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Dining Table

Image - Dining Table
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Nom de l'objet : Dining Table
Artiste ou artisan : Christopher Robinson, Esq.
Catégorie de l'objet : Furnishings
Discipline : History
Matériaux : wood, mahogany
Numéro d'accession : 973 001
Province d'origine : New Brunswick
Pays d'origine : Canada
Date de début de production : 1790
Date de fin de production : 1800
Description : George III double drop-leaf centre section with two D-ends, all upon moulded square legs with reeding, not tapered, ending in block feet; each of three sections having four legs (centre four swinging in on rule joints to support leaves); legs form stiles of under frame; top screwed from below in rounded incisions; leaves slot together with round pegs; D-ends held in place at sides with U-shaped metal straps; top and sides undecorated
Commentaires : In early Canada dining tables were often described in advertisements as being in 'sets', referring to the fact that tables were often comprised of one table with deep drop-leaves, and two semi-circular ends. The drop-leaves could be raised and the ends attached to extend the length of the table, or the central table could be used by itself for smaller groups of diners.
Source: Minhinnick, Jeanne, "At Home in Upper Canada". Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, Toronto, 1983, p.38.

It was not until the end of the 18th century that it became customary to have a large dining table surrounded by chairs in the centre of the dining room. Until this time, the room was left open, with chairs arranged around the walls and a number of small gate-leg tables folded-up or stored outside of the room. When hosting a large dinner party, the tables could be put together. Even in the early 19th century, the dining table in some homes was dismantled after meals, and the ends put together and used as an occasional or breakfast table. Jane Austen, in a letter from 1800, wrote 'the two ends put together form one constant table for everything, and the centre-piece stands exceedingly well under glass'.

Formal rules of etiquette governed one's behaviour at dinner gatherings in the early 19th century, including the practice of sending out written invitations two to ten days before the dinner. Guests assembled in the drawing room, then entered the dining room according to rank, a practice that lasted well into the 19th century, although the exact procedure depended on various factors such as region or decade. John Trusler, writing in 1788 in "Honours of the Table", explains that: 'When dinner is announced, the mistress of the house requests the lady first in rank, in company, to show the way to the rest, and walk first into the room where the table is served; she then asks the second in precedence to follow. ..bringing up the rear herself. ..the master of the house does the same with the gentlemen. ..when they enter the dining room, each takes his place in the same order; the mistress of the table sits at the upper end, those of superior rank next her, right and left; those next in rank following, then the gentlemen and the master at the lower end". "The Cook's Own Book", published in Boston in 1845 (anonymous), explains that the host should first escort the lady of highest rank to the table, while the hostess should meanwhile inform each gentlemen which lady he should escort.

Much like the etiquette of the early 19th century, the arrangement and decoration of the dining table was also subject to formalized customs. The table was usually covered by a white tablecloth which often reached to the floor, sometimes with a coloured cloth beneath it to impart a subtle hue. It was fashionable for tables to be laid out with geometric patterns of dishes, candlesticks, and so on, which gave rise to 'side dishes', which helped to form these patterns. "The Footman's Directory and Butler's Remembrancer" instructs that "let the dishes on each side answer each other as to distance from the edges and top and bottom dishes. ..By casting your eye up and down the table, you will soon discover whether the dishes are set in a proper line and at equal distances from each other".

Once seated, servants would bring each diner a plate which had recently been warmed in front of the fire or in a plate-warmer. The first course, usually consisting of soup, fish, several game or creamed dishes, as well as side dishes, would be brought out all at once. Once this course was cleared another would be served, usually focussing on meat dishes such as roasts, game pies, and 'made' dishes such as fricassees and ragouts. The number of courses varied, but the last course, for which the tablecloth was removed, was dessert. Dessert often featured jellies, ices, cakes, syllabub, puddings, pies, cookies, sweetmeats, cheeses, nuts and fruit.

While a great variety of dishes would be served over the course of the meal, it was not expected that a diner would taste every dish. Usually only those dishes within a diner's or his neighbours' reach would be sampled. Diners were waited on by the footman or butler, as well as additional servants if there was a large number of guests. When 'promiscuous seating' (whereby men and women sat alternately around the table) was introduced around the end of the 18th century, men would look after the needs of their female neighbours.

Dinner usually lasted at least two hours, after which the ladies would leave the table for tea in the withdrawing room, while the men would remain in the dining room, drinking and talking until a servant announced that tea was ready, and they would join the women.
Abrahamson, Una, "Domestic Life in Nineteenth Century Canada". Burns & MacEachern Limited, Toronto, 1963, p.155-60.
Bly, John, and Peter Philp, Gillian Walkling, "Antique Furniture Expert". Duncan Peterson Publishing Limited, London, 1991, pg.167-8.
Paston-Williams, Sara, "The Art of Dining; A History of Cooking & Eating". National Trust Enterprises Limited, London, 1993, p.247-263.
Onesimus, "The Footman's Directory and Butler's Remembrancer". Pryor Publications, Whitstable, 1998 (originally published by J. Hatchard and Son, London, 1823).
Hauteur : 69.30
Longueur : 281.40
Largeur : 114.00
Unité de mesure linéaire : cm
Nombre de parties composantes : Centre section: Length: 165.6, Width: 114.0, D-ends:, Depth: 57.9, Width: 114.0
Établissement : Campbell House Museum
Ville de l'établissement : Toronto
Province de l'établissement : Ontario
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