When is your birthday? Do you expect to have a party with all of your friends there? Do you like to have family parties with your grandparents and cousins instead? Do you go somewhere fun to eat? Do you think people will give you presents on your birthday?
If you lived over 100 years ago, birthday parties were usually something held for children in wealthy families. At the Flynn Mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Flynn would have held many birthday parties during the time they lived there. They had ten kids! Five boys and five girls!
On Saturday, August 9, the historic guides at the Flynn Mansion will have a pretend birthday party for one of the Flynn children. They have chosen Kitty (Katherine Flynn) as their birthday child. Kitty would have turned eight years old in 1875.
In 1875, a girl with a summer birthday could have a garden party with her friends. They could play croquet or lawn tennis. Or maybe walk on stilts and play a game called graces. Guests to the party did not have to bring a present. Instead, the birthday child gave her guests a small gift, called a favor, for coming to the party.
The Flynn’s didn’t have paper plates and napkins in 1875! For an outdoor party, servants carried glass and china dishes out to a table on the lawn.They would even bring out rugs and the indoor tables and chairs and put them on the grass for people to sit on! Paper lanterns and ribbons were used as decorations, on the birthday lunch table or in an overhanging tree. Kitty might serve her friends a fruit or nut cake or maybe ice cream at the party. For lunch, the children might have cucumber or jam sandwiches and fancy pickles.
An inside the house party might start in the parlor—a special room for special occasions. Even at a party, everyone had to use their best manners. Guests had to sit on the edge of their chair with their feet on the floor. No tipping the chair back or crossing your legs! Guests might sign the birthday child’s autograph book or leave a poem in their scrapbook. There were no digital cameras to take a photograph of the day. For an indoor party, children might play quieter games in the parlor, such as Hunt the Thimble, 20 questions, charades or even a store purchased card or board game like Old Maid or Snap.
If the Flynn family had a supper party for Kitty, she might get a special treat! Instead of dinner in the kitchen, she could eat at the big dining room table in the fancy red dining room. Young children almost always ate in the kitchen every day until they were able to use good manners for a longer dinner in the dining room. On her birthday, Kitty could sit at the grown-ups table for dinner! She might be able to choose her favorite food for dinner, too. What is your favorite special food? In 1875, Kitty might have roast beef and potatoes, or a fried chicken or maybe even macaroni!
A family party could be simple or very fancy. For a fancier dinner, flowers, ribbons and fancy china would decorate the table. Family members might have a special gift or two for the birthday child. The Flynn’s could afford to give Kitty a store bought present, such as a doll or picture book. Her brothers and sisters might still make her a gift—maybe sewing her name on a handkerchief or carving a whistle for her.
Come out this Saturday and see what presents are shown in the dining room! Cake and lemonade will be served, beginning at 11am while supplies last. Historic guides will have games on the lawn and craft activities inside the mansion from 11am – 3:30pm.