From the Universal Self-Instructor of 1883

It is rude to stare at ladies in the street.

One of my favorite books is 1883's Universal Self-Instructor and Manual of General Reference Including Many Valuable Vocabularies and Carefully Compiled Tables Handsomely Illustrated with Original Drawings, edited by Albert Ellery Berg and an Efficient Corps of Specialists. For your uncultured and barbaric pleasure, here are two in-door amusements, followed by a guide to street etiquette which I have no doubt you will find useful and hopefully implement promptly.

In-Door Amusements


Who has not pleasant recollections of this frolicsome game on winter evenings of auld lang syne? What young person has not played it when he was younger than now? Do not count the children out of Copenhagen, friends.

First, you must be provided with a long piece of tape from mother's basket. It must be quite long enough to go all around the whole company, who must standing in a circle holding in their hands each a part of the string; the last person holds both ends. One player remains in the center of the circle, and is called “The Dane.” He must endeavor to slap the hands of one of those who are holding the string before they can be withdrawn. Whoever allows his hands to be slapped must take the place of the Dane.


This is a rather boisterous game, and one not to be played in a house where there are invalids.

A proverb is selected, such as, “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” or, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” One word of this is given to each person in the company, and he is directed at the signal to shout this clearly and distinctly. One person has of course been left out. He is to guess the proverb from the shouting. Standing as near the rest as they will permit, this person says “Charge! Present! Fire!”

As soon as he utters the word “Fire!” the whole party shout their words vociferously, and from the confusion of sounds he is to guess the proverb. This is often a difficult task.

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Etiquette of Public Places


Nowhere has a man or a woman greater occasion to exercise the virtue of courtesy than on the street, and in no place is the distinction between the polite and the vulgar more clearly marked.

In England and America, it is not customary, as a general rule, for a gentleman to salute a lady with whom he is not intimate, unless he has received a slight bow of recognition, in order to give her an opportunity of discontinuing his acquaintance. But many gentleman adopt the rule of the (European) continent, where the gentleman always bows first, leaving it optional with the lady to return his bow or not. The hat is raised with the hand farthest from the person saluted.

When gentlemen are escorting ladies it is their duty to insist on carrying any article the latter may have in their hands, except the parasol.

Ladies and persons of rank or age are always entitled to the inner path, and a gentleman walking with any person should accommodate his speed to that of his companion.

Never leave a friend suddenly on the street without a brief apology.

If a gentleman wishes to speak to a lady whom he meets on the street, he must turn and walk with her.

Never, except in a case of necessity, stop a business man; if you must speak with him, walk in his direction, or if compelled to detain him, state your errand briefly, and apologize for the detention.

A gentleman always throws away his cigar when he turns to walk with ladies.

In stopping to speak to an acquaintance on the street, always step aside. If you are compelled to detain a friend when he is walking with a stranger, apologize to the stranger, who will then withdraw a step or two in order not to hear the conversation.

It is rude to stare at ladies in the street.

Information asked by a lady or stranger should always be promptly and courteously given.

A gentleman should offer his arm to a lady or elderly person on long walks at night, or in ascending the stairs of a public building.

A gentleman cannot under any circumstances “cut” a lady who has bowed to him.

A gentleman who renders any service to a lady whom he does not know will take his leave as soon as his good deed has been accomplished. She may recognize him the next time they meet or not, as she pleases; it is not considered amiss to do so.

Do not look back after persons, or eat in the street, or walk too rapidly, or talk or laugh so as to attract attention.

To talk of domestic affairs in a public vehicle or on the street, is every rude.

Never nod to a lady in the street, but take off your hat. It is a courtesy her sex demands.

A lady should never leave a friend on the street suddenly without an apology.

If a lady with whom you are walking recognizes the salute of a person who is a stranger to you, you should return it.

When a lady whom you accompany wishes to enter a store, you should hold the door open and allow her to enter first, if practicable; and you must never pass before a lady anywhere without apology.

Ladies should avoid walking too rapidly. Loud talking on the street or in a public conveyance is a sure sign of bad training.

No gentleman will stand in the doors of hotels to stare at ladies as they pass.

Do not eat in the street, or attempt to force your way through a crowd.

Ladies should never bow to gentlemen unless they are sure of their identity.

When a lady is crossing a muddy street, she should gather her dress in her right hand and draw it to the right side. It is very vulgar to use both hands for that purpose.

Ladies do not often take a gentleman's arm during the day, unless he is a near relative or a fiancé, and in ascending the steps of a public building, or on long walks, and in the country.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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