Cooper-Siegel tea parties offer glimpse into the past
A cup of tea can be an entry into a time that moves a little bit slower, as proven at the latest tea party at the Cooper-Siegel Community Library.
“Teas are fun, particularly with a granddaughter,” said Margie Hartsock of Fox Chapel.
Lily Hartsock, looking anything but old-fashioned with her cross-body Kate Spade bag, participated in all of the afternoon's activities.
The 16-year-old used spring break from Fox Chapel Area High School to spend time with her grandmother and to catch up on the history of tea parties.
On hand to share the past was Laura Ainsley, assistant curator of education and adult programs at the Frick Art & Historical Center.
Her topic for the day was dining, and she went back to the Romans before concentrating on the heyday of the Gilded Era.
Ainsley brought artifacts from the latter half of the 19th century, which are part of the Frick collection.
This was a time, she said, when parts of everyday life for the wealthy — such as eating — were ritualized into artistic endeavors.
Ainsley explained how the Frick tables would be set with nine pieces of silverware and five goblets for a seven-course meal that lasted two hours.
Knowing how to use the specialized utensils, such as the small oyster fork, was considered the supreme test of refinement.
Ainsley also shared some of the specialized research — on subjects such as the Clayton mansion in Pittsburgh and famous families — that goes on at the Frick.
“It's an important part of our cultural history and our Pittsburgh history,” she said.
This was Ainsley's second visit to Cooper-Siegel.
Reference librarian Ann Andrews nicknames the series of tea parties after the popular British television show “Downton Abbey,” which is broadcast on PBS in the United States.
Andrews had a buffet of teas from which to choose, and snacks came from Alexander's Tea House in Springdale.
Emy Boag of O'Hara declared the bacon-prune scone perfect because it wasn't too sweet.
Pages from Godey's Lady's Book, a magazine that was published from 1830 to 1878, shared suggestions from the “Downton Abbey” period on how to create a “bird party,” with little details about how to bring spring into the home. Ainsley said the Frick shop sells reproductions of Coalport luncheon plates — in nonauthentic plastic — which are embellished with birds.
The camaraderie at the tea party was brimming as neighbors and friends met after the cold winter.
With a nod to the past, some attendees wore spring bonnets.
And many of the women said they look forward to the June tea party and will use the time before it arrives to search out tea gowns with a modern twist.
For more information about programs at Cooper-Siegel Community Library, call 412-828-9520 or visit www.coopersiegelcommunitylibrary.org.
Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Drake: Promoting community center O’Hara woman’s new duty
- Morningside VFW honors veterans with fishing day at O’Hara park
- Aspinwall native dedicated majority of life working to support servicemen
- Fox Chapel Area budget plan includes technology upgrades
- Memorial Day weekend events planned for Lower Valley communities
- Path to offer O’Hara office park walkers room to roam
- Sharpsburg marina home to pontoon boat rental company