Table Setting for a 94th Birthday Party

94th birthday table 2
Source: Ladies Home Journal (September, 1915)

The text that went with the picture said:

Six old ladies were in the habit of visiting a certain tea house once a week—all interesting women, and one of the number was soon to celebrate her ninety-fourth birthday. She confided to the proprietress that she wanted to give a party, and it was to be as jolly as she could make it.

There were to be no peppermints and no weak tea. She had had peppermints given to her every birthday since she was seventy.

The party was a luncheon carried out in yellow and white. The daisies in the centerpiece were made into six bunches, one for each of the party. The favor at each place was a Dresden pincushion, and the place cards were symbolic of the Fountain of Youth.

I know that the drawing and text do not refer to a real woman, but the fact that this picture was in a mass-circulation magazine suggests that lots of hale and hearty women in their eighties and nineties were reading the magazine a hundred years ago — and thinking about how to celebrate their birthdays.

This brings to mind a post I did several years ago when I speculated that there were some incorrect dates in a genealogical resource I was using because the materials indicated that an extremely old woman was very engaged in family and community activities. A reader commented, “I think the dates are correct. Women were strong back then.”

A Birthday Tradition

15-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Thursday, January 19, 1911: Pulled Miss Muffly’s ears first thing this morning, whether she liked it or not. Bout all I can do to fish up enough things to knock down. My life has reached an uneventful state or period with all its calm ripples. I almost forgot, I got a new pair of rubbers today which I needed very bad.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later: 

I’m guessing that Miss Muffly refers to Grandma’s sister Ruth. And, that January 19 was Ruth’s birthday. According to the 1900 Ruth was born in January 1892, so this must have been her 19th birthday. Grandma probably woke Ruth by pulling her ears.

When I was a child my parents told me that in the old days people used to pull the birthday person’s ear lobes one time for each year, but that I shouldn’t pull ears since it might damage the person’s hearing (which, of course, gave me the idea that it might be fun to pull ears—but that is another story).