Documents for Thinking about Culture and History


The Student Manual, by the Rev. John Todd, 1859 (excerpted from the digitized text at Making of America).

The Young Lady's Counsellor, by Daniel Wise, c. 1851 (excerpted from the digitized text at Making of America).

"At College," by Lesley Carlin McElhattan and Honore McDonough Ervin, c. 2002 (excerpted from the digitized text  at

Steve Charles, "Charm Aint Gonna Do You No Harm," Hanover College Triangle, 24 Sept. 1976 (from the digitized text at the Hanover Historical Texts Collection)

"The Art of the Interview," by Margaret Krantz, 2006 (excerpted from the digitized text at the Hanover College Career Center).

The following sources concern student behavior. If we assume that having a college education (or the nineteenth-century equivalent of it) makes one middle class, what do these sources tell us about middle class culture in the past 150 years? Recall that culture here means a set of values, behaviors, and ways of expressing oneself that are learned (consciously or unconsciously) and that provide a sense of group identity.

Consider the following questions as you prepare for our discussion. Why would people read a book, magazine article, or pamphlet like the ones below? What purpose do etiquette rules serve? If we want to understand the culture those rules grow out of, is the ideal behavior that these sources describe what is most significant, or the bad behavior the authors are responding to? Can you use these sources to make an argument about what people actually did?

(N.B. Paragraph numbers apply to these excerpts, not the original sources.)

The Student Manual, by the Rev. John Todd, 1859


{1}Hardly any class of men are so difficult to be reached as students, and the undertaking is hazardous; but no class of men are so open to conviction, so alive to manly principle, so susceptible of good impressions, when the effort to aid them is judicious and worthy of their attention. . . .

{2} The youth who goes from home, and takes his place among his fellows at a strange place, for the purpose of study, feels that it is all new to him: he is inexperienced, and knows not how to form the character which he intends to possess. He has no friend who has been over the ground, and knows it all, to whom he can go for advice, for encouragement, and aid. For such I have endeavored to write this book. . . .

Be simple and neat in your personal habits.

{3} It is frequently said, that "some pride is necessary among men, else they would not be decent in their appearance." If the remark means any thing, I suppose it means, that pride adds much and frequently to our personal appearance. But an angel, or any sinless spirit, I doubt not, would be a gentleman in appearance and dress, and that not from pride, but from a desire to be more useful and more happy. Nothing will do uniformly and certainly make you unpopular, as to have any habits that are slovenly.

{4} If you have ever learned to chew or smoke that Indian weed, called tobacco, I beg that you will at once drop all, cleanse your mouth, and never again defile yourself with it. . . . Let a company spend the evening in smoking the cigar, and what is the effect? They all awake, in the morning, restless, feverish, low-spirited, and dissatisfied. The bell grates upon the nerves worse than ever. The mouth is clammy and bitter, the stomach uneasy, and each one feels like pouring out the vital principle in yawning. The custom certainly seems most at home in a filthy ale-house or bar-room. . . .

{5} Let your dress be neat and simple. Do not feel that the body, which is merely a case for the soul, is of too great importance. At the same time, he who is a "good and true man," will be likely to keep the outside of his house in good order. . . . I would recommend that your clothes be of good quality,-- so good, that you constantly feel that they are worth preserving,-- and that you feel anxious to show our economy, by the length of time they last. . . .

{6} The question in relation to dress should be, not "How often can I have a new hat or coat?" but "How long can I wear it, and keep it handsome?" He who undertakes to be very nice and finical in his dress, will make but a poor student. He descends toward the animal world. . . .

{7} Pay particular attention to your teeth. By this I mean, simply, cleanse them with a soft brush and with water, in which a little common salt is dissolved, the last thing before you retire at night. This simple direction, faithfully followed, will ordinarily keep the teeth good till old age. I would urge this, because, if neglected, the following are the results:--Your breath will inevitably become offensive from defective teeth; your health will suffer for the want of good teeth to masticate the food; and last, though not least, you will early lose your teeth, and thus your public speaking will be irretrievably injured. These may seem small affairs now, but the habit of neglect will assuredly bring bitter repentance when it is too late to remedy the neglect.

