At times, a Gentleman’s Dinner would be just that... only men such as a Social Club [as seen in painting The Dinner Party, Henry Sargent, c1821 in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston] or many dining establishments. Other times in private homes, the female family members might attend.
If it is to be a gentlemen’s party, there should be no lady present except the lady of the house.
Etiquette for Ladies… Philadelphia: 1838
It is generally the case, that, at dinner-parties for gentlemen, no ladies are present but those who are members of the family.
Beecher, Catherine. Domestic Receipt Book. Phila: 1846
Several travellors noticed the difference between the European style of having ladies at the dinner parties and those in America.
The formalities of a New York dinner do not differ much from those of an English one. Unfortunately, it is not here the fashion to invite the fairer part of creation to entertainments so gross and substantial; and it rarely happens that any ladies are present on such occasions, except those belonging to the family of the host.
Hamilton, Thomas. Men and Manners in America. London: 1833
Mixed dinner parties of ladies and gentlemen are very rare, and unless several foreigners are present, but little conversation passes at table. It certainly does not, in my opinion, add to the well ordering a dinner-table, to set the gentlemen at one end of it, and the ladies at the other; but it is very rarely that you find it otherwise.
Trollope, Frances. Domestic manners of the Americans. 1832
At the table, [in France c1780] the ladies and gentlemen were mingled together, and joined in cheerful conversation, each selecting the delicacies of various courses, and drinking of delicious light wines, but with neither toasts nor healths. The lady of the house, instead of bearing the burden and inconvenience of superintending the duties of the table, here participates alike with others in its enjoyment.
Men and times of the Revolution, or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson. NY: 1856
©2009 Patricia Bixler Reber