Today is my birthday so I thought I'd search through Google Books and see what came up about birthdays in the 19th Century. Traditions were large regarding celebrating the birth of our nation and various communities with gay festivals and such. Below are a few tidbits I gathered. The last is about Frances Willard and a birthday celebration for her.
BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS. It is customary among families in society to commemorate the birthdays of their children. The invitations, which may be written or printed in script, are issued to the companions of the children whose parents are in the same' social circle, and are in form as follows: Birthday Celebration.
Master (or Miss) 's
For evening, (date)
From to o'clock.
An answer will oblige. (Residence.)
Mr. (or Master)
Would be happy to see you on evening,
(date) at o'clock, to celebrate
An answer will oblige. (Residence.)
The usual hours for such entertainments are from 4 to 7 p. m.,or later, according to the ages of the children. Suitable refreshments are served. The children should be seated at the table and served there as a matter of convenience. It is not improper to bring some inexpensive present, but it is not necessary to do so. The evening is usually passed in games and dancing.
As the age of the child increases the birthday celebrations become more elaborate, and after the young lady or gentleman has entered society they assume the character of social entertainments. (See The Debut in Society.)
Source: Handbook of official and social etiquette and public ceremonials ©1889
To Mrs. Moses.
We come to greet you, sister, sister dear,
On this first day of life's new year.
Eighty-three the mile-stone doth tell,
Eighty-three years of life spent well,
Source: Poetry: Wayside Thoughts: A Collection of Poems ©1883
1896 Telegraphic code for a birthday was 3860
On January 3, 1885, this venerable woman had a charming birthday celebration. The cottage was fragrant with flowers, the South sending japonicas and hanging moss; the North, white carnations and roses. Some four hundred friends gathered to do her honor, and messages and gifts came from all over the country. President Fairchild sent sprigs of evergreen from the old tree in front of the early Willard home in Oberlin. Joseph Cook sent " Congratulations to the mother on the daughter's life, and to the daughter on the mother's." Mr. Moody, Roswell Smith of the Century Magazine, Dr. Vincent, Maria Mitchell, and hundreds of others, sent cheering words.
No one of all the company was so proud and glad as Frances. No one knew, so well as she, how this good mother who had toiled for her three children, was deserving of this honor. And yet it come because the noble daughter, by her own life, had made the mother known to the world.
Miss Willard has had the rich blessing of Christian parentage. Not all who gain success are so fortunate, and yet it is rare to find eminence where there has not been at least an able mother and of high principles. Her ancestry enrolls names of many who have toiled for the public good. One of the Willards was a president of Harvard College, another a pastor of the Old South Church in Boston, and still another the well-known educator, Emma Willard of Troy, N. Y. Miss Willard's great-grandfather was a minister at Keene, N. H., for forty years, and a chaplain in the Revolutionary War.
Her father, a native of Vermont, and a promising young business man, after marrying an intelligent girl, also a teacher, started Westward to found a home. The daughter, Frances Elizabeth, was born at Churchville, near Rochester, N. Y. When she was two years old, the young parents moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where for five years they both devoted themselves to study, and then bought a large farm at Janesville, Wis., called "Forest Home." Here for twelve years the girl basked in the sunshine of nature and health. She says of herself:
"Reared in the country, on a Western farm, I was absolutely ignorant of tight shoes, corsets or extinguisher bonnets. Clad during three fourths of the year in flannel suits, not unlike those worn at gymnastics now by young lady collegians, and spending most of my time in the open air, the companion in work as well as in sport of my only brother, I knew much more about handling rake and hoe than I did of frying-pan and needle; knew the name and use of every implement handled by carpenter and joiner; could herd the sheep all day and never tire ; was an enthusiastic poultry raiser; and by means of this natural out-door life, eight or nine hours sleep in twenty-four, a sensible manner of dress, and the plain fare of bread and butter, vegetables, eggs, milk, fruit and fowl, was enabled to store up electricity for the time to come.
"We three children were each promised a library to cost one hundred dollars apiece if we would not touch tea or coffee till we became of age. Subsequently I used both for years, very moderately, but have now entirely discarded them. A physician was almost an unknown visitant to our home."
The common-sense mother said, "Let a girl grow as a tree grows — according to its own sweet will."
"Forest Home," says Frances, "was a queer old cottage with rambling roof, gables, dormerwindows, and little porches, crannies, and out-of the-way nooks, scattered here and there. The bluffs, so characteristic of Wisconsin, rose about it on the right and left. The beautiful Rock River flowed at the west side; to the east a prairie stretched away to meet the horizon, yellow with grain in summer, fleecy with snow in the winter."
But there were all sorts of intellectual feasts in this plain home. Frances, and her lovely sister, Mary, each not far from twelve years of age, organized an " Artist's Club" of two. They would lead up the willing goat, put panniers on his back, packed with lunch and a bottle of spring water, and then with two shepherd dogs in the procession, wander off to the river bank where they would sketch the whole day long. Sometimes the frolicsome girls tried "to train a calf into a riding-horse," but were not rewarded with great success in this novel undertaking. At other times they caught Jack, a favorite horse, among the hazel bushes and enjoyed a horseback ride.
At fourteen when a new schoolhouse was built in their locality, Frances went to school for the first time, the parents and a bright young lady in the family having been her teachers heretofore. She writes in her journal:
"Sister and I got up long before light to prepare for the first day at school. We put all our books in mother's satchel; had a nice tin pail full of dinner. Stood next to Pat O'Donahue in spelling, and Pat stood at the head."
Next the girls started a newpaper, with poems, essays and stories. The "news" must have been meagre, but such as it was it was greatly enjoyed by the public; which public consisted of the father and mother! At sixteen Frances received a prize from the Illinois Agricultural Society for an essay on "Country Homes." Mr. Willard was deeply interested in agriculture, having been president of the State Society, as well as a member of the State Legislature, and was of course pleased at his daughter's work and success in this field.
On her seventeenth birthday she says in her journal: "This is the date of my martyrdom. Mother insists that at last I must have my hair 'done up woman fashion.' She says she can hardly forgive herself for letting me 'run wild' so long. My 'back hair' is twisted up like a corkscrew; I carry eighteen hair-pins; my head aches, my feet are entangled in the skirt of my new gown; I can never jump over a fence again so long as I live. As for chasing the sheep down in the shady pasture, it's out of the question, and to climb to my 'Eagle's Nest' seat in the big burroak would ruin this new frock beyond repair. Altogether, I recognize the fact that 'my occupation's gone.'"
Source: Source Successful Women ©1838