Nursing Your Regency Infant

Two blog posts in two days! Can you tell that I’m procrastinating? I found this little article “Management of Children” in the British journal The Housekeeper’s Magazine, and Family Economist published in 1826.

I’ve included pictures of feeding bottles and a breast pump found at the British Science Museum. Do browse their fascinating collection of Nursing and Hospital Furnishings.

The paintings are by French artist Marguerite Gerard.

Nothing is more absurd than dosing the infant with medicine of any kind immediately on its entrance into the world. It is of importance to know, that in this early stage of infancy, drugs are wholly unnecessary, and often very improper, the first milk of the mother, which the child should be placed at the breast to obtain as soon as she has recovered by rest from the immediate fatigue of her labour, or a little thin gruel, with a small quantity of soft sugar, being all that is necessary to promote those evacuations which nature herself, in general, most faithfully ejects; the early application of the infant to the breast will besides cause the milk to be much sooner supplied, and more certainly prevent puerperal fever and inflammations of the breast, than any other method which can be adopted.

The health of women while suckling their infants is, in general, better than at any other period of their lives. But should their functions, from any cause whatever, be disturbed, the quantity or quality of the milk, or both, will be often very materially affected. The quality of the food and drink taken by the mother will also very materially affect her child; so also will medicine. Thus if a nurse eat garlick, her milk will become impregnated with it, and disagreeable. If she indulge too freely in wine or porter, the infant will become sick; and if a nurse take jalap or any other opening medicine, the infant will be purged; and such as are affected with gripes or pains in the bowels, are often cured by giving the nurse a larger proportion of animal food. The milk of a suckling woman may also be altered by the affections of the mind, such as anger, fear, grief, or anxiety.  In mothers as well as nurses, a good temper and an even mind are grand requisites in promoting the health of the child. The food of nurses should not be different from their ordinary food; but they in general eat and drink considerably more, and with greater relish, than at other times, which of course should not be denied to them.

During the first month, the infant should, if possible, receive its nourishment from its mother’s breast, not only as being beneficial to the infant, but also, by its discharge, to the mother herself. If, however, from peculiar circumstances, the mother cannot suckle her own child, a young woman should be chosen to do so whose milk is nearly of the same age as that of the mother. But no trifling consideration ought to induce any mother to abandon her offspring to be suckled by another, provided she has health and strength to do it herself.

An infant should be early accustomed to feeding, as it will thereby suffer less inconvenience on being weaned. It should be fed two or three times a day, and, if not suckled during the night, which some medical writers think is not necessary, it may require feeding once or twice during that period. We cannot, however, avoid remarking, that suckling during the night, at least for the first two or three months, is preferable to feeding.

An infant in health, and which has been brought to feed regularly, may be safely, and is best weaned at seven or eight months: it should seldom, if ever, be suckled more than ten. The period of weaning, however, must be regulated by the strength of the mother, as well as that of the infant. It should never be taken from the breast, if possible, before the end of the fourth month.

Should an infant, from accidental or other circumstances, be deprived of its food from the breast of its mother or nurse, a substitute for it must be supplied, and the closer we can imitate nature the better.  For this purpose, a sucking bottle should be procured, the mouth of which should be as wide as that of an eight-ounce phial, which is to be stopped with sponge covered with gauze, and made in size and shape to resemble a nipple. The following preparation is most suitable, as it comes nearest to the mother’s milk, and may be sucked through the sponge: On a small quantity of a crumb of bread, pour some boiling water; after soaking for about ten minutes, press it, and throw away the water, the bread by this process being purified from alum or other saline substances which it might contain; then boil it in as much soft water as will dissolve the bread, and make a decoction of the consistence of barley-water; to a sufficient quantity of this decoction, about a fifth part of fresh cows’ milk is to be added, and sweetened with the best soft sugar. After each feeding, the bottle and sponge should be carefully rinsed with warm water. As the infant advances in growth, the proportion of milk is to be increased, and that of the sugar lessened, until the stomach is able to digest simple bread and milk, Indian arrow-root, &c. In this way very fine children have been reared.

