SOCIAL CUSTOMS IN EARLY DAYS
Customs change, but human nature is as constant as the whirling of the stars in the skies. It amuses me to think of the absurd things we used to do in early St. Louis and yet the people were genuine and much less affected than nowadays. It was a very naïve life we led in the days of hoop skirts and low cut waistcoats.
In the early days in St. Louis, our population being small, (77,680 in 1850), large entertainments, such as we have at present, were comparatively few. I attended one at the house of Charles Anderson, not far from where Bellefontaine Cemetery now is. This was, at the time, one of our most fashionable neighborhoods. The Yeatmans, Sturgeons, O’Fallons and a large number of such people resided there. The affair was a masked ball. I went with Miss Pink Hamilton, later Mrs. Bailey, she, as an old country women – I, as a green son, a very appropriate character. On reaching the house, opposite the door was a marble bust of Mr. Anderson, on seeing which, in great astonishment I exclaimed – “Oh, Ma, what is that thing.” “Why,” she said, “It is a bust, but my son, you should not say bust, as it does not sound nice, say burst.”
Mrs. Edw. Mallinckrodt, Mrs. Campbell Smith and Mrs. Shepard Barclay, their daughters, at that time were very young children, if born.
The next large gathering I remember was at the wedding of Miss Sue Skinker at their country residence, to Mr. Isaac Pollard. At that time, excessive drinking at such gatherings was much more common than now, as everybody kept wine, and spirits on their sideboards, and the merchants, banks, and insurance companies also kept them, free to all. This entertainment was no exception to the rule. As was the custom, then, after the ladies retired from the festive board, the gentlemen took possession, for a bacchanalian feast. Mr. Willis L. Williams (if I recollect his name aright) stood at the foot of a large table, and made a speech, which was not pleasing to young Wallace Butler, who pushed him aside, swiped off the dishes, jumped on the table, and made his harangue.
That night, or rather, the next morning early, many carriages were upset,
or driven the wrong way, as each driver had a bottle of champagne, and
the carriage of the Misses Harrison, who lived on Eights Street, near
Gratiot Street was overturned.