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A Victorian Birthday Party

August 8, 2013

Victorian Birthday

Every July the Flynn House ladies celebrate “A Victorian Birthday Party” commemorating Katherine Flynn’s 8th birthday. Martin and Ellen Flynn’s eldest daughter Katherine was born in 1867 and would have turned eight in the summer of 1875. Since childhood illness and death were still serious problems in the 1870s, Victorian families often cherished each birthday as a reason for rejoicing. A wealthy family like the Flynns would have had the means to celebrate birthdays quite lavishly. At our birthday party, we highlight some of the activities that party goers might have enjoyed.

Victorian Birthday

Volunteer Sandra Jennings helps these young ladies sign their autographs.

Since Victorian children were not expected to bring a gift for the birthday child, our guests are invited to sign a birthday book wishing Katherine a happy birthday and writing her a special note or drawing a picture.

The birthday child often gave her guests a favor to thank them for attending the party. These favors might be a package of candies, paper fans, hair ribbons for the young ladies, bookmarks, or other small mementoes.

Victorian Birthday

Intern Lean Glaze explains to these visitors how to make their own party favor, a folded paper fan.

The children might have played a variety of outside party games. Croquet, Graces, walking on stilts, Shuttlecock and Battledore, Drop the Handkerchief, and Hoops and Sticks are just some of the games the children might have tried.

Victorian Birthday

Intern Emily Brush teaches this young party guest how to play the Victorian game of Graces.

Victorian Birthday

Chelsea Tegels watches these young gentlemen play Battledore and Shuttlecock.

There might also have been an opportunity to play inside with the birthday child’s toys. We encouraged our guests to play dolls and paper dolls in Katherine’s room and to play with the blocks in the boys’ room.

Victorian Birthday

Chelsea oversees the dolls having a tea party.

Victorian Birthday

Volunteer Kelsey watches activity in the boys’ room.

Of course, refreshments would have been served to the party guests. We offered samples of raspberry and lemon cake, as well as ice cold lemonade.

Victorian Birthday

Volunteer Alice Cooper serves cake samples to visitors.

The cake was adapted from a white cake recipe found in the Buckeye Cookery of 1877. Because so many guests requested the recipe, I have included it at the end of this blog entry.

Victorian Birthday

The cake we prepared for display inside the house is also based on the same recipe. However, we made a three-layer cake of chocolate and raspberry with a chocolate filling and white frosting.


Victorian Birthday

White Cake

1 cup of butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 cups flour

2 tsps of baking powder

1 cup milk

5 egg whites, beaten to a froth

Cream butter and sugar, alternately add flour and milk until well blended. Stir in baking powder. Add whatever flavoring desired. (2 teaspoons lemon extract, or 2 teaspoons raspberry extract, or 2 squares of melted unsweetened chocolate). Stir in egg whites.

Divide into two 8 inch cake pans, lined with paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Cake will begin to pull away from sides of pan when done. Cook and frost as desired.

Adapted from Buckeye Cookery, 1877

Submitted by Judy Jabaay, Flynn Supervisor

Read more posts on the LHF Blog


Flynn Mansion   Recipes


  • Angie Hinke says:

    Can you tell me if there’s a certain time to participate in the birthday party? If our family comes(9), are we able to do all activities still with COVID ? Including sampling cake?

    • Kate Meyer says:

      For our 2020 event, we will not have any food samples. The event is from 10am-3:30pm and we are adapting the event to showcase demonstrations rather than hands-on activities for this season. Depending on weather, we are planning to offer croquet on the lawn, cleaning the equipment between guests.

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