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Amusements

War, Revolution…and Dances

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In the Dominican Republic, the first decade of the 20th century was characterized by constant political turmoil. In between wars and revolutions, Dominicans found plenty of ways to amuse themselves.

Excursions to the countryside were common, as were Sunday concerts in the park. Literary and philanthropic societies, some of which were hosted by the country’s numerous masonic lodges, had been popular with Dominicans of all kinds since the 1800s. As the 19th century came to a close, the upper classes began to gather in recreation clubs.

By the last decade of the 19th century, nearly every city and large town in the Dominican Republic possessed its own high society club.

Members of Recreational Society "La Comparsa."
Members of Recreational Society “La Comparsa,” one of the recreational clubs established in Santiago de los Caballeros. Courtesy of La Republica Dominicana. Directorio y Guia General.

El Club Unión, established in Santo Domingo in 1892, was considered “the select social centre of the best Dominican Society.” The club was administered by a “carefully selected” Board of Governors made up of men from prominent Dominican families.

P.A. Ricart, President of Club Union of Santo Domingo.
P.A. Ricart, President of Club Union of Santo Domingo in 1906. Courtesy of La Republica Dominicana. Directorio y Guia General.

In the Blue Book, an illustrated compendium of Dominican businesses and society published in 1920, El Club Unión was described as follows:

The club is tastefully and comfortably furnished with billiard and card rooms, a selected library, with latest periodicals and magazines, from all parts of the world, a well-served café and comfortable lounging rooms, a stage for private theatricals and club reunions, and last, but not least, a magnificent ball room, with fine floor and full-length mirrors.” 1

Reading room of the Club Union.
Reading room of the Club Union in 1906. Courtesy of La Republica Dominicana. Directorio y Guia General.
Interior of Club Union
Assembly hall of the Club Union in 1906. Courtesy of La Republica Dominicana. Directorio y Guia General.
Interior of Club Union
Recreation room of the Club Union in 1906. Courtesy of La Republica Dominicana. Directorio y Guia General.

In Santiago de los Caballeros, the second largest city in the island, it was the Club del Recreo (also known as Centro de Recreo) that housed society events. Founded in 1894 in a local hotel, it wasn’t until 1902 that its new headquarters, built the previous year, were inaugurated with a “sumptuous ball.”

Headquarters of Centro de Recreo, built in 1901.

Gathering “the best of Santiago society,” El Recreo organized monthly dances, as well as piano, violin and flute concerts and soirees, their name for literary evenings that included speeches, poetry and music. Prominent national and international figures attended the club’s events—notable guests include Jose Marti, Cuban national hero, the esteemed Puerto Rican professor Eugenio Maria de Hostos and Ramon Albors, a professor at the Conservatoire de Paris who delighted the club members with a concert in 1897.

El Club Recreativo de Damas, established in the town of Puerto Plata, is credited in 1906 as having initiated a movement towards the integration of Dominican women in the country’s artistic scene.

Headquarters of Club Recreative de Damas in Puerto Plata.
Headquarters of Club Recreative de Damas in Puerto Plata. Courtesy of La Republica Dominicana. Directorio y Guia General.

Another such club was the Casino de la Juventud in the city of Santo Domingo. Its members organized “reinados”, where young society women were crowned as queens during dances.

By the 1890s, clubs were serving as venues for balls, cotillions and saraos (informal dances), which had previously been held in private homes. Their guests danced waltz, danza (a slower dance that originated in the Spanish Caribbean), polka and mazurcas, accompanied by live orchestras. (Merengue, which also originated in the Spanish Caribbean, was relegated to the “lower classes.”) In Santiago, quadrilles were taught by Lucas Resta, a master choreographer who had traveled through Paris, Milan and New York. Food was always plentiful, with platters of cold cults, sweets and copious amounts of champagne. (Veuve Cliquot, or “champaña de la viuda,” was particularly popular in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Dominican Republic, and still is to this day!)

There was no particular season designated for balls and dances, which were held year round. In his Directorio y Guia, published in 1907, Enrique Deschamps, president and founding member of Centro de Recreo, boasts that as many dances were held in the cooler months of January and February as in July and August. Clubs always held dances on Christmas Eve and “delicious parties” for the younger set on Christmas day.

Dances would start at ten and would go on until three in the morning—and often even later!

These dances were lavishly described in the illustrated magazines of the time. Reports always included the names of the young ladies and matrons in attendance, along with opulent descriptions of their charms.

Aside from recreation, one of the main purposes of these clubs was to promote the intellectual growth and edification of its members. Most clubs had their own small libraries with books imported from Europe and North and South America. Members would frequently gather to play chess together, have lectures and discussions, and some clubs would go on to publish newspapers or magazines for the general public.

 

In my next post, I’ll continue with some more amusements enjoyed by Dominicans in the Edwardian Era.