Blue and white transfer printed boat shaped infant’s feeding bottle, Crellin 33, English, 1801-1891.


Glass infant’s feeding bottle, boat-shaped.
Breast pump, late 18th or early 19th century. Front view.

A Young Victorian Mother Writes a Love Story

Last evening I stumbled across this little piece from Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine, volume 41, published in 1873. I don’t know if the story is a true account, but it made me rather sad for multiple reasons.


My First Literary Venture

by Rosella Rick

I HAD always wanted to do something to help my husband; he was poor, and his health was not good, and he had a family of four to provide for. I could churn and sell the batter for a good price, and I could raise chickens, and sell eggs; and the product of the garden was no small item, but I didn’t like slavish toil, I didn’t want a freckled face and sunburnt hands and a stout waist.

It was easy work to write stories, purely; anybody could do that; love stories were always read with a relish, and, judging from the abundance of them, they were marketable enough.

I consulted no one. I wanted to surprise my husband some day; I wanted lie should find himself famous as the husband of the distinguished Mrs.—-, the new star that had arisen in the literary horizon. My children were very troublesome, the baby was teething; I found that I could not write love-stories and hear them crying, and fighting, and falling and bumping their heads. I baked a jar full of sugar cakes, and made some molasses taffy, and drove a spike in the joists overhead and put up a swing on it, and did everything I could one day that I might commence my literary career on the following morning. I likewise sent to a neighbor’s to borrow her little poor house girl to tend the children and be company for them.

In the morning I went to my bedroom upstairs to begin my work. I had laid the plot of my story in the night, while my husband was snoring obliviously by my side.

My plot was beautiful. Gustavus Le Claire, a runner for a city firm, was to fall in love with a lovely girl, an orphan, Melissa Medina, the niece of the landlady at the village hotel, where Gustavus had stopped for a few days. His friends were to oppose the marriage, and use all their influence against the proposed union. She was to pine, and be sent away to her grandmother’s; letters were to be intercepted; he was to cut his throat with a razor, and be discovered in time to be restored to life. A tobacco firm were to employ him as a runner on a new route that would carry him away in an opposite direction. In time he was to forget her and marry another, and, at the close of a long life, fall into abject poverty, and be assisted by his former sweetheart. He was to recognize her by a mark on her wrist, and she was to recognize him by a lock of red hair that grew on the side of his head. He was to die in her sheltering arms, murmuring: “Thine—thine only!”

I knew if I could grow inspired while writing, that this plot would work a thrilling tale, and my humble name would become a household word in my native land, and my fertile pen would be a resource of pleasure and of profit.

I wrote two days, stopping to cook the three meals, rising early, churning after the family were abed, baking biscuit to save baking bread, spreading up the beds instead of making them, sweeping in a temporary manner, and cuffing the children instead of coaxing them. All this I did with my brows drawn in a thoughtful mood, and my pencil sticking above my ear.

The third day I wrote, Harry, my baby fell downstairs and struck his forehead on the rough stone wall, and cut a gash through to the skull. An Italian was in the kitchen with his little shoulder-stand full of gay nick-nacks, and Harry was hurrying down to see them. After he had cried himself to sleep, and I had recovered from my faint and my fright, I resumed the pen.

When he awoke he was unusually fretful, and I tried to keep him with me. I gave him my slippers, and my comb and brush, and a little silver bell, and everything that could possibly amuse him for even a minute at a time.

Just when my story was reaching its acme, the baby wearied of all things, and kicked and cried most piteously.

How could I come down from the delectable heights of fancy and tend a mortal child, when the children of my brain, my immortal darlings, clamored for my undivided attention? The thought was mortifying, aggravating—how could I soar with all these human ties tugging at my heart?

I looked all around me to devise a newer plaything. A small mirror seemed to recommend itself. I held it before the baby, and he laughed aloud, while the tears like dewdrops hung on his long lashes.

