Hundred-Year-Old “Peasant” Tablescape

Source: American Cookery (November, 1916)
Source: American Cookery (November, 1916)

A century ago luncheons with friends often had beautiful tablescapes designed by the hostess. There ย are many lovely tablescape ideas and examples in hundred-year-old magazines. Here’s a suggestion for how to create a Peasant Table:

The “Peasant Table” is always in favor for luncheons, especially informal affairs. The one pictured has a long runner of white linen decorated with a crochet insertion and finished with a crochet edge. A grass receptacle in the center contains a flower holder in which tall spikes of zinnias appear to be growing in a natural clump. Four plain brass candlesticks frame the floral centerpiece. A brass bowl at each end flanks the candlestick, and it contains a floating pool of zinnia leaves and blossoms. Individual blue and white flower holders to match the blue and white dishes, contain zinnias also. Crochet doilies are used at the plates instead of linen, to relieve the plainness of the runner.

American Cookery (November, 1916)

42 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old “Peasant” Tablescape

  1. I have an old redwork tablecloth edged with crocheted trim that would be the perfect start for a table like this. I especially like the zinnias as the centerpiece. They were possibly the most commonly grown flower when I was a kid, and everyone had a cutting garden, however small. It tickles me that they’re associated with “the peasants.” That’s just funny!

    1. I planted zinnia seeds for the first time in years last spring. They are a beautiful flower and bring back warm memories of days gone by. Peasants also struck me as an unusual term in this context. I couldn’t decide whether it has a positive connotation.

    1. mmm. . . I’ve definitely seen pictures of tea carts in hundred-year-old magazines. I think that I may have posted a picture once, but I can’t seem to find it now, so maybe I never did. Since I apparently I never posted it, it’s a great idea for a future post. I’ll have to see if I can find a picture.

      1. My sister — 95 — remembers fondly visiting the neighbor lady who served lovely little sandwiches and cookies, beautifully laid out on a tea wagon. My mother requested one for years, but, sadly, never got it. I’m trying to understand why as I work on “My Father’s House.”

        1. I’ve always thought that tea wagons look like such an elegant way to serve food. I’m definitely going to have to try to find an old picture of one.

  2. I feast my eyes on your photos, and then I throw food on the table for my husband and two grandsons. A hundred years ago, no one would have approved of that, but at least I cook the food!

    1. A hundred years ago many people (generally women) cooked meals 3 times a day, 365 days a year. My gut feeling is that they threw the food on the table for many of those meals – and that these beautiful table settings were reserved for when family or friends visited.

    1. Me, too, but I somehow seldom seem to find time to cook a special meal and have friends over. I think that we’ve lost something across the years.

    1. I also really liked that they used simple garden flowers. It brought back memories of my mother cutting flowers and bringing them into the house to brighten it up.

    1. I also like the idea of using doilies for placemats. I have some in my linen chest and it might be fun to use them on a table – though I don’t think that I have very many identical ones, so it might be challenging.

    1. it makes sense that the use of runners or plain candlesticks might be the reason it was called peasant. I also thought that perhaps the selection of zinnias as the flower for the centerpiece might be the reason. Maybe zinnias were a very common garden flower back then.

    1. I’m practical, too – and probably would never do a tablescape like this, yet I sometimes dream of having parties with beautifully designed tables.

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