Be particularly attentive to your behavior at table, for, from his situation, the student is peculiarly tempted to err there. There is an abruptness and bluntness in the manners of some professional men -- a complete treading under foot of all politeness. It may be attributed to the fact that they probably associated but little with refined society while students; and when they came out into the world, not knowing how to behave, they put on the blunt, hair-cloth mode, as if conscious of abilities which would suffer them to despise form and politeness. But a man is never more mistaken than when he supposes that any strength of mind or attainments will render his company agreeable, while his manners are rude. If you are accustomed to society, behave as you know how; if not accustomed to it, behave modestly, and you will behave well; so that, in all your intercourse with your fellow-students, always maintain the appearance and character of a gentleman, never that of a buffoon, or a sloven. And as your character now is, in these respects, so it is to be through life. I have known students whose wash-stand, and establishment, showed that they were slovens; and they were never known to improve in these respects. Keep your room and person, at all times, just as you would have it if you expected your mother or sister to make you a visit. Neatness is the word by which to designate all that is meant in regard to your personal appearance.

{9} Cleanliness is the first mark of politeness; it is agreeable to others, and is a very pleasant sensation to ourselves. . . . A clean, neat appearance is always a good letter of introduction. . . . .

Politeness and Subordination

{10} The students of a certain literary institution were assembled in commons at tea, at the commencement of a new academical year. A new class were thus, for the first time, brought to eat together. Their advancement in life and in education was such, that each one ought to have been a gentleman. As they sat down, one says to his friend at his right, "We shall soon see who is who." Presently a large, brawny hand came reaching along up the table, pushing past two or three, and, seizing the brown loaf, in a moment had peeled it of all its crusts, and had again retired with its booty to the owner. "Hold, there!" cries one, "to say nothing about politeness, where is the justice of such a seizure?" "Oh! I love the crust the best." "Very like; and perhaps others may also have the same taste." Here the conversation ended. But that unfortunate coup-de-main fixed an impression concerning the student which was never removed. He was at once marked as a man destitute of politeness, and justly, too. All believed that his heart was more to blame than his hand.

{11}If my readers have ever watched at the door of the stage-office, as the load of wearied passengers came out, one by one, they are aware that we almost instinctively and almost invariably judge of men by their first appearance-their address. They will notice, too, as they enter a stage for a journey, the inquiring glance goes eagerly round the circle, and at once, unhesitatingly, and almost intuitively, each one has made up his mind who are, and who are not, polite men in the company. In any company, a polite man will be selected as the one in whom all feel that they have a kind of friend and protector-one who will neither disregard their rights nor suffer others to do so. When among strangers, at the public table, the politest man is selected carve and distribute to the company, because all have confidence in the uprightness and goodness of his heart. And such a man always carries, in his very manners, what is better than a letter of commendation. The letter may deceive, or it may be seen but by few, while his manners will be seen by all. As politeness will not only add to your personal comfort, and comfort of all among whom you move, but will also greatly add to your usefulness, I feel that no apology is necessary for introducing the subject here. Indeed, I should feel that the book was very deficient without it.

The Young Lady's Counsellor, by Daniel Wise, c. 1851

{1}What is the sphere of woman? Home. The social Circle. What is her mission? To mould character,-- to fashion herself and others after the model character of Christ. What are her chief instruments for the accomplishment of her great work? The affections. Love is the wand by which she is to work moral transformation within her fairy circle. Gentleness, sweetness, loveliness and purity, are the elements of her power. Her place is not on life's great battle-fields. Man belongs there. It is for him to go forth armed for its conflicts and struggles, to do fierce battle with the hosts of evils that throng our earth and trample upon its blessings. But woman must abide in the peaceful sanctuaries of home, and walk in the noiseless vales of private life. There she must dwell, beside the secret springs of public virtue. There she must smile upon the father, the brother, the husband, when, returning like warriors from the fight, exhausted and covered with the dust of strife, they need to be refreshed by sweet waters drawn "from affection's spring," and cheered to renewed struggles by the music of her voice. There she must rear the Christian patriot and statesman, the self-denying philanthropist and the obedient citizen. There, in a word, she must from the character of the world, and determine the destiny of her race. How awful is her mission! What dread responsibility attaches to her work? Surely she is not degraded by filling such a sphere. Nor would she be elevated, if, forsaking it, she should go forth into the highways of society, and jostle with her brothers for the offices and honors of public life. Fame she might occasionally gain, but it would be at the price of her womanly influence . . .