 

Sources:

Compañia Biografica. (1920) Libro Azul de Santo Domingo. New York City, N.Y: Klebold Press.

Deschamps, E. (1907) La Republica Dominicana. Directorio y Guia General. Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic.

Espinal Hernandez, E. (2005) Historia Social de Santiago de los Caballeros. 1863-1900. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

 

  1. Compañia Biografica. (1920) Libro Azul de Santo Domingo. New York City, N.Y: Klebold Press.

The Season: At Boys’ Public Schools

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Crowd at Eton and Harrow Cricket Match, 1900
Crowd at Eton and Harrow Cricket Match, 1900

Society in our land has long ago taken the chief public schools into its social calendar as most important items for providing recreation, pleasure, and delightful entertainment during the course of the year from January to December. Almost each month brings its own special school into prominence, or its own particular social event in connection with the various places of education to which boys from the upper classes resort.

Three times annually does Eton help to provide the day off, so to speak, for Society in this way. These occasions comprise the annual cricket match against Harrow, at Lord’s; the annual match against Winchester, played alternately at Eton and Winchester; and the famous Fourth of June celebrations.

The latter must be dealt with first in this article, because on the Fourth of June, the great school under the shadow of Windsor Castle has the entire field to itself in the regard of social England. On that day Eton gives itself up to pleasure and enjoyment pure and simple, from early morning till late at night. Paddington Station in London has its platforms packed soon after breakfast with innumerable “mothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins,” in their latest and most fascinating summer costumes, a blaze of beauty, aristocracy, and charm, all waiting for trains to carry them to Windsor, in order to see “dear Roland” lead the procession of boats, or to spend a happy hour or two with “darling Algy,” who has recently been made a prepositor.

Of course, though there are entertainments and pleasures galore to be enjoyed during the afternoon on that day at Eton, the piéce de résistance is the evening procession of boats from Surly to Datchet, with the fireworks afterwards to enliven the final scene of the day.

For some decades now the Eton v. Harrow cricket-match at Lord’s in July has been reckoned one of the principal days in the list of Society’s summer programme in London–or rather, it would be more correct to say “two days,” for this match always begins on a Friday and continues on the Saturday. The attendance never fails to run into many thousands if the weather is at all propitious; and it must be acknowledged that the match has ever been favoured greatly in this respect, for the two teams have seldom had any really wet days to contend with on these occasions.

To many folks, however, the Eton v. Winchester match is a more enjoyable function than the annual contest at Lord’s, despite the latter’s immense social predominance. For when you can see the delightful scenery round Eton better than on those charming summer days that find the Wykehamists in the playing-fields by the river, supported by an admiring crowd of mothers and aunts, to say nothing of sisters and cousins. Should the match be at Winchester, however, Society from London is found in crowds at Waterloo, trying to get early trains down to the historic city of Itchen. Carriages are rapidly filled, and the famous High Street at Winchester sees a galaxy of ladies invade it with more conquering attributes than ever did the Saxon or Dane in bygone days. Winchester Meads, where the great crowd betakes itself to see the cricket and to enjoy the social triumph, are just as lovely as are the banks of the Thames at Eton.

A cricket-match, of course, is almost an ideal event for a fine show of dress and for social entertainment. Perfect summer weather, charming rural scenery, the enthusiasm of the schoolboys, the gallantry of masters and governors, the game itself, the strawherries and cream, the long drive through leafy lanes to reach the school—all these possess wonderful fascination for the average lady, be she mother or daughter. When the match is at Lord’s it somewhat lacks one or two of these things, but it makes up for them by being in town, where still more friends may be expected to turn up, and where the ladies may look forward to meeting even more of their acquaintances of the stronger sex. This is why Rugby v. Marlborough provides a scene only second to Eton v. Harrow in school-matches on that classic ground of Lords each year.

Whilst it is our intention to pass by the average speech-day at the public schools (though such days are truly often social gatherings of some renown in their various spheres), yet we must say a word about the greatest of them, which is undoubtedly that of Harrow. There is perhaps only one special day of the year when London Society betakes itself m waste to the Hill for pleasure and entertainment, and this is the day. To stand in the country road that leads to the fine speech-hall of the celebrated school, and to watch the crowds of welldressed women and men who come to Harrow to hear the speeches, is like standing in the Row some fine summer afternoon between four and half-past five.

The Hill on this occasion shows us of its best in every way. The dark blue of Harrow’s sporting teams is occasionally in evidence, but for once silk hats and frock coats predominate on the Hill in a manner that is not generally common there. The Etonian on ordinary days, even to stroll through the streets of Windsor, must wear that silk hat, but the Harrovian on ordinary days wears a straw hat, or none at all. It is only when his feminine relations come to the Hill in full force of all-pervading beauty and brilliance that the Harrovian feels it incumbent on him to rise fully to the occasion in the way that Eton does.