“See a baby!” I said, “see a baby!” I sat him down on the floor and placed the mirror before him, so he could bend forward and look into it. He shouted in his rare glee. I resumed my story, occasionally peeping over my shoulder and saying: “He sees a baby! sees a baby I”

After while I looked round, thankful I had found a plaything that pleased Harry, and I discovered him very deliberately sitting on it, peeping over first at one side then the other, to see how nearly it adapted itself to his ample proportions The glass was broken into a thousand pieces, and he sat there as delighted as a boy who has mounted a fractious colt for the first time. He crowed, he tried to tip up his heels into the air, and he threw back his head as though he was tossing a flowing mane. I really believe the little human baby, with a touch of the bully spirit that often comes with mature growth, thought he had that other fellow down, and that after some fashion or manner he was a little man victorious.

At last, after much tribulation, my tender lovestory was written, revised, copied, punctuated carefully, put into an envelope without rolling or folding and sent off. Because it was a first attempt, I affixed to it the modest price of fifteen dollars.

Elated by the success that I was sure would attend my first effort, I wrote another story, called “My Grandmother’s Prophecy.” The grandmother was a superstitious old lady, and, following the bent of her whims, she prophesied over every event that transpired. One of her granddaughters came suddenly upon a nest of eggs under the lilacs, and the old lady said that it was an infallible sign that she would receive an offer of marriage unexpectedly. The offer did come in a very droll, dry, business-like way from a renovated old widower in a blue silk cravat. I thought I made a splendid story of the incident.

Oh, I seemed to feel the cool chaplet of fame on my heated brow, and to hear the chink of the yellow twenty dollar gold pieces in my humble little black velvet wallet.

Life was very sweet to me in those summer mornings and noons and nights. I waited patiently until I thought it was time for replies to come, and for the newspapers to shout out the name of the new star, already in the zenith.

Hadn’t I for years felt the burning desire to write! Hadn’t I felt that I was one of the anointed I—one of the few set apart!

I don’t like to be laughed at, and yet I always enjoy a joke on myself as well as on others. I’ll put my hands over my face while I tell it.

A peddler came along with a fine assortment of Irish poplins. Now, I always had a weakness for lustrous poplin. I am tall and slender. I knew a dress of dark-green poplin would fall in such magnificent folds from my waist down to my feet, that I would be the admiration of all Lenox and vicinity.

I had felt a desire to help my poor husband. Fudge! Wouldn’t that be inverting the order of marriage?—wouldn’t that be making of myself the strong oak, and of him the clinging vine? I, a free woman, able to earn my own living by my pen, would none of this.

I bought the beautiful pattern, and promised to pay for it as soon as I heard from “my publishers.” I said this with a great deal of zest and satisfaction.

The dress was twenty dollars. I could pay for that easily, and have money left—and how nice that would be. Not another woman in Lenox could such things as that, they were all burdens to their husbands. They leaned on them.

Well, well, no Italian sunsets were finer than ours in Lenox; no sunrise in the tropics softer, or mellower, or more delightful.

In a few weeks came a bulky envelope, accompanied by a letter. My beautiful love-story of “Augustus the Runner, and Melissa Melsina the Orphan” came back to me, and the letter read:

“Madam : We shall not be able to use your story of ‘Augustus the True Hero.’ We return you the MSS., etc., etc.”

Why wouldn’t they use it? Perhaps an ill-disposed clerk had sent it back to me; or, maybe, they had organized rings, and favored no new contributors. I wrote back immediately, and asked why they refused it I wanted they should point out the errors, and if it was not worth fifteen dollars, perhaps they would pay me twelve for it; and, rather than miss a sale, and because it was my first attempt, I was willing to sell it for ten dollars. I didn’t mind making a little sacrifice. I could afford to be generous. I received no reply. I wrote again with a like result.

I hoped a better fate for the ‘Grandmother’s Prophecy;” but though I waited long and patiently, I never heard a word from it. I presume it was consigned to the waste-basket.

The days were not so beautiful then. My star of hope had gone down—the sunsets and sunrises were very common. I wondered wherein had ever lain the burnished glow and the tender shimmer on the hazy hill-tops, and the soft, caressing touch that seemed to come to my glad face in the twilight breeze that dallied on the billowy meadows, and shook the over ripe roses until their pale petals fell like fragrant flakes at my feet.

