Sunday, January 27, 2008

The New Nobility

The etiquette strictures of the post–Civil War era began to loosen after the turn of the century in the following ways:
  • The pace of life began to mitigate against extravagantly ceremonious occasions.
  • The mere possession of wealth lost some of its glamour and even the “best” families began to eschew ostentation.
  • Women became more socially and financially independent and found new interests (particularly sports) apart from the society scene.
The years after World War I saw an even more pronounced drift away from what began to be considered, somewhat contemptuously, Victorian manners. The movies, the automobile, the radio, and the forbidden-fruit syndrome that accompanied Prohibition had a profound influence on behavior, and finally the Great Depression seemed to wash away the last of the old ways.
Although the American thirst for advice on behavior remained unquenched, its form was altered greatly. Emily Post and, to a greater extent, Lillian Eichler gave advice that was practical, straightforward, and much less doctrinaire and accusatory than the pronouncements of the etiquette doyennes of previous eras.
There seemed to be a national consensus that appropriate behavior could be simpler, more spontaneous, and more genuine.

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