When setting a table as a historical author we tend to picture items we are familiar with. Below is a description from an 1897 Good Housekeeping Magazine on the fashion of Tableware.
THE FASHION IN TABLEWARE.
"Odd and Even," and Up-to-Date.
IS there to be found a housekeeper who is not interested in table furnishings? She would be a curiosity far greater than the.famous What-is-it! Women can be found who can withstand the allurements of milliner and dressmaker, who can pass unmoved through the most tempting display of color and style, who cannot resist the witching grace of color and form when confined to an article designed for table use. Never before were table furnishings so enticing. It is no longer necessary to purchase a "set!" Those who bought before this day of artistic conception can add to their possessions odd pieces that will add greatly to the beauty of their table furniture.
Cups and saucers are shown in infinite variety of shape, color, and design. The bowl-shaped cup is preferred by many of the best authorities, while others choose those that have almost straight sides. Especial attention is given to after-dinner coffee cups. They are to be found in almost every imaginable shape, and with all sorts of quaint and fanciful suggestions in form and decoration. Shell-shaped saucers have cups following the idea of the shell as nearly as possible, the handles being in the form of smaller shells of various sorts. A popular handle is a pair of butterfly wings very slightly spread.
Bronzed handles are popular, and although not a novelty, are seen upon some of the finest of the new designs. Some handles appear like forked or irregular branches of trees. They are cut squarely off, having little projecting twigs, very odd-looking and pretty. There are also cups and saucers with raised enamel, and fine vine patterns that are among the most popular of the current styles. This relief work, however, is seriously objected to by sensitive persons, as the contact of spoon or fork with an uneven surface is thought to be somewhat trying to people of delicate nerves. Such persons will do well to select dishes that show relief only on the edges or the outside.
Salad sets are brought out both in square and oblong-square shapes, the plates in either being perfectly square or round, according to fancy, or square with a small portion of each corner cut off. Other styles are oblong or half deep, with round or octagon plates. The styles in fruit or berry sets number scores, each one rivaling the other in beauty of form, pattern, and quality of decoration.
Special attention seems to have been given to this department of tableware, and with happiest results.
Some housekeepers disregard all ideas of matching in these sets, and select a large, deep bowl of fine cut glass, with some of the choice fancy wares. There are shell porcelain dishes for serving the fruit that are extremely pretty with these cut glass bowls. They are made with raised patterns, and appear as though set with jewels, so brilliant are the colorings of the flowers and foliage. Ice cream sets are somewhat more conventional in shape. As cream is frequently sent to the table in long bars, an oblong dish or platter is most convenient for the purpose. The plates are either square, round, or of fanciful form, or fancy glass dishes may be used with equal propriety. With the present wealth of design and shape, the artistic householder can scarcely go wrong selecting from the standard makers of fine china, and if her taste is cultivated, her table may be as perfect, judged by an artistic standard, as her means will allow.
In the way of odd pieces there is almost endless variety. Special dishes with characteristic decorations are furnished for almost every article of food. Bread plates have a design of a folded napkin laid across the middle. Asparagus dishes look like the stalks of the plant, either in wickerwork design or in the form of one-half of a large bunch of the vegetable as it appears in market. There are baskets for rolls, covered dishes for cheese, egg dishes, long, slender celery boats, sardine dishes with attached or independent trays, according to taste. Platters have metal points upon which the game or roast may be impaled, for the convenience of inexperienced or careless carvers, and the absolute destruction of carving knives.
There are very attractive pudding dishes with metal baking dishes to place inside. Some of the new styles in fine ware are peculiarly attractive and unique in form and decoration.
Dishes for sauces are shown in various shapes. Those designed for the fish course are made in the shape of a fish, with one side hollowed out, and the tail turned upwards for a handle. Regular gravy and sauce tureens and boats are made with"attached or separate trays. Some of them have china ladles, but they are so fragile that nearly all housekeepers must resort to silver ladles sooner or later, and the demand for those of china are decreasing.
There are few novel features in the extensive and varied stock of cracker jars, oatmeal sets, oyster dishes, and bone plates. The latter are larger than those first brought out, and there is such a steady and growing demand for them that they bid fair to become a part of the regular dinner service.
Large boats, or flat low dishes for floral decorations for the table are interesting. They come in several sizes, those very low and flat, not unlike a platter, with perpendicular rim, are the most convenient. In them the flowers are arranged by the skilled florist, a centerpiece being added or not according to fancy.