The ABCs of Bachelorhood, According To An 1897 Guide

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia Commons

Think the life of a bachelor is carefree and fun, full of nothing but poker nights and light beer? Walter Germain, an editor at Vogue, didn't believe that for one second, and in 1897 he wrote The Complete Bachelor, an etiquette guide for the single man.

These excerpts run the gamut from apt to archaic, so follow Germain's guidance cautiously, lest your 19th century manners be mistaken for 21st century creepiness.

American Butter Plates

"The butter plate of a few years ago was never seen outside of America, and is now destined to vanish from our tables. It is needless to add that butter is never served at dinner."

Bicycle Riding

"The present fashionable costume for cycling consists of tweed knickers and short lounge jacket of same material, brown leather or linen waistcoat, colored shirt, with white turn-down collar and club tie, golf stockings, and low-quartered tan wheeling shoes. A cap of tweed to match the suit completed the rig."


"Do not be a professed jester nor yet a punster. The clowns of society are not enviable beings."


"Constant combing with a fine-tooth comb is apt to irritate the scalp and provoke dandruff, which can be allayed by brushing, shampooing, and the use of borax."


"In these places a man keeps on his hat, his deportment being the same as he would observe in the street. But when the lift or elevator is fitted up as a drawing room, such as is used in hotels and other semi-public buildings, a man removes his hat when the other sex is of the number of its passengers."


"The nails of the toes should be kept as carefully as those of the hands. In summer a little talcum powder on the feet will prevent the odor of perspiration."


"Golf is the easiest game at which to cheat. However, apart from the moral effect of cheating at any game, if a man is dead to all sense of honor, he should be alive to the fear of being found out. Such discovery means social ostracism."


"Water is bad for the hair."


"Introductions are never made in the street or in public places of any kind, or in public conveyances, unless under exceptional circumstances."


"Jewelry is vulgar. The ring for a man is a seal of either green or red stone, or of plain burnished gold with the seal or monogram engraved upon it. It must be worn on the little finger."

Kernels, Corn

"Corn on the cob is a favorite at small informal dinners as a separate course. In polite society you must remove the grains of the corn with your fork or your knife and fork, and never eat it off the cob holding the end with your fingers."


"As the man who crosses his legs in the presence of ladies is absolutely impossible, so should be the individual who commits the same crime in a public conveyance."


"In the treatment of servants a man must exercise an iron will. He can be kind and considerate, but he must never descend to dispute with one, and certainly not swear at him. To be on familiar terms with one’s servants shows the cloven foot of vulgarity."

New York

"When speaking of the city of New York, do not refer to it as 'Gotham.' This shows the worst kind of provincialism and a vulgar spirit."


"Staring at or ogling women, standing at the entrances of theaters, churches, or other public buildings, stopping still and turning back to look at some one or something in the street, can be classified as offenses of which no gentleman can be guilty."


"It is only civil to bow when passing the Prince of Wales or members of the royal family."


"No gentleman quarrels with a billiard marker or golf caddie; still less should he dispute a point at cards. Better lose, especially when women are present, than enter a controversy."


"A man should send from time to time, according to the state of his finances, flowers, sweets, or other tokens. A sensible girl will not approve of costly gifts if you can not afford them."


"Avoid slang, especially that of the music halls or the comic (?) newspapers. You can well afford not to be 'up to date.'"


"Tipping is demoralizing, but it is an accepted custom."


"The umbrella is an instrument of peace rather than a weapon of war, and should not be carried as 'trailed arms,' but like the stick it should be grasped a short distance below the handle, and the latter held almost upright on a very slight perpendicular."


"There is, in these days of luxurious traveling, but little occasion to be flurried, and no excuse whatever for not being as well dressed as you are calm and self-possessed."


"Whistle all you like in your bedroom, but not in public."

X-Rated Language

"Under great provocation the expletive 'damn' is tolerated by society, but it should be whispered and not pronounced aloud."


"The proper entertainments for a yacht in harbor are luncheons, dinners, dances, and short cruises. None of these should be elaborate, the yacht itself—a thing of joy and beauty—being alone a great attraction."

Zipping Around Town In Your Carriage

"Drive with one hand and keep the whip hand free, except for its legitimate use in touching your horses now and then, and in saluting."