{2} As the academy is often the first sphere in which a young lady is called to lean somewhat upon herself, a few counsels, to regulate her life at school, may not be improper. . . . Every woman should be capable of soaring to a certain height. She should be a woman on whose opened eyes and heart the flowery earth and beaming heavens strike, not in infinitesimals, but in large and towering masses; for whom the great whole is something more than a nursery-room or a ball-room. Her feelings should be at once tender and discriminating, and her heart at once pious and large.

{3} To impart this discrimination,--this intellectuality,--this largeness of soul,--this noble sympathy with the great and beautiful,--is the work of education; the aim of your literary instructors. They would save you from the ridiculous littleness of the lady whose mind had closer sympathy with the darning-needle and the scullery than with those great thoughts that stir the truly elevated mind. They would not create any distaste for domestic life,--that were both sinful and foolish; but they would so expand your intellect, that in the spare, lonely, or social hours of after-life, you may live in a world of pure and blessed thought,--be fit for the companionship of superior minds; and escape that awful ennui,--that loathsome sense of soul-weariness,--which is the torment of uncultivated women. . . .

{4} As to school manners, they are, or should be, the same as in any other circle of society. Ill manners in an academy or among its associations are as disgusting and blameworthy as in any other place. They do their possessor much harm, for the evil character thus acquired at school often cleaves to a lady through life. Cultivate good manners, therefore, with as much assiduity as if you moved in a court circle. Only feel kind toward all,--have a sincere wish to impart pleasure to all you meet; be modest, be unassuming, be humble, and you cannot fail being well-mannered; for the most refined courtesies are those which proceed from a sincere and gentle spirit. Such a spirit, animating your intercourse with others, will color all your conduct with propriety, and prepare you for association with teachers or scholars, rich or poor, village coteries or city assemblies. Be careful, therefore, of your dispositions, and they, with a little common sense, will regulate your manners far better than all the foppish dancing-masters in existence.

{5} I have already spoken of that necessity of exerting good or evil influence which is immutably linked to your existence, and of your duty to exert only a good influence over others. A benevolent spirit toward society, manifested in habitual acts of kind endeavor to benefit its members, is therefore, not merely a question of choice, but a fearful obligation resting upon you. You form a part of the human family, that you may diminish its miseries and add to its pleasures. By a smile, a tear, a word, or a gift, you may daily send a beam of gladness into the sad spirit of some forsaken child of sorrow. By making this a principal object of your daily life, you will answer the grand end of social life, and your efforts will flow back upon your own soul in swelling seas of perennial joy.

Steve Charles, "Charm Aint Gonna Do You No Harm," Hanover College Triangle, 24 Sept. 1976, 5.

{1}This Tuesday past, the "proud" members of the Hanover Community received the "charming" advice of Ms. Mignon Doran, founder of the Personal Development Institute at Morehead State University. Following an introduction by Mortan Board President, Stephanie Keitz, Ms. Doran expounded on the importance of "selling oneself" to people in order to "lift yourself above the crowd."  this may best be achieved, as Ms. Donan explained, by using the "weapons" of courtesy, charm, and good manners and by being conscious that everything you do can be used to influence people.

{2} The talk was received with mixed opinions by those persons present, some of whom were taking notes for Sociology classes and others who were simply attending for amusement.  Keeping in mind this reporter's prejudice, it appeared that some thought certain areas of the address were not expecially relevant to the human condition.

{3} The whole idea of selling oneself would seem to contradict the purpose of self identity and of sincere relationships with others.  In any case, the convocation may be viewed as a success in that it was the topic of many dinner conversations Tuesday night.

