The Duties Of Male Servants In The Wealthy Homes

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The duties of the butler confine him to the drawing-room and dining-room. The dining-room, however, is his particular domain; he sees that everything is in order, that the table is laid correctly, the lighting effect satisfactory, the flowers arranged, and in short that the room and appointments are in perfect readiness for a punctual meal. In this work a parlor maid assists him by sweeping and dusting, and a pantry-maid helps him by keeping everything immaculate and in readiness in the pantry. The butler serves at breakfast, luncheon and dinner.

 Where there is a second-man, he may assist the butler with the serving at dinner; and at large entertainments the maid who assists in the pantry may also be requested to serve. The butler also is in charge of the afternoon-tea duties, in homes where this custom prevails.  He brings in the tray, arranges it for the hostess and sees that everyone is served. Where there are only a few servants, the butler may be expected to help with the dishes, polish the silver and assist in the pantry. But if there are maid servants, and a second-man to do the heavier work, then he is expected to serve in a small measure as the valet for the master of the house. He lays out his evening clothes, brushes and presses the garments worn in the morning, and draws his bath. Sometimes, when his domestic duties are very light, the butler is requested to serve as footman to the mistress when she goes riding in the afternoon. An important duty of the butler is to answer the door bell whenever it rings. He must see that the front door and the hall is in order and well-swept, and that the drawing-room door is locked every night after the family has retired. A great deal of the comfort and pleasure of the family depends upon the manner in which the butler attends to his duties.


Neatness of attire is extremely important. The butler should be clean-shaven, and he should not fail to be fresh-shaven every day. His hair should not be closely cropped, but cut loosely, and it should be well-brushed at all times. Well-kept nails are, of course, very important not only for the butler but for anyone who serves at the table or has anything to do with the food. As nearly as possible, the butler's costume should parallel the following description, but each passing season finds some minor detail slightly changed, and each new season finds a slight variation from the costume of the season before. So the best thing to do is to find out definitely from a reliable clothier or from the men's furnishing department of a large department store, just what the butler's costume of the present time consists of. Ordinarily, the butler wears white linen in the morning, with black or dark gray trousers, a black waistcoat that buttons high, and a swallow-tail coat.

It is also permissible for him to wear a short round tail coat in the morning hours; it is similar to the gentleman's tailless evening coat, but it is not faced with silk. A black or dark tie and black shoes complete the outfit, which is worn until after the midday meal. If guests are to be entertained at luncheon, the butler wears his afternoon and evening livery. Otherwise he dons it only after luncheon or about three o'clock in the afternoon. It consists of complete black evening dress similar in cut and style to that worn by gentlemen. There are no braidings or facings, though the material of the suit may be every whit as excellent in quality as that worn by the master of the house. The butler does not wear a white waistcoat, a watch chain, or jeweled studs with his after noon or evening livery. Nor may he wear a boutonniere or an assertive tie or patent leather shoes. And it is extremely bad taste for him to use perfume of any kind. He wears white linen with plain white studs in the shirt front, a standing collar, white lawn tie and
plain black shoes. His watch is slipped into his waistcoat pocket without chain or fob. White gloves are no longer the custom for men servants in the private home. When acting as footman to his mistress in the afternoon, the butler wears the livery described for the second man. In cold weather he is supplied with a long footman's coat; and he is also supplied with a top hat and gloves, all matching in color and style those worn by the chauffeur.


The second man may be employed exclusively for the house, or he may be employed solely to serve as footman, sitting next to the chauffeur when the mistress is motoring. In the latter case he wears the regular livery matching that worn by the chauffeur. But usually a second man is expected to help in the house besides serving as footman. He assists the butler by answering the door bell whenever the other is busy or occupied elsewhere. He washes dishes and windows and polishes the silver. He tends to the open fireplace in winter, and to the arranging of the flowers in the summer. The veranda, front steps and courtyard are also in his care.

And when there are guests for dinner, or at a large entertainment, he helps serve at the table. The livery of the second man is the same indoors all day; he does not change for the evening. It consists of coat and trousers of one solid color determined by the heads of the house. It is usually a very dark green, brown, gray or blue, and the outside edge of the trouser leg is piped in some contrasting color. The coat is usually swallowtail in cut, and is ornamented with brass or silver buttons on the tails, on the cuffs and down the front. Lately this vogue of the brass and silver button is disappearing.

The color worn by the second man should be the predominating color worn by all the other liveried servants in the household. It is certainly not good form to have the chauffeur wear one color of livery, and the footman next to him wear livery of an entirely different color and cut. With his livery described above, the second man wears a waistcoat of Valencia, striped in the two colors that appear on the coat and trousers. It is usually cut V shape, disclosing white linen in which are fastened two plain white studs, a standing collar, and a white lawn tie. When he serves as footman, the second man may either be requested to don complete car livery, or he may wear a long footman's overcoat; top hat and gloves over his house livery. A clean shaven face and well-brushed, close-clipped hair are pleasing characteristics of the second man. Untidiness, ill- kept hands and nails, and the use of jewelry or perfume should not be tolerated in the second man, whether be serves only as footman, or in the house. When he helps the butler at the dinner table, he should be especially immaculate in appearance.


