1920’s guide to NYC etiquette might, just might be, chauvinistic

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Over at Kottke, he posted about an NYC etiquette guide called, “Valentine’s City of New York: A Guide Book” by Henry Collins Brown. You can enjoy it here.

The main points that Mr. Kottke posted were some of the dos and don’ts for visitors, which included:

  • Don’t hand your baggage to a porter outside Grand Central unless he wears a red hat.
  • Don’t take the recommendation of strangers regarding hotels… Don’t get too friendly with plausible strangers.
  • Don’t gape at women smoking cigarettes in restaurants. They are harmless and respectable. They are also “smart.”
  • Don’t forget to tip. Tip early and tip often.
  • Don’t block the sidewalk. New Yorkers will gather in crowds to see a young lady demonstrate a new razor in a shop window or a safe going up the side of a building. Ignore such gatherings; show our ex-hicks that you come from a real town.

These were abbreviated as you can see above.

But I did some further investigation, and my favorite parts came from the opening chapter titled: How to see the City Inexpensively. 

Now, mind you, you might expect the writer to deliver information about saving money whilst traveling in a large, beautiful city like New York. But by page 11, there are no piece of advice for the cheap traveler.

Henry isn’t that bold.

Henry, instead, is bent on making sure women, that weaker sex in which everything bad that happens to them is their fault, explains this very inexpensive advice:

New York is not perfect, but any woman who encounters unpleasant situations in our city has, to a very large extent, her own self to blame for it. Nevertheless, a certain amount of caution is necessary; common sense is still a valuable possession and should not be left at at home while traveling. Experience shows that two women together are practically immune from embarrassing experiences, while the solitary visitor is more exposed, especially if the hours is late and you happen to be in certain localities.

Abundant protection is afforded the lone young woman on every hand. Almost immediately upon arrival representatives the Travellers’ Aid Society will direct her to a suitable and respectable hotel or boarding house. In spite of all these precautions, however, some sad happenings are matters of frequent record, most of which are mainly preventable. A very good rule is to pursue the same line of conduct you would at home. You do not permit strangers to become familiar an when you want information you ask a policeman. Do the same here. It is useless to provide bureaus of information, uninformed attendants and other conveniences if the stranger will calmly ignore them.

So there you have it. A woman who experiences unpleasant situations … that’s her fucking fault. So if you want to be immune from embarrassing experiences, find another girl and walk around New York like holly jolly lollies. But make sure you stay out of neighborhoods that are unsavory.

And make sure that you stay in lodging provided by the “Travellers’ Aid Society” who will greet you when you step off whatever form of travel you arrived onto Manhattan island.

Tah dah.

Mind you, we haven’t come very far. I’ve heard very similar language emit from modern men and women whose values aren’t so, say, current.



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