Let us make a sudden transition from the summer social delights at the great schools to the winter ones. The most striking of these, often patronised by Royalty, and always by a large number of the aristocracy, is the Latin Play each December at Westminster School. Certain high officials, such as the Judges, Cabinet, Speaker of the Commons, and their wives, have a prescriptive claim to be invited. When one recollects that the Play is always performed in the old dormitory of the school one hardly wonders that the place is crowded, that space is much restricted, and that hundreds of ladies of high degree have often to be “turned empty away.”

Mothers and boys have, twice a year, a fine time for enjoyment, if they are connected with Radley College. When Radley holds its annual “ Gaudy,” a term still applied there to the speech-day, as it used to be at all great schools centuries ago, there is usually such a scene as is only second to Harrow‘s on similar occasions. Ladies of fashion and rank travel down from London to the Berkshire school in large numbers to be present, and the many interesting features of the day are much appreciated by the proud mothers and admiring sisters as they stroll around the beautiful grounds attached to the school.

Marlborough gets in its opportunity for joining in the crush of rank and fashion when its “Commemoration ” comes round each summer. Society has always shown itself most favourable to Marlborough of the newer schools during the past two or three decades, and the college in Wiltshire duly rejoices.

The Lady’s Realm

A St. Patrick’s Day Sociable (with Recipes!)

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st patrick's day

DANCE OF COLLEENS

The most successful feature of a pay entertainment given on March 17th was a chorus of “Irish Colleens,” who sang Irish ballads, to the great enjoyment of the audience. The colleens were twelve pretty girls wearing homespun frocks and wreaths of shamrock. They carried little shillalahs (blackthorn clubs) specially made for the purpose. At different points of the songs tiny lights appeared simultaneously in the shillalahs, suggesting Willo’-the-wisp. Green light was thrown on the colleens as “The Wearing o’ the Green” and other patriotic songs were rendered.

PATRICK’S DAY SUPPER

When Paddy’s Day is celebrated in the popular form of a supper the menu might be green turtle soup, or, less expensive,

Cream of Murphy Soup.
Olives. Pickles. Watercress.
Irish Stew, with Green Peas.
Irish Potatoes.
Sauterne Jelly, colored green, or Pistache Cream.
Emerald Cake.
Green Tea and Creme de Menthe.

For simpler refreshments there might be cress or lettuce sandwiches, potato salad or cold boiled salmon with sauce tartare, pistache cream with small iced cakes cut in fancy shapes, olives, crystallized mint leaves and coffee.

A clever idea last year at a dinner was the passing of small clay pipes with the coffee, their bowls stuffed with cotton soaked in alcohol. When these were lighted they not only produced a pretty effect, but were used to set on fire the cubes of sugar in each cup of coffee.

In case you elect to make your pistache cream at home, let me give you a reliable recipe. Serve the cream in meringue shells, which may be purchased of the confectioner. The green cream pressed between the white shells looks most attractive.

PISTACHE CREAM IN MERINGUE SHELLS

Mix a scant tablespoonful of flour with one cup sugar, add one egg and beat thoroughly. Have ready a pint of hot milk, and pour slowly over the flour and sugar. Return to double boiler and cook twenty minutes. Take from fire, cool, and stir in one quart of cream, a tablespoonful vanilla and two ounces of pistache nuts blanched and pounded to a smooth paste. Add a tablespoonful of orange flower water and freeze. Serve in the meringue shells. If your grocer does not keep the pistache nuts, pounded almonds with a flavoring of bitter almond and a little spinach juice to color green will produce almost the same result

PATRICK’S DAY SOCIABLE

In sending out your invitations for a St. Patrick’s Day entertainment ask the guests to honor the saint, the day and the nation by their dress. These costumes need not be elaborate. Green ties for the men, big green-covered buttons—if they so elect—for their waistcoats, and, of course, a sprig of shamrock for the “buttonhole. The women may wear wreaths of shamrocks, real or artificial, in their hair and corsages.

In decorating the house for such an event, green should predominate. String paper shamrock leaves on green cord carried from the corners of the table to the chandelier above the centerpiece. Glass candlesticks, with green shades, or green electric light bulbs could be used. A large cardboard harp, gilded and placed in a conspicuous position, labeling it, “The Harp that Once through Tara’s Hall,” is another suggestion. During the evening let some member of the company standing by the harp read or sing the poem. Let Irish guests sing Irish melodies and invite all present to repeat some Irish bull, giving a prize for the best.

Have a big punch bowl in a corner draped with Irish flags and labeled “Cruiskeen lawn.” This may be a temperance beverage, but should be colored green. Have near the entrance a real marble block or stone wrapped in moss, green paper or silk, and notify each guest that he is expected to kiss the “Blarney Stone.”