I took up the burden of life again; it was a little heavy at first; its tasks were often performed in tears, that fell freely when I thought of my great mistake. Though I shrank from facing the truth, I could call my error by no other name.

How I hated the fight of my green poplin dress! It brought up such painful memories; and then it did not harmonize with my shawl or hat or veil. What a mountain loomed up before me when I tried to pay for it myself.

I sold butter and eggs, chickens and berries and cucumbers and radishes, and took in washings and boarded the music-teacher, but I couldn’t pay for it all myself, and I couldn’t trade it off. It haunted me like the dead body haunted Eugene Aram.

At last, in a fit of despair. I cried right out one night, and owned up to the whole thing. I was very miserable; I hid my face in Joey’s bosom, and with sobs that shook me like an ague fit, I confessed the whole truth. It was very humiliating, but Joey said it only made me dearer to him than ever, and that I must never play the strong oak again, and keep secrets from him anymore. He said the public should never have the opportunity of criticizing his dear wife’s pretty stories, that they couldn’t appreciate them; a greedy gourmand of a public never should tear from the sanctity of home her precious name, and flaunt it in the papers.

He paid for the ugly green dress willingly, and the tender love-light in his blue eyes, as he did it, was worth more to me than all the huzzas and noisy plaudits of a hollow-hearted public.

I never recovered from the humiliation. My soul is sick yet, when I think of the bright dreams that for a few months dazzled my eyes, and bewildered and biased my better judgment.

Note: I couldn’t find much information on Rosella Rick. However, she did have stories published in other volumes of Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine.


Cost of Living in the Regency Era

The following lists of incomes and expenditures can be found in A New System of Practical Domestic Economy, published in London in 1823. The book contains more estimates than the ones below. I removed the estimates that I felt were redundant thus upsetting the numbering sequences. Sorry.

The estimates increase per annum income.   The final list is for an income of 5,000 pounds per year. That was about Mr. Bingley’s income in Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennet’s was 2,000 pounds.

*I created a new and exciting (not!) page explaining British money and coins in the Regency and Victorian era




“Respecting Bread, which is the principal‘article of consumption in families of the middle classes, we have founded our calculation on the present price of sound household bread in London—namely, from seven farthings to two pence farthing per pound: but this is more than the average price in the country. There, too, barley, rye, or oaten bread, is generally eaten in such families, many of whom, also, bake their own bread, which is a considerable saving; so that our Estimates may be too high for the country, which, however, is an error on the right side. But respecting this and other articles of food, we have made it a point to be as correct, and as generally applicable, as it is possible to be.

As to the quantity of bread stated, we consider it as fully sufficient The two adults cannot eat more than six pounds each, per week, and we consider the three children as consuming as much as their parents—that is, six pounds more; but should ‘ not this, in any case, be enough, as the income will not afford more, recourse must be had to potatoes, rice, oatmeal, and other wholesome and nutritive articles of food for the children, which will save bread, and should be constantly given to them, as proper and economical substitutes for this and other expensive articles of diet.

It is better to buy large loaves than small ones ; and the loaf should not be out till it is one day old.

The quantity of butcher’s meat given here is very low, and it is necessarily so; but at all places on or near the sea-coast, fish may be bought at a cheap rate, to supply its place. Even in London, very frequently, mackerel, herrings, cod, flounders, and other kinds of fish, may be had cheaper than butcher’s meat. The price of good beef and mutton is now, from five pence to seven pence per pound, for common joints,—the average is about six pence; inferior parts cheaper.”


“The prudent housewife will readily learn to substitute articles of comparatively less prices for those of greater expense, which, notwithstanding, will be no less wholesome and nourishing, especially for children. Thus, potatoes, rice, Ste. as already observed, will save bread. Treacle is a good substitute for butter, or sugar, for children, and milk and water instead of tea or beer. Oatmeal-gruel, or the different kinds of porridge, make a good breakfast for them; and Scotch barley, stewed in the liquor of boiled meat, will, occasionally, make them an excellent meal. Fish may, sometimes, advantageously supply the place of butcher’s meat. Potatoes are the cheapest and best of all vegetables that can be eaten in a numerous family. Peat, turf, coke, or wood, in local situations, will save coals. Oil saves candles; and so of many other articles, that will readily be suggested to the mind of an economical manager.”

