Dinner Parties Are Confusing: Emily Post's 1947 Guide to Table Manners

Learn how to avoid embarrassment at a dinner party in this archival film.

"Most people are at ease in their own homes," says a partygoer in this 1947 instructional film, "but often are confused at a dinner party." It could not be more true.

In this video from the Prelinger Archive, manners maven Emily Post (best known for the 1922 book Etiquette) tells you everything you need to know about ingesting food in a social setting. Small wisdoms imparted include how to arrange silver according to courses, how to use a spoon, how to butter bread, how to cut meat, how to eat spaghetti ("among the most difficult foods to handle gracefully"), how to blow your nose, and how not to blow cigarette smoke in your neighbor’s face.

One thing that was very new to me was the process of dipping your fingers in a water bowl, touching your mouth with your wet fingers, and then patting down both hands and mouth with a towel to dry them (watch at 5:15). Why don't we do this anymore? It is so charming and ridiculous.

For more films from the Prelinger Archive, visit http://www.archive.org/details/prelinger.

 

Katherine Wells is a senior video producer at The Atlantic. More

Wells was formerly a producer of WNYC's Freakonomics Radio and NPR's Science Friday.

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