AFTER MARRYING MANVILLE in 1929, Diana Cumming Kendrick moved to Trail End and began her career as a “society wife.” Her frequent luncheons and card parties were reported in the local society columns, as well as her attendance at parties given by friends in Sheridan and Big Horn.
A small community about seven miles south of Sheridan, Big Horn was where Diana wanted to live. She and Manville purchased a little house there and drew up plans for remodeling it. Fate stepped in, however, in the form of Eula Kendrick. Diana’s formidable mother-in-law was not in favor of the move and would “take to her bed in despair” whenever the young couple seemed ready to move. Eventually, Manville and Diana stayed at Trail End, where they raised two children and held dozens – if not hundreds – of parties: lawn parties, dinner parties, card parties … all kinds of parties!
Getting ready for a large, formal dinner party involved a lot of work for both guests and host. The guests had to make sure that their dinner gowns and tuxedos were clean, their shoes polished, ties ironed and gloves stretched. As for the hosts, they had to do all that, plus make sure things were perfect in the Dining Room. At Trail End, it was the housekeeper’s responsibility to see that everything was in place before the first guest arrived.
First, the mahogany table was polished and then covered with a beautiful lace or linen tablecloth (wrinkle-free). Linen napkins – usually monogrammed – were ironed, folded, and placed at each place setting. The good china – Minton’s Rose pattern – was taken from the Butler’s Pantry, washed and set into place (the number and type of pieces depended on what was being served). Crystal glasses for wine and water were polished, as were silver serving pieces, candelabra, saltcellars and vases. In addition, all the rest of the furniture in the room had to be dusted, polished, draped with linens and set for service.
When she set the table, the housekeeper had to know (a) what was being served, and (b) what dish went with what kind of food. The Minton Rose set had several different sizes of plates, cups and bowls. There were dinner plates, luncheon plates, breakfast plates, bread plates, dessert plates, and a bevy of saucers. There were demitasse cups (for espresso-type drinks), three styles of tea and/or coffee cups, cream soup bowls and bouillon bowls (all with saucers). There are also rimmed soup bowls and rimless ones, which were not to be confused with cereal bowls (deeper) or berry bowls (smaller).
Instead of the Minton, the Kendricks could choose to use their Limoges (French) china. The gold rims reflected light from both chandelier and fireplace, thus adding a quiet sparkle to the evening’s festivities. Eula also had a set of china which she received as a wedding present, but it was not used at Trail End; instead, it was kept at the OW Ranch.
In order to increase the sparkle, the formal dinner table could be set with all manner of silver accessories, from place card holders to nutcrackers. You might also find napkin rings, bread trays, water pitchers, gravy boats, candlesticks, toothpick holders, chocolate pots, mayonnaise sets, pickle casters, fruit baskets, cream pitchers, sugar sifters and mustard pots, plus cheese, berry, butter and relish dishes.
Most of the silver at Trail End was sterling silver. An alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, sterling silver is quite heavy, yet remarkably delicate. Silverplate, considerably less expensive than sterling silver (and therefore less desirable), is made from electroplating silver onto copper or other metals.
Both sterling and silverplate tarnish easily. Salts and acids can damage them, making their use at the dinner table somewhat risky; they have to be cleaned immediately or they stain. The oils and salts found on human hands can also damage silver; Trail End’s maid would usually have worn cotton gloves while handling it. Because the very air we breathe can tarnish silver, it should be stored in special flannel bags.
Sheridan residents could purchase silver at one of the local jewelry stores. They could also order silver dishes and such from high-end mail order catalogs. Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward sold silver, but most of it was low-cost silverplate, not sterling.
Many of the utensils found on the tables and in the silverware drawers of years ago are unfamiliar to us. Today, we tend to use basic stainless steel flatware: knives, forks and spoons. When was the last time you used a bonbon server? How about a sugar shell? A jelly knife? Ice cream fork?
Peacock Silver Catalog, 1918 (Trail End Research Collection)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2010 - December 2011
State Historic Site
Detail, Judge Magazine, 1912 (Private Collection)