“It is evident that though the wages of an assistant or journeyman-tradesman be nominally 5s, 6d. a day or 33s. a week..”

“A Clerk or other person, with such a family, having an income of eighty guineas a year, by acquiring an habit of living regularly, might live comfortably.”




“He possesses a permanent income of 125l. a year; and he rents a neat little house, of six rooms, in the vicinity of London, the rent of which, with the taxes, &c. cost him about 33l. 10s. a year; out of which he receives 20l. a year for the first floor, and the occasional use of the kitchen; he consequently, stands at about 13l. 10s. a year, or 5s. 3d. a week, for rent. His wife, knowing that a small income will not admit of irregularity or inadvertency, purchases all the unperishable articles of necessary consumption, in quantities, at wholesale prices, and as she knows how long they ought to last, she manages them accordingly. Candles and soap are laid in, for the year, in the summer time, when cheapest; and these articles, when kept in a. dry place, become hard, fitter for use, and go farther. By getting a neighbour to join in the purchase of coals, they lay in their year’s stock, consisting of a room, or five chaldrons, about August, when they are cheapest; and thus they get the ingrain, or three sacks over, upon that quantity. Half a ton of potatoes laid in in October, and kept in a dry place, properly secured from the frost, serve the family till potatoes come next year. Traces of onions are bought in October, and hung up in a dry place to serve the winter. A firkin of good table-beer, at 6s. serves the family, as their beverage at meals, for about a month, besides which the parents occasionally drink porter. All the lesser branches of domestic arrangement are managed with the same steady view to regularity and economy; and thus they live happily, and are much respected.”















The Servants’ Quarters at an American Country Estate in 1904

I have a fascination with servant life.  I’m more interested in the stories of the footmen and scullery maids than the mistresses and masters.  As I was trying to move my Google Books library to Pinterest, I ran across this article in a 1904 issue of Harper’s Bazaar about the household staff of Harbor Hill, an old mansion on Long Island that was demolished in 1947. In its prime, it was all Edith Wharton’s New York – glittery, fascinating, and twisted.


Harbor Hill 1922


The Servant Question at Harbor Hill 
by Grace A. Fowler

THE queen of a perfectly ordered house hold is, comparatively speaking, as great a diplomat as a ruler of nations. There is an atmosphere about “Harbor Hill,” the charming country estate of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Mackay at Roslyn, Long Island, which bespeaks the gentlewoman, and a harmonious responsiveness about its corps of servants which argues well for executive system in the home. Whether for selfish reasons or otherwise, the wise homemaker is she who inspires in her servants an anxiety to please. It cannot be denied that happiness is a potent stimulus to endeavor, and perhaps the luxurious home life of the Harbor Hill servants accounts in a measure for the admirable order which is shown in every detail of this perfect home.

Certainly there is a bigness about the servant problem on these large estates of the very rich that is hard for the average housewife to grasp. It is not the kind of bigness, however, that is ordinarily suggested by the modern servant problem.  In a small household conducted on the basis of economy the problem is that of securing one servant capable of performing all duties; in the household of the ‘very rich, which may, to be sure, be equally small in so far as number in family is concerned, the problem consists in properly apportioning one duty to each servant. When the master and mistress of Harbor Hill are lunching or dining alone a butler and three footmen in livery are always on duty to minister to their needs. When occasion demands, there are others equally well trained who assist in serving guests. Besides serving in the dining-room the head butler is in charge of the wine-cellar and the Madeira-room, and buys all the wines that are used. He also buys the fruits for the table and arranges the flowers, which he does most tastefully. Aside from these specified duties, the butler and footmen have little to do, and the time between the luncheon hour and dinner they are free to spend as they like. On an estate covering 800 or more acres, the vastness of the wonderful “servant system,” with its divisions and subdivisions, seems almost as great as that of some mighty railroad or other corporation. The domestic corps is practically managed by the housekeeper, and comprises some twenty-five or more workers. This is only a small portion of the laborers of Harbor Hill. The stables and the grounds are equally important departments, where the army of workers is much larger.