{4} In addition to her speech, Ms. Doran (who performed for $150, offered a workshop which was attended by 16 people.  There, hints were given as to the proper methods of making "good" impressions on the general public (for whatever that's worth).  Among the suggestions were the following given in handouts written by Ms. Doran herself:
  1. Brush your teeth and floss daily.
  2. "Wash your face."
  3. "Do eat breakfast."
  4. Assume you have body odor; "Always use a deodorant."
  5. "Are you wearing freshly laundered undies and hosiery?"
  6. "Don't eat onions for dinner unless the whole company does."
  7. "Ladies always wear gloves on the street."
  8. "Never boss people whom you don't employ."
  9. Appearing in Public without a shirt or in a T-shirt is a "No no if you know know."
  10. "Tweeze stray eyebrows."
  11. "Be cheerful.  Hide your worries, pains and disappointments under a smile."
{5} Whether any person on the Hanover campus could measure up to these standards of charm is not for me to judge; whether they should feel compelled to do so is each person's perogative.  But the convocation did bring up some interesting questions concerning values in our society. . .

"At College," by the Etiquette Grrls, c. 2002

{1}Ah, Dear Reader, so you're off to engage in the Rigorous Intellectual Pursuits offered at a Fine College. The Etiquette Grrls commend you! However, consider yourself warned: rudeness abounds within the Ivy-Covered Walls of Academe. When the Etiquette Grrls reflect (as we are wont to do at length) upon our Academic Past, we cannot help but wish someone had dispensed Etiquette Advice to Most of the Other Freshmen, who, from Day One of Orientation, seemed Hell-Bent upon Behaving Like Idiots. Therefore, this month's feature represents Our Attempt to make Other People's Bright College Years more pleasant and Rudeness-Free.

In the Dorm
{2} Be advised, Dear Reader, that while Your Dorm is essentially Your Home for the next several months, you are not the only Occupant of it. In Hallways, Stairwells, and Common Rooms. You are likely to have Neighbors, and you must be respectful of them. Therefore, you are not allowed to Roam the Hallways in Your Unmentionables or to traverse the distance between Your Room and The Shower sporting only a Bath Towel. This is disgusting. Also, have you noticed the Door between Your Room and The Hallway? This is where Your Room stops. It is Very Rude to use a portion of The Hallway as a TV room, kitchen, conservatory, etc., even if Your Room's dimensions resemble those of a Broom Closet. Furthermore, if Your School is kind enough to have Janitors empty your garbage can nightly, you should simply place it outside your door before going to bed and bring it back inside Your Room in the morning. No one else should be subjected to the Sight, Smell, or Sounds of Your Trash for a lengthy period of time.

Filling Out Your Roommate Selection Form
{3} First, fill out the damn form yourself, no matter how tedious you find Paperwork. The Etiquette Grrls personally know of a few Bad Roommate Situations which were the direct result of someone allowing Her Mom to complete her roommate questionnaire and of course, Mummy assumed that Her Little Baby wouldn't dream of Drinking, Smoking, or Staying Up Past 11. Secondly, even if you do fill out the form yourself, do not lie, and do not present an Idealized Version of yourself! If you smoke, check the "smoking" box. Otherwise, we assure you, you will either be forced to Go Outside in the Bitter Cold to have your cigarette, or you will take to sneaking cigarettes in your room, annoying your roommate, who had previously assumed you were Perfectly Compatible. . . .

{4} The Etiquette Grrls adored decorating our Dorm Rooms with Laura Ashley Comforters, Real Curtains, and Nice Furniture From Our Parents' Attics, and we encourage you to make an effort to make your room look as nice as possible. Above all, avoid purchasing cheap furnishings from "bed 'n' bath stores," as they are quite uncomfortable, poorly made, and, dare we say, Rather Tacky. You would be much better, Dear Reader, buying an older, slightly shabby velvet couch from A Local Secondhand Shop than buying an inflatable glittery one.

Your College Wardrobe
{5} While the Etiquette Grrls realize that for many young people, college represents Sudden Freedom from the constraints of Prep School Dress Codes, we were entirely shocked to find that so many of Our Peers took this as license to wear nasty sweatpants and ripped t-shirts to class! Dear Reader, college classes, whether they be seminars or lectures, are Public Events, and you should dress presentably! While a skirt or dress is not required for girls, nor a coat and tie for boys, you should always wear neat, clean, attractive clothing.

