“Reputation is gained by many Actions, and lost by one,” cautions George Fisher in his 1794, The American Young Man’s Companion. In the age of Twitter, this might sound like a lofty warning, but in 1915 a proper lady’s image could be damaged by wearing earrings which were considered a “relic of barbarism”.

Here’s a look at books from the past describing how desirable behavior could be cultivated through education, exhibited through outward appearances, and expressed in socially acceptable ways.

Learn Your Lessons
Today’s feast of cartoons with messages are merely a modern spin on teaching behavior and moral standards to young people. The very act of penmanship involved the repeated copying of cautionary sayings, advice, and standard phrases. The following flow alphabetically in Fisher’s manual: “All idle lazy Boys, do obstruct their Parents Joys” “Honour that is true, is lawful to pursue” “Zeal in a good Cause, will merit applause”. The Young Clerk’s Assistant advises: “Virgins should value nothing less than Titles, Figures, Shape and Dress.”

Not even physical exertion was without its lesson as some of the lyrics to one of the Calisthenic Songs suggest: “Now we little children assembled in school, Must all be attentive to order and rule.”

How to Arrange the Hair

Arrange Hair ExcerptDress Appropriately
According to Duffey’s, The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Etiquette, it is “duty of every woman to make herself as beautiful as possible” and that we owe the “duty of looking well” to others as well as to ourselves. The Ladies’Committee of Almacks, [sic] however, proclaims that the hair is the most important of all female decorations. In 1857, this group devoted an entire small book to their “cheval de bataille” or favorite subject so that there will no longer be any excuse for “monstrous mistakes” such as the “Pyramidal” or “Door-knocker” styles.

Mind Your Manners
Beyond the traditional reprimands to avoid swearing, spitting, and other vulgar habits, it is keen to remember that in 1877, “absent-mindedness is a sin against good manners” and that to compliment another too profusely can be unendurable. In response to an advertisement in Godey’s Magazine for a wife, a single lady responds that the gentleman may find a wife who is lively and gay “if his manners match his wit”.

The exhibit is located on the 3rd floor of DePaul University’s Richardson Library and runs from Jan. 2, 2012 until March 20, 2012. For more information regarding titles in our Etiquette and Education subject collections, please contact browse our guides or contact Special Collections and Archives at: archives@depaul.edu

Calisthenic Songs Illustrated: A New and Attractive Collection of Calisthenic Songs Beautifully Illustrated, for the use of both Public and Private Schools, Containing Songs for Diversion, Devotion and Recreation / by Flora T. Parsons. New York : Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor, c1869. Call Number: SPC. 782.42159 C154p1869

Cooke, Maud C.  Social Etiquette, or, Manners and Customs of Polite Society.  Chicago: Monroe Book Company, 1896. Call Number: SpC. 395 C7733 1896

Duffey, Eliza Bisbee. The Ladies and Gentlemens Etiquette: A Complete Manual of the Manners and Dress of American Society. Containing Forms of Letters, Invitations, Acceptances and Regrets. With a copious index. Philadelphia:  Porter and Coates, [c1877]. Call Number: SpC. 395 D856L 1877

Farnsworth, Eva Olney. The Art & Ethics of Dress: As Related to Efficiency and Economy / illustrations by Audley B. Wells. San Francisco, Cal., : P. Elder & Company c1915. Call Number: SpC. 646.3 F236a1915

Fisher, George. The Instructor, or, American Young Man’s Best Companion: Containing, Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetick, in an Easier Way Than any yet Published …  Walpole, Newhampshire : Isaiah Thomas and David Carlisle, 1794. Call Nubmber: SpC. 031.02 F533i1794

Godey’s Magazine. New York [etc.] : The Godey Company [etc.], 1830-1898. Call Number: SpC. 391.005 G582g
The Young Clerk’s Assistant; or, Penmanship Made Easy, Instructive, and Entertaining, Being a Compleat Pocket-Copy-Book, Curiously Engrav’d For the Practice of Youth in the Art of Writing. London: Printed for Richard Ware, 1733. Call Number: SpC. 652.1 Y681r 1733

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