parlor The nursery, of course, is a delightful little department of its own—so near the heart of the mistress of Harbor Hill that one might perhaps call it her own department, though in reality it is in charge of a skilled trained nurse. Unquestionably in planning Harbor Hill every device that brains and consideration could suggest, and money carry out, has been followed up in the housing of its workers, and the home life of the servants here stands out in most favorable contrast to that of servants in similar homes in England and France, where the crowded conditions are certainly a menace to all moral and physical development. Necessarily the housekeeper is a woman of intelligence, tact, and refinement and wonderful executive ability. It is she, and not the mistress of the house, who has the tremendous responsibility of employing and discharging and watching over this corps of domestics. She is supposed to know just what each one is doing at each hour of the day. She does all this and finds time to spend many hours in her well-appointed suite in the servants’ wing. Her living room, charmingly homelike, is furnished in rose pink, It is in the front of the house, with a fascinating outlook over the beautifully kept grounds. Bowls of cut flowers and many plants make this room resemble a conservatory. In a pretty cage hanging in the window is a song-bird, and on a fur rug in a sunny corner a fuzzy little ball of a dog is curled.


Adjoining the housekeeper’s bedroom is a bath-room for her individual use, with embroidered towels and all the dainty toilet accessories that are so enjoyed by the woman of refinement. At a completely equipped desk in her sitting-room she spends certain hours each day, sometimes writing twenty-five or thirty checks at a time. Besides paying the wages of all servants in her department, she pays all bills for the house and for the thousand and one household articles that she finds it necessary to purchase. To go over the house and supply every bath-room with dainty soaps and toilet waters, sponges, brushes, and other things which are needed, is in itself no small undertaking. She notes carefully the inevitable wear and tear, supervises repairers, and interviews painters, decorators, and plumbers. It is in midsummer, when the family is away and the house is practically closed for the season, that she is busy replacing, replenishing, and getting things in readiness for the opening of the season in September. So ably is she assisted in this work by her corps of maids that she accomplishes all this and finds time for relaxation.

Each week she spends hours in the calm lined linen-room of Harbor Hill, and the treasures of linen there are something to dream of. The room itself is so compactly ceiled with cedar that it looks as if it had been hollowed out of one large block of this fragrant wood. On one side from floor to ceiling is the magnificent cedar press, divided off into shelves and compartments. On the other side of the room is a long, low, cedar table with white marble top. When the laundered linen is brought in in eight or ten huge hampers, it is laid out and assorted on this table, until it can be counted and looked over by the housekeeper. On top of each pile as it is laid in the linenpress is placed a sachet of delicate odor. Every piece of linen here was ordered from Paris by the mistress of the house. Here are dozens and dozens of hemstitched and embroidered table-cloths and napkins of heavy damask, and matchless centrepieces and covers for table and dressing-table. The hand-embroidered sheets, bedspreads, and pillow-cases for the mistress’s boudoir seen here are perhaps the handsomest to be found in America. While one is almost awed by the amount of money the contents of this linen room represent, the exquisite tastefulness shown in the selection of it is equally impressive.

linen The Harbor Hill laundry is used exclusively for the servants. It is large and light, and splendidly equipped with every modern convenience for washing, ironing, and drying. Basins and tubs are of marble. There are wonderful electric dryers, and numberless electric irons of various sizes. The household linen for the servants’ rooms is kept in a separate linen-room. When one has examined the treasures stored here, some idea of what it means to be custodian of the linen-room is grasped. At the end of the day’s work the housekeeper is quite ready to jump into an open surrey which is at her disposal, and drive over to the village or through the picturesque grounds of Harbor Hill.

