Forks in America

This is Not to be Read by Small Children!

When it came to defining new liberties after the Revolution, Americans were ready to put their politics where their mouths were. Laura Thatcher Ulrich notes in her book, The Age of Homespun, page 301:

The late introduction of table forks added to the awkwardness of the American performance [at formal dinners]. As late as 1827, European visitors still observed people shoveling food into their mouths from the round end of knives. An etiquette book of the 1830s still defended the practice, advising young ladies that if they wished to imitate the French or the English, they could “put every mouthful into your mouth with your fork; but if you think, as I do, that Americans have as good a right to their own fashions as the inhabitants of any other country, you may choose the convenience of feeding yourself with your right hand armed with a steel blade; and provided you do it neatly and do not put in large mouthfuls, or close your lips tight over the blade, you ought not be considered as eating ungenteely.”

And if you were a liberal, could you hold the knife in your left hand?

Author Bio

Donald L. Hafner is Drum Major of the Lincoln Minute Men. When he is not serving as a fifer in the ranks of the Minute Men, he is a Professor of Political Science at Boston College. His scholarly work has been principally in the fields of arms control and U.S. foreign policy.

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