The Social Life


AS JOHN DONNE said, "No man is an island." Except for the occasional hermit, human beings seem to crave association with others. During the 1910s and 1920s, Sheridan and the rest of America had a lot of organizations, many of them formed solely to provide opportunities for social interaction. Others, however, served more noble callings, such as political parties, labor unions, charitable leagues and church groups. Some organizations and clubs were secret, others were fraternal, and still others religious. Many of them were involved in charitable activities benefiting youth camps, needy families and the like. Nearly all sponsored dances, dinners or smokers (men's nights). While some of these events were open to the public, most were closed affairs for members only.


AN ORGANIZED SOCIETY

Several Masonic orders were represented among Sheridan's collection of secret organizations: the Free and Accepted Masons, Knights Templar, Kalif Temple (“Shriners”) and Naomi Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star among them. Many prominent citizens belonged to Masonic organizations, including John B. Kendrick, who was a 32nd degree mason. His father-in-law Charles Wulfjen belonged to one of the oldest orders of Freemasonry, the Knights Templar. Other secret organizations included the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Brotherhood of American Yeoman, the Daughters of Isabelle Queen of Spain, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Ladies of the Maccabees, the Loyal Order of Moose, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Royal Highlanders, the Royal Neighbors of America and Woodmen of the World

For those with military service, membership in the G. A. R. (Grand Army of the Republic; for Civil War veterans) or American Legion was attractive. Businessmen joined the Rotary, Commercial or Kiwanis clubs. People interested in good works were drawn to the Round Table Charity and the Order of True Kindred. Women could choose from the Electa Club, Women's Club, Cecilian Club or Daughters of the American Revolution. Children, of course, could always join Scouts.

Labor unions were also sources of support, both economically and socially. Nearly twenty labor unions were active in Sheridan in the 1910s and '20s. Among the ones listed in city directories of the period were trade unions for the following occupations: barbers, bartenders, brewerymen, carpenters, cooks & waiters, laundry workers, locomotive firemen & engineers, machinists, mine workers, musicians, painters & decorators, plasterers, plumbers, postal clerks, railroad trainmen, railway carmen, railway conductors, retail clerks and typographical workers.

Most of these fraternal organizations and labor unions sponsored regular dances and dinners, as did private clubs, schools and even private citizens. For years, the “Bachelors of Sheridan” hosted a dance at the Sheridan Inn to which they invited the unmarried women of the county. Admission to any of these events could be as low as a dime or as high as a dollar, depending on whether or not it was for fun, for profit or for charity. 

Finally, some organizations used family history as a basis for membership rather than job description, military service or religion. Diana Cumming Kendrick, for example, was allowed to join the Daughters of the American Revolution because one of her ancestors served in the military during the Revolutionary War. Because her ancestors landed in Virginia in the 1600s, she was able to join the Colonial Dames of America as well. Eula Kendrick and her daughter Rosa-Maye were members of another heritage-based organization, the Daughters of the Confederacy. Eula’s father, Charles William Wulfjen, had served in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States. Diana could have joined the same organization since her grandfather was an officer with the Confederate Navy.


ENTERTAINING AT HOME

Even though there were a lot of societies and organizations to belong to, most socializing took place in the home. Every type of social occasion – dance, party, wake or wedding – could be held in the home, and they often were. In addition to large gatherings, there was the custom of calling, a formalized exchange of visits from one house to another. In the days before telephones and email, this was the best way for news to get around. It also promoted a stylized form of face-to-face social interaction that is rarely seen today.

Wherever the Kendrick family was living – whether it was Sheridan, Cheyenne or Washington – the local papers always announced when the family would arrive and when they would start receiving guests. This worked for both the Kendricks and those wanting to visit. The family had a few days to get unpacked before the doorbell started ringing, and visitors didn't have to worry about being turned away because they had stopped by too soon. Sometimes, instead of sending out formal invitations, Eula Kendrick would put a notice in the newspaper that she and her daughter were “at home” to callers during certain hours on a specific day. This worked particularly well after her husband was elected to public office:

Governor and Mrs. John B. Kendrick were "At Home" last night at the executive mansion to upwards of seven hundred people who called upon the chief executive and his gracious wife in response to the invitation extended through the press. From eight until eleven there was a constant procession of arrivals and departures.