With the exception of the rooms of the valet and maid, all the house servants’ rooms are located in a wing sufficiently removed from the other portion of the house to cut off entirely the sound of any hilarity they might care to indulge in. The bedrooms of the butler, chef, maids, and footmen are similarly furnished in white-enamelled furniture and dainty muslin curtains, little personal touches giving them individuality. Every room has outside windows, with an attractive outlook, abundant sunshine, and a fresh breeze from the bay sweeping through the corridors. Each room is lighted with electricity, and is steam-heated. These healthful surroundings, no doubt, account in a measure for the clear complexions, happy spirits, and energetic movements of the corps of Harbor Hill servants.

The first room in the servants’ wing is the butler’s den, an ornately furnished bachelor’s room. Undoubtedly the butler of Harbor Hill is fond of art, for every available space of the side walls is hung with pictures of every description. Over his desk is a picture of the master of the house, and photographs of the mistress of Harbor Hill and the children are conspicuous among the collection. On the couch are numberless embroidered cushions-golf-girl, and summer-girl cushions —and on the Walls are several modish brass motto-plaques. The sentiment expressed by one of these is a fair example of life’s little ironies, and leads one to wonder if, in spite of all the luxuries and comforts of his surroundings, his thoughts do not turn longingly now and then to the Old Country. It reads:

A little health, a little wealth, A little ‘house and freedom;

With some for friends for certain ends But little cause to need ‘em.


Among the occupants of the servants’ hall is more than one musician, and one of the footmen is an enthusiastic camera fiend. He is never happier than when taking flashlight groups of the servants, or pretty views here and there around the grounds. When off duty they spend their evenings congenially on the place. Their hours for outside recreation are arranged by the housekeeper. Each servant has certain days for going to New York, if desired, and it is not unusual for some of the upper servants to have occasional vacations in summer when the master and mistress are abroad.

Mrs. Mackay’s maid has a room apart from the servants’ wing, as she must be conveniently near her mistress at all hours of the day and night. Her room is larger than those of the other maids. Here, as elsewhere in the servants’ rooms, the furnishings are in white, with soft green velvet carpet. The dresser is strewn with silver toilet articles, and the window-ledge is abloom with growing plants. Besides a wide closet for her own use, there is one where her mistress’s gowns may be hung while in the process of being brushed or mended. To all outward appearances, in the way of comforts, certainly there is nothing left to be desired here. There are several completely furnished rooms for maids and valets near the guests’ chambers, for the maids or valets of guests who may bring them or wish them while making a visit at Harbor Hill.

The upper servants’ dining-room is small compared with the size of the second servants’ dining-hall, and is on the same floor with the dining-room proper. It is a delightfully cheerful and pretty room. The walls are hung with pictures, and palms and cut flowers give it a homelike atmosphere. In this room only the upper servants have their meals, which, with the exception of a fancy dish or so, are exactly the same as those of their master and mistress.In this dining room the housekeeper, the butler, the chef, valet, and ladies’ maid are served. The maids or valets of guests are also entertained here, and any strangers not guests of the house who happen to be on hand at meal-times. The housekeeper presides at one end of the table, and the chef does the carving.

upperdiiningroom The lower servants’ hall is in the basement. It is an immense, light, airy room, with a table reaching from end to end. Seventeen servants have their meals here. The table is covered with spotless linen and ornamented with pots of maidenhair fern. On the walls are hung a set of type-written regulations, signed by the mistress of the house, restricting in no wise the hospitality, but regulating the order in which it shall be dispensed. The meals are served promptly at stated hours: breakfast at seven, luncheon at twelve, and dinner at six. No servant is expected to be at table longer than a half-hour. It is specified here that the joint shall be set before the head footman, who shall do the carving, and that the parlor maid shall pour the tea and coffee. Another instance showing the thoughtfulness of the mistress of Harbor Hill for her servants is in allowing tea to be served for those who desire it, in the lower servants’ dining-hall, between the hours of three and four in the afternoon. Certainly afternoon tea for the servants is not an established custom in all American homes.