A clever idea for a St. Patrick’s entertainment is a big Jack Horner pie that can be purchased ready made or constructed at home from a big round hat-box. It should be covered with moss or green paper and filled with St. Patrick favors, each wrapped in green tissue paper and attached to emerald ribbons used to draw them from the box.

For card parties tally cards in white and green, with shamrock wafers, should be used, while Japanese napkins, doilies and even tablecloths in sets, decorated with the shamrock, may be secured to carry out the color scheme. Green paper salad and ice cases in the St. Patrick motif would be an appropriate finish.

If one does not care to purchase paper cases for the salads it is easy to make them at home from vegetables. For instance, green peppers make attractive cups for salads. To prepare them, cut a thin slice from the top and remove the seeds and white pulp. If they do not stand, cut a slice from the bottom also.

Cucumber boats, to hold chicken or other salad, are made by scooping out large-sized pickled cucumbers, while green apples, hollowed, serve for salads or as candlesticks. The list of dishes suited to a St. Patrick’s function is a wide one, and the menu selected may be simple or complex, according to individual circumstances and preference. Where a course supper is served it might be something like this:

Murphy Bisque with Shamrocks.
Pickles. Olives.
Paddy’s Best Friend—”The Pig that Slept in the Parlor.”

This can be a little roast pig on a bed of cress, a clay pipe in his mouth, his tail tied with green ribbons and a garland of green round his neck. If one does not care to have a whole pig, a ham, pork chops, or an Irish stew with potatoes and peas would be a tasty substitute.

The salad may be a potato salad or a Ballyshannon pickle, which is simply salmon served with dill pickles.

Other suitable dishes are sauterne jelly colored green, Irish moss salad, pistache cream in meringue shells, olive sandwiches, cakes with green icing and decorated with citron shamrock leaves, green and white mints and lime drops, salted pistache nuts, green tea and creme de menthe.

SAUCE TARTARE

While almost any salad may be used in carrying out the green color scheme, the dressing in most cases is most appropriately a sauce tartare, which is a mayonnaise or cooked dressing made acid and green with chopped pickles, capers, nasturtium seeds, parsley or olives. A cooked dressing, also acid, is used for broiled fish and goes by the same name. To make the cold sauce tartare, put into a cold bowl a half-teaspoonful each sugar and mustard, a saltspoonful salt and one-half saltspoonful of pepper. Squeeze in two or three drops of onion juice, add the yolks of two raw eggs and stir well. Then commence adding, at first very slowly, a cupful of olive oil. At first the oil should go in almost drop by drop, but as soon as the mayonnaise begins to thicken it may be added in larger quantities. When all the oil has been used add a tablespoonful lemon juice and a teaspoonful tarragon vinegar and beat again.

Mince fine enough parsley to make a tablespoonful and rub with the back of a spoon to a paste, adding during the rubbing two or three drops of alcohol (not the wood alcohol). Stir this paste into the mayonnaise together with two tablespoonfuls of chopped pickles and olives. Stir well together. This may be used at once or can be prepared ahead so as to simplify the work of getting ready on St. Patrick’s Day.

The secret of success in the making of this dressing is to have the oil, eggs and dishes used, cold. Potato salad mixed with this dressing is specially suitable for the day and here is a genuine English recipe which, is called a savory:

ST. PATRICK’S POTATO SAVORY

Boil six large potatoes with their jackets and let them cool in their skins. Then peel, slice and chill. Chop very fine a heaping tablespoonful of parsley and half an onion, mix lightly, cover with sauce tartare and serve on lettuce leaves.

SAUTERNE JELLY

Soak two tablespoonfuls granulated gelatine in a half cupful of cold water for twenty minutes. Pour over the softened gelatine one and one-half cups boiling water and stir until completely dissolved. Add one tablespoonful lemon juice and a cup of granulated sugar. Color with spinach juice or leaf green, strain, pour into a shallow pan and chill. Serve in green apple cups, in glass sherbet cups or paper salad cases. A plain lemon jelly tinted green is also appropriate to the day, particularly if a bunch of real shamrock leaves is molded in it.

EMERALD CAKE

Beat to a cream one cupful butter, then add, little by little, two cupfuls granulated sugar and cream again. Add one-half cupful sweet milk, three and one-half cupfuls flour sifted with four teaspoonfuls baking powder. Lastly fold in the whites of seven eggs, beaten to a stiff froth, and enough green coloring matter to make a delicate green. Flavor with almond extract and bake in layers.

When cool, put together with a filling of boiled icing mixed with chopped raisins, currants and nut meats.

Cover with icing tinted green, tracing a shamrock vine about it with white icing, using for this purpose a confectioner’s tube, or a cornucopia made from stiff white paper. Put an Irish flag in the center, and about it a circle of green candy pipes, bowls upward. Sprinkle with candy shamrocks.

~ The Book of Frolics for All Occasions (1911)