Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Dumb-waiters - table

There are several items which have been termed dumb waiters over the years - a table, revolving door with shelf/shelves or a small shelf to be moved between floors. Thomas Jefferson used all three types in his homes and while in the White House.

Upcoming zoom talks at the end.

"When he [President Thomas Jefferson] had any persons dining with him, with whom he wished to enjoy a free and unrestricted flow of conversation, the number of persons, at table never exceed four, and by each individual was placed a dumb-waiter containing everything necessary for the progress of the dinner from beginning to end, so as to make the attendance of servants entirely unnecessary, believing as he did, that much of the domestic and even public discord was produced by the mutilated and misconstructed repetition of free conversation at dinner tables, by these mute but not inattentive listeners."
Forty Years of Washington Society, portrayed by the family letters of Mrs. Samuel Harrison Smith (Margaret Bayard Smith) from the collection of her grandson J. Henley Smith. NY: 1906.
"DUMB-WAITER, amongst cabinet-makers, is a useful piece of furniture, to serve in some respects the place of a waiter, whence it is so named. There are different kinds of these waiters, but they are all made of mahogany, and are intended for the use of the dining parlour, on which to place glasses of wine, and plates, both clean, and such as have been used. See plate 43. No 1. is one partly from the French taste, on the top of which, where the glasses are represented, is a slab of thin marble, which not only keeps cleaner, and looks neater than mahogany, but also tends to keep the wine cool, when a bottle for present use is placed upon it. The shelves below are for plates and a knife tray. The holes for the decanters have cases of tin fit into them, and are japanned white, which shews through the front pannel in the rail, and makes it look lighter. N° 2. The top waiter is for glasses, and a bottle, and the lower for plates, or decanters and tumbler glasses, and the drawers that are shewn open, or partly drawn out, are for knives, and have a tin case to fit loose in, and japanned white; so have the plate trays within the ballusters. These are easily taken out, and may be cleaned and replaced when necessary. And the workman must observe, that the waiters turn round on the pillars; for the under pillar has a beech nut let into it, and the upper part of it screws itself home into it, so as to admit the waiter to turn. The upper waiter is fixed to the pillar, by a round block at the underside screwed to it, which, having a washer turned into it, receives a screw head before the block is fixed to, and then it screws into a nut as before. The plate trays ought to be 11 inches diameter in the clear, and the opening for the hand 4 1/2 inches. -- There is a turned astrigal for the top rail and the balluster."
Sheraton, Thomas. The Cabinet Dictionary. London: 1803 [image from his book]

"Some families wish to dispense with the presence of servants…. When this is the case, the little round tables called dumb-waiters are very useful, placing one of them behind every two persons. On these are place clean plates, knives, and whatever may be wanted; and each has a shelf below, on which to set away the dirty plated, &c."
Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-Book.. Phila: 1863

First image - Le Souper fin engraving by Isidore Stanislas Helman 1783 after 1781 painting by Jean-Michel Moreau. I could not find my source of a colored painting (found years ago), and wiki labels this a painting by Moreau.


Apr 2 Tue 2 A Sweeping History of Food and Culture. “virtual tour of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.” book Smithsonian American Table: The Foods, People, and Innovations That Feed Us. Paula J. Johnson. Detroit Public Library HERE

Apr 3 Wed 12 The Sifter. James Mallin, Engineering and Science Librarian at the Cooper Union Library, and Gary Thompson, Data Architect and Student of Cookbooks. Oxford Food Symposium HERE

Apr 3 Wed 8 Food System Transformation as a Response to Climate Change. Michelle Miller. CHEW Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin HERE TAPE may be HERE

Apr 3 Wed 8 Food Porn: A History of Images in Cooking. Sarah Lohman. Brooklyn Brainery $10 HERE

Apr 4 Thu 7 The History of Making Mead. Nico Hogrefe. North Carolina Museum of History HERE

Apr 4 Thur 7:30 Examining History through Recipes: Crofton Cookbook. Manuscript cookbooks from Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Chicago Foodways Roundtable HERE TAPE may be HERE

Apr 4 Thu 8 America’s Diner Restaurants: A Greek Story. Prof. Alexander Kitroeff. The National Hellenic Museum HERE

Apr 6 Sat 5 Heaven on the Half Shell: Washington State’s Oyster Odyssey. David George Gordon. The Westport Timberland Library WA HERE

Apr 7 Sun 9-10:30AM Food Stories from the Middle East. “What our food tells us about culture and sustainability” Zarina Ahmad. MACFEST - Muslim Arts and Culture Festival. HERE

Apr 10 Wed 2:30 Planting a Medieval Herb Garden at Delapré Abbey, Northampton with Antoinette France. Friends of St Peter's, Marefair Northampton HERE

Apr 11 Thur 9pm Fish Wars: Tribal Rights, Resistance, and Resiliency in the Pacific Northwest. Kestrel A. Smith. Washington Speakers Bureau HERE

Apr 12 Fri 12 Savouring the Middle Ages through its Herbs: Iconography of Phytoalimurgia. Dr. Eleonora Matarrese. School of Arts, English and Languages. HERE

Apr 14 Sun 2 Traveling “Silver” for those Not to the Manor Born: Old Sheffield Plate and Electroplated Silver in Travel Equipage and Cutlery from 1730 to the Belle Epoque. Carrie Tillie Culinary Historians of Washington CHoW HERE TAPE may be HERE


©2024 Patricia Bixler Reber
Researching Food History HOME

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