The gallant coachman of a decade ago has given way to the chauffeur of to-day. But we find that his livery is no less important. It is governed by a very definite convention. In winter, for instance, the chauffeur wears long trousers of melton or kersey or similar material and a double-breasted greatcoat of the same material. The collar and cuffs may be of a contrasting color or of the same color as the rest of the material. He wears a flat cap with a stiff visor and a band of the same contrasting color that appears on the collar and cuffs of the coat. Dark gloves and shoes are worn. Sometimes, instead of long trousers, the chauffeur wears knee-trousers with leather leggings. If desired, a double row of brass, silver or polished horn buttons may decorate the front of the greatcoat, but this must be determined by the prevailing custom. If the weather is extremely cold, the chauffeur should be provided with a long coat of goat or wolf-skin, or some other suitable protection against the cold and wind. During the summer months, the chauffeur usually wears gray or brown cords, developed in the conventional style. His cap and gloves match.


The complete care of the car or cars devolves upon the chauffeur. He must see that it is always spotless and shining, that it is in good condition and will not break down during a trip, and that it is in readiness whenever the owners want to use it. When the mistress goes motoring, the chauffeur stands at the door of the car until she enters, arranges the robes and sees that she is comfortable before taking his own place. Upon receiving her orders, he touches the rim of his cap. It is not necessary, however, upon reaching the destination for the chauffeur to descend and open the door for his mistress. His place is at the wheel and that is where he remains. But if there is a second man to assist the chauffeur, who accompanies him on every trip as a motor footman, he should descend and stand at attention while the mistress emerges from the car.

The footman dresses like the chauffeur. He leaves cards when the mistress makes her social calls, and he rings house bells for her. He is also expected to be useful in performing personal service for the masculine members of the household. Very often it happens that a tourist, instead of hiring a car and chauffeur when he reaches a strange country, desires to take his own car and chauffeur with him. He must be sure to arrange beforehand to have the man admitted to the foreign country, for negligence may cause him much delay and trouble when he reaches the borderline. He must also arrange for the sleeping and eating facilities of his chauffeur when they stop for a day or two in a town or village. It is not right to expect him to eat with the servants, nor will he wish to eat at the same table with his employer. It is wisest to give him an allowance and permit him to eat and sleep where he pleases.


The business of the valet is to attend to all the comforts and desires of the master of the house. He takes no part in the general housework, except in an emergency. The valet does not wear livery. Indoors, in the evening and during the day, he wears dark gray or black trousers, white linen, a high-buttoned black waistcoat and a plain black swallow-tailed coat or one cut with short rounded tails. He wears a dark tie and dull leather shoes. He may also wear an inconspicuous pin in his tie and simple cuff-links; but a display of jewelry is not permissible. It may happen that a butler is ill or called away, or that there is a shortage of servants during a large entertainment. In this case the valet may be called upon to serve as a butler, and he then wears complete butler's dress, with the long-tailed coat. When traveling with his employer, the valet wears an inconspicuous morning suit of dark gray, brown or blue tweed in the conventional style. He completes this outfit with a black or brown derby hat and black leather shoes. The duties of the valet are as follows: he brushes, presses, cleans, packs or lays out the clothes of his employer, draws the water for his bath, and assists him to dress. He keeps his wardrobe in order and packs and un-packs his trunks whenever he is traveling. He does all his errands, buys his railway and steamship tickets, pays his bills, and carries his hand-luggage when they are traveling together. Sometimes he shaves him, orders his clothes, and writes his business letters. But these duties are expected only of accomplished valets. He does not, however, make the bed or sweep or dust his employer's room.


The page is a very convenient servant to have when there is no second-man or when there are no men-servants at all. His duties are many and varied. He runs errands for everyone in the house, assists the parlor-maid, looks after the open fire places and opens the door to callers. Sometimes he even serves as a sort of miniature footman, sitting next to the chauffeur in complete footman livery. The livery for the page boy is the same during the day and evening. It is a simple, neat coat and trousers of dark cloth piped with the contrasting livery color of the family in which he serves. The coat fits the body snugly, and ends at the waistline except for a slight point at back and front. Metal buttons set as closely together as possible fasten the coat from top to bottom. The trousers are piped or braided in the contrasting color down the outside of the leg. White linen should show at the wrists and above the high collar of the coat, but there should be no tie. Black calf skin shoes complete the outfit, and when the page is out of doors, he wears a round cap to match his suit. The bullet-shaped metal buttons down the front of the coat, and three of the same buttons sewed on the outside seam of the cuffs, have earned for the page the rather appropriate name of "Buttons."


Website: The History
Article Name: The Duties Of Male Servants In The Wealthy Homes
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My collection of books: Book of Etiquette by Lillian Eichler Volumes: I and II; Nelson Doubleday, Inc. Oyster Bay, N.Y. 1921
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