Be they friends or strangers, most visitors would not come calling until the afternoon. It was assumed that mornings were to be reserved for sleeping, bathing, letter-writing, housekeeping or other personal tasks. If someone did call before the family was ready to receive, the housekeeper would politely turn them away or make them wait in the foyer. This probably happened quite often, as casual acquaintances and business associates would drop in unannounced to pay their respects to Mr. Kendrick and ask for advice or a favor. 

Many of the visitors used calling cards to identify themselves. Whether they were salesmen or old family friends, this was considered the polite way to let the hostess know who was wanting to see them. Calling cards were also used as gift enclosures upon which the recipient could write a brief description of the gift. If there had been a death in the family, special calling cards were ordered with black edging to indicate that the person using the card was in mourning.


DINING IN


When entertaining at home, the Kendrick family could dine either casually or formally. It depended on their mood, whether or not they had guests, and how well they knew the guests. For casual dinners they might have a small buffet set up on the sideboard and allow guests to help themselves to whatever they wanted. On more formal occasions, the table would be set with the best china, crystal and silver. The Kendricks had several different sets of china. The "Rose" pattern by Minton was Eula Kendrick's good set. She had twenty-four place settings (the table could seat that many people) plus all the serving pieces. Limoges china from France was also used.

Until fairly recently, setting the table for a formal dinner meant laying out great numbers of dishes and tableware for each person. In a truly wealthy household, it was not unusual for a single place setting to include over twenty pieces of silver and eight glasses – in addition to all the plates, bowls, cups and saucers that would be needed. Of course, as income levels dropped, so did the importance paid to which bowl was used for which kind of soup. In a household such as Trail End, diners would use a few less pieces of tableware, while those in the lowest economic brackets would be lucky to have a single plate and spoon for each family member.

For nearly all occasions it was the housekeeper who brought the food in from the kitchen, after placing it on platters or in bowls. She was generally dressed appropriately for the occasion, which at Trail End (and most other homes) meant a black dress, with or without a white apron. According to the Derry Linen Company, 

One of the most important considerations in giving a formal dinner is the question of efficient help for service. The cook should have nothing to think of but "cooking." … If the table is served by a maid she should be dressed in a tailored uniform of black with a tiny cap and apron and high cuffs of plain white, hemstitched lawn or organdie.


DINING OUT

Dining out was something the Kendricks and their friends did regularly in the 1910s and '20s. There were no fast food burger joints in Sheridan at that time, though at least one man, Pakistani immigrant "Louie" Khan, sold tamales and other foods from a street cart while Japanese-born immigrant Sam Munesato operated a waffle cart.


Some local restaurants, like the Sheridan Inn, offered fairly formal dining. Others such as the Lotus, Grand, Idlewild and Palace offered solid home-style cooking at an affordable price. Regular dinners started at a nickel and holiday meals – complete with soup and dessert – could be had for twenty-five cents. People could buy discount cards which, after all the holes had been punched, were worth an additional ten percent or more.

The fancier the restaurant, the more extensive the menu. When the Kendricks attended a New Year's Eve dinner at the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne in 1915, the menu featured everything from soup to nuts (actually it started with the nuts and ended with cheese, coffee and mints). In between were fish and meat dishes, salads and desserts. If a diner sampled just one taste of each item on the menu, he or she would experience over thirty dishes – all for the low price of one dollar.

By the 1910s and '20s, many of the Victorian era's rigid rules had relaxed. Even so, good manners were still essential. One of the main arenas for testing one's knowledge of etiquette was at the dinner table. Whether one was dining out or eating in, one was expected to act according to certain rules. All the instructions we learned from our mothers as children were based on what was – and is – considered polite: Don't talk with your mouth full! Don't chew with your mouth open! Don't reach! Don't eat with your fingers! These are the hallmarks of well-bred individuals. 

Sheridan Kalif Temple Shrine Patrol, 1924 (Diers Collection, SCFPL)

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
​April 1999 - December 2001

Days Of Wonder

Sights and Sounds of America's Past, 1913-1933

Detail from movie poster, 1916  (Private Collection)

 State Historic Site

Trail End