In Class
{6} Sadly, the Etiquette Grrls witnessed some absolutely Atrocious Behavior in their college classes. During a class, one may not do or say anything that may potentially distract anyone else in the room. Yes, the Etiquette Grrls realize that for many, introductory College Composition courses are painfully unchallenging, and let us not begin to discuss how they are frequently scheduled at Inconvenient Hours, such as 8 AM. However, this does not give anyone permission to tap a pen constantly upon a desk, yawn audibly, manicure one's nails, place trades avec one's Broker, etc. If a class promises to be a Yawn Fest, we suggest fortifying yourself beforehand with some Good, Strong Coffee. And yes, Dear Reader, if it is a small class (or a larger class wherein you are likely to be Called Upon), it is very rude indeed not to Follow Along (not to mention probably Rather Detrimental to Your Grade). Here are some further tips on how to conduct yourself in class:

* Do not respond to every single thing the Professor says. We doubt you're taking a one-on-one seminar. Other people deserve to talk, too.
* Do not actively try to prove the Professor wrong, just for the sake of doing so. Similarly, don't try to make Your Classmates look bad in order to Show Off. No one likes a brown-noser. There's nothing wrong with responding to what your classmates say, and being critical of their points, but when you do so, you must always be polite. As the Etiquette Grrls learned on the Debate Team, never, ever make an ad hominem attack.
* Do 'phone your Professor if you will be absent from a small class due to illness. This is common courtesy. If you must miss class due to An Emergency, 'phone afterward and explain.
* Don't expect any Special Favors just because you Play a Sport, are in The Play, etc. No one is making you do any of these things, and it's wrong for you to expect extensions because of your Extracurricular Activities. . . .

Social Life at College
{7}. . . The Etiquette Grrls hope that our Dear Readers who are currently adjusting to Life at College will settle in quickly and have a Wonderful Year! Enjoy your classes... occasionally postpone reading Paradise Lost in lieu of watching a bit of football (which the Etiquette Grrls did rather Take To in college, as it was, of course, of the variety played by Preppy Schools of No Real Football Consequence)... and always, always Behave Graciously!

"The Art of the Interview," by Margaret Krantz, Hanover College, 2006

{1}You have just received your itinerary for your company visit from "Company X," the one from which you most wanted to receive a job offer. The schedule looks great: they are putting you up in the Westin the night before, breakfast on your own, then three interviews in the morning followed by lunch, and a meeting afterward with a personnel representative (probably to talk about salary, benefits. etc.,) which completes your visit.

{2}Wait a minute. What was that about lunch? You were not expecting lunch. A number of worrisome thoughts begin to creep into your mind. Will I be interviewed during lunch? What will I order? Which way do you pass the rolls? My mother told me I would need to know these things some day. If only I had listened.

{3}If you are unsure about what to do at lunch during your company visit, there is still some time to learn a few basic rules (or to be reminded of the ones your mother taught you) of business dining. It could well make the difference between getting that coveted job offer and being rejected because you do not fit into the company's corporate culture. Here are a few tips to remember at a business luncheon:

{a}Yes, you will be interviewed during lunch, at least informally. Even if they say you are not, consider it otherwise.

{b}Place your napkin on your lap after everyone else has been seated. If you excuse yourself for a few minutes during lunch, place your napkin in your chair. Do not place your soiled napkin on the table until time for everyone to leave.

{c}Since you will be a guest for lunch, ask the host what he recommends. By doing this, you will learn price range guidelines.

{d}You should begin to eat only after everyone has been served and your hostess has signaled that you may do so by placing her fork or spoon on her plate. . . .

{e}If you have soup, move your spoon away from, rather than toward you! This will help you avoid dripping the soup on yourself. While oyster crackers or croutons may be placed in the soup, larger crackers should not.

{f}Pass the rolls to the right. The same applies to other community foods like the relish tray, salt and pepper, or salad dressing. Your host will initiate the passing of such items. Wait for him to do so.

{g}Never salt and pepper your food before tasting it, an insult to the chef. Also never request a bottle of meat or tomato sauce to cover the meat or fowl served you. Another insult to the chef! A tournedos of beef or filet mignon should not be treated as a hamburger.

{h}It is appropriate to thank your server during the meal with a "thank you "or a nod. These gestures will encourage better service.

{i}Swallow food before you talk, even if it is slightly awkward to keep people waiting for your response to a question. Taking small bites can help you to avoid long delay.

{j}Choosing the proper implements is simple: always start with those farthest from the plate and work your way in. They should be set in order.

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