Whether silver or part of a china set, the tureen is a glorious piece for the table. During the Federal period it was generally placed at the bottom end of the table for the first course with the fish platter on the top. ...
If there are many guests, two soups may be served, with one at each end. The other serving dishes, matching in size and shape across the table or on the diagonal, are placed on the table but remain covered. [see diagram from Frazer 1791, 1820 and Briggs 1794 below right] A few authors, such as Mrs. Parkes [see below] wrote to put it at the top. Once the soup has been served and finished, the bowls and tureen are removed and the 'remove' put in its place. Then all the other dishes are uncovered and the first course continues. The picture is by Mary Ellen Best in 1838.
When the dinner is on the table let the plates be put round, one for each person; let the soupplates be all put at the bottom of the table, a little to the left hand of the person who helps it, and close to the tureen; this will be more convenient than putting the soup-plates right in front, both to you and the person who serves. ... As soon as the company are seated, if there is soup, take the cover off; if there be only fish at the top and a joint at the bottom, remove the cover from off the fish and the sauce-boat which belongs to it.
If there is any remove for the fish or soup, ring the bell, that it may be in readiness...Before you remove the fish and soup from off the table, take the small tray with a clean knife-cloth in it, hold it in your left hand, and take the fish-knife and soup-ladle off with the right; be careful in doing it; hold the tray as near as you can, that you may not dirty the cloth. As soon as the removes are put on the table, uncover all the dishes...
Cosnett, Thomas. The Footman's Directory, London: 1823
Nor, unless the party is a large one, is it as usual as it was to have two dishes of fish, and two tureens of soup. One of each, for a party of nine or ten is thought enough, the soup is placed at the top of the table, the fish at the bottom.
Parkes, Mrs. Wm. Domestic Duties. London, NY 1829
©2009 Patricia Bixler Reber