dininghall It is the chef who plans the meals and buys the food for the Harbor Hill household, family, guests, and workmen. Menus for each day are submitted to the mistress of the house each morning, who adds to them or crosses out what she does not wish, and approves them. For ordinary occasions the chef writes the menus, using for the purpose plain white cards, engraved with a lavender orchid, containing Mrs. Mackay’s monogram in gold. The chef is assisted in the kitchen by a second chef, four cooks, and several kitchen maids. Every foot of the immense Dutch kitchen is covered with spotless white tiling, and the hood over the broad range is also of white. The utensils, which shine like gold in the sunlight, are of heavy copper. Tops of tables for pastry and other uses are of white marble, and all zincs are white enameled. There is a separate pastry-room adjoining the kitchen, with many marvelous contrivances for rolling and cutting. Such order prevails here that even the handles of the utensils on the shelves are placed at uniform angles. The chef is the head of the kitchen department, and servants employed here are under his direct supervision.


The responsibility of caring for the priceless silver of Harbor Hill rests with the head footman. The large vault in which it is kept is built after the style of the regulation vault used in banks. Inside it is shelved all around. It would be difficult to imagine a larger or richer collection of silver than is to be seen here. There are rare old pieces of family silver, wedding and anniversary gifts, and pieces picked up in travel carrying with them sentiment and association which double their value. Much of this silver is used only on occasions. There are shelves filled with candelabra, and massive bowls used only in elaborate entertaining, and chests of small pieces that are seldom needed. The silver is cleaned and polished each day. The head footman and an assistant are generally engaged at this work from directly after breakfast until time to don their livery for luncheon. During the summer, when the family is abroad, just as draperies are taken down and covers put on the furniture wherever possible, the silver is put away in chamois and flannel bags; chests and cases are packed and locked, the big doors of the silver-vault are barred and bolted, and the “silver servant” has a few weeks of rest before the fall season of entertaining begins. The man-servant in charge of the Harbor Hill silver once filled this same position at Georgian Court, the Gould estate at Lakewood. It goes without saying that he is a past master in the art of silver-polishing.

silvervault Besides the Harbor Hill servants, there are the servants’ servants, forming all together a sort of “endless chain” of servants. There is a maid employed to look after and care for the rooms in the servants’ hall. It is her duty to see that they are freshly aired each day, and that all curtains, covers, and linen are spotless. She feels a great interest in having every room in good order before the housekeeper makes her round of inspection. There is another maid whose sole duty is to take charge of the second servants’ dining room. She sets the table and waits on the servants at meal-times. There are kitchen maids whose entire duty is to wait on the chefs and cooks. These under-servants are just as well cared for as the others, and their rooms in the servants’ wing most comfortable.

On the top floor at Harbor Hill, with a generous skylight admitting the sunlight at all hours of the day, is a sewing-room for the personal use of the servants. There is a machine here, and every convenience for sewing and cutting. This is one of the favorite gathering-places of the housemaids when off duty, and many afternoons enthusiastic little sewing-parties may be found here. They feel a pride in fashioning for themselves dainty lingerie and pretty aprons. The housekeeper encourages them in such work, and looks in on these little sewing-bees to smile her approval or offer helpful suggestions. In their white duck skirts and white shirt-waists which they are required to wear in summer, they are most refreshing in appearance. This outward bearing has great weight with the mistress of Harbor Hill. It is said that she has a definite dislike for anything suggestive of embonpoint in the servants around her, and this is one problem which confronts the housekeeper when engaging her maids.

sewing It is not to be wondered at that the mistress of Harbor Hill is loved by her entire colony of servants. It is she who has planned for their comfort. She exacts their best efforts, and she gets them. In spinning down the broad smooth drives of Harbor Hill, sweet with the fragrance of pines and bordered with beds of gorgeous-hued rhododendrons, one cannot but marvel at the glorious contradiction this little colony of servants is to the too-prevalent idea that servants are only downtrodden and tyrannized over in the homes of the wealthy. If there are any unhappy souls here, their unhappiness is not discernible to the outsider, who almost envies the gatekeeper of Harbor Hill in his picturesque little vine-covered lodge.