station next week, and find out what real gentlemen and ladies are like.

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